AL Supreme Court stymies sue-and-stall tactics employed by school choice opponents
The Alabama Supreme Court has dealt school choice opponents a significant blow in their efforts to keep charter schools out of the state.
In an opinion with a wide-ranging impact released on Friday, the court cleared the way for the opening of the first charter school within Montgomery County.
The ruling came as a result of an appeal in a lawsuit brought by the Alabama Education Association (AEA) against the Alabama Public Charter School Commission (APCSC) and a foundation seeking to open a charter school in Montgomery County.
Why it matters to Alabama: The thoughtful and well-written opinion by Associate Justice Mike Bolin clarified for the first time key provisions within the state’s charter school law. As a result, charter schools throughout Alabama can now apply for authorization, execute contracts and operate with a greater degree of confidence.
Key findings: One of the things the court made clear was that opponents should not be able to file suit as a way of simply forcing a charter school to miss its statutorily imposed deadlines. This takes away the use of what the court called “legal maneuvering” as a means of running out the clock. It should help limit some of the interference charter schools can run into when simply trying to execute a contract.
The court also provided guidance as to exactly how many votes are needed for the APCSC to approve an application and the circumstances under which local school systems should participate in the authorization process.
What it means for Montgomery County: Children in Montgomery finally have more options to obtain a quality education. Montgomery has long been one of the worst-performing school districts in the state with no end in sight. Financial mismanagement and dysfunctional leadership have crippled the system’s ability to operate. A total of eleven schools in Montgomery County appeared on the state department of education’s failing schools list.
What it means for the AEA: Even as recently as ten years ago, the AEA resembled the Rock of Gibraltar. It was a massive structure seemingly impossible to break apart. However, after a decade of blasting by conservatives committed to school choice and education reform, the rock now lays strewn across the landscape in much smaller pieces. And more blasting took place the day the court issued this opinion. This ruling impairs the AEA’s ability to block charter schools in districts desperately in need of better options, thereby weakening the whole of the organization even more.
Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News