Fulton Science Charter Possible Says Georgia Charter Schools Association VP
Andrew Lewis said the state Supreme Court's May opinion that ruled the Georgia Charter Schools Commission is unconstitutional puts all state charter schools in doubt. Several Sandy Springs students attend FSA.
Georgia Charter Schools Association Executive Vice President Andrew Lewis said he believes a state charter for Fulton Science Academy Middle School is possible after the denial of the school's charter renewal.
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Lewis said the Fulton County Board of Education had the legal right to rescind its rejection of the charter application and adopt a revised charter that met its demands.
The Fulton School Board's president, Linda Schultz, and Robert Avossa, superintendent of schools, however, have said the matter is closed. They said the revised application will be on a schedule that would grant a charter starting with the 2013-14 school year–causing the school to be closed during the 2012-13 school year.
Casting doubt upon a state charter is last May's Georgia Supreme Court ruling that the state's Charter Schools Commission is unconstitutional in a 4-3 vote.
"The constitutional history of Georgia could not be more clear that, as to general K-12 public education, local boards of education have the exclusive authority to fulfill one of the"primary obligation[s] of the State of Georgia," namely, "[t]he provision of an adequate public education for the citizens," the ruling states in part.
Lewis said "The May 16th Georgia Supreme Court ruling has put into question the existence of all State Charter Special Schools."
Supreme Court Justice Nahmais said in his dissenting opinion that "the majority’s illogical reasoning and overbroad conclusion render the ‘special schools’ provision a dead letter, effectively abrogating not just commission charter schools but also the state chartered special schools established under the Charter Schools Act of 1998 and any other ‘special school’ the General Assembly might dare to create."
"Under current Georgia law, school system bureaucrats who want to stifle options in public education can smother new charter schools or current charters seeking renewal, like Fulton Science Academy, by refusing to adequately fund them. This is wrong, and hurts kids by taking options away from communities who are desperate for better public schools for kids," Lewis said.
Additional risk has been added that a local school district could challenge the constitutionality of a state charter special school, forcing the school to not only adjust to what Lewis calls inappropriate student funding levels, but cross their fingers that some district in the state does not challenge their existence as well. Some charter school founders have withdrawn from Georgia, Lewis said, "taking options away from communities who are desperate for better public schools for kids."
A bipartisan coalition of community leaders, parents, teachers and education reform groups has joined together to protect charter schools in Georgia by amending the state Constitution to allow an alternative route for good charter schools to be approved, he said.
"After the legislature passes the measure, every voter in Georgia will then have a chance to vote yes or no on it this November, since it is a Constitutional Amendment," Lewis said.
The state did fund Cherokee Charter Academy, a new school caught in the court ruling as it was trying to open for the 2011-12 school year. The school's charter application with Cherokee County had been denied.