Houston superintendent opposes proposed charter school amendment

WARNER ROBINS -- The superintendent of Houston County schools spoke out Thursday against a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to charter independent public schools.

Superintendent Robin Hines said he opposed the amendment for two reasons.

First, he said, state-chartered schools would receive 2 1/2 times more state funding than traditional public schools, bringing the total funding for a charter school to about $7,000 per student.

“Something is wrong with that,” he said.

Second, the amendment would allow the state to charter schools without local input, he said.

“This is a big deal,” Hines told an audience of business and government leaders gathered at the Museum of Aviation for the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues breakfast. “We’ve got to stop doing things that are diverting money away from public schools.”

The state previously had a law that allowed it to create charter schools, but the Georgia Supreme Court struck it down. In doing so, the court ruled the Georgia Constitution gives local school boards control over K-12 education, including issuing independent charters.

But some charter school advocates said local officials weren’t active in approving charter schools.

As a result, the General Assembly endorsed an amendment that would restore a state commission that would be able to set up charter schools with private operators. A referendum on the amendment will appear on November’s ballot.

Hines said he and the Houston County school board are not against charter schools. The Houston County Career Academy is a charter school.

“We have the means to put charter schools in when we need them,” Hines said. “We are pro charter.”

“If it’s flexibility that the state feels like we need, give us the flexibility.”

Hines’ comments were similar to ones made earlier this week by state schools Superintendent John Barge.

Barge told The Associated Press he believed the proposal threatens local control and state financial support for traditional public schools.

“As we are looking at the funding issues across Georgia, we are in a dire situation,” Barge said, adding that 121 of 180 Georgia districts will have fewer than 180 days of classroom instruction. “Putting this whole picture together, I could not stand by without voicing my opposition to sending any money anywhere else until our children are in schools 180 days and our teachers are at full pay.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 256-9705.