Law & Courts

State Courts Side With Charters

By Erik W. Robelen — December 12, 2006 1 min read

Charter school advocates in Colorado and Ohio recently got some welcome legal news.

A Denver judge has upheld the constitutionality of a statewide body that authorizes the independent but publicly funded schools in Colorado.

In Ohio, plaintiffs who challenged the state’s charter school program said they will end their lawsuit. The Ohio Supreme Court, in striking down key elements of the suit by a vote of 4-3 in October, said the charter program is constitutional.

Three school districts in Colorado filed lawsuits contending that the Colorado Charter School Institute usurps local districts’ authority to open and oversee schools. A 2004 law created the institute. Most Colorado districts have been granted exclusive authority to approve charters within their boundaries, but the three districts that filed lawsuits had been denied that authority. (Since then, one has gained the authority.)

“It was a very strong ruling in our favor,” Randy DeHoff, who heads the charter institute, said of the Dec. 2 decision. Seven institute-approved charters are now in operation.

Jana L. Ley, the board president for Colorado’s 23,000-student Poudre district, a plaintiff, noted that the judge did not rule on the districts’ challenges to the state’s rejection of their applications to become exclusive chartering bodies. No decision has been made on whether to appeal, Ms. Ley said.

In Ohio, a coalition of teachers’ unions and other groups issued a joint statement Dec. 5 announcing their plans to abandon legal action.

“[N]ew opportunities for legislative reforms and new elected officials who are committed to charter school accountability offer more hope for positive change in the near term,” said Mark Hatch, the public-policy director for the Ohio Association of Public School Employees.

The Ohio high court did not rule on certain nonconstitutional questions. For one, the plaintiffs contend that some schools are operating in violation of state law.

Chad A. Readler, a lawyer for about 100 charter schools in the case, said: “The Ohio Supreme Court made clear that these education policy issues are best left to be decided by the legislature, where all voices can be heard.”

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A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2006 edition of Education Week

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