Superintendent Davis today issued a sweeping recommendation that would deny any new charter school petitions until the current court case that withholds $2.8 million in funds from the charter schools is resolved. The funds are being withheld from the charter schools in an effort to force them to pay a part of the FY13 $43 million cost for the unfunded pension.
As a result of this position, Davis is recommending that the Atlanta Classical Academy charter petition be denied, even though the review committee found that the petition was determined to be worthy of approval. Per Davis’ recommendation issued today,
After thoroughly reviewing the petition and conducting a capacity interview, the review panel had concerns and requested clarification in four areas of the charter school plan: facility plan, school diversity plan, school leader and opening size of school. Atlanta Classical Academy has now adequately addressed these concerns by agreeing to open with a more manageable size (K – 8), providing a more detailed plan for recruiting and hiring a school leader, providing more information regarding their diversity plan, and providing an acceptable facilities plan.
Even though ACA had adequately addressed all the administrations concerns, Davis’ recommendation went on to say,
Despite these positive amendments to the petitions, recommendation for approval of these petitions, or any future petitions, due to the still-unresolved court case regarding Unfunded Pension Liability payments. [Emphasis added]
The final decision will be made by the Board of Education that will consider the recommendation on Monday, August 12. Last year, the BOE voted to expand Drew Charter School even though Davis and the administration had recommended against it.
The unfunded pension liability, which in total amounts to over $500 million, is the result of severely underfunding the APS employee’s pension plan over the last several decades. The payment due for FY14 is budgeted at $48 million and it will continue to increase over the next several years.
Last year, APS announced that it would withhold $2.8 million from the charter schools, and indicated that this amount was the charter schools share of the pension liability for FY13. The charter schools took APS to court, and in December 2012, Judge Shoob ruled against APS. APS appealed the decision and a ruling is pending, but it is unknown when the appellate ruling will be issued.
For my proposal on how to resolve the unfunded pension liability dispute, see here.