Breaking news: State Supreme Court delays ruling on charter school funding

Update on the much-anticipated Georgia charter school decision: The state Supreme Court just issued an order extending the term of court as to this case “until further order of the Court.”  The court gave no indication  on how much longer the case may take.

The original case was decided from the bench by a Fulton County Superior Court judge last year.  The state Supreme Court heard the case in October and was slated to rule by the end of this month. I suspect this delay means the justices are tussling over the complex issues of school funding and local school board autonomy raised by this case. Apparently, this announcement to extend the term of the case is unusual.

In her swift  ruling, Fulton  Judge Wendy Shoob rejected the constitutional arguments of seven school districts  that a new state Charter Schools Commission that can overrule county boards of education and approve charter schools  is illegal. The systems appealed to the high court where the case remains.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

26 comments Add your comment

Dr. John Trotter

March 30th, 2011
12:34 pm

This appears to be a thorny issue for the Court. I notice that Judge Wendy Shoob has the same spirit of alacrity that her father, Sr. Judge Marvin Shoob of the Federal Bench, has shown through the years. I very much respect Federal Judge Shoob. He’s a great defender of the First Amendment. I don’t really know much about his daughter…except that I hear that she’s very forthright like her father…and smart as a whip.

Dunwoody Mom

March 30th, 2011
12:45 pm

It is very obvious the justices are taking their time to study and make sure they have the correct ruling. Also, that Judge Shoop issued her ruling so quickly shows she prejudged this without hearing the facts, which is a sad indictment on her as a judge.

David Sims

March 30th, 2011
12:50 pm

If you have your philosophy in order and the relevant laws understood, a matter such as charter school funding should not take overlong to decide. It is more likely that there are politics in play, with which Shoob might not be familiar (or involved). What would delay a ruling is not whether such funding is lawful or unlawful, but whether a judge who wants to rule contrarily has yet to determine whether he can get away with it without incurring an excessive amount of backlash.

Inman Park Boy

March 30th, 2011
12:56 pm

Spot on, Mr. Sims.

Dunwoody Mom

March 30th, 2011
12:57 pm

There’s a rather simplistic approach to how decisions are made. There is more to a ruling than whether it is “lawful” or “unlawful”. The justices will have to provide much detail to whatever they decide. So, David, I guess you would say that U.S. Supreme Court rulings which can take months as well are “political”?

Roach

March 30th, 2011
1:14 pm

One might imagine broader implications. If the state can effectively overrule local control on this issue, on what other issues might the state do so? Rulings create precedents, and unintended consequences lie in wait. Given the certainty that Georgia’s legislature is not committed to ensuring quality public education, just follow the money..

lawyer

March 30th, 2011
1:19 pm

It may well be that they don’t want to rule while schools are in session. Once a law is found unconstitutional under the state constitution it is dead instanter. Legally, the kids could no longer attend the schools, which would be a bit disruptive, to say the least. Rather than attempt the dubious move of trying to rule and then stay their ruling, they may just find it simpler to wait until summer. I doubt it’s a political backlash issue. That didn’t appear to matter in their tort reform decision.

EduPoli

March 30th, 2011
1:41 pm

RE: If you have your philosophy in order and the relevant laws understood, a matter such as charter school funding should not take overlong to decide. It is more likely that there are politics in play, with which Shoob might not be familiar (or involved). What would delay a ruling is not whether such funding is lawful or unlawful, but whether a judge who wants to rule contrarily has yet to determine whether he can get away with it without incurring an excessive amount of backlash.

The problem as I see it is whether a governor created board has authority to overturn a constitutionally mandated authority (local boards of education).

Lenny

March 30th, 2011
1:47 pm

Good catch lawyer. That makes a lot of sense. I thought it could be disruptive to the school year too if the ruling did not favor the charter school board.

In Favor of options

March 30th, 2011
1:53 pm

I am in favor of the charer schools. As seen in our local community (Clayton, Fulton, Dekalb) the schools and their boards are failing our kids. We need accountability and I think these charter schools might add just enough competition to make public education accountable again. The teachers union has us all by the balls. We need to cut them loose now. As I see it now the public schools are run like the post office. And we see whats happening at the post office.

[...] at 1:58 pm: The Court has announced it will extend consideration of the Charter School Commission case into the next term of Court. The Court has rarely exercised [...]

Gonzo

March 30th, 2011
2:05 pm

Several things concern me about this extension on the ruling.

One is, the Court has already extended this case beyond it’s original term, and by it’s own rules, should rule on it by March 31. After initial arguments, they agreed to accept Amicus briefs from interested parties. The last update on this case was Nov 16, 2010. That is over 4 months ago.

The other concern is the cloud of uncertainty that will persist for an indefinite amount time while students, parents, teachers, administrators, staff, construction crews, vendors… (need I go on?) wait to see if they will have to go to another school, find another job, or proceed with purchases, planning and hiring for the next school year. Since school begins Aug 8, that leaves little time for people to make appropriate decisions. A delay on this case has the effect of scaring parents away from enrolling their children in Charter Schools, lest they be caught flat-footed after enrollment in alternative educational opportunities fill. After all, most parents who place their students in Charter Schools are fleeing the public education system.

If this case is of such unusual importance, the Court owes it to the citizens of this state to make a timely ruling

Maureen Downey

March 30th, 2011
2:19 pm

@Gonzo, We were talking about this issue in the newsroom just now. I know that the court does not have to concern itself with these considerations, but the delay puts a lot of people in limbo. If the court rules against the state, is there time for the state to regroup and come up with the difference in local dollars to keep schools going? Is there any support for that?
On the other hand, the issues in this case could be larger than charter schools but touch on who ultimately controls local school funding — the state or the locals.
It is an important decision.
Maureen

Tokyo Toto

March 30th, 2011
2:33 pm

Atlanta Mom

March 30th, 2011
2:34 pm

Dunwoody Mom, are you a lawyer or a politician?

[...] the January Term solely to decide the challenge to the Charter Schools Commission. The Court has not set a deadline for when it will release its opinion in the case. from → Court Commentary, Court [...]

[...] Breaking news: State Supreme Court delays ruling on charter school fundingAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Update on the much-anticipated Georgia charter school decision: The state Supreme Court just issued an order extending the term of court as to this case “until further order of the Court.” The court gave no indication on how much longer the case may …and more » [...]

watching

March 30th, 2011
5:04 pm

Well, well. Never thought I’d see the day that I agreed with ANYTHING out of Dr. John Trotter’s mouth. You’re right, Dr, this case couldn’t be a better hands. Judge Shoob will get it right.

FBT

March 30th, 2011
5:37 pm

Once I started seeing national media coverage, I was afraid there would be another delay.

catlady

March 30th, 2011
6:07 pm

Where the case remains, and remains, and remains… Are the Justices getting a per diem on this one?

just watching

March 31st, 2011
4:32 am

And Judge Schoob’s service on that board has what to do with any of this?

Larry Major

March 31st, 2011
8:35 am

For starters, it’s nearly inconceivable the Supreme Court will accept Judge Schoob’s curious definition of what constitutes an “independent” school system. Also, her notion that a law which effectively (as opposed to explicitly) circumvents a constitutional requirement is allowable directly contradicts a previous Supreme Court ruling, which should have been used as controlling case law.

The definitions and details of this decision will be used in future cases and it’s encouraging the Supreme Court is giving important issues a considerable amount of thought.

CharterStarter

March 31st, 2011
2:50 pm

As one of the “vendors” referred to above, I fully appreciate the gravity of the decision. I also now own stock in Alka Seltzer, seeing as how I’m consuming so much of it.

PARENTAL UNIT

March 31st, 2011
9:40 pm

1. NO TEACHERS UNIONS IN GA.

2. Another important issue is the virtual school which cross multiple districts and thus need a state entity as opposed to local brick and mortar facilities who do not want to work with local boards and thus go to the state so they can be seen as independent from local districts.

PMS1

April 2nd, 2011
11:18 am

“In the past, says University of Michigan historian Maris A. Vinovskis, benefactors “were not as prescriptive about how they wanted their money spent.” Now a new generation of philanthropic billionaires, including Gates, homebuilding and insurance entrepreneur Eli Broad, members of the Walton family that founded Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), and former hedge fund manager Julian Robertson, want public education run more like a business. Charter schools, independent of local school districts and typically free of unionized teachers, are one of their favorite causes. “We don’t know anything about how to teach or reading curriculum or any of that,” Broad said last year at a public event in Manhattan. “But what we do know about is management and governance.”
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_30/b4188058281758_page_2.htm

CharterStarter, Too

April 2nd, 2011
4:31 pm

Hello Mr. Major – Long time no chat. As always, I have some questions for you…

1. How is the funding any different with equalization?

2. What about other state schools (i.e., state chartered special schools, adjudicated youth facilities, and the behavioral health schools funded with state funds) – will those be closed if the decision that a state charetred special school is only for SPED kids?

3. I don’t understand why, if the schools were intended to ONLY be for special needs students, they just didn’t call them special needs schools. Why give it so vague of a name if it was for such a specific purpose?

4. Isn’t it interesting the counsel for Gwinnette etc., once argued the same argument re: funding that the charters have argued…and won!

Dunwood Mom – have you ever sat in a superior or supreme court case? If so, you’d realize that the “arguments” are really very minimal and only used for clarity. The judges/justices have reams and reams of paper to support the arguments. Judge Shoob’s quick ruling only demonstrates that she read the material well in preparation for the case. And if you sat in and listened to the districts’ attorneys, you’d realize how utterly unsubstantiated and unreasoned their arguments were. I was embarrassed for them.