It’ll be business as usual at charter schools located in north metro Atlanta, as all of them already have the local partnership deemed necessary by a new state Supreme Court ruling. But legislators from the area still aren’t happy with a ruling which could slow down establishment of charter schools.
By a 4-3 vote, the Georgia Supreme Court decided in May that cities and counties have exclusive power to create schools. Charter schools in Atlanta, Sandy Springs and north DeKalb have done that, getting approval from DeKalb, Fulton or Atlanta school boards.
But 16 schools, including two online schools, were approved instead by the 3-year-old Georgia Charter School Commission. The state Legislature created the commission as a way to approve charter schools over the heads of hostile school boards.
Charters receive money like all other public schools, but can skirt some rules.
The Georgia Cyber Academy was in the pipeline to get a state commission charter soon. It serves some 1,100 students in DeKalb and Fulton County alone.
“Getting a district-based charter is not really a feasible option,” said Matt Arkin, the academy’s head of schools. His students are spread among 150 Georgia counties.
For now, he says, the academy can fall back on its state-chartered special school status, which is granted by the state Board of Education.
But killing the commission is seen as a blow to the charter-schools movement in the state. To keep the commission alive will require action in the Legislature.
State Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Buckhead) led the House of Representatives subcommittee that created the commission in 2008. “We believed that we had developed a constitutional method of expanding the use of charter schools in Georgia,” he wrote after the verdict.
Lindsey and other charter supporters will try again. It might take a statewide referendum to resuscitate the commission. If supporters find no way to protect the commission by law, they will have to seek a change to the state constitution and put the question to voters.
State Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) co-sponsored the creation of the commission. In a statement, he called the May ruling an “unnecessary barrier” to good education.
Millar is chairing a Senate special subcommittee on school choice, which wants to figure out where to send students from the 16 affected schools. The first meeting is on June 3 at the state Capitol, room 450. Invited speakers include state school Superintendent John Barge and Tony Roberts, CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association.