Montgomery’s first charter school is no longer on track to open in 2018.
On Tuesday, Circuit Judge J.R. Gaines ruled the Alabama Public Charter School Commission’s 5-1 vote to approve the LEAD Academy’s application for a charter school missed the mark by one vote that it legally needed for approval. Alabama law requires at least six votes for the charter school’s approval to be valid.
The judge’s decision follows a March lawsuit made against the school by the Alabama Education Association, which alleged the state charter commission’s approval of Montgomery’s first-approved charter school was “invalid” or “arbitrary,” calling into question the legitimacy its approval of LEAD Academy. It named both LEAD Academy and state commission members as defendants.
The AEA applauded Judge Gaine’s decision, which they believe stops “the unlawful granting of a charter school to out-of-state investors.”
“The Commission’s own national experts said this application was deficient in all three core areas it reviewed and should be denied,” explained AEA President Sherry Tucker. “Thus, it was no surprise that its backers could not get enough votes in favor of it. AEA will continue to be the strongest supporter of all students in all of Alabama’s public schools.”
Theron Stokes, AEA Associate Executive Director, added, “AEA will remain vigilant and fight all attempts to illegally divert public school dollars from Alabama classrooms to out-of-state, for-profit, charter school corporations and those operators should know that before trying to take public money from our public schools. We celebrate this victory for the students in the Montgomery Public Schools and the taxpaying citizens of Montgomery County.”
But the school’s spokeswoman said they’re not giving up.
The school’s chairwoman Charlotte Meadows told the AP, “it’s a sad day for our students” but “this is not the end of a charter school in Montgomery.” Meadows said she’s looking into legal options, but the start date may be delayed to 2019.
Last month the school secured a facility for its learning center, after their initial plans to renovate the building that houses the Small Business Resource Center in downtown Montgomery fell through in February.
When it opens, LEAD Academy will be located at the former Algernon Blair Building, which previously served as a bank headquarters, at 2897 Eastern Boulevard.