Rep. Jan Jones: the Facts on GA Charter School Amendment

With a bipartisan vote, HR 1162 -the Charter School Amendment- has passed the House successfully. It must pass the Senate by a 2/3 vote or 38 votes.

A controversial, 4-3 Georgia State Supreme Court decision last summer asserted that local school boards should have “exclusive” control. However, historically the State has been a partner in education. The State allots almost half of its budget to education and should have some role in educational decisions.

“Should we send $7 billion a year in taxpayer money to local school districts and hope they do well?” House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal asked his legislative colleagues. “The people of Georgia expect responsible stewardship of their money.”

Local funds will not be used to fund charter schools that are approved by the State.

Local school boards recently refused to extend charters of very successful charter schools that were due to be renewed this year. Due to these actions by local school boards, these charter schools may be in jeopardy if this amendment does not pass the Senate.  The Charter School Amendment will then go on the ballot in November where voters will make the final decision.

We exhort the Senate to allow Georgians the opportunity to have a direct impact in this decision by allowing the measure to appear on the ballot in November.  

Parents should have direct influence on improving the approval process for more charter schools.  Parents want educational options and freedom from the barriers erected by a lethargic, unyielding educational establishment that has remained steadfastly unresponsive to calls for more school choice and more charter schools.

Here is the bottom line and the reality that supporters of charter schools face in Georgia currently from Rep. Jan Jones,Speaker Pro Tem of the Georgia House of Representatives:

The problem is that local school boards often do not choose or want to approve charter schools, even when quality applications with strong community support are offered.  Cherokee County denied an application last year despite strong local support. Parents requesting space for their children exceeded the openings twofold. In fact, the first charter school in Statesboro approved by the state and still operating today was denied four years in a row by the local school board.  Gwinnett County recently denied Ivy Prep charter school for a second time, even though it is one of the most successful middle schools in the state and has a highly diverse, mostly low income student population.  Another, Pataula Academy, in southwest Georgia attracts students from six counties.

In 2007, local school boards denied every single start-up charter school application. In 2008, 25 of 27 were denied. Since 2008 only four have been approved.  Less than two percent of Georgia students have access to a charter school even 10 years after the first state-approved charter and, separately, the first locally-approved charter opened. Of 16 state-authorized schools (either approved by the state board or former charter commission), six are physically located in rural areas outside the metro Atlanta area.  Additionally, the two virtual schools and the Department of Juvenile Justice school have statewide draws. State charter schools have a more diverse student population and more qualify for free or reduced lunch than the state average.

-Excerpt from Alpharetta Patch

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