“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended for the purpose of raising student achievement by allowing state and local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
Can you guess what these words really mean? That’s the language that will be on the ballot for residents to approve or disapprove if the proposed constitution amendment gets out of the General Assembly. But there is a problem. The Georgia School Superintendents Association said, “The ballot wording is extremely vague and implies local involvement by using the phrases “local approval,” and “local communities;” however, local boards of education are omitted from ballot language.”
Let’s back up. Last May, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that only local school boards, not the state, had the authority to authorize charter schools.
Now comes House Resolution 1162. It would, if approved, change the state constitution to allow for state approval of charter schools and give it the power to redirect state and local taxpayer dollars to such schools even if local school boards turn the charter applications down.
This idea has several problems, not to mention the loss of control over schools by locally elected officials. There is more than a $1 billion funding hole hitting public schools, and the state is only paying 80 percent to 82 percent of its obligation according to Quality Basic Education Act formulas first approved in 1985. That means local taxpayers have had to fill in the gap. Now the state wants to send local schools another unfunded mandate, literally taking more money from existing schools.
Certainly there have been many school boards that have looked on charter school applications, no matter how good, with disdain. That’s why the General Assembly set up another mechanism. Still, the current process seems to work well with 160 charter schools approved by local boards as of last May. There were only 16 caught between a rock and the state’s constitution.
The General Assembly should, at the very least, word the ballot measure so it says what will actually happen and not attempt to pull a rope-a-dope on public education supporters.
-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board