Atlanta's Tech High, the successful 8-year-old math-, science- and technology-oriented charter high school in the Atlanta Public Schools system, is being forced to close its doors amid an unanticipated revenue cut of 16 percent, school Board Chair Kent Antley announced recently.
"It is with great sadness and disappointment that the Governing Board has informed families of the unforeseen challenges this promising school has endured over the past 30 days," Antley said.
"Our talented, dedicated faculty and staff and our parents and students, who have demonstrated unwavering commitment to academic success, now face an obstacle that is impossible to overcome."Tech High School opened its doors in 2004 in a renovated section of the SciTrek Science Museum on Piedmont Road next to the Atlanta Civic Center.
There were high expectations for the school, which boasted a who's who of supporters including the downtown business community, the high tech community, civic leaders and unanimous support from the Atlanta school board."Like the vast majority of charter schools, Tech High has had to operate on a very tight budget," Antley said. "Our school was especially sensitive to setting an example in demonstrating high accountability and transparency in our spending.
"The Governing Board had delayed implementing next year's teacher contracts until it received funding projections from APS. But during the summer break the school was notified, after those contracts had been signed, that a combination of factors would reduce funding another $360,000."The state's average funding per student is over $11,000," Antley noted.
"This school, which has overcome so much, simply cannot operate on revenues of $7,411 per student – and that does not include our capital costs. This is a tragic, saddening last financial blow from which we cannot recover."One reason for the massive funding cut is APS' decision to allocate unfunded pension liabilities to charter schools. Tech High, along with several other charters, disagree with the legality of the APS decision. Other charters plan to wage a legal challenge but, "Unfortunately, our families and teachers can't put their lives on hold to wait for the legal system to resolve this issue.
"The school was forced to move from the SciTrek facility after only one year when SciTrek closed its doors and the City of Atlanta would not continue the lease. The school is currently housed in a building built in 1922, which means ongoing and major maintenance expenses. That, along with the revenue cut, threatened to force a midyear closure and enormous disruption to many already at-risk students. "At all times, our faculty and staff's greatest concern and commitment are for the best interests of our students."We are enormously proud of the many accomplishments of Tech High and the numerous students we have helped over eight years," Antley said. "It has been direct reflection of the dedication of our great teachers and leadership. We are heartbroken that we will not be able to continue to be a positive contributor to Atlanta Public Schools.
"Tech High had just announced a strategic partnership with the Technical College System of Georgia and Georgia Tech Research Institute focused on becoming a state and national model for teaching math, science and technology at the high school level. This partnership was going to combine a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum and problem-based learning with college and career pathway course offerings through Georgia's technical college system.