Thousands of charter school supporters will gather on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol Building on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., (Washington Street side) to protest Monday’s ruling by the state Supreme Court, declaring the Georgia Charter Schools Commission unconstitutional.
The rally will feature a number of speakers, including GCSA President/CEO Tony Roberts, whose statement in reaction to the ruling reads in part: “This is a case where the majority is NOT right. The minority opinion of the Supreme Court contained in the 75 pages of dissenting opinion is the one that is right!
“Charter schools are THE one education reform that has support in every part of the political spectrum—Republican, Democratic, liberal, and conservative,” Roberts said. “We are in agreement with Justice Nahmias who decried the majority opinion and wrote that “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.”
Here is the statement in its entirety, followed by a statement from Georgia Charter Schools Commission Executive Director Mark Peevy:
Reaction of Georgia Charter Schools Association to Supreme Court Decision Striking Down the Georgia Charter Schools Commission.
By Tony Roberts, CEO, May 16, 2011
We are very saddened to learn of the majority opinion of the Georgia Supreme Court today striking down the Georgia Charter Schools Commission.
This is bad news for thousands of children and parents in Georgia who hoped for a brighter future with their children in a Commission charter school.
This is bad news to Georgia’s existing Commission-approved and high-quality charter schools—16 Commission-approved schools either operating today or who planned to open in the fall with over 15,000 students. These students have a right to be very upset today that their futures are threatened.
This is bad news to Georgia where our students’ academic performance and graduation rates are among some of the lowest in the nation.
This is a case where the majority is NOT right. The minority opinion of the Supreme Court contained in the 75 pages of dissenting opinion is the one that is right!
Charter schools are THE one education reform that has support in every part of the political spectrum—Republican, Democratic, liberal, and conservative. We are in agreement with Justice Nahmias who decried the majority opinion and wrote that “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.”
EFFECT ON CHARTER SCHOOLS
First and foremost, we want to make clear that this decision does not affect ALL of Georgia’s charter schools. For over 160 charter schools with over 65,000 students approved by their local school district, this ruling HAS ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT. Those schools will continue to operate as usual. Families and children planning to attend these schools now and in the next school year have no reason to fear that the school will not be there. Again, this ruling has no effect on those charter schools authorized by local school districts.
However, for the 16 schools authorized by the Commission and currently operating within Georgia, we honestly do not know their future. These schools are some of the highest performing schools in Georgia, serving thousands of students who were not getting the education they deserved before their charter school.
Schools like Ivy Preparatory Academy, an all-girls school that has produced some of the highest CRCT scores in the State. CCAT-Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology, a high school in Bulloch County that yielded some of the highest graduation rates in our State. Georgia Cyber Academy that has attracted literally thousands of children across Georgia to a most-innovative method of instructing students that might not thrive in the traditional public school. Pataula Charter Academy in rural Edison, Georgia who has reached out to a five-county region for students who have been excelling through the Expeditionary Learning Model employed by the school. Peachtree Hope Charter School that has provided more than 600 students in urban Atlanta who had no hope in their previous schools with a new sense of pride in learning and achievement and the belief instilled that they could accomplish anything they choose in life, regardless of race or economic status. The success of all those students and thousands of others in Charter Commission schools is threatened by this ruling.
We must establish how the decision of the Court will be handled by the State’s Department of Education. Our greatest fear is that this ruling could have the impact of closing all Commission approved schools and perhaps even make System Charters unconstitutional using a strict reading of the Majority Opinion and their giving local school boards first and final approval to charter school approval and removing from the State ANY authority to approve charter schools. We appreciate the quick offer of our State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge who said “the state stands ready to help in whatever way necessary to ensure that the education of the students in these schools is not compromised.” He went on to pledge that he “will be working closely with the State Board of Education to see what flexibility can be offered for these schools.”
It is important to remember that the Charter School Commission was created after local school districts began blocking the development of all charter schools. For those educators, parents, and leaders in the community who want to see more charter schools in their community and across the state, this ruling puts us right back where we were pre-HB881 (2008) where only local school districts can approve charter schools. The year prior to the law establishing the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, 26 charter petitions were submitted to local school districts and all 26 charter petitions were denied. This was the pattern, not the anomaly, of local school districts. In their wisdom and thinking of the needs of Georgia citizens, the legislature and Governor corrected this problem with the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. But now we are right back where those with great hopes and plans to have a quality charter school are at the mercy of local school districts, the majority of which have been openly hostile towards public charter schools.
The great and continuing need for our children to have educational options like charter schools has not been stricken down by the Courts. So we will work with parents across the throughout Georgia to become a strong and united voice to do whatever it takes to make more charter schools available across the State. If it takes further legislative action, including a Constitutional amendment, I am announcing that that effort begins TODAY. We need our parents and students to let their voices be heard about charter schools. And we will assist them to make this a State priority!
We will begin tomorrow on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol with a major rally starting at 10:30 am. We want all our state decision makers to hear the LOUD voice of parents begging, pleading and urging that our State provide more charter schools to meet the growing demand.
We will work with G-PAN, the parental advocacy group, to help organize parents and bring about needed changes in our States. We will work with our Governor, our legislature, our State School Superintendent and the state board of education legislation (all of whom support our children and charter schools). We believe Governor Deal and our legislature will pursue whatever remedies are necessary including possibly a change to our Constitution, to insure that our state continues to develop more high-quality charter schools.
We will not rest until we see this fixed and all of the children of Georgia having the opportunity to attend a high-quality charter school when that is their choice.
Georgia Charter Schools Commission Response from Executive Director Mark Peevy
The Georgia Charter Schools Commission believes that today’s decision is the wrong one for the 15,000 students expected to be served this fall in Commission schools. However, given the Commission’s continued focus on high-quality educational opportunities for students, we will work with the Governor’s office, the office of the Attorney General, the Legislature, and the State Board of Education to understand the full ramifications of the ruling and mitigate the negative impact on our schools.
We remain proud of the manner in which our work has been carried out thus far and the successes demonstrated by our schools.