published Friday, June 10th, 2011

Georgia board OKs 2 charter schools

ATLANTA—The first of 16 charter schools affected by a recent Georgia Supreme Court decision to throw out part of the state’s charter school law have now been approved by the state Board of Education.

The board voted unanimously Thursday to renew the charters for Odyssey School and Georgia Cyber Academy and to merge the schools. Odyssey is brick-and-mortar, while the academy is solely online.

They were approved previously by the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, which was ruled unconstitutional last month.

The state school board has authority to grant charters. The charter schools approved by the state board are eligible for state funding but not local school tax dollars.

The state’s highest court overturned a law allowing the commission to approve and fund charter schools over the objection of local school boards. The schools affected — which have about 16,000 students enrolled — are scrambling to get approval elsewhere or face closing their doors.

The state and a handful of charter schools have asked the court to reconsider its decision. The court has not yet ruled on that motion.

Motions for reconsideration are frequently filed by the losing parties in Georgia Supreme Court cases but the justices rarely grant them, and when they do, they even more rarely reverse their decision.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are considering an amendment to the state’s constitution that would address the court’s ruling. But that wouldn’t take effect for at least a year, which wouldn’t help the 16 schools approved by the commission.

The Charter Schools Commission was created in 2008 by frustrated state lawmakers who said local school boards were rejecting charter petitions because they didn’t like the competition. The commission began approving schools and then allotting both state and local tax dollars to the schools over outcries from districts.

A year later, the school districts filed a lawsuit against the state.

Since the court’s ruling, the 16 commission schools have been scrambling to get approval from their local school districts or from the state Board of Education so they can keep their doors open.

The court’s ruling does not affect the 65,000 students attending charter schools approved by local school boards or three schools created by the state Board of Education.

The measure was approved Thursday as part of the board’s consent agenda and prompted no discussion.

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