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Audit: Schools need monitoring

ATLANTA - The Georgia Department of Education doesn't adequately monitor the state's 113 charter schools to ensure they are meeting academic standards, according to a new audit released Thursday.

The report by the state Department of Audits and Accounts says the state's charter school division has yet to comply with a 1998 Georgia law requiring an independent review of whether the specialized schools pass muster. And the state is doing little to make sure that local school boards are paying attention to their charter schools, which operate independently but receive taxpayer dollars.

Each charter school enters into an agreement with its local school board or with the state that certain academic standards will be met in exchange for freedom from most educational mandates, such as class size. But according to the audit, the state isn't checking to be sure the schools are meeting the terms of those contracts and doesn't require districts to report on how their charter schools are performing.

In a written response to the audit, state education department officials said the charter school division acts 'more as a resource than as an oversight agency.' The division's head, Andrew Broy, said he will use the audit to improve how his staff handles the rapidly growing number of charter schools in Georgia.

'I think it's clear to everyone that the charter school movement in Georgia is progressing at a fairly rapid clip, and it's time we step back to make sure we have procedures in place to maintain that growth and at the same time require accountability of our schools,' Broy said.