In the first sentences of an opinion issued last week by the state Supreme Court, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein declared without qualification that the Georgia Charter School Commission was illegal because of an “unbroken … constitutional authority” existing since the adoption of the 1877 Constitution giving only “local boards of education” the power to create k-12 public schools. As a result, schools for 15,000 underserved children soon may be forced out of business.
But it’s the next sentence in the 1877 Constitution — left out of the court’s opinion — that reveals the true aim of “local control” in education in that era and punctures the logic of disallowing the charter commission a say in education today.
It reads: “Separate schools shall be provided for the white and colored races.”
Arguing law with the Georgia Supreme Court may be above my pay grade. But I do know something about Georgia history. And it is astonishing that the court’s four-member majority, without the tiniest acknowledgement of Georgia’s history of racially abusive statutes, tainted court rulings and educational malpractice with regard to black children, would unblinkingly rely on one of the bleakest moments in the state’s political and legislative past for the foothold of its ruling.