Rallying charter supporters but to do what exactly?

About 400 people attended a pro charter school rally Tuesday at the Capitol. (Vino Wong/AJC)

About 400 people attended a pro charter school rally Tuesday at the Capitol. (Vino Wong/AJC)

Here is a passionate response from the Georgia Charter Schools Association to today’s state Supreme Court decision striking down the state Charter Schools Commission. It is from the head of the association, Tony Roberts

While the piece is a rallying cry, I am not sure what charter families can rally for or against at this point.

Beyond asking the state Supreme Court to reconsider its 4-3 vote, there seems to be little else that can be done in the short-term to save the 16 affected charter schools.

The only way that the schools could continue receiving their same funding  — funding that most say is necessary to operate — is if their local boards of education sponsor them.

And since local school boards now hold the winning hand, I doubt many will rush to do so if they turned down the charters in the first place.

Here is Roberts’ piece:

We are very saddened to learn of the majority opinion of the Georgia Supreme Court today striking down the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. This is bad news for thousands of children and parents in Georgia who hoped for a brighter future with their children in a Commission charter school.

This is bad news to Georgia’s existing Commission-approved and high-quality charter schools- 16 Commission-approved schools either operating today or who planned to open in the fall with over 15,000 students.  These students have a right to be very upset today that their futures are threatened.

This is bad news to Georgia where our students’ academic performance and graduation rates are among some of the lowest in the nation. This is a case where the majority is NOT right.  The minority opinion of the Supreme Court contained in the 75 pages of dissenting opinion is the one that is right!

Charter schools are THE one education reform that has support in every part of the political spectrum-Republican, Democratic, liberal, and conservative.  We are in agreement with Justice Nahmias who decried the majority opinion and wrote that “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.”


First and foremost, we want to make clear that this decision does not affect ALL of Georgia’s charter schools.  For over 160 charter schools with over 65,000 students approved by their local school district, this ruling HAS ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT.  Those schools will continue to operate as usual.  Families and children planning to attend these schools now and in the next school year have no reason to fear that the school will not be there.  Again, this ruling has no effect on those charter schools authorized by local school districts.

However, for the 16 schools authorized by the Commission and currently operating within Georgia, we honestly do not know their future.  These schools are some of the highest performing schools in Georgia, serving thousands of students who were not getting the education they deserved before their charter school.

Schools like Ivy Preparatory Academy, an all-girls school that has produced some of the highest CRCT scores in the State.  CCAT-Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology, a high school in Bulloch County that yielded some of the highest graduation rates in our State.  Georgia Cyber Academy that has attracted literally thousands of children across Georgia to a most-innovative method of instructing students that might not thrive in the traditional public school.

Pataula Charter Academy in rural Edison, Georgia, who has reached out to a five-county region for students who have been excelling through the Expeditionary Learning Model employed by the school.  Peachtree Hope Charter School that has provided more than 600 students in urban Atlanta who had no hope in their previous schools with a new sense of pride in learning and achievement and the belief instilled that they could accomplish anything they choose in life, regardless of race or economic status.   The success of all those students and thousands of others in Charter Commission schools is threatened by this ruling.

We must establish how the decision of the Court will be handled by the State’s Department of Education.  Our greatest fear is that this ruling could have the impact of closing all Commission approved schools and perhaps even make System Charters unconstitutional using a strict reading of the Majority Opinion and their giving local school boards first and final approval to charter school approval and removing from the State ANY authority to approve charter schools.

We appreciate the quick offer of our State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge who said “the state stands ready to help in whatever way necessary to ensure that the education of the students in these schools is not compromised.”  He went on to pledge that he “will be working closely with the State Board of Education to see what flexibility can be offered for these schools.”

It is important to remember that the Charter School Commission was created after local school districts began blocking the development of all charter schools.  For those educators, parents, and leaders in the community who want to see more charter schools in their community and across the state, this ruling puts us right back where we were pre-HB881 (2008) where only local school districts can approve charter schools.  The year prior to the law establishing the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, 26 charter petitions were submitted to local school districts and all 26 charter petitions were denied.  This was the pattern, not the anomaly, of local school districts.  In their wisdom and thinking of the needs of Georgia citizens, the legislature and Governor corrected this problem with the Georgia Charter Schools Commission.  But now we are right back where those with great hopes and plans to have a quality charter school are at the mercy of local school districts, the majority of which have been openly hostile towards public charter schools.

The great and continuing need for our children to have educational options like charter schools has not been stricken down by the Courts.  So we will work with parents across the throughout Georgia to become a strong and united voice to do whatever it takes to make more charter schools available across the State.  If it takes further legislative action, including a Constitutional amendment, I am announcing that that effort begins TODAY.  We need our parents and students to let their voices be heard about charter schools.  And we will assist them to make this a State priority!

We will begin tomorrow on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol with a major rally starting at 10:30 am.  We want all our state decision makers to hear the LOUD voice of parents begging, pleading and urging that our State provide more charter schools to meet the growing demand.

We will work with G-PAN, the parental advocacy group, to help organize parents and bring about needed changes in our States.  We will work with our Governor, our Legislature, our State School Superintendent and the state board of education legislation (all of whom support our children and charter schools).  We believe Governor Deal and our legislature will pursue whatever remedies are necessary including possibly a change to our Constitution, to insure that our state continues to develop more high-quality charter schools.

We will not rest until we see this fixed and all of the children of Georgia having the opportunity to attend a high-quality charter school when that is their choice.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

41 comments Add your comment

Cry me a river...

May 16th, 2011
2:34 pm

If you don’t like the public schools, then send your kid to a private school. If you don’t have money to do this, then try to make your case before the local board (the entity that the Georgia Constitution vests the power in to control local public education). If the board doesn’t go along with your proposal and you disagree and are mad, qualify to run for the local board. Sorry, guys, but this is how the process works. Now the Buckhead Moms will have to go see Mr. El and his colleagues on the school board about their charter school plans. Wasn’t this State Charter Commission thing hatched out of the idea that the Buckhead Moms didn’t want to go with their bonnets in hand to see Mr. El and the others on the Atlanta Board of Education?

What Are They Afraid Of?

May 16th, 2011
2:45 pm

It is a simple question. 26 charter schools petitioned their counties for standing and 26 were denied.

What are they afraid of?

Are they afraid of a school teaching students in a more effective manner?
Are they afraid of schools where parents are more engaged in the day to day operation of the school?
Are they afraid of losing tax dollars for students that are not in their schools anyway?
Are they afraid of giving a slim piece of power over to someone out of their control?

What are they afraid of?


B. Killebrew

May 16th, 2011
2:58 pm

concerned teacher

May 16th, 2011
2:59 pm

I am a teacher at a Commission approved public charter school. Yes, I find my colleagues at the charter school I currently work at more inspired, supported, and passionate about meeting the needs of all students. No, the parents of my students are not Buckhead Bonnets. They are diverse and believe in having an alternative to their neighborhood school, where they put their efforts first, and weren’t supported. I work at a school where parents and teachers are a team, both supporting each other. Charter schools are not only in Buckhead. They are supported by parents with a wide variety of economic and career backgrounds. I am sad to see so many people uneducated about the value of charter schools.

Ed Johnson

May 16th, 2011
3:09 pm

“[F]our 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.”

There is it again, the heinous appeal to the Obama Administration. And again, appealing to the Obama Administration amounts to appealing to the Gates-Broad-Obama-Duncan Administration of public education destruction by transformation to privatization.

Cry me a river...

May 16th, 2011
3:21 pm

Ed Johnson, you ALWAYS tell it like it is. This charter school stuff is a backdoor at privatization. I don’t mind private schools…as long as they are funded by private monies, not public monies. Improve the public schools by establishing the stronger discipline that private schools and charter schools seem to have. Isn’t this what Dr. Trotter harps on so much? You, Ed, Dr. Trotter, and Catlady make a lot sense. And the Joahim fellow…as well as Tad.

I'm Curious....

May 16th, 2011
3:49 pm

Have you ever tried to reform a government bureaucracy and were you successful?

Didn’t think so…


May 16th, 2011
3:51 pm

I don’t know of any charter schools in Buckhead. If there are any, what are the names of them?

j nes

May 16th, 2011
3:53 pm

Why do local boards care about diverting the funds for students that choose to attend charter schools? If the local board is not educating the student, why do they care where the designated money to do so goes?

HS Public Teacher

May 16th, 2011
4:11 pm

Charter people…..

I’m not so sure that those “against” you are simply ignorant of the facts. I just think that they believe that everyone should follow the same rules.

Private schools don’t get public money. They can do whatever they’d like.

Public schools get public money. They must adhere to the public rules.

Charter schools are ??????? They get public money and yet don’t have to adhere to the public rules? Something is wrong.

If the rules are bad, then change them for everyone. Don’t set up a “special” group that doesn’t have to follow the rules.

HS Public Teacher

May 16th, 2011
4:13 pm

@Ed Johnson….

Ummmm. You fail to mention the one person credited for bringing forth the federal NCLB act: Bush. This began the path to where we are today. Obama has had very little to do with it (good or bad).

just watching

May 16th, 2011
4:21 pm

@Cry me a river…

Buckhead has nothing to do with the charter commission. None of the current or planned charter schools in APS are in the North Atlanta (Buckhead) cluster, including the 2 commission charter schools Heritage Academy (3378 Greenbriar Pkwy) and Atlanta Heights Charter (3712 MLK Jr Blvd SW). Take a look at where the charters in APS are located and the diverse populations that they serve — Ormewood Park, SE Atlanta, SW Atlanta, NW Atlanta (Lowry Blvd & Anderson Ave & Tiger Flowers Dr), Grant Park, Old Fourth Ward, and East Atlanta (Memorial Dr SE).


May 16th, 2011
4:25 pm

I like how everyone one thinks they are all EDUCATED on this subject yet fail to mention anything about the county and school behind a ton of what is going on. Ever tried to create a charter school in Gwinnett? Good Luck it will never happen. People just do not want to share their money that is what this is all about. These people pay taxes just like everyone else so they should be able to use it to educate their kids.

just watching

May 16th, 2011
4:26 pm

And I should add that the parents in the North Atlanta Cluster are VERY active in supporting their neighborhood schools through a huge amount of volunteering.

just watching

May 16th, 2011
4:29 pm

J R….there are 3 regular charter schools in Gwinnett on the list that I have. Are they all conversion charters? In other words, existing county schools that wanted to do something different, so applied to be a charter?

Tad Jackson

May 16th, 2011
5:00 pm

cry me a river … Thank you!


Ed Johnson

May 16th, 2011
5:09 pm

@HS Public Teacher,

Actually, the Reagan Administration’s “A Nation at Risk” pretty much codified the start of it all. Every administration since has continued it in some form or fashion. For Bush, it was inane NCLB. For Obama, it is the insidious “Race to the Top Competition.” And Obama has gone even farther with his first annual Science Fair Contest held in the Whitehouse, yet laments our country’s would-be falling short in Math and Science. Moreover, in the name of competition, Obama has welcomed the “Broad virus” to infect and infest the US DOE vis-à-vis Duncan. You see, it’s Obama’s penchant for competition that is so heinous vis-à-vis K-12 public education and upholding democratic ideals. K-12 public education is the one thing Obama could have very easily done right, and morally so. On that point alone, Obama mislead the nation with his “Hope We Can Believe In” sloganeering.


May 16th, 2011
5:14 pm

This is good news….virtual education that is funded by local funds will now need to rethink their position in Georgia…also, this means that the 26 school systems that have been given RTTT money will have trouble implementing the RTTT agenda, because RTTT relies on the Georgia’s state education infrastructure to implement the RTTT agenda. That requires state funds to run and that would make this scenario unconstitutional…a lot of rethinking will have to happen now…those local BOE who have created a multi-partner/county regional charter commission will now have to rethink about going to IE2, Charter, or Status Quo…yeah for Status Quo!!! One other point I left off concerning RTTT…this creates a problem with implementing the Common Core agenda, because the state is using state funds to help implement this agenda so what will probably happen now is the movement to use Common Core will also be affected and this will slow down the ObamaStandards agenda just a bit….wow…I love it when judges uphold the constitution! Education is a State matter and local matter!! This is a victory for localism!!


May 16th, 2011
5:31 pm

HS Teacher–

If you could take off the rose-colored glasses for a minute and stop pretending it’s as easy to change a school board as it is to spend a whole day spreading misinformation online when one supposedly has a job as a high school teacher:

County chartered schools are public schools. They are required to meet the same testing requirements, have plans for and accept ESOL, special needs and gifted . . . the same requirements, just less funding than the mainline schools. The commission charter schools, OTOH, do seem to have created some special circumstances for themselves in some cases (single gender, restricted zone . . .). If counties weren’t so interested in just holding onto $ and control, they might charter more innovative ideas in schooling, some of which will work and some of which will not, and have been able to prevent these special circumstances and we wouldn’t be in this mess.

A lot of folks here are blaming the parents–of ALL charter school kids–when this comes down to BOEs’ greed.

Charter Teacher & Parent

May 16th, 2011
5:52 pm

Well, each side can accuse each other of flawed logic or ignorance but the loss here is for students in these schools. Charter schools provide a choice when a traditional setting is not working for them. If Georgia schools were excelling, then there would be no need for a change. Creating innovate solutions to our state’s education woes is challenging enough, to do it without funding or support is downright mean. Charter schools are staffed with dedicated people working hard to make a positive change in students’ lives, not villains trying to take public money away from other children. Cry me a river – yes, I saw many real tears today from students and staff.

Involved Parent

May 16th, 2011
6:50 pm

Responding to “Cry Me A River” Perhaps you do not have a child currently enrolled in the public school system. If so you would think twice regarding your views. I am a frequent volunteer in my children’s classroom and it’s saddens me to see how our public education system is becoming less effective for those children who can not learn with 32 other children crammed in a classroom. My kids are bright but no child shouldn’t have to settle for programs that meet the bare minimum in academic standards.

Maureen Downey

May 16th, 2011
8:42 pm

@Cry, I think you mean Jordan Kohanim and the fellow is a she.

sad day for GA

May 16th, 2011
8:55 pm

wonderful, systems won and children lost. Back to failing schools.

Concerned Parent

May 16th, 2011
9:07 pm

There is a public school in the county I live in where the kids have to keep their text books at home. They can not have the books at school because they no longer have lockers to keep them in. The lockers sealed up and can no longer be used because of weapons being brought to school. I pay my taxes and I send my child to the charter school in this county. My child should not have to attend a public school like that. No child should.

Michael E.

May 16th, 2011
11:13 pm

Graduation rates in this state are poor at best. National comparisons of educational success consistently rate Georgia at or near the bottom. And, now, we have one less way to institute change. Compare CCAT with Bulloch County Schools in terms of graduation rates, the rates at which students go on to post-secondary education, and even test scores, and you see the positive effect that innovation can have. Perish the thought that our communities might be challenged with improvement. No, the good ol’ boys are right: let the local school boards deny charters that force them to rethink their bureaucracies.

Enough about charters

May 17th, 2011
1:39 am

You know ironically, if the charter supporters on here would spend half the amount of time they’ve spent arguing over the debatable merits of charter schools on actually fixing the local schools or running for their local school boards, we might have stronger public schools and non of this back and forth legal nonsense that’s distracting us from what it really takes to improve public schools.


May 17th, 2011
5:30 am

I have very mixed opinions about this particular situation. I have said many times that my biggest problem about the charter commission was the lack of accountability to the voters. Personally, I support schools like Ivy Prep here in Gwinnett, but at the same time, I supported the County in the lawsuit. I’m very much against an appointed body who is not accountable to the voters overruling the vote of my local (elected) board of education. I voted against Dr. McClure in large part because of the denial of the Ivy Prep petition. That is my right as a voter and my responsibility. I hope that the commission charters that are performing are able to find a way to continue operating, but I hope that when the legislature “fixes” this decision as they claim they are going to that they remember the accountability needs to come back to the voters.


May 17th, 2011
6:07 am

I think we need to keep in mind that the ruling (and the lawsuit) was not against charter schools. There are still charter schools in GA, and people can propose more. It’s just you can’t circumvent the laws and go to the state to give the permission to open a charter in a local district.


May 17th, 2011
8:29 am

I am surprised that no one has mentioned the absolutely incredible amount of money that is behind these charter school organizations. These educational management companies and companies that sell the cyber education programs are big businesses who began rushing to the public trough to feed on tax money that was made available to commission charter schools.
Someone should ask Tony Roberts who funds his organization and pays his salary. Someone needs to look into who is funding the lobbyists that show up at all of the meetings involving commission charter school issues.
My bet is that you won’t get a straight answer out of Mr. Roberts.

another view

May 17th, 2011
8:53 am

Sounds like too many here aren’t very familiar with the history of American education. A brief synopsis of the origin (the consensus is fairly strong – go check your own choice of valid sources (likely not to include the far right wing (not to be confused with conservative) hatemongers on the radio):

Thomas Jefferson was the first American leader to suggest public eduction. Jefferson opined that education should be under the control of the government, FREE FROM RELIGIOUS BIASES, and available to ALL people irrespective of their status in society. George Washington also expressed support for public education.

Until the mid-1800’s, however, education was available only to the rich. Poor kids worked on the farm or in the factory. At that time, folks like Horace Mann and Henry Barnard brought the issue to the public, and through their efforts public education was available to all children through elementary school (yes, there are caveats). They argued that “common school,” as it was known, could create good citizens, unite the country, and prevent crime and poverty. Oh, and thank the Catholics for the Supreme Court case in 1925 (Pierce vs. Society of Sisters) for the right to send your kid to a private school if you choose to pay for it.
Hence, we have public schools FOR ALL. If you have the means, you can send your kid to private school. Regardless of whether you’re competent to do so, you can home-school your kid. But you must educate your kid, and you can’t steal MY tax dollars to do so. If MY ELECTED board member holds sway and says MY local school district will support a charter school, fine. If I don’t like it, I can try to throw the bum out.

What too many people don’t seem to get is that THIS IS A DEMOCRACY, with all its flaws. Representative government pretty much insists on representation. What on earth those three minority justices were thinking, I don’t know yet, havent’ read the minority opinion, but they sure weren’t thinking about the rule of law. Or democracy.

Charter schools provide an option for some (already obviously involved) parents. The research clearly shows they work no better than publics. Private schools, unless you’re filthy rich, work no better than publics. Neither charters nor private school vouchers are in any way a “solution.” There are no silver bullets. If the public schools don’t work as well as you’d like, it’s because we elect or hire incompetents to run them. It’s OUR fault. Running away from the problems (charters or vouchers) doesn’t solve them.

another view

May 17th, 2011
8:54 am

oops, sorry for the typos.


May 17th, 2011
9:45 am

I feel strongly about this, and I think the state supreme court made the right choice. I’m a teacher and I wrote about it on my blog.


May 17th, 2011
10:00 am

“the absolutely incredible amount of money that is behind these charter school organizations”

That’s a common misconception, or, more accurately, partial conception. It is true that private business has discovered there’s money to be made in charter schooling, and that these businesses (not unlike some BOEs) have money as their primary motivator. To generalize that unfortunate development to ALL charters, however, is a mistake. Most start-up and conversion charters in Georgia, right now, remain bottoms-up, parent/community-founded efforts, to whom “incredible amount of money” means a really good bake sale.

Jovan Miles

May 17th, 2011
10:20 am

I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working in both public and charter schools in the Metro Atlanta Area and I have to say that the advantage of the charters is that they are free to fix what doesn’t work for students immediately while district schools typically have several layers of bureaucracy, red tape, and egos to wade through before arriving at a student centered solution.

I understand the concern of those who believe that charters don’t have to follow the “rules” but the truth of the matter is that many charters are under more scrutiny because of their experimental nature.

I hope that Ivy Prep and other schools approved by the commission that have a track record of success will somehow find alternative sources of funding or be welcomed by the local school boards because these schools truly offer a unique alternative to traditional public schools.

j nes

May 17th, 2011
10:56 am

The money motivator aside, it is surprising that local boards are not more supportive of charter schools. They could rid the local board of many squeaky wheeled parents and unsuccessful students in their respective districts. As self-serving as I deem local boards to be, maybe they should consider this.

Long-time Cherokee County mom

May 17th, 2011
11:20 am

I don’t really CARE about the history of public schools…I care about the present and the future. The present history is of failed public education run by a good ole boy system that is NOT GOING ANYWHERE! Charter scools will NOT be approved in this county because our LSB and superintendent arre about money and control…not what is best for kids. Our superhas his own agenda, and parents have no input about anything except fundraisers. … Georgia’s public school system is blatantly corrupt, good-ole boy, you-can’t touch-me, LOST! Until it can be revamped, cleaned up and run for the reasons it is supposed to be run, those who cannot afford private schools will demand choices! The charter school issue may have been lost for all intents and purposes, but the school boards need not snicker for long…the horse is out of the barn and we taxpayers need to keep the pressure on until the “bennies” don’t outweigh the demands. I look forward to the fight ahead.


May 17th, 2011
11:57 am

@Ed I have looked at the contract for one educational management agency for one commission charter school. I think that the company is called Mosaica and they have contracts with more than one charter in Georgia.The contract that I saw was pretty lucrative for them and funded by tax money.
I understand that it is easy to reach a conclusion that is an over-generalization but what I have seen sure looks like a lot of lobbying money being poured into this issue on the side of commission charters. As Deep Throat said,” Follow the money”
I would still like to see who funds The Georgia Charter Schools Association and pays Tony Roberts’ salary..


May 17th, 2011
12:04 pm

We’re crossing wires. You’re talking about commission charters, about whose funding I know little, and I’m talking about county-funded charters. The latter, fortunately, are still predominantly not corporate-funded (which is not to say there aren’t some that are financially, um, curious–see the two connected with Pastor Long).
That said, I think a fair amount of money–public money–went into fighting the commission charters, on behalf of the local BOEs too, Following the money path on that side of the ledger doesn’t lead to a pleasant place either.

Larry Major

May 18th, 2011
5:46 am

@just watching

Maxwell is a system conversion school; GSMST is a system startup school.

New Life Academy of Excellence is an independent startup charter school that opened in, um, 2007.

Gwinnett Online Campus, a full-time cyber high school, is approved by the BOE and is (the last I heard) waiting for final approval from the DOE as a charter school. It is/will be a system startup.

Also, Nina Gilbert filed two charter petitions with the BOE – Ivy Preparatory Academy at Gwinnett and the Ivy Prep Young Men’s Leadership Academy – back in March. These two have been through the department review and Wilbanks will make his recommendation to the BOE at the regular monthly meeting Thursday night. If approved, these will be independent startup charter schools.

Struggling Teacher

May 18th, 2011
5:58 am

If you want your child to go to a private school, then pay the tuition and send your child to a private school. But if you can’t afford the money for a private school, then send you child to the public school. If the public school is not the quality that you think it should be, then go up the chain of command and get it changed. Quality change begins from within. Running away and starting all over every time, nothing gets “fixed.” Getting a private school education with public funds is unethical. A charter school has a select enrollment, hence making it a private school with public money. Fair?


May 18th, 2011
5:48 pm

I agree, the courts got it right. You either send your child to a private school, a public school or home school them. This using public monies to fund these hybrid social experiments doesn’t work legally and no amount of parental hysteria can undo the fact that charter schools are now illegal in Georgia.

For example, the Ivy Prep school for girls is 100% discriminatory; so they were already on borrowed time.