NEWS: Charter Schools Fight Continues in Georgia

From The Atlanta Journal Constitution:

For the last couple years, the focus has been on transportation as the public policy issue likely to dominate the 2012 political season.

But the Georgia Supreme Court may have changed that with its recent decision that declared the state’s involvement in the establishment of public charter schools was unconstitutional.

Specifically, the court said the state had no business depriving local school systems of nearly $8 million in funding in order to establish alternative schools in their midst.

The only way to overturn the 4-3 decision is through a constitutional amendment that would be presented statewide to voters in November 2012. All the ingredients for a knockdown, drag-out fight are there:

● School choice is a foundational tenet of current Republican philosophy. Depending on the GOP nominee for president, turning out core voters could be a concern. The charter school issue might provide a tempting, second reason to flock to the polls.

● The private foundations that have underwritten the charter school movement in Georgia are also likely to finance a substantial campaign to restore the legal status of 16 charter schools and the 15,000 students they serve.

● Georgia’s 180 public school systems and hundreds of local PTA chapters are just as likely to fight any effort they think might siphon off funding for the other 1.6 million students in Georgia public schools.

● Three state Supreme Court members will be up for re-election at the same time. Chief Justice Carol Hunstein and Justice Hugh Thompson were among the four who declared the Georgia Charter School Commission constitutionally invalid. So there will be an opportunity to put real-life faces to an otherwise dry and complicated issue.

But the charter school matter is far from a slam-dunk. To be placed on a general election ballot, a constitutional amendment requires two-thirds passages by both chambers of the General Assembly.

The effort will be spearheaded in the House by Speaker pro tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, who noted that the measure to establish the Georgia Charter School Commission in 2008 passed her chamber with 120 of 180 votes.

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