Brighter Georgia

The Problem

Local School Districts Fail to Approve Quality Charter Schools

Prior to the creation of the Georgia Charter School Commission in 2008 by the Georgia General Assembly, in order to start a public charter school, the application had to be approved by the local school board. Local school boards demonstrated that they were not inclined to approve charter school applications, even high-quality applications. They approved an average of three start-up charter schools annually from 1994 to 2008, and all start-up charter school applications were rejected the year prior to formation of the state commission. The creation of charter schools was severely limited by the reluctance, and often downright refusal, of local school districts to permit this form of school choice.

Public Charter Schools are Treated Differently than other Public Schools

The only recourse available to rejected applicants was to apply to the state as a state-chartered special school. However, operating under this designation is financially prohibitive as state-chartered schools only receive the state portion of funding which is equivalent to approximately half the amount that traditional public schools and locally-approved charter schools receive per student.

State Authorizer Created to Fix the Problem

The Georgia General Assembly created the Georgia Charter School Commission in 2008 as a secondary reviewer of start-up charter school applications. The charter applicant would first apply to the local school board. If their application was rejected by the local school board, they could then apply for review by the state commission. If approved, they received the state portion of funding as well as the equivalent of local dollars from existing state funds (the state holds back a portion of the state’s share of the district per-pupil funding revenue equal to the amount of the local share for the non-district-authorized charter schools).

State Authorizer Approves Quality Charter Schools

When in operation, the commission reviewed a total of 56 charter school applications, and approved 16 based on the quality of the applications.

State Authorizer Abolished by Georgia Supreme Court

Seven school systems in the state sued to have the state law creating the commission declared unconstitutional. In May 2011 the Georgia Supreme Court struck down the law creating the commission in a 4-3 vote, and ruled that local boards of education have the “exclusive right to establish and maintain …K-12 public education,” meaning the state did not have the authority to authorize these charter schools.

Supreme Court Majority and Dissenting Opinions

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens’ Motion for Reconsideration

Legal analysis by the law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP

Select News Stories

Read about the Impact this decision had on charter schools in Georgia.