The Georgia Supreme Court reversed a 2008 act that allowed the state to create a new kind of charter school called a “commission charter.” The fate of schools that have already been created using the act, including Ivy Prepatory Academy in Peachtree Corners, is now in question.
According to a Georgia Supreme Court statement, the courts voted 4-3 to strike down the 2008 Georgia Charter Schools Commission Act, saying that the schools do not fit the definition of “special schools” as envisioned in the state Constitution.
The case was brought to the state’s highest court by seven local school districts, including Gwinnett County, who sued former state Superintendent Kathy Cox, the Department of Education, the Charter Schools Commission and three charter schools approved by the Commission, according to the ruling.
DeKalb County, Bulloch and Candler County, Griffin-Spalding County and Henry County and the Atlanta Independent School System were also involved.
The State Supreme Court that, “The Act is unconstitutional because it violates the 'special schools' provision in the Georgia Constitution of 1983.” The ruling stated that the Act went against a fundamental principle of public education, exclusive local control.
The ruling went on to say: “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,’"
In the 75-page dissenting opinion, Justice David Nahmias wrote that the majority abused its power to the detriment of children.
"Today, 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," he wrote. "That result is unnecessary, and it is unfortunate for Georgia's children, particularly those already enrolled and thriving in state charter schools.”
Since the 2008 Georgia Charter Schools Commission Act went into effect, there were three types of charter schools in Georgia: the “startup” charter, which is locally approved, “state chartered special schools” and “commission approved charter schools.” It is the last type of school that is affected by the Court’s ruling.