Reactions to the decision
by Maureen Downey:
When the Supreme Court ruling was issued this morning striking down the state Charter Schools Commission in favor of local control in creation of charter schools, I sent out e-mails seeking reaction from key players. (Read about the decision here.)
Please note John Barge’s comment that he wants to offer flexibility to the schools decimated by the ruling. What these 14 schools are going to need to survive after this Supreme Court decision will be money now that they have lost the local dollars that were being directed to them. And that will be challenge for their futures.
Here are some responses. I will add others throughout the day.
Monica Henson, executive director, Provost Academy Georgia, a commission charter school due to open this year: Everyone associated with Provost Academy is disappointed with the decision made by the Georgia Supreme Court – especially the nearly 900 students who have already begun the process to enroll in the school for the coming year. We are hopeful to have the opportunity to serve these students, and will continue our efforts to open Provost Academy this fall, until notified otherwise. The strong positive response we have seen among the growing number of Georgia parents and high school students makes it clear that they no longer want learning limited to traditional school buildings. Technology-based learning systems are not only changing the way students learn today, but are helping to improve our education system for the future. It is for this reason – to help students learn – that Provost Academy is committed to move forward with preparations for coming year, and firmly believes that steps will be taken to allow Georgia’s students to have a choice in the type of education they wish to pursue.
Georgia Families for Public Virtual Education President Renee Lord: “Early this morning in a 4-3 vote, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that state authorized charter schools are not special schools and the state does not have the authority to create them in the first place. Georgia’s online public schools, like Georgia Cyber Academy and Georgia Connections Academy were not a part of this case. Still, our team will examine to see if this judgment even applies to our online public charter schools and work closely with the Attorney General and our own counsel to ensure the education of our children is met to the highest standards. We believe all children in every corner of this state deserve the right to attend the school that best suits their needs. As this process continues to move forward, everyone must keep in mind that these are our children’s futures at stake.
When school districts say it is about the kids, they really mean it is about money and control. These school districts spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars suing charter schools only after the state insisted that school funds follow the student from the public school they used to attend to the public school they are attending now. The districts were very happy to collect funds for students who never stepped foot inside their school.
The school districts would have been better off using that money trying to understand why students chose other public schools, and offering competitive programs and services that students and parents want and need. The result is a loss for parent choice and innovation, and a win for education bureaucrats. Tens of thousands of charter school children may lose their schools — schools that help them succeed — because Georgia’s school districts care more about money than they do about boys and girls. We cannot and will not allow parent choice to be taken away from Georgia families.”
Kelly McCutchen, president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation: “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. In just three years, the Georgia Charter Schools 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. “Georgia’s leaders now have an opportunity to rectify this wrong by amending the Constitution. In the meantime, we must extend a lifeline to those students who have seen their hopes and dreams – and perhaps a prosperous future – snatched away just 12 weeks before the start of a new school year.”
Georgia School Boards Association: “The Georgia School Boards Association is pleased with the Georgia Supreme Court’s strong endorsement today of the role of locally elected boards of education. The Association and its members are committed to continuing to provide a strong and innovative system of public education for all of the state’s children.
In a decision that upholds the “fundamental principle of exclusive local control of general primary and secondary public education,” the Georgia Supreme Court held the Georgia Charter Schools Commission Act to be “clearly and palpably” in violation of the State Constitution.
In preserving the 134-year history of local control enshrined in the current and earlier Georgia Constitutions, the Court rejected the General Assembly’s attempt to expand its authority to create “special” state schools and to define “special” to mean whatever it wanted it to mean.
According to the Court, the special schools authority “cannot be interpreted either as a relinquishment of the historical exclusivity of control vested in local boards of education over general K-12 schools or as a carte blanche authorization for the General Assembly to create its own general K-12 schools so as to duplicate the efforts of or compete with locally controlled schools for the same pool of students educated with the same limited pool of tax funds.” GSBA, through its Delegate Assembly, has a long history of supporting charter schools approved by local boards of education.
“Charter schools, approved by local boards of education, that focus on increasing student achievement through unique programs can be a strong addition to the diverse educational opportunities offered by local school systems,” said GSBA President Dr. James Pope, who is also a board member on the Carrollton City School Board.
Heather Robinson, principal, Georgia Connections Academy, a full-time virtual charter school due to open this fall as a commission charter school: “The ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, which authorized Georgia Connections Academy, was issued this morning. Unfortunately, the court ruled against the Commission. Connections Academy is presently reviewing the GA Supreme Court’s decision and working with the Georgia Charter Schools Commission on its impact and options for Georgia Connections Academy. We will continue to keep all of the families who have expressed interest or who have registered for the Georgia Connections Academy informed about the court ruling and what this means for their students. Charter schools like Georgia Connections Academy offer an innovative and meaningful educational choice for families across the state and we are very disappointed that the Supreme court overturned the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, which allowed the state to approve and fund charter schools, including the Georgia Connections Academy.”
J. Alvin Wilbanks, CEO/Superintendent, Gwinnett County Public Schools: “We are pleased with the Court’s decision. While some tried to paint this lawsuit as an anti-charter school case, nothing could be further from the truth. At its heart, this was a constitutional question, one that has been answered once and for all. The Supreme Court has ruled correctly that the Commission does not have the constitutional authority to establish schools and direct local dollars to the operation of those Commission-approved schools. Again, the Gwinnett County Board of Education’s participation in this lawsuit was not a stand against the creation of charter schools, but rather against the establishment of a state commission that sought to usurp the jurisdiction and resources of a duly elected local board of education.”
Katherine Kelbaugh, principal of The Museum School of Avondale Estates, which is affected by the ruling: “Though we are disappointed by the court’s decision, we are working with the Georgia Charter Schools Association to ensure continued educational opportunities for our students. We will be meeting with the GCSA to examine the possibility of legislative remedies. In addition, we are pursuing opportunities for authorization from another source.
We will be working diligently to continue providing our students with an excellent public education. We will keep our families and community updated on our future course of action.”
Thomas Cox who represented the city of Atlanta in the case: “The Supreme Court has held that the General Assembly may not create its own charter schools to serve the general K-12 population, regardless of how they are funded. The court thus did not even have to address the school districts’ arguments that the Charter Commission Act’s funding mechanism is unconstitutional because it uses locally levied taxes to fund these commission charter schools.
By upholding the principle that local public education in Georgia is to be under the management and control of local boards of education, the Court has put decisions regarding the creation of charter schools, and the expenditure of local tax funds, back in the hands of locally elected boards, and out of the hands of a group of political appointees who are not answerable to any voters.”
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. I will be working closely with the State Board of Education to see what flexibility can be offered for these schools.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog