Georgia Senate Proposes Charter School Law

After House Republicans fell 10 votes short of passing their own proposed constitutional amendment on charter schools, the Senate Education Committee has promised to bring the bill back for another vote.

However, critics of the new plan say that Sen. Fran Millar's proposal is virtually identical to the one defeated last week.

School superintendents and school boards say it is taxation without representation for money to be diverted from local school systems to support charter schools that aren't locally approved, writes Kristina Torres and Nancy Badertscher at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Millar has tried to subdue those fears, but while his proposal does not require local boards to pay for "special" state charter schools, it does assert that the state has the right to create them.

Like the House bill, the Senate version would allow voters to change Georgia's constitution, giving the state the power to open public charter schools, writes Jeanne Bonner at the GPB News.

The measure would override the recent Georgia Supreme Court's ruling that banned the state's charter school commission.

Sen. Fran Millar responded to claims that the bill would strip local school boards of control, saying:

"We're not here to perpetuate the power of school boards. We're here to educate children.

"I guess the ultimate local control would be the parents. These are public schools, after all."

Tim Callahan, a spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said that the organization is concerned about the amendment's effect on public school funding.

Callahan said:

"Despite the smoke screens, this is not about naming an alternative authorizer — such as the now defunct Charter School Commission — for startup charters.

"It is about tapping into local funds without the local board having approved the charter school."

Senate Democratic Whip Vincent Fort is also a vocal critic. He believes that the amendment would allow the state to increase its support of private schools.

Fort said:

"If you take away local control for public schools, if you take away control of what local schools exist in a local district, if you take away local control of how to allocate local funds, you are not talking about public schools anymore."

"What you are talking about is a path toward vouchers."

02 22, 2012
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