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Expenses inherent as charter ‘authorizer’

Dr. Terri Johnson serves as president of Madison Board of Education. (CONTRIBUTED)
Dr. Terri Johnson serves as president of Madison Board of Education. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Now that Madison Board of Education has committed to serve as an ‘authorizer’ of charter schools, board members will deal with inherent costs for this status.

The school board approved a resolution to the Alabama State Department of Education on Aug. 20 to become a charter authorizer and thus keep discussions for support and rejection of local charters in the Madison community.

Alabama schools boards who do not respond for authorizer status by Sept. 1 will default this authority to a charter school commission appointed by the state.

Dr. Terri Johnson, Madison Board of Education President, said the “main resource required for this work (as authorizer) is staff.”

Johnson cited the “Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act” that the legislature passed as defining five responsibilities for Charter School Authorizers:

* Solicit and evaluate charter school application.

* Create a framework to guide development of charter applications.

* Negotiate and sign contracts with charter schools.

* Monitor academic, fiscal and organization performance.

* Determine whether to renew or revoke charter contracts.

Johnson anticipates that the district “would incur significant legal fees. Also, we would have to pay our own staff to do this work. Since no one has done it before, I can’t really even guess how much it would cost us to do this monitoring.”

The state allows the district “to recover 3 percent of the state allocation per student, which could be about $150 per student,” Johnson said. “So if a charter school had 200 students, we could recover about $30,000 for admin costs.”

Conversely, the same amount of work for only 50 students who might register for the charter would result in only $7,500 for the district.

“There are a lot of unknowns about the cost of being an authorizer, but we do feel that our community is the best place to make decisions about local charter schools, rather than sending applications to a commission in Montgomery,” Johnson said.

Madison Board of Education submitted the resolution in response to Alabama Senate Bill 45 (SB45) or ‘Charter School Law.’

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