State officials have denied a request for Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) to switch to a new authorizer, leaving officials at the charter school on tenterhooks Thursday morning as they wait for a key decision from a federal judge.
In a statement, the school said that the denial "jeopardizes" the school's existence.
TiZA's current authorizer will be ineligible to continue overseeing the school under a new state law that takes effect Friday. All charter schools must have an authorizer to stay open.
The school has challenged the new law in a federal lawsuit against the state Education Commissioner and its current authorizer. On Tuesday, attorneys for TiZA asked U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank to grant an order allowing the school to stay open while the case proceeds.
Frank said he would issue a ruling by noon on Thursday.
School officials said through their attorney that they were notified of the state's denial about midnight.
"TiZA's board is considering all options to address this inappropriate and ill-conceived decision, including an appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and actions to protect TiZA's ability to continue operating to serve its students," the school's statement said.
The school has about 540 students in grades K-10 at its campuses in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine.
In its denial, the Minnesota Department of Education said that the school's would-be overseer, Novation Education Opportunities, had shown a "lack of candor," in part by failing to identify conflicts of interest with the school. Novation also failed to address or make an adequate plan for resolving concerns raised by TiZA's current authorizer, the state said.
Those concerns include many raised in litigation brought against TiZA by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, which claims the public school has promoted religion in violation of the Constitution.
In addition to the ACLU's initial claims, the lawsuit uncovered evidence that the school uses an Arabic curriculum with sectarian content, according to the state. It also revealed that documents about the school that were submitted to the state had unauthorized signatures.
The school shot back that the Education Department "has wrongly pre-judged TiZA, callously using disputed information from the ACLU's lawsuit ... [and] ignoring information favorable to TiZA on the very same issues. ... Against all common sense and fairness, the [state] creates the impression that these 'facts' are uncontested to publically [sic] vilify and impugn the school and its leadership without a hearing and in complete disregard to the reputations it damages."
Novation also failed to outline an adequate plan to ensure that TiZA complies with teacher licensure law, an issue that led the state to withhold some aid from the school for violations in 2009, the state said.
Novation's director could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday morning.