Judge: Atlanta can outsource school operations to charter school groups

The Atlanta school board is free to hire private groups to manage local schools, a Fulton County judge ruled earlier this year in response to a lawsuit brought by the Atlanta and Georgia Association of Educators.

The suits challenged the school board's decision to hire two charter school organizations to run five of its lowest performing schools. The charter school organizations, nonprofit groups who already run several charter schools in Atlanta, have the power to hire and fire staff, set their own budgets, and generally run the schools as they think best. The school board has since hired a third charter school organization to run another Atlanta school.

In the suit, the teachers groups said Atlanta Public Schools' initial decision to outsource the schools' operations was an attempt to sidestep state laws governing the creation of charter schools and violated teachers' tenure rights.

"APS has sought to accomplish the same result as a charter school conversion by the simple expedient of issuing a RFQ [Request for Quotations] and contracting out the entire operation and management of those five schools in the same manner as it would enter into an ordinary procurement contract for office supplies or textbooks," the teachers groups claimed.

But Judge Gail Tusan rejected their claims.

In recent years, state legislators have given school districts more freedom from state regulations. State law now gives school districts like Atlanta the flexibility to make decisions that are best for their districts, she wrote: "APS has merely exercised the high flexibility granted to it by the Legislature."

APS has not "abdicated its responsibility for these schools," she wrote.

"Plaintiffs simply disagree with APS's chosen methods for maintaining, controlling, and improving the five schools."

The Georgia Association of Educators has appealed the ruling.

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