The Georgia Senate approved a charter school resolution with a 40-18 vote, putting the Constitutional amendment on the November ballot for a vote by Georgia residents.
The Senate leadership said HR 1162 reasserts the state’s role in public education that was stripped by the Georgia Supreme Court in May 2011. This invalidated the General Assembly’s creation of an alternative authorizer for charter schools.
HR 1162 defines a state charter school in the Georgia Constitution:
- Providing that a state charter school only be public, nonsectarian, nonreligious, and nonprofit, and
- Regulates that the state is not allowed to lower extra funding to the local districts when a student leaves for a state charter school.
“This resolution is about doing what is right for students, families, and communities throughout Georgia,” said Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock. “Years from now, we will look back at the hurdles we have overcome in order to advance education reform in Georgia, and mark today as a milestone in our fight for educational freedom and choice.”
Gov. Nathan Deal's signature is not needed to send this amendment to the ballot, but he offered support immediately after the Senate joined the House in passing the resolution.
“The General Assembly has acted wisely and courageously to give Georgians the choice to implement true local control: parental choice," Deal said.
"State-chartered schools help students trapped in underperforming schools and aid communities that want to invest in new and imaginative ways of learning for their children," he said.
Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, however, has even more problems with the lobbying that went on for the resolution than he does the amendment. In a release he criticized what he called Republican leadership attempts to limit and close the floor debate and orchestrating a high-stakes power game that would ultimately hurt Georgia's students.
"I have served in the State Senate for some 16 years," Fort said. "And never in my days have I seen the arm-twisting and power plays made by Republicans and their lobbyists that I have seen on this charter schools amendment."
Fort said HR 1162 was a wolf in sheep's clothing using the children of Georgia as pawns in a larger scheme to pad the pockets of for-profit school management companies and real estate deals.
"We are concerned that the state will be able approve charter schools which have been rejected by local school boards. In recent years, the legislature has cut state funding for public education by 25 percent," said Sen. Steve Henson, D-Tucker, leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
"What we have done is allow those schools denied charter by local school boards to run to the state. We believe local boards know best how to integrate charter schools into their systems, how best to select students and how best to distribute their overall funding."
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