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Charter schools dealt Supreme blow

The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled on charter schools, handing proponents of the initiative a 4-3 defeat May 16 on the state’s 2008 move that created a number of new charter schools, including the Coweta Charter Academy at Senoia in Coweta County. Affected public school systems support the move while charter advocates said the decision is a step backward for Georgia. Voicing their disagreement, Coweta parents and students joined others at a Capitol rally after the announcement to protest the decision and the Georgia Senate has formed a subcommittee to combat the judicial decision.

The decision Monday by the Supreme Court said essentially that local school boards have sole authority to open and fund public charter schools. The 4-3 ruling effectively neutralized the legislatively-enacted bill in 2008 that established the Georgia Charter Schools Commission and its subsequent move that approved a number of new public charter schools. One of those schools is in Senoia.

One of the Coweta Charter Academy families at the Capitol rally included Sue and Nacoma Robinson, there son Dante, a kindergarten student, and their 2 year-old Donovan.

“I was very disappointed by the ruling,” Sue said. “My son is very happy at the Coweta Charter Academy, and we are hopeful that this will all be worked out so he can continue going there.”

The Senoia charter school opened in August as a K-3 school and was about to begin construction on a new building to house the expanded campus for grades K-7. The court’s decision effectively alters those plans.

The Georgia Charter Educational Foundation and Charter Schools USA, operator of the Coweta Charter Academy at Senoia, issued a May 16 joint statement to parents.

“We are all disappointed by the news that the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled 4-3 against upholding the constitutionality of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. We are evaluating our options for continuing to operate the Coweta Charter Academy. One thing we do know for certain is that we will be unable to move forward with plans for expansion this year,” the letter said.

The letter to parents also noted that the organizations are in contact with executive and legislative leaders, “Who are interpreting the Supreme Court opinion and developing strategies to protect the currently authorized schools. We know this leaves many questions unanswered and, frankly, until we have solid answers, we want to do everything we can to avoid rumors. We will only issue official statements to parents and to the media when we have plans that we believe to be solid.”

Public school organizations were quick to support the court’s decision while other organizations sided with the charter school movement. Also voicing their opposition to the 4-3 vote were other Coweta Charter Academy parents.

One of those was Maurice Grover, a Senoia Councilman and parent of a Coweta Charter Academy student and another attending East Coweta High School.

“I’m a huge supporter and I’m 100 percent behind the charter school. Nobody can deny what our charter school has done in its first year, with CRCT scores and receiving accreditation,” Grover said. “The Coweta people have spoken and spoken strongly that they wanted this charter school.”

For their part, the Coweta County School System is maintaining a low-profile approach to the controversy that is brewing in the state’s communities.
“The impact of the ruling isn't entirely clear at this point,” said school system spokesperson Dean Jackson. “Whatever its impact may be, the school system will continue to serve the students of Coweta County.”

Meantime, the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) was quick to give its support for the high court’s decision.

"The Court's decision reaffirms GAE's belief that public charter schools should remain under the management and control of their local school boards,” said GAE President Calvine Rollins. “We believe the Georgia Supreme Court's majority opinion echoes the constitutional and statutory analysis focused on in GAE's Amicus Brief to the Court regarding the historical, constitutional and statutory meaning of ‘special schools.’ GAE will continue to advocate to ensure that our public schools are institutions that strive to provide a great public education for every child."

On the opposite side of that coin was Charter Schools USA spokesperson Colleen Reynolds.

“We are bitterly disappointed that the Georgia Supreme Court has taken such a major step backward in providing educational options to parents. As in any reform in history, those who are poised to lose power or money, fight the hardest. In this case, they have unfortunately won this battle. However, the war for education reform is still raging and we believe the people will win,” Reynolds said. “There is clearly a strong desire to allow charter schools to operate as evidenced by the record number of applications our schools received. We are confident that parents who want a better choice for their child’s education will exercise their rights and make their voices heard. We believe they will not settle for a system of education that was established in the 1800s and no longer fills their needs.”

As for the Coweta Charter Academy at Senoia, Reynolds said Charter Schools USA is reviewing its options and will inform parents on how it will proceed.
“At this point, it is too early to comment on our plans as we evaluate those plans going forward,” Reynolds said.

There are yet others weighing in on the judicial decision. One of those was state School Superintendent John Barge.

"With today's Supreme Court ruling against the legality of the Charter Schools Commission, the state stands ready to help in whatever way necessary to ensure that the education of the students in these schools is not compromised," said Barge. "I will be working closely with the State Board of Education to see what flexibility can be offered for these schools."

Yet another group, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, found the court’s decision significantly flawed and one that does not take into account the best interests of the state’s youngest citizens.

"Today’s ruling was a direct blow to educational and economic opportunity for many Georgia students and families. It's a disappointment that government budgets take precedence over academic excellence and making available the best education options for Georgia's children,” said organization president Kelly McCutchen. "In just three years, the Georgia Charter School Commission succeeded in destroying the artificial geographic barriers to quality public education. Whether it was young, predominantly minority girls crossing district lines to attend Ivy Preparatory Academy or rural students seeking high quality options through statewide virtual schools, thousands of families embraced the choice to better their education and their lives.”

McCutchen suggested that some in the Georgia General Assembly might come forward to “rectify this wrong by amending the state Constitution,” noting that the start of the next school year is only three months away.

Meantime, it looks like the Georgia Senate is willing to get into the fray. The Senate on Monday announced the creation of the Education and Youth subcommittee, “Special Subcommittee on School Choice,” to address the Supreme Court decision.

“(The Supreme Court) ruling could affect thousands of students across Georgia. We must take a proactive approach in order to engage all parties involved and ensure that each of these students have a quality place to learn come this fall,” said Sen. Fran Millar, Chairman of the Committee on Education and Youth. “At this point, it is vital that we create a subcommittee to review this disappointing ruling and ensure that educational choice is not neglected in Georgia. The committee will make it our priority to engage all parties involved and determine the best route for excellence in education across Georgia and protect those most affected by this decision.”

Senoia business owner Scott Tigchelaar is one who has supported the idea of having a charter school housed in the community for the past eight years. The questions he raised after the decision went to the heart of the freedom of educational choice and the meaning of constitutionality.

“I question anybody who is opposed to freedom of choice in education. Parents should be able to decide where their tax dollars are going and who’s going to educate their children,” Tigchelaar said Thursday. “Talk about constitutionality. A lower court (last year) threw this out and it goes to the Supreme Court and gets a 4-3 vote. How can you have a 4-3 vote on constitutionality? There’s nothing more constitutional than people choosing where there dollars are spent.”

As for the Coweta Charter Academy at Senoia, school operator and Florida-based Charter Schools USA in February received a five-year accreditation for all its nearly two dozen schools from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS/CASI) conferred by the AdvancED Accreditation Commission.

AdvancedED CEO Dr. Mark Elgart in commenting on the accreditation said, “Corporate accreditation is a rigorous process that focuses the entire school system on the primary goal of creating lifelong learners. Charter Schools USA is to be commended for engaging in this process and demonstrating a commitment to continuous improvement.”

Tigchelaar agreed, noting that, early on, there were some who doubted if the Senoia school could prove itself academically.
“But they have proved themselves in receiving accreditation and through test scores,” he said.



PTC Observer's picture

Seems that our Supreme Court in Georgia is not willing to buck the Union.

Having educational choice and where your tax dollars are spent flys in the face of Unions. It's their interest over the interest of our citizens and their children.

Let's support the charter school system to provide more choices for children in Georgia. Support a State Constitutional Admendment to over turn this decision.

NUK_1's picture

I agree with the idea of charter schools and the principle of what the legislators were hoping to accomplish in 2008, but they went about it in a backdoor manner and IMO it did violate the state constitution of GA. I think they knew it and hoped it would stand up. It was either that or they would have had to amend the state constitution first and they didn't have the spine for that fight.

If this ruling had gone pro-charter schools, it would have been an excellent example of an "activist" ruling that would have ignored the long established state constitution of GA. THAT is what needs to be changed first, then the legislators can enable charter schools and funding mechanisms based on the 2008 legislation they passed.

This isn't really about "unions" as much as local school boards that are generally horrible in GA(I know, shocking news there!) and view their funding as MINE MINE MINE and change as BAD BAD BAD. Even in Fayette our school board has been awful for decades and the parents and teachers have managed to overcome their stupidity for quite a long time to at least be above the pack in GA. Not so fortunate for a lot of GA.

PTC Observer's picture

OK, then let's support an admendment to the Ga. Consititution.

Maybe they can develop a spine.

Great study in contrasts here between a real Libertarian (NUK) and a faux "glibertarian" PTC Observer!

Notice how Petey attempts to introduce "unions" as a red herring while NUK discusses the blatant unconstitutional manueverings of the General Assembly: They created another layer of government bureaucracy.

Charter schools are a solution in search of a problem: Your kids have three options in Georgia...attend public school at no personal expense, attend private school at your own personal expense, or homeskool your snowflake at your own personal expense.

Charter schools open a pipeline of public funds to private schools. As such they are favored by A) poor people who lack funds to send their brood to private schools, B) well connected businessmen seeking to profit from cherry-picked students, C) religious folks seeking public funds to promote their religious views and D) faux "glibertarians" like Petey C who believe that more government bureaucracy equates to "more freedom".

Cyclist's picture

personal expense? How does that work?

From an ankle biting blogger. ;-)

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

PTC Observer's picture

is hallucinating again or does he really believe public schools are free?

Really hard to know with Bacon.

Cyclist's picture

Well I guess we'll not get a response. Oh well. You do know that anyone that prescribes to Lawrence Mishel's notion of "the nation is not broke but only has to tax more" would probably say that public schools are free.

BTW, hello from rainy Rogers, Arkansas.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

PTC Observer's picture

Anything special there we should know about?

Cyclist's picture

Well right up the road is Bentonville AKA Walmart Town

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

PTC Observer's picture

The center of the universe!

The whole place must be lousy with capitalists taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers.

Be careful out there man.

Cyclist's picture

It's so evil that Michael Moore would faint.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

PTC Observer's picture

sends cold chills down my back!!

I have decided he provides ideas to Walmart about hiring people who are prety dumb, don't want insurance, part-time only on contract (no SS deducted), and will work for a 10% bonus above minimum wage!

Cyclist's picture

[quote=roundabout]I have decided he provides ideas to Walmart about hiring people who are prety dumb, don't want insurance, part-time only on contract (no SS deducted), and will work for a 10% bonus above minimum wage![/quote]

Ha!!! Not even close. However, if I can make more money doing that......

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

Let's see, you don't pedal anything, aren't a "barker," fly a lot to strange places, make about the same money as a Walmart hire-on (temp), are overweight--by own admission, ride a tricycle, have some even stranger friends on here, and can put up with nearly anything as witnessed on here.

Now I know what it is:
You work for the TEAS, third from the bottom on the totem pole, and are trying to organize other chapters!

Have you read Boortz's book? "Read the Book!"

Did you see where Zell and Sonny are going to run Newt's campaign in Georgia? I think Georgia at the republican convention will put in nomination: Cynthia McKinney (she is with Khadafi (who hates Obama) this week).
Any friend of an Obama hater is a friend of mine.

What on earth do you sell anyway?? Are you in the SEALS?

Cyclist's picture

I don't "pedal" stuff and I'm much too fat to be in the SEALS. The things I do for money.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

charter school to train kids in deathly martial arts. We will pass out crack cocaine every half hour and have a no-clothes policy while on school grounds. Teachers will be required to recite Human Action from memory before being hired. Students will be required to process a certain amount of radioactive waste barehanded before graduation or their demise, whichever comes first. The school will be located next door to PTCO's house. Sign-ups were yesterday!

Go Braves--Keep Trying Freddy!

PTC Observer's picture

hope we don't live on the same street. ;-)

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