The AJC article “Budget cut, charter school to close” announced that:
“Atlanta Tech High will shut down after an eight-year run, citing budget cuts by Atlanta Public Schools. Those cuts could cause hardship for other Atlanta charters, and may lead to lawsuits because of a controversy over pension debt.
The school system informed Tech High May 31 that it would be taking $360,000 [a 16% cut] out of its budget […] the cut was due largely to an APS decision to pay more into the teacher pension fund to cover past liabilities.
APS spokesman Keith Bromery confirmed that pension liabilities caused some of the shortfall but said two-thirds of the cutback was due to an unexpected drop in property tax revenue. He noted that regular Atlanta schools are enduring the same cutbacks.”
The article also notes that the student performance is poor – and if this is the case, then by all means shut it down. [Update: a highly knowledgeable commenter notes – “Their graduation rates have averaged the mid-ninety percent consistently. APS grad rates come nowhere near.”]
However, what strikes me is the hostility that is now openly being shown by APS towards the Charter Schools is simply stunning – and the reasons provided are pure BS. Let’s look at the statements made by the APS spokesperson:
- Caused by Lower Property Taxes – “two-thirds of the cutback [to Atlanta Tech High] was due to an unexpected drop in property tax revenue” – What cave has this spokesperson been living in? Property taxes are projected to drop 7.4% in FY13 as compared to FY12 – and this has been common knowledge since at least April of this year. Unexpected? Hardly. Two-thirds? BS!
- APS Has to Cut Expenses – “Regular Atlanta schools are enduring the same cutbacks” – this is incredible miss-direction! Total revenues from Local and State sources for APS are only down 1.7% as compared to FY12. And yes, APS has to cut expenses – not because its revenues are down – but because it refused to rein in spending in prior years and has been operating with significant budget deficits. The $360,000 decrease in funding for the Charter School is comparable to an $87 million reduction in APS funding. Apples and oranges – or let’s just make up stuff on the fly that sounds good.
- “Pension Liabilities Caused Some of the Shortfall” – Some or most? Given that their earlier statements related to revenue and expenses are flat-out wrong or misleading – my sense is the statement is provably false. And to top it off, it now appears that APS is going forward with charging the Charter Schools with the cost of the underfunded pensions. This is a complex issue, but suffice it to say that APS incurred over a $500 million liability as the result of prior Administrations not funding the pensions properly. Since FY06, the annual cost to correct this has been $36-43 million per year – a cost that will continue until 2025. How is this related to the funding of the current Charter Schools? It is not – but it serves as a convenient mechanism to try to kill them off!
In a prior post I noted that APS would fight tooth and nail to preserve its monopoly position – it is now clear that they have taken off the gloves and the naked hostility is on display for all to see.