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Charter school law declared unconstitutional | News

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Charter school law declared unconstitutional
News, Schools
Charter school law declared unconstitutional

ATLANTA -- A Georgia law that cleared the way for a surge in new charter schools was struck down by the state's top court in a high-profile decision that will affect thousands of students and could reshape how the state's public school system is funded.

The Georgia Supreme Court's 4-3 decision on Monday overturned the 2008 Georgia Charter Schools Commission Act, which allowed the state to approve and fund charter schools over the objection of local school boards.

"By providing for local boards of education to have exclusive control over general K-12 schools, our constitutions, past and present, have limited governmental authority over the public education of Georgia's children to that level of government closest and most responsive to the taxpayers and parents of the children being educated," Chief Justice Carol Hunstein wrote in Monday's majority opinion. "Commission charter schools thus necessarily operate in competition with or duplicate the efforts of locally controlled general K-12 schools by enrolling the same types of K-12 students who attend locally controlled schools and by teaching them the same subjects that may be taught at locally controlled schools."

School districts in Atlanta, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Henry, Griffin-Spalding, Bulloch and Candler filed a lawsuit claiming the Charter Schools Commission broke the law by moving millions of dollars of local tax dollars without the approval of local taxpayers.

Charter school supporters had argued it was designed to re-direct state money to charter schools that need the funding.

In a dissenting opinion for the Georgia Supreme Court, Justice David Nahmias wrote, "Today four judges have wiped away a small but important effort to improve public education in Georgia - an effort that reflects not only the education policy of this State's elected representatives but also the national education policy of the Obama Administration. That result is unnecessary, and it is unfortunate for Georgia's children, particularly those already enrolled and thriving in state charter schools."

The governor's office issued a statement late Monday:

"Gov. Deal will work with Attorney General Sam Olens, the Georgia Charter School Commission, School Superintendent John Barge and local boards of education to find a legislative fix in response to this decision. The governor's greatest concern remains the thousands of Georgia's children in schools affected by this ruling."

 

Parents in Cherokee County contacted 11Alive News with concerns regarding the status of schools in their community, like Cherokee Charter School.

Lisa McCants wrote, "We were very excited about Cherokee Charter and received a spot at the lottery on Saturday. We were looking for more educational opportunities for my child in a smaller environment with more individualized schooling. Cherokee Charter was not listed in the articles, however, it was voted down by local government. Does this mean we will not have another opportunity to get this school opened before August? We would like to know if there is anything further we can do to help keep this school going?"

In the same vein, parent Kristie Stannard wrote, "First of all, thank you for allowing parents to express their concern over today's ruling. I live in Cherokee County and I am a past educator. I taught special education for ten years before starting a family. I was really hoping for the charter school lawsuit rule in favor of school choice. I feel that is really what it boils down to- a parent's choice to send their child/ren to a school of their choice. I hope our legislature can get something passed, if not this year then next, to help parents have choices in their child's education. The local school boards could learn a lot from charter schools in how to make learning fun and desirable again if they would just put their pride aside and observe."

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