The state of charter school authorizing power in Georgia has been a roller coaster ride. Here’s the summary of the ups and downs: A State Supreme Court ruling last May struck the state’s power to authorize public charter schools. In addition to ending a best practice of having multiple authorizing entities in a state, it left several schools stranded without an overseer of the accountability and operational standards outlined in their charters. Since May, charter school supporters have been pushing for a state constitutional amendment to restore State authorizing power.
Two weeks ago, it seemed like victory was within reach. The state House voted on the measure to restore the State’s ability to authorize charter schools, but it fell just 10 votes short of passing with the two-thirds majority required (Tony Roberts, president and chief executive officer, Georgia Charter Schools Association, gave us a candid insider account of the politics behind the vote).
The bill might have failed, but efforts continued. On Wednesday, Feb. 22nd, the Georgia House of Representatives reintroduced the bill, and a number of lawmakers changed their votes after working with the bill’s sponsor to make changes, including a provision guaranteeing traditional public schools funding even if large numbers of students chose to attend charters. Ultimately, the bill passed the State House by three votes.
"It's just the first battle won in the war," said Tony Roberts, "but it's significant because we can move forward to solve the problem caused by the Supreme Court." The bill passed out of the Senate Education and Youth Committee on Thursday, Feb. 23rd with a 7-5 vote, and now moves to the Senate floor.
Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, has been an integral player in the on-the-ground advocacy efforts. He wrote a recent op-ed that expressed the need for passage of the charter school amendment, “Every once in a while, life gives us a do-over, a chance to revisit decisions we have come to think better of. The move to reconsider the proposed charter school amendment is one of those rare opportunities. Please take it.”