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Charter school review must be stringent
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Forsyth County News

The state’s Charter Schools Commission last week denied the application of the International Charter School of Atlanta, which hoped to open a language immersion school in Forsyth County.

In doing so the Commission questioned whether the proposed school would be able to meet state standards for academic rigor, whether there was an adequate business plan in place, whether the school’s governing body was sufficient, and whether it was likely to recruit and retain the faculty needed for the level of language instruction proposed.

The school had hoped to open next August. Now it must wait at least a year before again being considered.

When it comes to the establishment and approval of charter schools in Georgia, the process is both challenging and complicated. And that is a good thing. Those responsible for making the final determination on whether charter school status will be approved have to take a demanding, conservative approach or risk the potential of academic and financial chaos.

Charter schools, whether operated by public school systems or other entities, have become increasingly popular in Georgia. According to statistics from the state Department of Education, there were 35 such schools in operation in the 2004-05 school year. By the 2012-13 school year that number had increased to 314.

That said, approval of charter school applications has certainly not been a rubber stamp process, nor should it be. In the 2010-11 school year, there were a total of 75 charter applications. Of those, 40 were approved.

Whether the language school proposed for the county should have been approved is a determination we aren’t qualified to make, but it is easy to see the potential for problems if such a school is allowed to open and then fails to meet academic or financial standards.

The charter school concept demands a vigilant approach in the approval process. The idea behind charter schools is to create learning opportunities that are dramatically better than what already exists. Allowing anything less to surface in the educational landscape isn’t going to serve the people of Georgia well.

Given the international flair of the modern world there certainly is appeal in an academically challenging language learning experience, but the likelihood of sustained success in such a venture almost has to be a certainty to warrant the charter status.