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Ga. lawmakers OK charter school amendment

ATLANTA — State lawmakers are a step closer to passing a constitutional amendment addressing a Georgia Supreme Court ruling that disbanded the state’s charter school commission last year.

The legislation approved by the House Education Committee on Thursday would allow the state to create charter schools and to fund them.

It also would enable state legislators to pass laws creating education policy, something that long has been a practice in Georgia but is not expressly stated in the state’s constitution. The practice was called into question in the ruling from the state’s highest court.

The constitutional amendment must be passed by a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate before it goes to voters for approval. The legislation now goes to the rules committee for possible placement on the full House calendar.

“We are simply changing the constitution to actions that y’all have been supportive of for the last 14 years,” House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, the bill’s sponsor, told the committee during Thursday’s hearing.

The court ruled in May that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, created by the legislature in 2008, was unconstitutional because it approved and granted local tax dollars to charter schools over the objection of local school boards. The court also ruled that local school boards have sole control over public K-12 education and that only in rare cases the state Board of Education can create schools.

Charter schools are publicly funded but are given flexibility to determine how they meet state standards. Parents, community members and business leaders can petition local school boards to create a charter school.

The Supreme Court’s vote put 16 schools created by the commission in danger of closing. Those schools enroll about 15,000 students.

Supporters of the amendment say the charter schools commission is necessary because local districts were rejecting charter petitions simply to do away with any competition for money. The year before the commission was created by lawmakers, charter school supporters had submitted 26 petitions to local school districts, and all 26 were denied.

“I don’t think we want most charter schools to be state authorized schools — we want to continue to encourage local boards to authorize them,” said Jones, a Republican from Milton. “I would simply suggest that the numbers show they haven’t done that.”

Opponents — including many of the education associations in the state — say the state should focus on improving funding for existing public school districts before passing laws that could usher in dozens of new charter schools to further drain scarce resources.

“My concern is we will continue to penalize schools systems who are currently underfunded with what think is the new thing that’s going to improve education,” said state Rep. Brian Thomas, a Democrat from Lilburn who is on the House Education Committee.

Tim Callahan with the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, which has more than 82,000 members across the state, said the amendment will end up “forcing local taxpayers to fund schools their local board did not approve.”

But Tony Roberts, head of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, said the amendment is the best way to address issues created by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“The only intent of this is to allow a vote of the general public,” he said. “If you want to get down to local control, the local voters are it.”

Comments

NewsReader 2 years, 2 months ago

If we can get Amendments to the Constitution for all the other no account crap people approve of, then this should be a walk in the park. Go for it! Let's have an Amendment that endorses Charter Schools in Georgia.

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Jan 2 years, 2 months ago

Newsreader and others need to investigate the facts before blindly supporting this method of funding. Fact 1: Charters do not show improvement over public education. Fact 2: Educational quality is related to monies spent. Fact 3: The courts recognized that the Commission was reducing funds for public eduction in order to give higher per student funds to charter schools. This was the reason they stopped this funding method. If the legislature wants to continue down the path of charter schools, it should come up with a different funding method. The big problem with education is lack of proper funding. Georgia is consistently in the bottom 10 states in education and education funding. Then when financial times are tough, no teacher raises and increased class sizes. This is not the way to quality education.

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Award88 2 years, 2 months ago

I would like to preface by saying that I concur with you in that the courts made the right decision by stripping the state charter school authority. I believe charter school approval and funding needs to be approved at the local level where the funding would be derived from, and the funding should be proportional to the rate that any other public school would receive per student. Gwinnett county has several charter schools including the Gwinnett School of Math and Science that I believe help to provide healthy alternatives to traditional schools. That being said, I must challenge you on your Fact 2. The amount that local, state, and the federal government spend per student on education has continued to grow in an exponential manner since the creation of the Federal Department of Education. If you trace the test scores form that same time period, you will see a continued decrease in the test scores.

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Jan 2 years, 2 months ago

Award88, thank you for your support and further explanation of the good potential of specialized charter schools. Maxwell High School is another great example of the good that can be achieved with special concetrations. On my fact 2, if you research how much is being spent in todays economy for education in seperate states, you will so a strong correlation between money spent on education and educational success of the students. I have not researched your charge of education spending going up exponetially but many other costs have also gone up exponentially so comparing previous expenditures and current expenditures will give misleading information.

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NewsReader 2 years, 2 months ago

Really Jan? I’m so involved with education in Gwinnett County, you have absolutely no idea. And because I’m not a “paid” employee, I can present an objective viewpoint in lieu of a “paid” one. You tend to cherry pick your facts to support your assertions and ignore the rest. That’s fine. We’ve all seen you do that since the day you began posting here. As to your Fact 1, add the word “Some” to the front of your argument. As to Fact 2, I don’t believe you, and in fact, have seen many studies that support the opposite. As to Fact 3, you are just plain wrong. Basically, the only thing you did manage to get right is that Georgia is consistently in the bottom 10 states in education and education funding, but I submit to you the DC school system has the highest expenditures per student, yet the lowest scores. Essentially, if you keep repeating the same thing over and over and over again expecting a different response, that is the true definition of idiocy. To quote Dr. Phil, “How is that working out for ya?”

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Jan 2 years, 2 months ago

Your "objective viewpoint" is devoid of actual facts. As to Fact 1. I did not say that no charter school excelled but their are also public schools that excel. The point is that the AVERAGE charter is no better than the AVERAGE public. Fact 2, I suggest you research state expenditure on education and education quality indicators and you will see a strong correlation. This date is easily found from numerous sources. On Fact 3, the state supplies greater funding to charter schools than public and still wanted to get additional county money, defunding public schools.

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kayak 2 years, 2 months ago

@Jan No, higher per student dollar amounts don't necessarily equate to better performing schools. Charters give parents an alternative to the violent, drug filled public schools. And, my biggest complaint is - my kids attend private school (expensive no matter where they go just by virtue of the fact that there is no public assistance) and yet I gotta support (through my property taxes) the local cesspool of a public school system. Why shouldn't we be able to divert that money back to a school my child actually would or could attend? You are already taking my money at the point of a gun, for a system I would choose not to support. So it ain't their money to begin with.

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Jan 2 years, 2 months ago

You should check your facts more carefully. The state does give sonme support to private schools and the private schools that can consistently show improvement over public education spend more per student than public schools

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LarryMajor 2 years, 2 months ago

The Supreme Court ruling in no way questioned the state’s authority to enforce education policy. This is pure fiction invented by those trying to trick you. You have exclusive control over your personal automobile, but that doesn’t mean the state can’t enforce speed limits and drunk driving laws not specifically mentioned in our constitution.

These hucksters claim we need a state body to approve charter petitions denied by a local Board of Education, but that’s not true and they know it. The State BOE has always had the authority to approve charter schools, which is exactly how Ivy Prep opened its first year. If that’s not enough dishonesty for you, consider Tony Robert’s claim that “the only intent of this is to allow a vote of the general public.” Well, local voters currently do have the authority to approve or deny local funding of a state chartered school and it is precisely that authority this amendment will take away from us.

Don’t be fooled by their lies; they are only after our money and want to legalize taking it without asking us.

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NewsReader 2 years, 2 months ago

Larry, here is the fallacy of your argument. With your last line "...Don't be fooled by their lies; they are only after 'our' money..." It's not 'our' [your] money. It is my money. It is my neighbor's money. It is my friend's money across the street. As such, we should have a say (you know, as in taxation WITH representation) as to where that money is channeled. And it is my position and that of everyone else who happens to have a child in school that the money allocated to that child should follow that child no matter where they go to school. That is not to say that if I pay $5,000 in property taxes and you pay $2,500, that my child's school gets $5,000 and yours gets $2,500. In fact, we both know it is much more than that. If Gwinnett's cost per student is $10,347.23, then $10,347.23 should go to the school that child attends - PERIOD. I’m really sick and tired of people tripping all over themselves to lay claim to money that isn’t theirs. Your public school system scheme has outlived its usefulness. And no matter how you slice it, if a million people believe in a dumb idea, it’s still a dumb idea.

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LarryMajor 2 years, 2 months ago

NEVER change my words. Since I was writing in a local Gwinnett paper, “our” means exactly the list of people you mentioned. “Our” is not a synonym for “your” in the English language. State education funding is based on enrollment, not where you live. Your comment about how the money should follow the child is exactly how it works now. The state QBE funding you kids earn goes to the school in which you enroll them. That means, without exception, any charter school, public school system – ANY public school in Georgia. You should have known this. Your sick and tiredness is purely a result of your ignorance about education funding in Georgia.

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BuzzG 2 years, 2 months ago

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators hates this bill. Wake up folks. Teachers will put their own well-being ahead of our children's every time. That is exactly why this bill is so badly needed. It is time to give ourselves alternatives to Gwinnett's mediocre schools. It is so good to see that the State lawmakers are willing to stand up to the teachers' unions and support the people. It looks like the Tea Party may have done some good after all.

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Award88 2 years, 2 months ago

While I could point to the fact that Gwinnett County constantly outperforms both the state and national averages, despite being one of the largest districts in the country and the largest in the state, and despite having one of the most diverse systems, let's go with your notion that the are mediocre. You have alternatives to Gwinnett's schools. 1) Move to a district that you think has better schools. 2) Private school 3) Home school The reason this became an issue was the state government coming in and taking money from local school systems to give to the charter schools. Charter schools, in order to receive funding from local school district should have to be approved by that district. Additionally, if you really want to improve the schools, get out there and support school choice. You should decide where to send your student and then your tax dollars follow. In this system, schools would have to compete for students and thus for tax dollars on a performance basis.

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Karl 2 years, 2 months ago

@ BuzzG-

You post is so full of BS I'm not even going to try...

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motherinduluth 2 years, 2 months ago

Accidentally posted twice. Comment follows.

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motherinduluth 2 years, 2 months ago

The only GCPS charter schools I'm familiar with at all are Ivy Prep and GMST. I have friends who chose each for their students. When GMST was established, there was no accelerated "track" for gifted Math students at Duluth and other GCPS high schools. GMST was temporarily housed on the Duluth High School campus. For several reasons, including location and the involvement of former DMS principal Kay Harvey, there was a statistically significant percentage of GMST students from within the Duluth Cluster. If you look at the "exceeds" category in Math for Duluth, you will see the unintended consequence of the "loss" to DHS of these "high achievers". DHS has not met the requirements of its IE2 contract for the past two years. According to the IE2 contract, DHS will become a conversion charter school based on this year's IE2 performance. According to the contract, it appears that conversion charter schools are no longer under sole control of GCPS, but rather the local school and are provided with a proven successful charter school administration.

While GMST took the best of the best for it's GCPS "endorsed" charter school other GCPS parents were concerned by the discriminatory gap in achievement (retention rates, drop outs, disciplinary actions, etc.) at their designated GCPS schools. They created Ivy Prep whose charter petitions were (and are) repeatedly denied by GCPS. Fortunately, they successfully operated under the state charter until last year. I'm proud of my children's accomplishments and their schools, but I can't deny that all indicators of success show Ivy Prep provided a statistically significant educational advantage to these students.

Today, most of the high schools, including Duluth, offer advanced accelerated math opportunities such as having an on-line GA Tech professor. There appear to be advantages to keeping the "best and brightest" within our communities. With today's technology, the "teacher" can come to the "learner" anywhere. However, now our "gap" seems to occur with the "average" student. GCPS doesn't seem to be showing gains in this category. When you pull out all the "models" for this group, increase class size, etc. long term student success is difficult. I just could not understand why GCPS would sue successful charter school organizations that they had "passed" on chartering themselves.

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