The Charter School Amendment in Georgia

Education March to the Georgia Capitol Nov. 2nd, 2012
In Georgia this Tuesday, citizens will vote on a constitutional amendment that reads:
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon request of local communities?


The Charter School Amendment to the Georgia constitution passed with overwhelming support across the state: 58.5%.  

Because the Charter School Amendment in Georgia passed on November 6th, 2012, the Charter School Commission will return as an independent authorizer for public charter schools.  The Commission serves as an appeals process for communities and parents who petition their local school board for a public charter school first.

Press Release: Charter Schools Work! RALLY in Atlanta

Sen. Chip Rogers confirmed to speak

– (October 17, 2012) – Moms for School Choice, in collaboration with Heritage Preparatory Charter School and Georgia’s Voice for Educational Choice, is organizing a grassroots, bi-partisan charter school rally on Oct. 27. The rally will showcase students from some of the outstanding, high-performing Georgia public charter schools before the Nov. 6 vote on Amendment 1 – The Charter School Amendment (HR1162).

The event will take place on Sat., Oct. 27, 2012, at 10 a.m. on the campus of Heritage Preparatory Charter School (3350 Greenbriar Parkway SW, Atlanta, Ga., 30331). Check-in will begin at 9:30 a.m.

The rally is drawing bi-partisan support from Ga. Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Cherokee), Ga. State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell), Dekalb County Board of Education Member Nancy Jester, Cherokee County Board of Education Member Michael Geist, and Rich Thompson of 100 Dads, who are confirmed to speak to the students and families at the event.

Georgia currently ranks near the bottom – 48th nationally – in education with a 65 percent high school graduation rate statewide.  Public charter schools play an important role in providing parents with school choice options to address these staggering statistics. Unfortunately today, too many in Georgia still are not aware of the existence of charter schools or their mission.

The theme of the rally is “Charter Schools WORK!” because charter schools work for students, families, communities, and Georgia.

Students from Heritage Preparatory Charter School, Cherokee Charter Academy, and other Georgia public charter schools are set to perform. Students attending the rally from public charter schools will be dressed in their school uniforms/colors with signs handmade by the students themselves.

Visit our Facebook event page (Charter-Schools-WORK-Rally)
for additional details.


About Heritage Preparatory Charter School
Heritage Preparatory Academy serves the needs of middle school students in Atlanta neighborhoods with high crime rates. The school offers its students a challenging, globally relevant academic program in a community-building environment meant to counteract the negative influences of drugs, gangs, violence and crime. To learn more about the school or to enroll your student, visit

About Moms for School Choice
Founded in 2012, Moms for School Choice is a grassroots, non-partisan, non-profit organization that exists to promote the many school options for families: public, charter, private, homeschool, or virtual. Each child is unique and deserves a school environment where they can reach their full educational potential. For more information, visit

About Georgia’s Voice for Educational Choice
Georgia’s Voice for Educational Choice was formed by parents and citizens residing in Cherokee County.  We are passionate about providing the children of Georgia every opportunity available within education to secure their continued success throughout life.  We believe that school choice is an absolute necessity in reaching this goal. For more information on Georgia’s Voice for Educational Choice,
Kimberly Cochran
Moms for School Choice
Become a member:
Twitter: @Moms4EdChoice

Refuting the Resentment of Charter Schools in Cherokee County

Moms for School Choice attended the bizarre proceedings of the Cherokee County Board of Education on April 19th, 2012. The agenda featured a foray into the fight over the Charter School Amendment-HR 1162- which will appear on the ballot for Georgia voters to decide in November. In an odd attempt at king-of-a-supposed-bully-pulpit, the Cherokee County School Board adopted a resolution asking residents to vote down the charter school amendment when it is time to vote in November.

It is difficult to construe such a spectacle as anything other than “inflammatory” and essentially lobbying, as was thoroughly and eloquently noted by Kim Cochran, a Cherokee county school board member.

Below is an excerpt from the resolution which was passed in a 4-2 vote. The entire resolution is linked here.

WHEREAS, the Cherokee County Board of Education believes that development of a separate and distinct funding system for calculation of a local funding share to be unilaterally taken away by the State from the critically-needed funds provided for the education of students in local public school districts and provided instead to state-authorized charter or private schools is unconstitutional, inequitable and threatens the integrity of the existing statewide system of providing for and properly funding quality public education; and,

NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Cherokee County Board of Education requests that the Governor and State Legislators commit their support to adequately fund a first-class K-12 public education for students in Cherokee County and across the State of Georgia, believing and affirming that public education lifts people from poverty, equalizes opportunities, reduces crime and violence, builds bright individual and collective futures, and makes democracy real and sure; and accordingly, the Board hereby requests that voters of the State of Georgia not support the Constitutional Amendment relative to state charter schools, which will be on the November 2012 General Election ballot, as a result of House Resolution 1162.

The statement by school board member, Kim Cochran, at the Cherokee County Board of Education meeting on April 19th is reprinted below in full. Her objections to such a resolution are pointed and accurate. It is the duty of a county school board to represent ALL of its constituents rather than to cast aspersion against public charter schools that educate Georgians at the behest of local parents who petitioned repeatedly for a public charter school, despite repeated refusals on the part of the Cherokee County Board of Education. It is also important to note that no local funding will provide for the education of local Cherokee charter school students as stipulated in the legislation.

Kim Cochran’s statement was originally prepared as a verbal statement.


I support quality public education and prioritizing it. If large sections of this resolution were removed, I could absolutely get on board for something that really reflects our priorities as a Board. But that’s not what much of this resolution is about. Rather, it looks like lobbying against a constitutional amendment.

There are many aspects of it I find troubling. I do not like the inflammatory language included here, particularly in describing people who might disagree with the opinions being expressed. I’m talking about the section of this resolution that says that anyone supporting school vouchers, state-approved charters, etc. doesn’t support public education. The resolution even seems to accuse them of somehow deepening “inequalities” in our system.

I feel like we are continually circling through the same conversations, but because it seems like it’s still a point of debate, I’m going to again note that charter schools are public schools, which is a fact our own administration has acknowledged. The argument then that those supporting those public school students demonstrate a lack of support for public education is inconsistent.

So many people who support these ideals are not rich or privileged or even necessarily well-educated, and I agree with some of those who spoke tonight about the responsibility of public officials to demonstrate respect to all opinions and constituents. I can’t believe we’re deliberating putting these kinds of ideas into a published, official opinion of a Board of Education that is supposed to represent the whole community but in this resolution is insulting a significant segment of it.

I going to point to not only many parents involved in the Charter Academy here in Cherokee that aren’t privileged or elite, but also to Ivy Prep Academy in Gwinnett, which is a state approved charter affected by this proposed amendment. Because this vote affects schools state wide, and voters are looking at a larger context than just our county and should know that. Ivy Prep’s students are over 80% African American girls, many from low-income homes. They’re attempting to realize the American dream, which is referenced in this proposed resolution. Those kids could achieve it via a state-approved charter school—maybe even for the first generation in their families. But this resolution says that their parents and their supporters are actually trying to widen the divide between classes or destroy the “promise of opportunity.”

I just have to ask: since when is our function as a Board of Education to stereotype entire groups of people and then tell people how to vote based on that? What’s next? Should I expect us to begin endorsing candidates by official BOE resolution this summer? It’s not even a leap to that because it’s the same idea as what’s in this resolution.
Having read 1162 and enabling legislation 797, I don’t understand why this proposed resolution says that local tax dollars are being diverted to state sponsored schools. The legislation is actually pretty specific: “no deduction shall be made to any state funding which a local school system is otherwise authorized to receive pursuant to general law as a direct result or consequence of the enrollment in a state charter school.” And it goes on from there to clarify.

So the only way to argue that this takes money directly from local schools is to speculate that maybe any money given to the charter schools would have gone to local BOEs—and not in some funding capacity that would distribute it down in South Georgia, but somehow make it here to Cherokee. But you can make the same argument for anything in the state budget. “Those roads shouldn’t be built; the money should go to local BOEs.” “That health program shouldn’t be funded; the money should go to local BOEs.”

Now, there are certainly things I think everyone believes that about at times. We all get angry at government waste when K-12 education needs the funding. I know the frustration of underfunding. I get it. I feel it myself. My point is that we do not pass resolutions based on guess work of what else they would put money into. Maybe, if the constitutional amendment fails, the money will go into roadwork; and overall, even less money will go to educating Georgia’s students. Just maybe. Who knows? It’s conjecture. Crafting this resolution to state that the charter amendment will result in a loss of money for CCSD, though it states clearly that no money can come from amounts intended for local systems, is at best guess work at what could have happened and at worst intentionally slanting the facts.

The bottom line is that I cannot in good conscience vote for something that looks for all the world like the propaganda of an anti-charter lobby but call it a “resolution.” In the past, a lot of time and resources of CCSD have gone into pushing for our resolutions. If this resolution passes, I think that any taxpayer funded time or money expended to convince the public how to vote on a constitutional amendment is a poor use of our already limited resources.

The lack of respect evidenced in this resolution for those who might disagree with some BOE members helps cultivate a lack of respect in dialogue between community members who disagree. I won’t agree to paint those who support vouchers or state sponsored charters or even for-profit management companies with the broad stroke of being unsupportive of public education. I think we should focus on providing resources to allow the public to educate itself on this issue if they come to us requesting information. After all, that is what we do. The citizenry is well able to determine their own minds without our active involvement on one side of the issue. There are plenty of lobbying organizations involved in this, and I don’t want the us to be one of them.

I don’t believe any vote taken tonight on this resolution can reflect a unified BOE. And since we have no real bearing on this matter, I’m left wondering why we’re officially weighing in on the issue. There are so many things that have come up just in the last few years that affected our schools, our funding, and even our Board on which we didn’t pass a resolution. We didn’t even weigh in on the school board governance bill three years ago except to discuss it without official action. And even an official “Board position” has no consequence, so much so that mailing a passed resolution to elected officials is wasting postage money. The governor doesn’t even have to sign the bill, and he only has one vote on the amendment—just like the rest of us.

Passing this now makes so little sense that I’m concerned a vote on this so early is an effort to silence Board members who disagree with this extremely inflammatory resolution during the upcoming election or to give some members an “official BOE position” to point to instead of just discussing their own.

We represent this entire community. Sometimes we have to make a decision that will divide it. We don’t have to here. We only have to decide this as individual voters. If someone asks your personal opinion as a Board member, by all means, give it. But this resolution as it stands is inflammatory, it’s unnecessary, and it won’t get my vote.

Growth of Charter Schools Increases Educational Options

*Originally posted in Smart Girl Nation, linked here.

Many state legislatures around the country are addressing school choice legislation this year.  One of the most successful types of school choice options is charter schools.  According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools: “This year marks the largest single–year increase ever recorded in terms of the number of additional students attending charters.  There are now approximately 5,600 public charter schools enrolling what is estimated to be more than two million students nationwide.”

Charter schools are public schools that must follow state and federal academic requirements just like traditional public schools.  They do not charge tuition and must allow all students to apply.  Students are admitted based on random lotteries because charter schools are usually oversubscribed.  Parents, advocates, and legislators are calling for more charter schools all over the United States as many traditional public schools fail to provide successful educations for students.

Charter schools are free to innovate and meet individualized needs of students.  They may use different curriculums, focus on a specific field such as technology and science, reward teachers, or offer extended learning time.  They are run by independent boards but are held accountable to a local or state board according to a contract or charter that is reviewed after about five years.  They are funded through taxpayer dollars that are simply reallocated to follow the student to the parents’ school of choice.  Public charter schools generally operate on fewer educational dollars than do traditional public schools.  Best of all, charter schools often achieve their greatest success where the need is the greatest- in communities where the schools are low-achieving and families have lower incomes.

Currently, there are ten states that do not allow charter schools.  Alabama has been one of those states, but this year that may change.  Gov. Bentley along with legislative leaders offered a bill that will allow charter schools and will also provide superintendents the option to apply for waivers from state mandates in exchange for new accountability requirements.

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is striving to overhaul the educational system in his state.  The sweeping charter schools expansion bill, HB 976, has passed the House of Representatives and is headed to the Senate where it is likely to pass as well.  The bill gives the state board of education the power to allow entities, such as public universities and local nonprofits, the ability to approve new charter schools.  Additionally, a parent trigger is included for failing schools.  The bill would also expand the pilot voucher program to include certain low-income students statewide.

Florida is one of the leaders in the charter school movement.  There are over 500 charter schools operating in Florida.  During the Florida legislative session this year, major bills such as the Parent Empowerment in Education bill failed to pass.  But there was a great victory for school choice supporters as the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program -HB 859- passed, raising current caps on these scholarships, and was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on March 23rd.  New legislation also expanded Florida’s virtual schools options.

Charter schools are an important component of school choice.  States must examine new approaches to deal with massive educational systems that have frequently come up short on delivering the success that is promised to and expected by families. Much of a state’s budget goes to fund education, and well-prepared students are necessary for a strong workforce and economy.  As state legislatures seek solutions for families who are desperate for new options, school choice will continue to grow and provide students with a renewed zeal for learning and achievement.

-Rhonda Gatch

Source Links:

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

It’s the Schools: They Shape Neighborhoods and Economic Growth

It’s been said, “It’s the economy, Stupid!” But perhaps in the case of successful schools and their direct impact on our economy- neighborhoods, housing market, and businesses- it should be changed to “It’s the schools, Stupid!”

School choice can help communities develop and expand as parents see that educational options exist within their own neighborhoods.

Originally posted as Yes, Yes, and Yes! Schools do Influence Property Values

Early on in my career I had buyers that were transferred from city to city every three years or so. One of their comments was that every time they moved they always asked the agent to show them properties in the best school districts. Being a brand-new agent, I couldn’t see the connection at the time. As time went on, I had listing after listing fail to get the offer because the purchaser went to other parts of the county for better school districts. Then, I got it! Boy, did I get it! There’s no question that some other parts of Cobb County have schools with great reputations, but what they don’t have is location, location, location. Smyrna hovers right at the perimeter with great access to major arteries which lead to Atlanta, Buckhead, the airport, and don’t forget points north – opposite incoming traffic.

I’ve found over the years that our little corner of the world attracts a lot of young professionals that work downtown or spend time going to the airport. Why wouldn’t it? The commute is great and socially, there is just about anything that you’d like to do here – not to mention that you can get a much more house for your money here than you can in other areas. But then we (I always say “we” – as though I’m right there with you in your house) get married and have a family and the race to better schools begins. Now don’t get me wrong! I love selling houses and I love it even better when I get to sell one in Smyrna and then help someone buy one somewhere else, but I hate losing our nice young families.

Recently I’ve spoken to several families who are on their way out, and it’s disappointing to me. Rather than lose these fine families to another area, I made the suggestion that they join with other friends of theirs who feel the same way. Perhaps a group of involved parents working with the administration can bring our schools up to the “perceived level of desirability of some of these other schools.”….

I don’t know what the solution for your family will be, but I can say for sure if our school system in Smyrna had the reputation of some of the other Cobb County Schools, our housing values would be over the top, and I would probably be out of a job – because no one would move!

-Gina Bridges

from Smyrna-Vinings Patch

The Necessity of the Charter School Amendment in Georgia

In Georgia, the Charter School Amendment is necessary to ensure the existence of some outstanding, successful charter schools that have proven track records in providing quality educational experiences for students.  Ivy Prep is planning to expand as is Fulton Science Academy, a nationally-awarded, Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. Both of these schools’ charters have been arbitrarily rejected, while traditional schools that continue to fail year after year continue to operate.

Local school boards all too often have shown that they will not approve charter schools nor will they extend the charters up for renewal despite the fact that the schools have exceeded the promises of their charter agreements or contracts. These baseless decisions keep coming from some local school boards with virtually no new charter schools being approved- it just defies logic and the will of the people.

AJC Column by Kyle Wingfield linked here:  Latest Charter School Fight Shows Legislature must Act in 2012 

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Four of Fulton’s 23 middle schools, including Fulton Science Academy, ranked in the top 10 statewide for standardized test scores, according to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s 2010 Report Card for Parents. But four others were on the wrong end of the spectrum, landing in the lower fifth of those same rankings. Two of them failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), determined by the federal No Child Left Behind law, four times since 2007.

The Fulton system as a whole has failed to make AYP each year since 2008. Unfortunately, it’s not alone: The Atlanta, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Paulding systems are in the same category.

Yet, there is no debate about shutting down the underperforming schools — one of which is even a charter school and should be easier to close. Instead, the only school that faces closure is Fulton Science Academy, which was designated this year as a national Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.

-(Originally posted December 22,2011)

Column by UNCF President Michael Lomax Supporting Charter Schools

In this column from February 19, 2012, Michael Lomax makes the case for charter schools.  He argues for the need to pass HR 1162- the Charter School Amendment before the Georgia legislature. He emphasizes the need for students who are better prepared for college and the work force demands of today.  This excerpt is even more relevant when you consider the extensive experience of the writer as an educator at the college level:

…But to produce more college graduates, we have to produce more college-ready high school graduates. And right now, we are not getting the job done. One of every three college freshmen have to take at least one remedial course to learn what they should have been taught in high school. Just four of 10 ninth graders go on to graduate from college.

This is where public charter schools come in. Like system schools, they admit all students, up to the limits of their capacities. But they are smaller and more flexible than system schools. They can try new approaches, more focused on their students’ needs. Like any well-run business or organization, they can keep what works, and discard what doesn’t. And they can be held accountable for the education they give their students.

Open and free to all, innovative, flexible and accountable: We don’t need fewer charter schools. We need more.

Charter schools are not the answer to improving our public schools. But they must be part of the answer. For thousands of students in Atlanta, across Georgia, and around the country, they are a right-now choice for parents to seek educational opportunities for their children and hold system schools accountable. And the choice they afford parents provides powerful but constructive competition to system schools, and powerful leverage for change.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

Parents and Students Can’t Wait for the Parent Trigger Act

Georgia has been a leader in school choice, but recent events have slowed the progress of authorizing more public charter schools.

After the ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court last summer that struck down the ability of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission to authorize charter schools, approval for new charters and extensions of charter petitions has declined. Families who do not have the bank accounts for private schools or live in a zip code that does not provide the benefits of successful public schools often are left without alternatives.

Parents need pathways that speed improvement in school situations that seem dire, and that bypass the roadblocks erected by traditional educational systems. As schools in Georgia continue to rank near the bottom, families need the bold change that the proposed Parent Trigger Act would provide.

The first parent trigger legislation was signed in California in January of 2010 and was aimed at chronically low-achieving schools. It transfers power directly to parents allowing them to mobilize and make transformational decisions. After gathering the signatures of a 51-percent majority of parents, there are several options such as hiring a new principal, closing the school completely, or converting it into a high-performing public charter school, all of which are federal “Race to the Top” interventions.

The process begins with parents coming together for unprecedented decision power. A key advantage of parent triggers is keeping existing schools intact within the neighborhood: no search for a new building or lottery needed for enrollment.

Parent triggers have had little implementation so far. The first attempted trigger occurred in Compton, California. After signatures were collected, they did not withstand a court challenge since some signers did not include the date. Rather than converting the school into a charter, a public charter school was opened nearby.

Texas and Mississippi also have enacted parent trigger legislation. Twenty-two additional states are considering trigger bills.

In Georgia, the proposed Parent Trigger Act- HB 731 would provide for charter petitions by a majority of parents or guardians for “low-achieving” schools. Schools qualify as “low-achieving” when they fail to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) for two years in the same subject. The Parent Trigger would apply to accreditation problems, such as probation. A majority of parents of enrolled students could simply vote and submit a petition to the local school board. A petition could also be submitted if a faculty majority agreed to do so. As in California, the parent board could choose to implement one of the four federal “Race to the Top” interventions.

Traditionally, parent involvement amounts to volunteering in the school library or attending meetings. Rarely are parents given the opportunity for genuine, direct input in educational decisions affecting their children. Instead, families are asked to wait while the massive, unresponsive educational system gradually inches along without demonstrating much progress.

The parent trigger process is underway for the second time in Adelanto, California where Principal Mobley at Desert Trails Elementary expressed his preference for gradualism: “We need to work within the system to make the changes. There are [union] contracts and budget constraints, but that’s going to be the process. We’ll get there.”

However, back in Compton, Gregoria Gonzalez, involved in her local school for years, described her support for the trigger stating, “We are very tired of being told if we want to help we simply should stand outside watching recess or making something for a bake sale.”

The Parent Trigger Act would give parents the freedom to enact crucial transformation of persistently failing schools in Georgia with dispatch.

-Rhonda Gatch