Georgia Supreme Court Strikes Down State Chartered Schools
“It was kind of like an educational 9/11 around here,” said Tony Roberts, President of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. “Everybody’s gonna remember May 16 as a day when a decision was rendered that none of us expected.”
Even the Governor was surprised by the court’s ruling. “I was shocked because we felt that we had made real progress in the charter school movement,” recalled Gov. Nathan Deal.
The controversial decision, rendered by a 4-3 vote, revoked the state’s discretion to approve new charter schools or direct funding their way. The court ruled that only local school boards should have that authority.
According to the court’s majority, the state isn’t permitted to create schools of any kind, unless they are “special.” And charter schools, the court maintained, are not “special.”
BJ Van Gundy, a former member of the state’s charter school commission, took issue with the court’s reasoning. “In the constitution there’s no definition of the word 'special,'” he countered.
The court’s definition of a single word has placed many of the state’s charter schools at risk. “We’ll have to completely rethink what we’re doing on the charter front, particularly if we don’t get a constitutional amendment,” explained Eric Cochling of the Center for an Educated Georgia.
“It left a number of us scrambling,” recalled Nina Gilbert, Principal of Ivy Preparatory Academy. “We knew we had a program that worked but we no longer had a document that allowed us to exist.”
“It’s all about politics and money,” lamented one charter school parent. “It needs to be about the quality of education for our children.”