GA Supreme Court affirms lower court ruling – charter schools win back $2.8 million in funds withheld by the Atlanta Public Schools [Updated]

In a unanimous decision, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling that was in favor of the charter schools and against the Atlanta Public Schools in regards to how charter schools in Atlanta are funded. Based on the ruling, APS improperly withheld $2.8 million from the charter schools.

The lower court ruled last December (link) that the GA statutes, which govern the methodology for allocating “local revenues” to charter schools, do not allow the Atlanta Public Schools to charge the charter schools for a share of the over $550 million “unfunded pension liability”.

In its ruling (see here), the Supreme Court agreed with the lower court’s reasoning and stated,

…we agree with the trial court that pursuant to the plain language of § 20-2-2068.1 (c), appellants are without authority or discretion to deduct the unfunded pension expense from their calculation of local revenue to be distributed to start-up charter schools.

… [the Atlanta Public School’s] subtraction of funds from the calculation of local revenue to cover a portion of APS’s unfunded pension liability circumvents the plain language of § 20-2-2068.1 (c) and deprives the start-up charter schools of funding to which they are legally entitled, we affirm the trial court’s order…  

…The proper remedy for appellants’ opposition to the language of the local revenue funding formula as written lies within the General Assembly.

[Added] Maureen Downy at AJC’s Get Schooled blog provides additional information and analysis here. AJC’s Mark Niesse reports on the story here.

Last year, APS informed the charter schools that the methodology for allocating “local revenues”, which is mandated under GA statutes, would be adjusted and the charter schools would have to share in paying for the over $550 million unfunded pension liability. The unfunded pension liability was incurred in the 1970’s. The APS charter schools sued APS and the initial hearing was heard by Judge Wendy Shoob in the Fulton County Superior Court. Judge Shoob ruled that the methodology used by APS was not consistent with the GA Statutes. APS, with the full support of the Board of Education appealed to the Supreme Court. For more background on the case, see here.

The East Atlanta Patch previously reported the following is the amount withheld per charter school (link):

  • Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School: $405,296
  • Atlanta Preparatory Academy: $291,068
  • Drew Charter: $578,514
  • Intown Academy: $190,063
  • Kipp: $785,724 (includes Kipp Strive, Kipp Ways and Kipp Vision)
  • Kindezi: $116,598
  • Latin Academy: $51,030
  • Wesley International Academy: $398,492

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]


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