byPaul Crawley, 11Alive.com
- Voters approved the Ga. Charter Schools Commission last fall.
- Supporters of the commission now say its being too harsh, rushing to judgement.
- Tony Lowden, of Macon, says "sometimes we're gonna have to suck on a lemon."
(ATLANTA) - This is one of those stories about being careful what you ask for.
Last fall many Georgia charter schools and their supporters were elated when voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment re-establishing a Georgia Charter Schools Commission.
They thought it would make their efforts to create such specializedpublic schoolseasier.
But some are now claiming the commission is being too harsh on them and rushing to judgement.
"Imagine our surprise when we were told two weeks ago that we had to enter yet another process to become a commissioned school," Nina Gilbert complained to the commission at a Wednesday meeting.
She and others from Atlanta's Ivy Prep Academies helped push for the new commission on last November's ballot.
Even though their three charter schools had 5-year contracts approved by the State Board of Education, they recently had to start paperwork all over again with the commission.
Just two weeks ago they were told their boys' leadership academy is having its contract cut from 5 years down to 3.
"We were informed about the 3 year charter in an email, in an email, not in a call, not in a meeting and this is where this passion comes from after 6 years of this?" Gilbert asked the commissioners.
One member apologized for the timing, blaming it on the deadline written into the law that created them.
"We're starting from ground zero, so the process is bad, we will stipulate to that and we're trying to do the best we can with that process," said member Paul Williams.
Others pointed out scrutinizing charter schools is now their job, cancelling out any previous approvals.
"This process that was given us to get where we have to go is gonna be tough; sometimes we're gonna have to suck on a lemon," said commission member Tony Lowden of Macon.
One Ivy Prep parent admitted critics of the new commission amendment may have had a point about whether a new level of bureaucracy was needed after all.
"It looked like that there was someone kinda flexing their muscles and saying, 'we're the new guy on the block now and we're not gonna do what our predecessors have done'," Benton Thompson III told WXIA.
Ironically, Ivy Prep still has 60 days to appeal the Charter School Commission's decision to the State Board of Education, who granted them the 5 year charter in the first place.