The more the merrier: Atlanta joins charter lawsuit

The party’s getting bigger.

This week Atlanta joined Gwinnett, Bulloch, Candler and DeKalb schools in mounting a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, a state-created entity that can overrule local boards of education and approve charter schools.

The commission’s blessing also brings local dollars to charter school coffers. Commission charter schools receive a matching share of local funds carved from the state allocations of the districts its students leave behind. (The “carving” is a financial end-run that essentially gives charters local money.)

Prior to the change in the law, the state could approve charters but could not send the schools any local tax dollars. The schools had to limp by on state and federal dollars. In general, local taxes cover about 45 percent of school costs so the charters were operating with far fewer dollars than the traditional public school down the road when they relied only on state and federal funds.

I think it is going to be a great court battle to watch.

I won’t predict a winner as courts elsewhere have gone both ways on this question.

But I think we can agree that no matter who wins, it isn’t going to be pretty. This is a divisive issue, even more so at a time when local systems are close to  grabbing tin cans and asking passersby on the street for spare change.

16 comments Add your comment


October 27th, 2009
9:15 pm

Give it a chance and see if the children do well. It seems that we want to do the same thing that we have done for 30 years and expect better results. More money has not improved the education of the children.


October 27th, 2009
9:39 pm

Our educational system is still working for the types of children who were successful 30-50 years ago.

We didn’t always expect everyone to go to school, and we didn’t always expect everyone to finish, much less go to college.

I agree that we ought to try other things for children who aren’t successful with the current model, but realistically, I don’t see how we’re ever going to prepare 100% of our children for college.


October 27th, 2009
10:00 pm

I’m not getting my hopes up because I think they’ll settle before opening day.

If anyone’s interested, here’s why:

This is one time I hope I’m wrong.

Maureen Downey

October 27th, 2009
10:15 pm

Larry, If the state “reimburses” affected counties for all charter school students to make this lawsuit go away as you suggest in your post, won’t that eventually cost a pretty penny?
The restoration of lost local dollars by the state sounds like a high-cost solution.
I also think the architects of the charter commission law believe that they are in the right. I would be surprised at the settlement that you are predicting.

Very Happy Ivy Prep Dad

October 27th, 2009
11:10 pm

The purpose of education is to give the student the intellectual tools to analyze, whether verbally or numerically, and to reach conclusions based on logic and evidence. From my perspective, Ivy Prep exemplifies the purpose of education, and has created a unique culture for learning.

M. Downey. I love a good fight, and cant wait for David (Ivy Prep) vs. Goliath(GCPSS) to do battle for the world to see. The immortal words of Michael Buffer; “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

Very Happy Ivy Prep Dad

October 27th, 2009
11:23 pm

..can’t wait(sorry)


October 28th, 2009
12:27 am

Prep Dad, the historical “evidence” suggests that education is also about community, learning to live with others, rather than segregating oneself or one’s family. That is why local communities fund education. Is it possible that charter schools, not wholly unlike private schools, counter and contradict this goal? Education in a democracy is more than individuals using logic to “get ahead” of their neighbors.


October 28th, 2009
2:54 am

Maureen, it would get expensive only IF the Charter Commission continues to fund their schools at the level they did this year. (This code section is actually 2090, not 290 as I typoed in my post.) Now, hold that thought for a minute as we enter the Land of Politics.

I agree there are folks who feel very strongly that the Charter Commission should remain intact and I imagine some are well connected. Strong feelings don’t necessarily equate to legal viability and I expect Baker will explain that they either cut a deal or run the very real risk of losing their commission. Heeding advice of council, the state bites a $300K bullet and the case ends.

Insert previously held thought about future expenses here.

A consent agreement must be approved by the court and carries the same legal weight as any court decision. This means “the deal” will be controlling case law concerning commission school funding, the timing of which coincides with the convening of the next State Legislature. Our new lawmakers will have the choice of either funding this law or repealing it.

After a few expensive lines of Title 20 code are nixed, both sides will claim victory – the county schools for retaining their funding and the commission charter schools for surviving the attempt to stomp them and their commission out of existence.

So… are you willing to wage your drink of choice against a few Warsteiners on any of this? Never fear the spice.


October 28th, 2009
5:11 am

Where live the IM-POR-TANTS want private schools for their children,but they would like it paid for by everyone,thus charter schools were born.This drives the cost of education up for everyone and benefits the few.Hell of a system for the IM-POR-TANTS.


October 28th, 2009
5:42 am


jim d

October 28th, 2009
6:34 am

“local systems are close to grabbing tin cans and asking passersby on the street for spare change.”

GCPS 2009-2010 budget = $2 billion. not too shabby a figure for beggars.

Lawsuit Offbase

October 28th, 2009
12:15 pm

You are more than welcome to have your child attend a charter school because they are PUBLIC schools! There is NO ADMITTANCE APPLICATION OR FEE. As long as there is room and you live in the attendance zone for the school, your child has just as much right to attend as any other child.

Micheal Dib

October 29th, 2009
11:47 am

Charter Schools are becoming more successful than ever in North Fulton County. This success is not driven as much by the school and their performance as the fact that we have a problem — our public education is failing. So I applaud the commission for helping create alternatives for the parents that can provide educational opportunity that were once a part of the public education system but are being lost. I hope that charter schools and choice may someday provide the competition needed to force our system to address the basic problems. Imagine Fulton County Schools has a budget of over 800 million dollars and combined the charter schools have a combined budget of less than 2% of the total. The funds that are coming out of the local community are serving the community and students well. Many of the top performing schools in North Fulton are charters. They provide choice in a system that is failing and the charter schools are having no significant impact on the overall budget.


October 30th, 2009
12:01 am

Why is public education failing…. Three reasons…. Lack of parental involvement, student apathy, and continued funding cuts but expecting teachers to do more work that does not impact student achievement. I was pleasantly surprised to receive an e-mail from a former student who graduated 2 years ago taking an intro level Economics course (the course I had taught to him when he was in high school). He said he was actually doing better than his peers in the class due to what I taught him in high school…. but in the last two years, so many directives have come down that are not related to student achievement, I wonder sometimes how they expect us to keep our heads above water. I think as educators we need to step back and ask the question, “Does this help students’ ability to learn?” If the answer is no, this does not help students, don’t do it! Additional paperwork does not necessarily help students to learn. Why require it?


October 30th, 2009
2:21 pm

What do you have against charter schools? These are PUBLIC schools which have more flexibility in identifying what works and what doesn’t. They are still accountable for meeting standards and producing results. Unlike our current system where it almost takes an act of Congress to change anything. By the time this occurs a multitude of children have been lost. If schools are to succeed they must be nimble and adapt quickly to the changing landscape. Our children’s future is at stake and you continue to point to “QBE” funding.


October 30th, 2009
5:03 pm

Discourse…. you obviously don’t work for DeKalb County—- they change at the drop of a hat because 25% of the payroll is central office administrators — many of whom are constantly coming up with bizarre tasks for teachers in the classroom so that they can justify their job. I really would like to just teach! Charter or traditional, it doesn’t matter to me. The subject matter is the same, so just let me teach!