ATLANTA — After weeks of pitched battles, Georgia’s controversial House Resolution 1162 cleared its final legislative hurdle Monday when the Senate approved the charter school amendment 40 to 16.
That was two votes more than the two-thirds majority required for a constitutional amendment, assuring that the resolution will be placed before the state’s voters in the Nov. 6 general election.
The proposal would allow the state’s Charter School Commission to establish charter schools in communities over the opposition of local school boards.
If passed, the amendment will not affect charter schools like Baconton and the nascent College and Career Academy in Albany because those schools have been approved by their respective local school boards. Passage, however, would be a boon to schools like Pataula Charter, which is opposed by the school boards in its five-county enrollment area.
“We’re extremely excited that the resolution will be on the ballot,” said Patuala Principal Kylie Holley, who once described 1162 as a measure that would help ensure her school’s survival. “Now we have to get ready for the next fight. We have to get the word out so the state’s voters will know what they are voting for or against.”
The amendment is opposed by the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA), which maintains the measure would drain funds from already struggling school systems.
“While I am not opposed to charter schools approved by the local board, the purpose of the amendment is to allow the state to create more state charter schools and fund them as they choose; therefore I do oppose HR 1162,” Lee County School Board Chair Sylvia Vann said. “The position of the Georgia School Boards Association is that the state’s ability to create schools should be limited. We do not need and cannot afford both a state and local system of schools.”
In addition to local control, funding is at the root of the controversy.
“The state is in the midst of changing the equalization formula because we cannot afford the current one,” Vann said. “The state cannot afford to fund teacher salaries for 180 days, so instructional time has been cut and class sizes have been increased. Teachers have been furloughed.”
It’s been a rocky ride for HR 1162, which failed to garner the two-thirds majority needed for passage in the House the first time on the floor last month. It passed weeks later on reconsideration.
When the measure reached the Senate earlier this month, it was tabled for two weeks before finally passing on Monday. The resolution also survived two last-ditch efforts by Democrats to amend it.
In Southwest Georgia, two state senators who may be facing off for the revamped District 12 seat took opposite sides on the issue. Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, voted against the HR 1162, while Sen. Georgia Hooks, R-Americus, voted for it. Also voting in favor of the resolution were Sens. John Crosby, R-Tifton, and John Bulloch, R-Ochlocknee.
The amendment will be accompanied by House Bill 797, which will reconstitute the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. That board was ruled unconstitutional last year by the Georgia Supreme Court.