The cries of protest grow louder as two more school districts join Gwinnett in suing the state for taking money away from their “traditional” public schools to fund charter schools in the districts.
As we talked about here earlier, those charter schools are public schools and serve children from the community. However, the charters are being approved over the heads of the local school boards.
Believing that the local boards were treating charter school applicants as unwashed and unwelcome kin, the state created a commission that could override the objections of local boards and not only approve charters, but, with a bureaucratic sleight of hand, also ensure those schools received local dollars.
I think there is a valid constitutional argument over whether the state law undermines the role of local boards of education. Court cases in other states have gone both ways. I have no idea what our courts will do, but the case will be interesting.
The Bulloch-Candler suit targets Statesboro’s Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts & Technology, a middle and high school of 123 students.
Under the state’s funding formula, CCAT receives $367,464 from money carved out of the Bulloch Schools. Approximately $1,567 in state funds is being withheld from Candler County to pay for its sole student at the CCAT.
“It’s not run by our board … it’s not controlled by our board as the state constitution says it shall be,” said Bulloch Schools Superintendent Lewis Holloway in the AJC story. “Over 10 years we are going to lose $ 4 million — that is a significant amount of money to not go to our students. The constitution says that you can’t spend local revenue on non-public school items without our voters voting on it.’’
Unlike Gwinnett’s lawsuit, the Bulloch-Candler lawsuit moves to freeze the funds in an interest bearing account during litigation in case the court decides the money is rightfully theirs.
If the courts rule for the districts, the pace of new charters in the state will likely slacken as the evaporation of local funds is a serious obstacle. And as we have noted earlier, it’s financing problems that often doom charters, not the academic side of the equation.
I still have to ask the state DOE and the state board: If the flexibility of charters is the secret to their success, why not throw out the rule books – watch where they fall because they are now thick enough to take out a city block — and extend greater freedom to all schools?