By Yaël Ossowski  / April 10, 2015 /

More students than ever are opting for Atlanta charter schools, and they’re about to get a bigger piece of the financial pie.

In the 2016 budget proposal to be voted on next week,
Atlanta charter schools are expected to get a funding boost of $21
million to “meet expected enrollment increases,” said Atlanta Public
Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen in her blog post announcing the new budget.

The city expects close to 1,220 new students to enroll in charter schools this school year.

That would bring charter school enrollment up to 16 percent in the
district, according to Atlanta financial analyst Robert Stockwell, who runs a blog dedicated to breaking down the finances of Atlanta’s public school system.

That’s significantly higher than most state averages across the country.

And it’s not just the money that’s talking.

An American Federation of Children poll conducted in January showed that 72 percent of Georgia voters
support “innovative, self-governing, and highly accountable charter
public schools,” demonstrating a great amount of public support.

In the same survey, over 63 percent claimed to favor the idea of school choice, allowing families to opt for alternatives to traditional public school.

“Start-up schools and charter schools are proving to be academically
successful and are now being replicated,” said Nina Rubin, spokeswoman
for the Georgia Charter Schools Association.

She told that successes such as the Kindezi Schools and
the Latin Academy Charter School prove charter schools are giving
children a better education and making the system more accountable to
parents and communities.

“The growth of the charter school movement in Georgia was not anticipated, but it has shown that it can be done,” she said.

Rubin said that though charter schools are funded at the same rate as
traditional public schools, their unique model is performing better and
giving children a better education.

Though independently run by nonprofit boards, charter schools must
apply rigorous standards to be approved a charter by the school
district, a process which must take place every five years.

But not everyone supports their increasing presence in Atlanta, which hosts 60 percent of the state’s charter schools.

The headline of an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article
on the budget points to “teacher cuts” and mentions the growth of
charter schools as a likely culprit. Critics cite school district chief
financial officer Nader Sohrab’s claim that new enrollment to charter
schools will likely cost “about $5 million,” according to the paper.

In the latest proposal, the amount destined for teaching staff is
reduced by $3.5 million. This is despite the fact the school budget is
actually $37 million more than the previous year.

A call to the superintendent’s office for clarification on this issue was not returned.

The budget will be voted on at Monday’s school board meeting.