Mike Klein Online

Will State Charter Schools Pass “GO” in Education Monopoly Drama?

The Georgia Charter Schools Commission had its day in court Tuesday.  Now the waiting begins as seven state Supreme Court justices decide whether state-created charter schools will pass “GO” in Education Monopoly or get sent back to the drawing board for a redo.

Georgia educators and politicians should be warned that earning a reputation for rejecting unique education models would do this state no good.  Charter schools in general, state commission charters, online learning, blended instruction in traditional public school classrooms and new ideas not yet conceived all deserve an opportunity to help Georgia improve its mediocre education performance.  That is why the zeal being shown by those who want to kill state chartered schools is particularly discouraging.

Seven school systems asked the Supreme Court to overturn a Superior Court ruling last May that upheld the constitutionality and funding for state created charter schools.  The Supreme Court decision could change the charter schools landscape in Georgia for years and immediately bring into question the viability of several schools now educating hundreds of students.

Attorneys presented arguments about whether charter schools are “special schools” as defined in the state Constitution.  And they disagreed about whether the General Assembly exceeded its authority two years ago when it created the Georgia Charter Schools Commission.  But the primary argument was about money, specifically, funding for Commission charter schools.

One important point to remember is that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission can approve schools whose initial applications were rejected local boards of education.  Local boards, therefore, are very sensitive about where money comes from, where money goes and in what amounts.

Atlanta, Gwinnett, DeKalb and four smaller districts contend the General Assembly created a charter schools funding formula that deprives them of local tax revenue dollars that should be allocated to traditional public schools.  Attorneys for the state and the Charter Schools Commission contend the school districts are not being deprived of local tax dollars.  That, in a nutshell, is the disagreement.

Attorneys who represent the public school districts told the Court that state commission charter schools do not qualify as “special schools.”  The school districts contend a 1966 statute defined “special” to mean vocational education, exceptional children and adult education.  “Special” was expanded in 1974 to include instruction for deaf and blind students.

Attorneys on behalf of the Charter Commission told the Court state charters schools are “special meaning unique, different from common.  That’s what these schools are.”  State Deputy Attorney General Stefan Ritter said the definition of “special schools” should not be tied to language in the state Constitution that was enacted in 1983 when charter schools did not exist.

Bulloch, Candler, Griffin-Spalding and Henry public school systems joined Atlanta, Gwinnett and DeKalb in the law suit. The Supreme Court decision is expected this fall or early next year, but not later than six months.  The General Assembly returns in January.  Whether the legislature needs to revisit state-created charter schools is now solely in the hands of the state’s seven justices.

Mike Klein writes about education as Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

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October 13, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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