A very important piece of legislation signed by the Governor in 2012 was HR 1162: A RESOLUTION proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia. On Tuesday November 6, 2012 the people of Georgia will vote to approve a constitutional amendment that will overturn a 2011 Georgia Supreme Court decision that ruled it is unconstitutional for the Georgia State Legislature to create special schools (Charter Schools) without local school board approval. HR 1162 passed with the required two thirds super majorities in both the House and Senate 123-48 and 40-16 respectively. Governor Deal signed it May 3, 2012.
Amending the Georgia Constitution is not a task to be taken lightly and the citizens of Forsyth County need to understand the implications of their vote before making a decision at the polls. This is important for many reasons, to include the financial implications of HR 1162. If the amendment is adopted by the people of Georgia, state money will follow students enrolled in Charter schools. Right now state money flows to local schools boards as well as local property taxes. HR 1162 will authorize state dollars to flow to Charter schools following the student.
The average state dollars per student across Georgia is $4,290. This state money will follow the student to the charter school. The state is also going to provide some extra dollars approximating what the poorest five systems in the state are able to pay. This means an additional $1,000 to $2,000 will follow the child meaning an average of $6,000 of state money will follow the child. The average local dollars per student is $3,687. That remains at the local level meaning the local schools still get funding for children they don't need to provide services.
HR 1162 allows people in the counties to apply for a State Charter to open a Charter school. If the people in the counties want to establish a Christian school, an Aviation Academy, or Tennis School you apply to a newly created Committee in Atlanta. This committee will approve the new Charter and the local schools Boards will not have authority to turn down the Charter application.
Any school authorized by the State of Georgia is a public school. It is not a private school and they are all held accountable for all student achievement requirements of other public schools, plus the additional commitments they made in their charter. They do not have entrance requirements and are still subject to all federal laws and other state laws other than Title 20, which may be waived at the states discretion.
There are pros and cons to all decisions. On the pro side;
- It gives parents more control of the children’s education.
- Public charter schools are accountable for results, open to all students at no cost, and often outperform traditional public schools. If the State charter school does not perform it must be shut down. State public charter schools in Georgia have outperformed traditional schools in their first year of operation, despite getting significantly less funding than traditional schools. Eighty-three percent of all start up charters that opened last year made Adequate Yearly Performance (AYP) as measured by, No Child Left Behind, in their first year of operation; 72% of Title I charters made AYP versus 69.4% of traditional Title I schools. In the Atlanta Public School system 55% of their total 100 schools made AYP in 2011. Of the charter schools, 9 of 13 or 69.2% made AYP.
- Parents, students, and teachers want more charter schools. The vast majority of teachers, parents and students agree that more public school options are a good thing. Yet, on average, four children are waiting for each available spot in a state authorized public charter school, meaning the other three sets of children and parents are stuck in a school they want to escape. A small minority of school system administrative officials believe they should be the sole decider on when charters are approved or denied.
On the con side;
- Redirecting state funds when local and municipal school revenues are coming up short is irresponsible. Only state funds follow the student. Local funds remain in the Title I schools. If 1,000 students leave for Charter schools the local Title I schools keep those property taxes even though they have less students to serve.
- Local control is removed and transferred to the state. The proposed amendment would enable political appointees to override the decisions of local school boards and local voters and re-direct tax funds to any “special school” the state creates or designates.
- Makes taxation without representation constitutional. It enables the General Assembly to re-direct tax funds to any type of special school over the objections of local boards and local taxpayers. The funds would be spent by political appointees, who have no obligation to respect the wishes of voters. There is no appeals process, no referendum and no proof that a school was denied authorization or is even necessary.
Regardless where you stand on the issue it is important to learn as much as possible to make an informed vote. Amending the Constitution of Georgia is a serious matter and it should not be taken lightly.