NEW THIS MORNING: Charter schools awaiting court ruling

Photo by Jason Braverman

Photo by Jason Braverman

Charter schools are awaiting a state Supreme Court opinion this week that will decide whether they are allowed to continue operating. The schools are standing their ground and beginning to make back-up plans so they can keep educating students in their care.

Mark Peevy, executive director of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, said he has been in talks with state officials and school operators about what to expect if the legal battle over local control of public education dissolves the commission. The state commission is facing a constitutional challenge filed by seven metro Atlanta school districts who say it illegally approves and funds charter schools.

The commission has approved 17 schools -- nine of which serve students and anticipate a combined enrollment of more than 15,000 students in the fall.

"All of them understand the situation," Peevy said. "If there is a result that negatively impacts the commission, I expect to have some very expedient conversations about what state legislators might be able to do."

The constitutional challenge, which was launched in 2009, is the first in the nation against an alternate authorizer of charter schools that could leave students in limbo if it were struck down.

The court could uphold the 2010 Fulton County Superior Court ruling supporting the commission or rule against it, disbanding the board. The court could suggest accommodations for students if it rules the commission lacks constitutional authority.

Herb Garrett, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, said the schools should have never been approved and funded "without involving the local school board."

Commission charter schools are fully funded like other public schools with federal, state and a matching share of local education dollars carved from the state allocations of the districts students leave.