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Charter school raises eyebrows
State law allows independent commission to channel funds from local districts
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Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer is mindful of a proposed charter school in Forsyth County that is raising concerns from school leaders in neighboring counties.

According to its website, the Global Outreach Academy of Excellence is recruiting students from Dawson, Forsyth, Fulton, Hall and Gwinnett counties.

Dyer said the issue for some school leaders is the Charter Advisory Commission, an independent school authorizing entity which approved Global Outreach.

State law allows this group to approve charter schools rejected by local school boards and transfer funding from school districts to newly appointed charter schools.

"Funding based on FTE (full-time equivalent students) would be pulled from the Forsyth County Schools and directed to the charter school," Dyer said. "They have no voice whether the school is approved, but they do have to give up funding."

Dyer said it will become an issue for Gainesville if funding is diverted from the school system.

"Our local board would make a decision about where to voice concern and give input," she said.

In Dawson County this week, the Board of Education voted to formally oppose the school's plans. Superintendent Keith Porter explained in a letter to the Georgia Charter Schools Commission that the district felt it could provide the same services and more than were listed in the Global Outreach charter application.

"As long as we can provide these services within our own county, it's difficult to justify funding a school in another county," the letter stated.

Dyer said Gainesville and Hall County charters were approved by the Charter Advisory Committee, a state-level body with members appointed by the lieutenant governor, speaker of the House and chairman of the state Board of Education.

The committee reviews charter petitions for compliance with established standards of the state board and makes recommendations to the state board for charter petitions.

Dyer said ultimately it is the parents' decision where to send their children to school. If there are future impacts from the proposed charter, the district could reach out to parents to see if they could find the right services in the school system, she said.

"Our position is we offer the best services we can for students," Dyer said.

"As a charter system we have schools to offer as well and we may talk with individuals and ask, ‘What are you looking for?' We may have something we can offer them."

Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield could not be reached for comment.

Frank Reddy of the Times regional staff contributed to this story.