Why Is One of America’s Most Charter-Heavy School Districts in Suburban Georgia?

Source: Chris Kardish, Governing, December 18, 2013

Hall County, Ga., has quietly become full of charter schools. But its model isn’t what you’d think. … The process for becoming a charter school and getting authorization varies state by state. In Georgia, local boards of education can initiate charter applications, though they need the state board to sign off. A ballot measure passed last year also granted authority to a new commission to approve charter school applications that were rejected by local boards. Hall County’s charter expansion started about six years ago as an attempt to deal with dramatic demographic changes. A district that started the 2000s 80.75 percent white suddenly saw an influx of Spanish speakers (by 2010, the Hispanic population was 27 percent). Today, 61 percent of students qualify for free-or-reduced lunch, a standard measure of child poverty, and nearly 20 percent of its students are English-language learners. Looking to Charlotte and Houston for inspiration, the district launched World Language Academy, an elementary school that instructs all students in English, Spanish, and now Mandarin Chinese. …