The state of Minnesota and a federal judge struck a double blow against Inver Grove Heights-based charter school Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy today. With its legal options all but exhausted, the school will likely be forced to close.
The first ruling against the school came late last night, when the Minnesota Department of Education denied another request by Novation Education Opportunities to become the school's authorizer. In order to remain open, charter schools are required by law to have an authorizer. An amended state law, which takes effect tomorrow, prohibits Minnesota charter schools from having out-of-state authorizers. TiZA's current authorizer, Islamic Relief USA, is based in Virginia.
After the decision, the school issued a press release saying the department's ruling "jeopardizes" the existence of the school.
"The TiZA community is saddened by the Minnesota Department of Education's decision to reject our new authorizer's transfer application," TiZA Board Chair Dr. Mahrous Kandil wrote in the release.
But that was just the beginning for the beleaguered charter school, which was sued in 2009 by the American Civil Liberties Union for allegedly violating the separation of church and state. That case is scheduled to go to trial in November.
On Wednesday afternoon, a federal judge also denied a request by the school for a temporary restraining order that would keep the school open until a new sponsor can be found.
In a second press release issued Thursday after the judge's ruling, Kandil took on a defeated tone. TiZA's board met in an emergency meeting to consider all its options, and the school may consider an appeal, Kandil said.
"Based on the statements from the Minnesota Department of Education, we now expect the state will seek to close the school without any hearing or opportunity to defend itself," Kandil said. "TiZA is very proud of the eight years of academic excellence its students have achieved and the leadership our school has provided in the charter school and education communities."
The school has roughly 540 students spread across two campuses in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine. More than 80 percent of those students come from low-income families, according to data provided by the school.
The dual decisions are likely to have a profound effect on the famillies of students like Yasmin Tuku, whose father Abdu said last week the school helped his two daughters excel in academics and discipline.
"Having your own kids and getting them to be successful," Tuku said. "As a parent, you can't wish for better than this."