This past monday, the Georgia Supreme Court in Gwinnett County Public School Dist. et al v. Cox, et al., ruled that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission could not create charter schools that educate the same types of K-12 students as public schools, since the State Constitution left the duty to educate the general K-12 population exclusively to the local school boards.
Specifically, the Georgia Supreme Court ("GSC") ruled that the State (as opposed to the local school boards) could only create "special schools" and charter schools such as Ivy Prep in Gwinnett County were not "special" enough to pass constitutional muster.
In effect, the GSC held that only the local school boards can approve charter schools that educate the general K-12 population, and the State's authority to create and approve them were limited to schools that educate special groups, such as special needs children, or those that focus on a particular type of curriculum, such as vocational schools.
The decision was split 4-3, and the majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Hunstein. Justice Nahmias wrote a 74 page blistering dissent, calling the majority's reasoning as "illogical" and that the majority had engaged in policy making. For those law wonks, the opinion is a very worthwhile read. The decision can be found here: http://www.gasupreme.us/sc-op/pdf/s10a1773.pdf
What does this ruling mean in practical terms?
This decision puts the future of 14+ charter schools that have been approved by the Commission in jeopardy. Ivy Prep, for example, applied for a commission to Gwinnett County School Board and was rejected. In light of the ruling, the 350+ students may have to return to their local public schools for next year. The ruling also puts in jeopardy the millions of dollars in Race to the Top money won by Georgia -- since a significant part of the application relied on the charter school commission structure.
The real losers out of this litigation are the children currently enrolled in state-commissioned charter schools.
Can we save the existing state commissioned schools?
Without the cooperation from the local school boards, it will be difficult. The preliminary analysis shows that the only permanent legislative fix may be a constitutional amendment to refine "special schools" in Article VIII, Sec. V, Par. VII(a). But such an amendment cannot occur until November 2012. Meanwhile, there is a movement to urge the Gwinnett County School Board to approve Ivy Prep as a charter school to save its existence. I am urging the school board to do so for the sake of the students of Ivy Prep.
What do you think of the decision? Should States be allowed to create charter schools that operate outside of the purview of the local school board?