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Coweta School Board to sue Ga. Charter Schools Commission

The Coweta Charter Academy at Senoia received state approval last month to begin operations of its K-8 elementary school in August.

But the Coweta County Board of Education last week said it will take the matter to court.

Pertaining to the upcoming suit, school board attorney Nathan Lee said the board on March 9 authorized him to move forward with litigation against the Georgia Charter Schools Commission and any necessary parties that apply. Lee declined to name the Coweta Charter Academy at Senoia in the upcoming action.

In describing the nature of the suit Lee said that, in general terms, the school board believes the way the Georgia Charter School Commission was set up is unconstitutional with respect to some of the powers given it by the Georgia legislature and by the manner in which the commission plans on funding any state granted charter school.

“The manner of funding will come by using local tax dollars by a school not created by or controlled by a local board,” Lee said.

Lee added that the Coweta County School Board is not anti-charter given that the county already funds and supports a charter school, the Central Education Center, but it was not in favor of the charter school in Coweta that was recently approved by the state charter commission.

Lee said the complaint is expected to be filed by the end of March.

The Senoia charter school was approved by the Georgia Charter Schools Commission in December, paving the way for Florida-based Charter Schools USA to open a K-8 charter school in Senoia.

The Coweta County School System in early January filed a request with the state school board asking that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission decision to approve the school be overturned.

Then in early February the Georgia State School Board (BOE) offered no opposition to the recommendation by the board’s Charter Schools Committee that the petition to start up the Coweta Charter Academy at Senoia be approved.

The Coweta County School Board at its June 25 meeting denied the petition based on 11 concerns.

A traditional public school is organized according to federal laws, state school laws, state BOE rules and local board of education policies. A charter school is organized according to federal laws, applicable state school laws and BOE rules that cannot be waived and the terms of the charter contract, according to the Georgia Dept. of Education (DOE).

Under Georgia law, a charter school is a public school that operates according to the terms of a charter, or contract, that has been approved either by a local board of education or the state charter commission and the state Board of Education (BOE). The charter school may request waivers from provisions of Title 20 of Georgia state law and any state or local rule, regulation, policy, or procedure relating to schools in the school district. In exchange for this flexibility, the charter school is bound by contract and held accountable for meeting the performance-based objectives specified in the charter, according to DOE.

The Georgia Charter Schools Act of 1998 states that a charter school shall be included in the allotment of funds to the local school system in which the charter school is located. The local board and state board will treat the charter school no less favorably than other local schools in the school district with respect to the provision of funds for instructional and school administration and, where feasible, transportation, food services, and building programs. The amount of money the charter school will receive from the local board will be determined according to the provisions of the Charter Schools Act of 1998, according to DOE.

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