Charter school’s fate uncertain
by Kyle Dominy
May 18, 2011 12:00 AM | 3374 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Students and parents join together in front of the capitol to protest a ruling by the state’s supreme court that overturned a law that allowed the creation of state approved charter schools during a rally on Tuesday in Atlanta.<br>The Associated Press
Students and parents join together in front of the capitol to protest a ruling by the state’s supreme court that overturned a law that allowed the creation of state approved charter schools during a rally on Tuesday in Atlanta.
The Associated Press
CANTON — The future of the Cherokee Charter Academy is in question just weeks away from opening for its inaugural class.

The school may have received a vital blow this week as the majority of Georgia Supreme Court justices deemed it unconstitutional for a state agency to grant the school’s charter.

In the 4-3 decision Monday, the state’s high court said only local school boards have the authority to charter public schools.

In a statement released after the ruling, Cherokee Charter Academy’s management company, Charter Schools USA, called the move a “major step backward” in education.

“We are bitterly disappointed that the Georgia Supreme court has taken such a major step backward in providing educational options to parents,” according to the statement. “However, the war for education reform is still raging and we believe the people will win. We are confident that parents who want a better choice for their child’s education will exercise their rights and make their voices heard.”

It is not immediately clear if the decision will close Cherokee Charter Academy or the 16 other state charted schools.

“At Charter Schools USA, we are reviewing our options and will inform parents of how we will proceed,” the company’s statement said. “At this point, it is too early to comment on our plans as we evaluate our plans going forward.”

The court’s ruling put to bed a two-year-old lawsuit filed by the Gwinnett County school system.

The suit challenged a 2008 law that allowed the state to grant school charters, including charters to petitions previously denied by local school boards.

Several metro Atlanta school districts, including the Atlanta, DeKalb County and Henry Country school systems, joined the legal battle

“ . . . the Georgia Charter Schools Commission Act and the schools established thereunder represent the efforts of well-intentioned people, motivated by their genuine concern over the current condition of the State’s general K-12 public education . . .,” wrote Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein in the court’s majority opinion. “The goals are laudable. The method used to attain those goals, however, is clearly and palpably unconstitutional.”

Under the Georgia Constitution, the state can open “special schools,” such as a school for deaf or blind students; however, the courts ruled that a public charter school did not classify as a “special school.”

Cherokee County was not a part of the suit; however, the Cherokee County Board of Education denied the Cherokee Charter Academy’s charter petition last year.

In a statement issued late Monday, Cherokee School District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said system officials were analyzing the court’s decision.

“The school board attorney and staff are analyzing today’s Georgia Supreme Court decision regarding charter schools and its potential impact,” she said. “All current state laws and policies regarding charter schools will continue to be adhered to by the school district.”

Members of Georgia Senate, including Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, have convened a special subcommittee to review the court’s decision.

“I am gravely disappointed at today’s ruling by the state Supreme Court,” Rogers said in a statement issued Monday. “With the creation of this subcommittee we will oversee the looming fallout from the ruling and continue our fight for the rights of students throughout Georgia.”

The Cherokee Charter Academy held its student lottery last weekend to select its inaugural class of students.

The school was scheduled to open in August.
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