Group calls Atlanta’s rejection of charter school proposal ‘disheartening’

(The Center Square) – A Georgia policy group says the Atlanta school board’s decision to deny a charter school’s proposal to open a school in the city was “disheartening.”

The school board…

(The Center Square) – A Georgia policy group says the Atlanta school board’s decision to deny a charter school’s proposal to open a school in the city was “disheartening.”

The school board denied a request from Tapestry Public Charter School, which operates a school in DeKalb County and sought to open a location in Atlanta.

“It has been a decade since Atlanta Public Schools last approved a charter school, and the Atlanta school board’s recent decision to deny a charter school for children with special needs is another disheartening setback,” Kyle Wingfield, president and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, told The Center Square in a statement.

“Atlanta needs more schools like this to provide inclusive and innovative education options for students with special needs,” Wingfield added. “The board’s concerns about enrollment, staffing, and demographics seem misguided in light of the school’s successful track record in DeKalb County and the overwhelming support from parents.”

In a statement, Atlanta Public Schools cited three reasons for denying the request: The “current underutilization of a significant number of schools,” “existing staff shortages currently impacting the district’s Special Education Department,” and Tapestry’s “ability to maintain demographic parity in light of its issues with doing so at its DeKalb location.”

“While the Tapestry Public Charter School Atlanta petition presented many strengths, Atlanta Public Schools leadership recommended denial of the petition at this time due to considerable concerns,” the school system said in a statement.

In a statement released to The Center Square, the school’s governing board said it would “take some time to determine our next steps.”

“We are disappointed by the decision of the Board but also saddened that Atlanta families have been denied the opportunity to experience the small inclusive, individualized and innovative program that Tapestry has to offer,” the board said in the statement. “The APS community spoke with a strong voice about the need for a school to serve neurodiverse students differently and embraced Tapestry’s mission.”

The board also disagreed with the Atlanta Public Schools’ reasoning behind the denial and wants the board to issue a correction “that accurately represents Tapestry’s existing student population.”

The school says 32% of its students at its DeKalb campus are African-American, 20% are Hispanic, 18% are white, 10% are Asian, 10% have Native American heritage and 10% identify as mixed-race. The school’s governing board also said that 40% of its student population are on free and reduced lunch, “which is significantly higher than what APS included in its demographic concerns.”

The board also says that 20% of its student speak a first language other than English.

report released last month that examined funding disparities between traditional public schools and public charter schools in 18 cities nationwide found Atlanta received a failing grade for its charter school funding gap.

The “Charter School Funding: Little Progress Towards Equity in the City” report from the School Choice Demonstration Project, an educational research project within the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform, studied federal, state, local and nonpublic funding during the 2019-20 school year. According to the report, Atlanta has a total public school enrollment of 64,984 students, and roughly 36.3% of students attend a charter school.