State provides waiver process for charter schools

Those interested in charter schools know that the Georgia Supreme Court on May 16 determined that the Georgia Charter School Commission’s creation of a number of charter schools was unconstitutional. Now, the Georgia Dept. of Education (DOE), in response to requests from various charter schools, is offering a process to those schools wanting to apply to become state-chartered special schools. One of those schools is the Coweta Charter Academy at Senioa, operated by Florida-based Charter Schools USA.

A May 24 letter from DOE Charter Schools Division Director Louis Erste described the process by which interested charter schools can apply for the state-chartered special school status. Erste said the schools have until June 3 to submit both a request for a waiver for a State-Charter Special School Application and a State-Chartered Special School Petition.

An internal review of the waiver requests and petitions will be completed by June 15 and panel interviews will be conducted June 16-17, Erste said. A subsequent called meeting of the Georgia State School Board will be held to consider the award of charters.

Both the waiver request and petition have a number of criteria that must be included.

The Coweta Charter Academy at Senoia began operations in August offering K-3 classes. The school was in the process of constructing an additional classroom building to accommodate grades K-7 when the Supreme Court ruling was made.

A number of local school parents and community supporters have weighed in on their desire to have the Senoia school continue to operate. One of those was Maurice Grover, a Senoia Councilman and parent of a Coweta Charter Academy student and another attending East Coweta High School.

“I’m a huge supporter and I’m 100 percent behind the charter school. Nobody can deny what our charter school has done in its first year, with CRCT scores and receiving accreditation,” Grover said. “The Coweta people have spoken and spoken strongly that they wanted this charter school.”

Another community supporter is Senoia business owner Scott Tigchelaar is one who has supported the idea of having a charter school housed in the community for the past eight years. The questions he raised after the decision went to the heart of the freedom of educational choice and the meaning of constitutionality.

“I question anybody who is opposed to freedom of choice in education. Parents should be able to decide where their tax dollars are going and who’s going to educated their children,” Tigchelaar said Thursday. “Talk about constitutionality. A lower court (last year) threw this out and it goes to the Supreme Court and gets a 4-3 vote. How can you have a 4-3 vote on constitutionality? There’s nothing more constitutional than people choosing where there dollars are spent.”