State Supremes To Low Income Georgia Students: You’ll Go To School Where You’re Told And You’ll Like It.

Charlie wrote a post but I wanted to weigh in as well.

Georgia’s Supreme Court struck down the law that created 14 Charter schools around the State leaving those students in limbo. As Maureen Downey writes in her “Get Schooled” column:

The decision is a major victory for school systems and local control but a setback to the burgeoning charter school movement in Georgia. Unclear is the fate of the 14 charter schools approved by the commission.

The decision could be a fatal blow to schools such as Ivy Preparatory Academy, an all girls Charter school in Norcross. Ivy Prep was at the center of this fight after the Gwinnett County School Board denied their application. The State Charter School Commission approved it and the legal fight was on. Gwinnett has three specialty charter schools.

This decision, coupled with Georgia’s limited access to opportunity scholarships, leaves low income families with virtually no choice but to accept the quality of their neighborhood school. Students in Gwinnett, where the school system is pretty good, are probably going to be OK. However, the dropout rate here in Gwinnett is still unacceptable.

Students in areas of the State where the school system is not so good were just kicked in the shorts. If you’re happy with Georgia’s K-12 education system being in the bottom five in the nation then you’ll cheer this ruling.


  1. jiminga says:

    Looks like the next round of school board elections will be quite interesting, as the folks will want to elect people with an interest in quality education instead of bowing to the unions.

    • Toxic Avenger says:

      Seriously? You Republicans are so daft that you’ll blame unions in a right to work state? Really and truly? Have you ever talked to a Georgia teacher? And have you ever spoken to a teacher from, say, Maryland.

      This whole union straw man is inane. It’s a joke.

      • BJ Van Gundy says:

        You’re right TA…. No unions….

        HOWEVER! A Teacher’s Association and School Superintendant’s association that act and lobby like unions.

        6 of 1. Half a dozen of the other when it comes to lobbying and influence by intimidation.

        • Calypso says:

          BJ, benevolus is right, you are off-base with your assessment of these associations. There is no collective bargaining (and I’m glad) and their lobbying efforts are weak at best and ineffective usually. I can cite numerous examples of how the legislature has run roughshod over teachers with binding contracts the past few years, but you know them as well.

          To intimate that these associations are akin to the high-powered teacher unions and their lobbyists in other states is disengenuous.

  2. Max Power says:

    Here’s a radical idea: change the constitution abolish all local school boards, all local financing of public schools, and make every school in the state a charter school. Then give parents vouchers from the state and allow them to send their kids to any school anywhere in the state. Viola, public school competition.

  3. Charlie says:

    Thanks Buzz. My post was a quick hit, but I won’t claim an level of expertise on the issue, but I guess I need to become one.

    My niece currently attends an elementary school chartered by the commission. My sister and I are trading frantic emails trying to figure out best options at this point.

  4. Ed says:

    Establishing a second set of schools taking away the best students in the worst performing public schools won’t actually fix our education problem…

    • Ed,

      Charter schools such as Ivy Prep are public schools and thus cannot simply pick the best students and reject the rest. Ivy Prep has a lottery to determine which new students get in each year. To be sure some of the students are already good students, and the fact that parents take the time to try to get their kid into a charter school shows a level of parental involvement that is encouraging.

      However, because charter schools are public schools and thus have no tuition, I suspect most parents who send their kids to charter school cannot afford private school tuition. Hence, this ruling cuts off perhaps the only avenue those parents have to get their kid out of a bad public school.

      • Toxic Avenger says:

        Buzz, I’d posit that there are other ways that people can leave underperforming schools, or (and this is a revolutionary thought), we could use funding that would go to charter schools so as to improve the aforementioned underperforming schools.

        But I think there was a larger point in this case, and that was the establishment of schools over the wishes of local school boards (aka local control aka Republican talking point).

        • BJ Van Gundy says:

          TA. “use funding that would go… improve the aforementioned underperforming schools” is how it is currently being done.

          Riddle: Do you know what happens to bad charter schools?
          Answer: They get closed.

          Riddle: Do you know what happens to bad public schools?
          Answer: They demand and GET more money.

          Neither is a funny riddle. The second is scary.

          • benevolus says:

            How does closing a “bad” school help anything? You expect another one will just pop up with 40 Vietnamese running it with practically no overhead?

  5. rebelyelp says:

    I have not yet fully digested the court ruling. However I’m certain that the General Assembly can and must respond to legislation that works around this ruling. If it takes a constitutional amendment, so be it. Any Republican legislator that stands in the way of enabling legislation can and should be run out of the General Assembly.

    Court ruling available here as a pdf:

  6. saltycracker says:

    The educational system in Ga. is a mess. It is a bureaucratic empire for employees using students as secondary lip service. It is overpaid administrators, underpaid working teachers and out of sight, fiscally unsound, early out, pension programs. Working to get out and make more retired over more time than working is a bad system. Add on the other programs dictated by the state/Feds…..

    That said the Supreme Court was right in not permitting an end run to fix a bad problem our elected need to address. That’s worse than a committee to nominate party candidates in a two party system.

    The down size is the voters are not paying attention and fall for the left wing tactic that “you hate public workers” if anyone tries to address the issues, particularly in education. While most of the educational issues are at the state/Fed level, locally we can elect those in favor of charter schools & should.

    We can’t keep trying to fix problems by adding another side layer of administration or revenue means. Nor is the point of public service the public worker.

  7. Charlie says:

    From one of the charter schools:

    This morning, the Georgia Supreme Court handed down a ruling that declared the Georgia Charter School Commission to be unconstitutional. I have been in contact with the Georgia State Department of Education for clarification as to whether this ruling will affect “state chartered special schools,” Odyssey’s current designation. They are currently analyzing the opinion and promise to get back with me soon.

    I will continue to gather and disseminate information as the ramifications of the ruling for charter schools in Georgia, and Odyssey in particular, become clearer.

    There will be a special charter school rally at the capitol on Tuesday morning at 10:30 am. I am planning to attend. It would be great for as many of our families to have representatives there as possible to more clearly show the possible effect of this ruling on charter schools in Georgia. However, the school will neither be closing for the rally nor will we be arranging for transportation to bus students there.

    Andy Geeter
    School Director
    Odyssey School

  8. rebelyelp says:

    For what it’s worth, one of the local school boards that sued to stop state sponsored charters was the Atlanta school system. This is just pathetic — a dysfunctional school board, that has presided over a failing school system for decades, sues to limit competition.

  9. Statement from Gwinnett School Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks:

    “We are pleased with the court’s decision. While some tried to paint this
    lawsuit as an anti-charter school case, nothing could be further from the
    truth. At its heart, this was a constitutional question, one that has been
    answered once and for all. The Supreme Court has ruled correctly that the
    commission does not have the constitutional authority to establish schools
    and direct local dollars to the operation of those commission-approved
    schools. Again, the Gwinnett County Board of Education’s participation in
    this lawsuit was not a stand against the creation of charter schools, but
    rather against the establishment of a state commission that sought to usurp
    the jurisdiction and resources of a duly elected local board of education.”

    • rebelyelp says:

      “… one that has been answered once and for all.” I don’t think so Mr. Wilbanks. Through the courts or through the political system this decision will be reversed. And after we fix the mess, we will be coming for the people that caused it. I’m not sure how far you are from retirement, but I’d suggest you start planning for it.

      Speaking of which, what exactly do you know about those overpriced land deals in Gwinnett?

      • saltycracker says:

        Mr. Wilbanks would probably contain his remarks and activities within the boundaries of his employer’s opinions or support.

        So how’s the split on the Gwinnett Board for charter schools ? If it is mostly ag’n then the local voters either agree or have a lot of work to do.

        • rebelyelp says:

          Salty — The tail wags the dog. There is work to do and there will be willing hands to do it.

    • Toxic Avenger says:

      Yes, and I agree. Just like you Republicans hate that individual mandate Obama had FORCING people to pay for things that they don’t want to, this decision discusses how a state can’t force a local BoE to pay for things it doesn’t want to.

      Rectify THAT.

  10. jeff says:

    It amazes me how ignorant some people in Georgia and in the General Assembly are when it comes to education. This charter school commission should have never been formed. It is nothing but more government bureaucracy and another government agency telling local school boards how to run their school systems and where to spend their tax dollars. If you are in favor of local control then you can’t be in favor of the charter school commission. Local school boards should make decisions not some bureaucrat in Atlanta who knows nothing about the systems they are adding these charter schools to.

    • rebelyelp says:

      On the contrary Jeff, I think perhaps you misunderstand the point of “local control” which is to locate decisions as closely as possible to the people, not to allow “local” tyrants to rule with impunity over individuals in their province. There is nothing at all inconsistent in supporting local control and the rights of individuals. Giving indivduals the tools to free themselves from local despotism (whether by a school board or tax assessor or any other governmental entity) is part and parcel of “local” control.

      In this particular case, I challenge you to find one student in a state sponsored charter school who feels that their rights are being trampled upon by the state. On the contrary the state has granted them freedoms they did not have before. As to the power and rights of local school boards — these are granted by the state and they can, should, and will be amended when they are abused for the benefit of local tyrants against citizens.

      • jeff says:

        So which school board is the “local” tyrant? The state has absolutely no right to tell local school systems they have to fund a charter school. Education is best left to the local school boards. The bureaucrats in Atlanta don’t have a clue what the kids and communities of Early County, Dade County, Union County, Long County, etc. need in respect to education. Local boards of education already have to deal with enough unfunded mandates from the federal and state governments. This charter school commission is nothing but a bureaucratic growth in government and an attempt by the state government to gain more control over local education. The same goes for vouchers.

        • rebelyelp says:

          Well we apparently disagree — some of us believe we can do better than allowing local school boards to dictate to parents. As previously stated, the state charter commission provides more choice to families not less, and this is fully consistent with the idea of local control. The state certainly does take power from the local school board — but not for itself. It grants this power to families and students, and we should all be happy for that.

          Moreover, state chartered schools are fully funded which is precisely the issue at hand. The local school boards bringing suit, including the abysmal Atlanta Public Schools, were explicitly calling for these charter students to be underfunded on a per pupil basis.

          • saltycracker says:

            The APS is the way it is as the local voters choose to put bureaucracy & public employees ahead of their kids and top it off by expecting schools to participate in enabling/dumbing down their kids.

          • jeff says:

            Local school boards are elected by the parents. If they have a problem then some other members should be elected. That is how the system works. There are several local systems that have opened up charter schools on their own and they have had fabulous results but again the decision was local and made by the board of education not some bureaucrat from Atlanta. These decisions should be local. You say the that state charter schools are fully funded and you are correct but they are fully funded at the expense of the local school system. The local school system ends up with less than their share of funding and in the end gets screwed. This is why the school boards don’t support this commission. Yes charter schools can be great and an excellent alternative but it should be a local decision not pushed on them by someone who isn’t aware of the situation at the detriment of the local school system.

            • seenbetrdayz says:

              Yeah, I forget exactly how the quote goes, but I’ve heard it said that:

              “The quickest way to reform education is a dozen angry mothers at a PTA conference.”

            • rebelyelp says:

              Again Jeff you continue to spew misinformation. State sponsored charters are not funded at the expense of the local system. The per pupil funding for students remaining in the public shools is not affected by funding for the charter. The truth is that some local boards want to hold on to funding even in the absense of the obligation of educating students who have chosen the charter. These local boards would have parents choose between a fully funded public school and a half funded charter. It is a system first, student last mentality.

              • jeff says:

                That per pupil funding you refer to doesn’t just pay for instruction. It pays for maintenance, operation, nutrition, transportation, etc. So if a school of 400 gets X amount of funding per pupil, a large percentage of that goes to these other areas. If 100 of those students leave to go to a charter school then the school’s funding is cut by 25%. Only problem is that maintenance, operation, and transportation costs stay the same because they are in the same building, have the same utilities, and drive the same bus routes everyday. So essentially the school system is losing a very large percentage of its funding for daily operation of that school and must come up with it from other funding sources.

                Again, if a local system wants to start a charter school (which many have done successfully) that is great but a charter school shouldn’t be shoved down the local school systems throat by a commission in Atlanta.

                • rebelyelp says:

                  Keep digging Jeff. In the actual cases at hand what portion of the public school students transferred to state sponsored charters? Do you have any clue? The percentage is tiny and the system wide change in per pupil fixed costs in Gwinnett and Atlanta, to name two of the plaintiffs, rounds to zero.

                  In the alarmist case you would have us consider — 25% of students transferring to charters — this would be easily accommodated by setting aside space on the existing campus for the charter(s). That hypothetical would also indicate significant problems with the local public schools and would be no reason to stand in the way of enabling parents to choose a better alternative.

                  Whatever your role in the current system may be, you are an excellent apologist for ignoring the needs of students and putting a failed system first. We’ve had that approach shoved down our throats for decades and we won’t tolerate another generation of failure.

                  • jeff says:

                    If it is such a small percentage then why the need for a commission or charter school in the first place? Explain to me the generation of failure? Where has education in Georgia failed so badly?

                • BJ Van Gundy says:

                  jeff. Wrong again. The money that is given DOES NOT include money for transportation, nutrition, facilities, etc. It just doesn’t and you are wrong.

                  • jeff says:

                    BJ – Sorry but you need to check your sources. Money that schools receive from the state for funding per pupil does include money for maintenance, operation, transportation, etc. That money is not for instruction only.

    • BJ Van Gundy says:


      As a member of the Charter Commission…. I will state, unequivocally that you have no clue what you are talking about.

      The charter schools that we set up have their own individual board, made up of community leaders in the immediate community around the school. THAT is the board that runs the school. NOT the Charter Commission.

      This decision is a BAD thing for education in Georgia. Bad.

      It comes down to the suing school districts arguing for their $ to the detriment of the education of children.

      As Alvin Wilbanks so brilliantly put it “that money that goes to Ivy Prep could be paying for 25 or 30 teachers”. As I pointed out, “It IS going to pay for 25 teachers. Just not ones you control Mr. Wilbanks”

      This argument comes down to money being kept by the school district vs. improving education for students.

      I’ll take improving education every time.

      • jeff says:

        Yes everyone knows that charter schools are run by local community leaders…that is not the issue here. The decision to fund these charter schools at the expense of the local school system is the issue. The decision isn’t made at a local level. It is made by a commission that is no way involved in the community. Leave the decision to the local school system. As I have said before, many local school systems have started and funded their own charter schools with great results but the decision was local. I do have a clue what I am talking about. You as a member of some commission have no right to tell another county how they should run their education. The problem with education now is the heavy involvement of federal and state government and the many unfunded mandates that have been passed down.

    • Harry says:

      Question: Are teachers required to join the Georgia Association of Professional Educators in order to keep their job? I’ve been told they don’t have to, but if they choose not it may be harmful for their contract extension – at least in some schools.

      • jeff says:

        There is no Georgia Association of Professional Educators. There is a Professional Association of Georgia Educators and a Georgia Association of Educators (part of NEA). You are not required to join either but the main purpose of joining is for liability insurance and legal help. Joining or not joining has absolutely no effect on contract status. These associations are not unions and really have no power other than lobbying power.

      • Harry says:

        What sort of legal help do teachers normally require? I mean, if they need liability and legal insurance they can buy it for a lot less than the dues they’re paying.

        • jeff says:

          PAGE offers liability insurance coverage up to about 1 million dollars and the dues to be a member of PAGE are only about $125 a year. Where can you find insurance for less than that? The insurance is there in case a teacher is sued, falsely accused, etc….. If you are a teacher working with hundreds of students it is best to have some type of coverage.

  11. Quaker says:

    The General Assembly tried to bully the Supreme Court. Played chicken and lost. However you feel about charter schools, if you’re honest you’ll have to admit that the other side (whichever side that is) had valid constitutional arguments. Everyone knew from the beginning that there was an excellent change the court would rule against the schools. Nonetheless, the General Assembly put in place a law that led to where we are now – people have invested time and money and their children’s education on a shaky foundation, only to have it collapse. They should have shored up the foundation through a constitutional amendment BEFORE putting people at such risk. And they (the General Assembly) do the same thing over and over and over – ignoring warnings of legal counsel and bulling ahead with somehting that, if overturned, will cause havoc. then blaming the court. Shame, shame on them.

  12. benevolus says:

    The conversation needs to be about not only those who can/do go to charter schools but those who don’t. I’m sure parents want what is best for their own kids, but any time you set up a system in which some will be excluded, the fate of those who are excluded needs to be considered.
    What happens to the kids left in public school?
    If charter schools are a good idea, is more of them better? Aren’t they only better as long as there are only a few of them?
    Some parents couldn’t transport their kids across town even if they could get them into a charter school that they wanted.

  13. SOGTP says:

    If you want to fix our schools you must make it pertinent to parents. How do you do this?

    Parents need to physically write a check to the school that their children attend. This way they question what they’re getting for their money. Right now it’s invisible as its funded through Property Taxes taken from monthly mortgage payments for the most part.

    Make the parents show up at a yearly meeting whereby the school administration and teachers must brief what they are going to teach and how much that costs. Then tell the parents this is what it is going to cost you to send your kids to this school.

    Parents will get involved, demand subjects, demand results, and take an interest in their childrens schooling.

    It’s too easy for suburbbots to send their children off to the big brick building trusting that those people behind those walls are best suited to teaching.

    Do all of you remember the kids taking education while you were in University? I do. Scary!

    • Three Jack says:

      i agree sogtp. in fact, this charter deal is nothing more than a spineless general assembly playing around the edges instead of tackling real education reform including how the system is funded.

      i for one am glad the supreme court voted the way they did. now maybe it will force these elected officials to get on with reforming the entire educational system. nowhere to go but up.

    • caroline says:

      Disagree. Having dealt with private schools many parents feel that writing a check is enough. The mindset is that “I pay you 15K a year so you (the school) should have to deal with problem not “me” (the Parent). Everything that you ask them to do is met with I pay you X a year therefore that should be enough.

    • benevolus says:

      Hmph. Lot’s of parents rent their home so they don’t even see a property tax bill. Are you going to make landlords reduce their rent so they can pay for the schools themselves?
      Lot’s of adults who don’t have kids pay a lot of money for schools, but their opinions on this are not so welcome by parents.

  14. Harry says:

    I wonder how much PAGE and GAE have added to the cost of educating a child in Georgia. As things stand, it’s now well over $10,000 per year in many school districts.

  15. John Konop says:

    I do want to make it clear I support Charter schools. Yet we all must take a step back and look at the issue. First the local community is fiscally responsible for the school. Second if we do not like the people in control vote them out. Finally the constitution does not guarantee the best results but it does give you a voice via a local election to change the people in control. Do we not get into this mess ie No Child Left Behind, Math 123…..from a heavy handed state and federal government.

    …..Under the current Constitution, which voters approved in 1983, local school boards have exclusive authority to create and maintain K-12 public education, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein writes for the majority. The Constitution only allows the state government to create “special schools.” Yet in the 2008 Act, the State authorized the “Georgia Charter Schools Commission,” whose members are appointed by state officials, to approve petitions for a new type of general K-12 public school known as a “commission charter school.”

    “Because our constitution embodies the fundamental principle of exclusive local control of general primary and secondary (“K-12”) public education, and the Act clearly and palpably violates Art. VIII, Sec. V, Par. VII (a) by authorizing a State commission to establish competing State-created general K-12 schools under the guise of being ‘special schools,’ we reverse,” the 24-page majority opinion states……

    • Three Jack says:

      john, to your point, isn’t it ironic that most school board elections are considered to be the least important in the minds of the majority of voters. yet in actuality the local school board oversees a larger budget than the city or county in which they preside. they hire superintendents by offering significant six figure compensation packages, many in excess of what the governor makes. but more often than not, very few step forward to run for the low paying position on a local school board thus leaving us with less than qualified office holders.

      it is a fact that school board members receive relatively little compensation when compared with other local officials and regularly appear at the bottom of most ballots. maybe a forward looking legislator could introduce legislation (in between bills condemning homos and hispanics) that would require school board races to be listed as the top local race above mayor, commissioner, etc.

      • John Konop says:

        A very good idea!!!

        ….it is a fact that school board members receive relatively little compensation when compared with other local officials and regularly appear at the bottom of most ballots. maybe a forward looking legislator could introduce legislation (in between bills condemning homos and hispanics) that would require school board races to be listed as the top local race above mayor, commissioner, etc……

  16. Joseph says:

    In reading the posts, I’m still not clear – when the State Charter Comm charters a new school, does it fund it from what the State would have sent to the Public system for the number of students attending the new school or does it actually direct the local board to send property tax money towards the Charter?

    I am all for programs that help innovate in schools (my wife is a teacher) and see the great success we are having with Charter programs in Columbus (Chartered by the local district).

    To me, if the State decides it is worthwhile to Charter its own schools (and by state I mean through the voters to the Assembly) – they should amend the Constitution as necessary and fund the Charter schools through additional funds that would not have otherwise gone to the district.

    I am a local control guy through and through (saw first hand the mess Alabama has). So funds generated locally (property taxes for education) should not be directed by an unelected state level commission. BUT I have no problem with the State trying innovative things to improve education.

  17. Dash Riptide says:

    Never before in the history of Georgia has the Supreme Court purported to issue an initial decision in a case more than two terms after the case was scheduled for argument. The constitution forbids it, and no statute can trump the constitution. The Supreme Court did not purport to extend the January term and delay the April term in general. That the Supremes had the power to do. But they didn’t. So…

  18. cheapseats says:

    I am also a huge supporter of the concept of charter schools but I do not trust anything coming out of the Gen. Ass. / Gold Domers any more than I trust what comes out of D.C.

    I’m surprised that so many of the regular Constitutionalists and smaller government cheerleaders here are suddenly trying to spin this state-wide commission as “local control” and “closer to the people” – what?! My head may be too small to hold this dissonance.

    Charter schools – YES!
    Statewide controls – NO!

    You really want guys like Deal, Cagle, Balfor, and Bobby Franklin making appointments to some commission to take over from your locally-elected school boards? Really?

  19. BJ Van Gundy says:


    I pointed out earlier in a post, that you didn’t read, that EACH SCHOOL HAS ITS OWN BOARD that actas as the “locally-elected school board”. The Commission (on which I’ve been a member) does NOT act as the “locally-elected school board”.

    We as the Commission have even turned down a school that was identically set up (for the most part due to it’s intent to be managed by the same EMO) to another school that we approved entirely because the approved school had a board that we found to be completely engaged, informed and ready to run the school while the other, with the same EMO, had a board that had given us indications that they were simply going be dependent upon the EMO to run the school.

    I don’t know how to explain it any better than this: How can anyone suggest that there is more local control of a school by the Gwinnett SB (which consists of 5 individuals who are watching over the education of ~160,000 kids) than by a board that is SPECIFICALLY formed for the school (and typically consists of 8-15 individuals who are watching of the education of a single school of 200-1000 kids!)

    Seriously. This misinformation that the Commission itself is overseeing the schools similar to a SB has got to stop! I wouldn’t be a part of such a bureaucracy…

    • John Konop says:


      In all due respect many of us are frustrated on how local school boards are handling the charter school issue. Yet it does seem you are side stepping the below issues.

      ……I do want to make it clear I support Charter schools. Yet we all must take a step back and look at the issue. First the local community is fiscally responsible for the school. Second if we do not like the people in control vote them out. Finally the constitution does not guarantee the best results but it does give you a voice via a local election to change the people in control. Do we not get into this mess ie No Child Left Behind, Math 123…..from a heavy handed state and federal government……..

    • jeff says:

      Yes we all know that charter schools are run locally but you are missing the point, this commission takes the decision of starting, opening, and funding a charter school completely away from local school boards and the power rests solely in the commission to give the school a charter. If the local school board didn’t see fit to charter this school and fund this school then what gives some commission in Atlanta the right to side step the local school board and open and fund this school anyway?

  20. cheapseats says:

    @BJ Van Gundy

    I did read your post but I’m not sure you read or understood mine as I never once addressed who was running the schools – I was addressing who was appointed (not elected) to make the decisions as to which schools were approved.

    In fact, as others have already pointed out in subtle ways, maybe you just proved my point. This state commission is clearly unconstitutional but I’m sure our Controllers under the Gold Dome will find a way to make it constitutional with yet another bad amendment that is so vaguely worded on the ballot as to make it sound as though it’s really “for the children”.

    I’ve personally known a few of the appointed members of the state’s boards involved in education, economic development, transportation, etc. and these have all been political appointments of people who are not really qualified in any way other than being citizens with no felony arrests.

    You’re not helping your cause. Time to put down the shovel.

Comments are closed.