FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Original Supreme Court ruling could have serious unintended consequences:
Do local districts really want exclusive authority over public education in Georgia?
ATLANTA (May 27, 2011) – Lawyers representing charter schools that were approved by the Georgia Charter Schools Commission formally asked the Georgia Supreme Court Thursday to reconsider its May 16 decision to declare the Commission unconstitutional.
Brief stresses key points for reversing decision
The motion ( Charter School Motionfor Reconsideration), written by Bruce P. Brown of the Atlanta-based law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, explains that the previous ruling was erroneous and should be reversed for several reasons. Among them:
- Local school districts have never been granted exclusive control over public education in Georgia. In fact, when the 1877 Georgia Constitution (which the majority justices referenced heavily in their decision) mandated separate schools “for the white and colored races,” the state exercised its authority and took steps – albeit small ones at the time – to make sure African American students were being extended educational opportunities when local districts failed to do so.
- The Georgia Constitution does not give “exclusive authority” over public education to local districts.
- The Justices have within their power the ability to reach a “middle ground” in ruling on the case that will not compromise the role of local districts in providing public education in Georgia. Granting local districts “exclusive authority” over public schools, as was done in the earlier ruling, could lead to a myriad of unintended consequences for the districts because the responsibility for providing citizens with an adequate public education would be theirs and theirs alone.
“Attorneys defending Commission charter schools named in the suit make several crucial points,” said Georgia Charter Schools Association President/CEO Tony Roberts. “One, that school boards have never been granted exclusive authority over all K-12 education by our Constitution. Second, that citing post-Civil War historical roots in Georgia as the source of that exclusive authority harks back to a regrettable part of Georgia history that created and sustained segregation in the schools. Third, that the extremely narrow definition of “special” schools employed by the Court would eliminate the possibility of any “special” schools existing, even for those with major disabilities. And fourth, that the Constitution does in fact establish that the State has a vital role with responsibilities to see that every child in Georgia has an equal opportunity to get an adequate education in Georgia.”
Thousands of students, 16 schools affected by earlier ruling
The narrow 4-3 decision against the Commission and the 2008 law that created it, HB881, jeopardizes the future of the 16 schools approved by the alternative authorizing body – nine of which are currently open – and the 15,000 students they serve.
Just over 24 hours after the decision, more than 400 charter school supporters – including students, teachers, parents, administrators and lawmakers – staged a rally on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol Building to protest the ruling and show support for the impacted charter schools and the Commission.
Earlier this week, Pulitzer Prize winning author and GCSA Board Member Douglas A. Blackmon wrote a poignant op-ed titled “Charter ruling flunks history, ignores roots of segregation,” which pointed out that the majority justices based their opinion largely around a 130-year-old section of the Georgia Constitution that for all intents and purposes legalized racial segregation in the state’s public schools.
Next week, the first meeting of the Education and Youth Special Sub-Committee to address the Supreme Court ruling will be held June 3, at 10 a.m., at the Georgia State Capitol, in Room 450. State Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) is chairing the committee.
“The court’s erroneous judgment claiming local school boards have exclusive authority over the K-12 education of their children is not good for the children, the school districts or the State,” said Roberts. “We are hoping our Supreme Court justices will do the right thing for all the children of Georgia by acknowledging that the State has a tremendous stake in the education of its children and that the provision of charter schools by the State is a legitimate tool to ensure an equal opportunity in public education for all children-regardless of wealth or ethnicity.”
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ABOUT THE GCSA
The Georgia Charter Schools Association is the only non-profit membership organization for Georgia’s charter school operators and petitioners. Established in 2001, the mission of the GCSA is to be an effective advocate and service provider for all charter public schools in Georgia by:
- Advancing awareness of charter schools and their mission.
- Increasing awareness that charter schools are public schools.
- Communicating charter school needs to state and local officials.
- Supporting legislation to strengthen charter schools in Georgia.
- Facilitating opportunities for networking/collaboration among charter schools in Georgia and nationwide.
- Developing and implementing programs and services that advance student achievement, accountability and success in all of Georgia’s charter schools.
CONTACT: Seth Coleman firstname.lastname@example.org (Office) 404-835-8917 (Cell) 404-406-5570