Voters will have the last word on the constitutional amendment

April 1, 2012 

The 2012 General Assembly ended its session late Thursday and not a minute too soon. Sometimes called the most dangerous 40 days of the year, referring to the period of time the General Assembly is in session, this year’s gathering had a number of ups and downs.

One of the downs was passage of House Resolution 1162 which, if approved in November, will amend the state’s constitution, to allow the state, not local school systems, to approve charter schools. This measure created an intense fire fight and it’s not over. The American Federation for Children has already started running ads against lawmakers that voted against HR 1162. Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Austell took to the well of the House last week to show his fellow lawmakers a copy of a full-page ad in the Marietta Daily Journal attacking him for his vote. There is also word, although it cannot be confirmed, that ads have also been placed to attack state Sen. Miriam Paris and state Rep. Nikki Randall who also voted against the measure.

There are several reasons why this amendment should have never seen the light of day. Though the enabling legislation HB 797 says state approved charter school funding wouldn’t come from existing school funding, that promise holds water like a sieve. Lawmakers can’t even guarantee monies collected for specific trust funds will not end up in the general fund rather than their directed trust funds.

Interesting note, some lawmakers couldn’t see a conflict of interest if it slapped them in the face. Rep. Alisha Morgan, D-Austell, one of the sponsors of HR 1162, is married to David Morgan, Georgia Governmental Affairs Advisor for the Federation for Children. He is also a member of the Cobb County School Board, and oh surprise, he and his wife are pushing a charter school in the county. Too bad he had not informed his other board members of his connection, and that involvement created quite a stir among his colleagues according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

There is one savings grace to this attempt to set up a shadow state public school system that will siphon money away from locally-controlled public schools. It has to be approved by voters in November. The wording of the question is purposely misleading. All voters need to know when they go to the polls is to vote “no.”

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There was another local point of interest. A lawmaker, not from the area, carrying the water for proponents of expanding the Wolf Creek Landfill attempted an end-around by surreptitiously attaching the measure to another bill. His deception was found out and Rep. Bubber Epps led the charge to get it axed.

-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board

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