Ivy Prep funding question to be decided

NORCROSS - The Georgia Charter Schools Commission will decide today if three state charter schools, including Ivy Preparatory Academy in Norcross, can receive local tax dollars.

Last week, the state Board of Education authorized the three schools - Ivy Prep, Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology in Statesboro and Scholars Academy Charter School in Riverdale - to seek approval from the new Commission.

The schools' charters were originally denied by local school boards but later approved by the state board. Charter schools are public institutions that are run by private organizations or individuals. The schools, funded by taxes, agree to hold their students to higher academic standards in exchange for freedom from some state mandates, policies and regulations.

Because their petitions were rejected by local school boards, the state chartered special schools receive only state tax dollars. If the schools' charters are approved by the Commission, an alternative authorizing group created during the 2008 legislative session, they can receive local tax dollars as well.

This would allow these schools to have fair and equitable funding in order to enhance programs and services for students, according to Georgia Charter Schools Association Chief Executive Officer Tony Roberts.

"The students served by these schools desperately need this increase in funding, and as public schools it is funding they rightfully deserve," Roberts said. "The students at these schools are Georgia public school kids. Their parents are Georgia tax payers. They deserve access to a quality public education funded at levels equal to other public schools."

Nina Gilbert, founder and head of Ivy Prep, said the influx of local tax dollars would allow the all-girls charter school to function more like a traditional public school.

"I hope things will go favorably for us," she said.

Ivy Prep's 150 rising seventh-graders will be joined in the fall by a new class of 120 sixth-graders. An eighth-grade class will be added in the fall of 2010.