GOP scrambles to get votes for charter schools

ATLANTA -- House Republicans on Wednesday scrambled to win enough votes to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow them to create charter schools.

After the amendment failed to garner the two-thirds vote required for amendments in the House last week, a legislative committee is expected to hear today a plan outlining how lawmakers hope to pay for the new schools. House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones and other sponsors of the bill hope the hearing will help quell critics, who say the amendment would mean taking money from local school districts to give to charter schools they never approved.

"We're just trying to get the correct information out there as to what the bill actually does," said House Education Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman, a Republican from Duluth, who is also sponsoring the amendment. "I really think when people see the legislation, it will have much better support than it was before."

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have introduced an identical constitutional amendment measure in case the House version fails again, said Senate Education Committee Chairman Fran Millar. He said the bill is a "safeguard."

The legislation is meant to end the legal uncertainty created by the Georgia Supreme Court in a May ruling outlawing a commission that approved more than a dozen charter schools.

Democrats held a hearing Wednesday on their own charter school amendment, saying they don't oppose charter schools but worry that the Republican proposal would strip away local control from districts.

"This pits state-created charter schools against state-funded schools by forcing them to compete for funding," said Rep. Simone Bell, a Democrat from Atlanta.

Groups that represent teachers, school boards and school superintendents say they don't support either party's legislation. Allowing the state to create charter schools is akin to letting someone other than municipal government create separate fire departments or libraries with public money, said Sis Henry, executive director of the Georgia School Boards Association.

"Anything we have seen at this point would still circumvent the local boards," Henry said.

The House GOP amendment, which has two Democratic sponsors but not the support of the party, could come up for another vote as early as this week.

GOP leaders and charter school advocates spent Wednesday pushing for the legislation at the Gold Dome, talking with lawmakers who voted against the amendment last week in hopes of changing their minds.

The commission-approved charter schools were getting a portion of the funding that went to school districts because they had students transferring from the district to the charter school. That upset some districts, which sued the state and eventually won their case with the state's highest court.

But that meant that the commission-approved schools lost about half their funding, putting some in danger of shutting down and forcing others to delay opening last fall. The schools have gotten emergency infusions of cash from Gov. Nathan Deal, but that money is not guaranteed every year.

"We'll have to make some cuts," said Kylie Holley, principal and co-founder of Pataula Charter Academy in southwest Georgia, which serves 320 students from five counties. "After a few years, we would have to close our doors due to financials."

Associated Press writer Shannon McCaffrey contributed to this report.


LarryMajor 3 years, 7 months ago

Let’s be clear about a few things: State funding is based on enrollment and it follows the child to any public school in which they enroll. The money the Commission took away from GCPS was earned by kids still enrolled in GCPS. Parents, if your children attend a Gwinnett County Public School, you need to know that both Jan Jones and Brooks Coleman sponsored the law that allowed the Commission to take away state funding earned by your children. The original wording in HR 1162 (which these two also sponsored) contained the exact funding language that allowed the Commission to do this. Had it passed in its original form, this horrific funding inequity would have been written directly into our Constitution. If you want to know their real motive, don’t listen to what Jones and Coleman say – watch what they do.


NewsReader 3 years, 7 months ago

It is clear Larry. We don't need you to 'splain it to us. When you claim that "...it follows the child to any public school in which they enroll..." you forgot to be really clear in that "...it follows the child to any public [publik is more appropriate don't you think] school in which the gov'ment allows them to enroll..." That is what you really meant to say was it not? LOL! Parents, you need to be aware of those legislators that refused to allow you, the voter, the opportunity to decide for yourself if this amendment is right for you and your children. Larry here, in his infinite wisdom, seems to think that he knows what is best for you. I needn’t go into the mindset that endorses that mentality.


BuzzG 3 years, 7 months ago

Gwinnett County runs a prison camp under the guise of a school system. The taxpayer is an inmate in this system. The county makes you send your kid to the school they tell you to, regardless how bad it is. This soviet union style school system is a guarantee that there will be no competition and little accountability. The teachers union loves it because it is run for their benefit, not our children's. It is time for a change, and this amendment will hopefully be a catalyst for that change.


Cleanupguy 3 years, 7 months ago

Purely politically based opinions aside, the facts indicate that charter schools do not appear to be the holy grail here. If were're more intersted in kids than politics, the best answer might not be so clear – the following was in the AJC today:

“Charter schools have become less successful than traditional schools in meeting federally mandated annual yearly progress targets, a report to the state Department of Education shows.

The report, presented to the state Board of Education Wednesday, also said graduation rates at charter schools are about the same as the state average.

“In this current political climate, I’d like to see some information that points out the benefits of charter schools,” board member Linda Zechmann said. “I’m not seeing that here, and it’s kind of disappointing.”

Example of specifics in the report:

-- In 2010-11, 70 percent of charters met annual yearly progress targets established by the federal No Child Left Behind law while 73 percent of traditional schools in Georgia met those AYP targets that year.”


NewsReader 3 years, 7 months ago

When you give them the same set of assets that is afforded the rest of the public schools, then you can compare apples to apples. Why don't you take a look at what has transformed the New Orleans school system following Katrina?


Jan 3 years, 7 months ago

Check your facts! The truth is that Charter schools are not required to adhere to the same criteria as public schools and have been given more funding per child than public schools yet the average charter does not perform as well as the public counter parts.


NewsReader 3 years, 7 months ago

I introduce you to the Cleanupguy and Jan mindset consistent with that of Larry. You guys are good little socialists. And Jan, I don't need to check my facts.There is a reason that they don't have to adhere to the same criteria as public schools. Thank God!


kevin 3 years, 6 months ago

Try making some sacrifices and send your kids to a private and/or Christian school. Maybe then you won't have to worry about your kids getting an education and some moral upbringing, which many public school parents do not care to deal with in their house. I blame the parents for wasting out tax money on a failing public school system and the related labor union that supports do-nothing teachers just long enough so they can get that very nice pension. After those teachers reach the correct number of years, they leave. They all know that these high paid managers/supervisors in our system do not want to get involved with firing anyone for fear from the ACLU or some other activist group. This is why the public school system is a joke in Georgia and most other states. Go private and your kids will surely benefit in the long run. Stay "public" and you sacrifice your kids future. Its up to the parents to make the right decision where to send their kids. Most want "free." You reap what you sow.


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