Six charter schools to come to Bibb County

The Georgia Department of Education recently received six letters of intent to establish charter schools in Bibb County. This wave of state charter school activity follows the ratification of Amendment 1 in the Georgia Constitution.
Amendment 1, sometimes called the Georgia Charter Schools Amendment, gives the state the right to grant permission in the commissioning of a charter school.
For people devoted to education, state-commissioned charter schools bring up a controversial debate. On the positive side of the spectrum, people see the state as bringing change in a failing district. Critics, however, oppose the state’s step toward privatization for charter schools.
Many residents of Bibb County and other districts where charter schools emerge misconceive basic concepts about the establishment and functioning of charter schools in general.
Charter schools choose to be public schools and operate under similar districting guidelines. They differ from state-funded public schools in that a group of individuals or groups from a community come together to found the school. These individuals write a charter for their particular school based on the needs present in the local community’s education system.
The community identifies an imperative education need and aims to accommodate this need in the charter, the formal document authorizing the school.
Dr. Margaret Morris, the Chair-Teacher of Education at Mercer University said a common myth concerning charter schools centers on their ability to do whatever they want. This myth is completely false. Although charter schools are not required to follow all state regulations, they must be in accordance with all federal regulations for public schools, especially those dealing with health and safety.
As a result of all the community confusion surrounding charter schools, the Georgia Charter School Association is giving residents of Bibb County an opportunity to learn more about how charter schools work.
The first of these opportunities will be an informational community meeting held on April 22 at Lundy Missionary Baptist Church from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The second opportunity will be April 25 from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. It is at the same location as the first meeting and is a workshop titled Charter Development 101.
Three basic structures of charter schools exist: conversion, where a school already in existence is reformed into a charter school; start-up, where the school does not exist prior to its founding of a charter, and state commissioned charter schools. The majority of charter schools in Georgia are start-up charter schools.
In Bibb County, the six charter schools’ letters of intent have been sent to the Department of Education with only five of the six being confirmed as signed. The six charter schools in the works for Bibb County are Perkins’ and Stokes’ Academy for Classical Education, Georgia Charter Education Foundation, the STEAM Academy of Macon, MTC Academy Charter Middle School, Macon Charter Academy, and Stone Academy.
Most of these potential charter schools plan to begin with only a few grade levels and expand in the coming years.
In order for these charter schools to become a reality, they must apply for their charter through the local school board.
“It is very important for the local school system to be a part of charter schools,” said Morris.
While not acting as a governing body, it is instrumental for a charter school’s success to work side-by-side with the local school board.
A charter school possesses its own governing body called a charter school governing board. At times Education Management Organizations step in to help manage charter schools. EMOs are for-profit and manage about thirty percent of all charter schools.