Charter School Advocacy Day

Charter School Advocacy Day at the Capitol with Georgia Charter Schools Association - Adults left to right: Megan Brown (student mother), Amy Rossi-Espagnet (student mother), Michele Neely; Children left to right: Charlotte Brown (Megan's daughter), Ethan Rossi-Espagnet (Amy's son), Elliott Rossi-Espagnet (Amy's son)

Since the passage of Georgia House Bill 787, International Charter School of Atlanta has been able to breathe a small sigh of relief. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal earlier this year and provides for more equitable funding for state charter schools. Before the bill, International Charter School of Atlanta received significantly less state funding than other public schools in Georgia. International Charter School of Atlanta just started receiving the additional funding this fall, and the difference is already noticeable. The increased funds have provided music, art, and drama classes; office supplies; repairs to buildings; much-needed curriculum and resources; and the hope for an increase in teacher salaries to match other nearby public schools. By providing more funding, the legislature has ensured that International Charter School of Atlanta can more directly allocate financial resources to high-quality student services.

International Charter School of Atlanta is a charter school created to provide an innovative and unique public school option to Georgia students. With a statewide attendance zone, students currently come from 15 counties to attend International Charter School of Atlanta. Students learn in French, German, Mandarin, and Spanish in dual language immersion (DLI) classrooms, and International Charter School of Atlanta adheres to the principles of the International Baccalaureate Programme. Middle grade students have the opportunity to learn a third language and experience a variety of connections courses in addition to their academically-rigorous core classes. With a focus on multiculturalism and project-based learning, demand for International Charter School of Atlanta continues to increase every year, meaning lengthy waiting lists in most grades. Families simply cannot find another public school in their area that offers the same innovative educational program and variety of languages.

As a parent, I am grateful that my children and all of our students have the chance to attend a public school that is focused on teaching children to become responsible global citizens. My children are learning German, Spanish, and American Sign Language, and they experience different cultures and customs on a daily basis. They are learning that diversity is a strength and that it is their responsibility to make the world a better place. I want to thank the Georgia legislature and Governor for making this type of public education possible and recognizing its value with the passage of HB 787. I know that I am not the only parent who values and wants this for their children. Georgia’s families deserve public education that meets their own children’s needs and prepares them for a successful future.

However, a number of challenges for International Charter School of Atlanta and other state charter schools still remain. Our public charter school students still receive less funding than our neighbors whose children attend traditional public schools. Even with increased state funds, the school is responsible for its own facilities expenses and receives no local county or city funds to cover these enormous rental and maintenance costs. As a result, we urge state lawmakers to fully fund House Bill 430. The bill was passed during the 2017-18 legislative session and would annually provide every charter school authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission with $100,000 to assist with facility needs. HB 430 would not fund all of our facilities expenses, but it would help narrow the funding gap that still exists between state charter schools and traditional public schools in our state. For International Charter School of Atlanta, it would mean that we would finally have the funds to replace our roof, which is in desperate need of repair.

We are hopeful that state lawmakers will continue to see the value in innovative public schools like International Charter School of Atlanta. If legislators approve additional funding for HB 430 during the upcoming legislative session, it would allow more money to flow directly to the classroom and ensure our faculty and staff can focus on what they do best—nurturing students to become compassionate, lifelong learners.

 

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