For years, the charter-school movement was thwarted in Georgia by local school districts that turned down application after application. Many of those denials were for cause. Other charter school applications, however, were turned down for myriad other reasons.
School boards, already under pressure, felt they were doing all they could do in this test-centric era. And, many board members believed the charter-school movement was just another effort to drain already-scarce resources from their school systems. Charter schools are public schools. However, they are allowed to operate without the shackles of many of the rules and regulations that apply to non-charter public schools.
Recently, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the power given to the charter-school commission was unconstitutional. Only local school boards have the authority to open and pay for schools. Chief Justice Carol Hunstein wrote in the majority opinion: “We do not in any manner denigrate the goals and aspirations that these efforts reflect. The goals are laudable. The method used to attain those goals, however, is clearly and palpably unconstitutional.”
There are about 80,000 students enrolled in charter schools across the state. The court’s decision impacts eight schools with about 5,000 students, however, eight more schools are set to open in the 2011-12 school year. All are in limbo.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. The General Assembly could push through a constitutional amendment, however, that’s problematic. State school Superintendent John Barge has vowed to help the students involved, but it’s hard to figure a constitutionally correct solution. The best and most efficient arrangement would be for local boards to adopt the charter schools in question, if they are worthy.
The real message charter schools are sending to the state superintendent and state school board is that rules and regulations should be relaxed in order to tailor educational environments to students’ and parents’ needs.
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