The Georgia Supreme Court has struck down the law creating the state’s Charter Schools Commission, ruling that the Georgia Constitution permits only local school systems to operate public k-12 schools except under a very narrow set of circumstances.
The school administrators and board members giving one another high-fives this morning are no doubt educated enough to know what a Pyrrhic victory is. May they learn, very soon, exactly what such a victory looks like.
For some time now, charter schools have been the preferred instrument of school choice for those people — and particularly state lawmakers — conscious enough to recognize the failings of our public schools but too timid to support any game-changing reforms. The problem until 2008, when the Legislature passed the Georgia Charter Schools Commission Act, was that only local school systems had the authority to approve charter schools. Given the education establishment’s hostility to competition, many applications were rejected.
It was like asking any monopoly to approve and fund a new set of serious competitors. Fat chance.
The court’s ruling, released this morning, takes us back to pre-2008 conditions. The promising growth of new and innovative charter schools — many of them part of national chains with long track records of success in other states — is all but certain to evaporate.
And those legislators who have hidden behind charter schools when the topic of further school choice — such as vouchers or meaningful expansions of the tax-credit scholarship — have a lot less to hide behind now.
Their timidity led to the kind of embarrassment we saw during this past legislative session, when the sizable Republican majority in the Senate couldn’t bring itself to support vouchers even for the children of military families and foster kids.
Well, they have much less of an excuse for such cravenness in the future.
If a (4 to 3) majority of the Georgia Supreme Court believes the Legislature has no constitutional authority to approve charter schools, these justices have no grounds for denying the legislative prerogative for apportioning tax dollars to education.
Everything needs to be on the table — everything, that is, except the same old excuses. And let the King Pyrrhuses of the educational status quo, which fails too many students and, with them, society, decide how pleased they really are with today’s victory.
– By Kyle Wingfield