Georgia Charter Schools, Amendment 1 (2012)

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Charter Schools Amendment
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Georgia Constitution
Referred by:Georgia Legislature
Topic:Education
Status:On the ballot
A Georgia Charter Schools Amendment will appear on the November 6, 2012 ballot in Georgia as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The measure gives the state legislature the right to create special schools.[1][2]

The measure developed following a May 2011 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court. The court ruled that the state's involvement in the establishment of public charter schools - the Georgia Charter School Commission - was unconstitutional. Specifically, the court ruled that the commission was illegal because it approved and funded charter schools despite objection by local school boards. The ruling does not apply to charter schools that were not opposed by local boards. In total, the ruling is reported to have affected 16 schools.[3]

According to reports, in June 2011 the state Board of Education proceeded to approve applications for 11 charter schools following the ruling.[4]

The Georgia Charter School Commission was created in 2008 in reaction to local school boards rejecting charter petitions. According officials, petitions were rejected because "they didn't like the competition."[3]

Text of measure

The official ballot text reads as follows:[5]

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?

( ) YES

( ) NO

Ballot summary

The following ballot summary was taken from the Georgia Secretary of State website:[6]

This proposal authorizes the General Assembly to provide by law for the creation of public state charter schools, which would operate under the terms of charters between the State Board of Education and charter petitioners, while preserving the authority of local boards of education to establish local charter schools. Specifically, the proposal clarifies the authority of the General Assembly to provide for state-wide policies for public education prior to the college or post-secondary level, restates the authority of the General Assembly to establish special schools, prohibits the incurrence of bonded indebtedness or the levy of school taxes for the support of special schools without approval of the local board of education and the voters in the affected school system, provides that special schools may include public state charter schools, preserves the authority of local boards of education to establish local charter schools, authorizes the expenditure of state funds for special schools, and prohibits the deduction of certain state funds from local school districts as a direct result or consequence of the enrollment of students in state charter schools.

The General Assembly has enacted a law to exercise the authority granted by the proposed constitutional amendment to provide for public state charter schools. This law will become effective only if the constitutional amendment is ratified by the voters. This law is published at Georgia Laws 2012, p, 1298, Sec. 1, and was enacted by 2012 HB 797, Act No. 766.

A copy of this entire proposed constitutional amendment is on file in the office of the judge of the probate court and is available for public inspection.

Background

A bill enabling funding for state charter schools was signed into law on May 3, 2012, by Governor Nathan Deal. The bill, HB 797, will only have effect if the Georgia Charter Schools Amendment gains public approval in November.[7]

Support

  • Kyle Wingfield, a columnist for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, wrote in support of the measure saying that the "key to improving the system, rather than merely pouring more money into it, is restoring the state’s ability to approve charter schools." He further argues that charter school allow for more innovation and accountability while increasing parents' options for education.[8]
  • Senator Mike Crane has spoken in support of the measure saying the school boards should not have full control of public education because the state provides about 50 - 80% of the school system's funding. Speaking at a town hall meeting he asked, "Should all the state dollars go to fund a system of education or should it go to the students?"[9]

Arguments

  • Senator Buddy Carter wrote an opinion piece for the Savannah Morning News that posed counterpoints for a number of arguments against the amendment. Specifically, Sen. Carter argues that the creation of state charter schools will not divert funds from public schools. He also states that the schools are required to be run by local non-profit boards and thus, the amendment would increase local control of education rather than the state's. Sen. Carter also mentions that the amendment is needed due to a Georgia Supreme Court ruling made in 2011 that declared the Georgia Charter Schools Commission unconstitutional because it violated the "special schools" provision of the Georgia constitution.[10]

Opposition

  • Gary Hobbs, superintendent for Walton County Public Schools, spoke out against the legislatively-proposed amendment saying, "It’s disappointing to me the legislative folks would try to go around a Supreme Court decision." He went further to criticize the state's push for taxpayer funded charter schools saying, "We don’t have funds to support the public schools we have now, much less start another system funded by taxpayer money."[11]
  • Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge, a Republican, has announced his opposition to the measure, saying, "I cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education. What's more, this constitutional amendment would direct taxpayer dollars into the pockets of out-of-state, for-profit charter school companies whose schools perform no better than traditional public schools and locally approved charter schools (and worse, in some cases)."[12]
  • Tom Crawford, in an August 21 op-ed piece for the Blackshear Times, highlighted counterpoints to several arguments made by supporters of the charter school amendment. Some of Crawford's key points included: there is enough existing choice for parents because there are already 315 charter schools compared to the just over 500 public schools, studies have shown that charter schools perform no better than public schools on average, charter schools divert money from already strapped public schools that are being forced to shorten their academic calendars.[13]
  • Some opponents argue that the amendment would harm public education in the state by directing even more state money from public schools to out-of-state for-profit systems. Russell J. Edwards, an Athens attorney and community activist, argues that such a practice is especially harmful because the housing crisis has caused the primary funding for public education, local property tax receipts, to decrease significantly.[14]

Tactics and strategies

On Tuesday, September 25, 2012, a coalition of groups protested outside the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta. Senator Emanuel Jones was among the protesters and said, "We do not support this governor's takeover of usurping the power of these locally-elected school boards to make that decision."[15]

Polls

See also: Polls, 2012 ballot measures
  • A March 29-30, 2012, poll by McLaughlin & Associates revealed that 58% would vote for the amendment, while 23% would vote against it, and 19% were undecided. A total of 600 likely voters were polled. The margin of error was +/-4%.[16]
  • A September 4, 2012, poll by Sand Mountain Communications revealed that 50% would vote for the amendment, while 25% would vote against it, and 25% were undecided. A total of 1,331 likely voters were polled. The margin of error was +/-3%.[17]
Legend

     Position is ahead and at or over 50%     Position is ahead or tied, but under 50%

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
March 29-30, 2012 McLaughlin & Associates 58% 23% 19% 600
September 4, 2012 Sand Mountain Communications 50% 25% 25% 1,331

Path to the ballot

See also: How the Georgia Constitution is amended

The amendment requires approval on a two-thirds vote by both the State House and State Senate.

The first vote by the House in early February fell 10 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed.[18] However, another vote was held on Wednesday, February 22, in which the measure, HR 1162, passed the House with a vote of 123-48.[19]

On Thursday February 23, 2012, the Education and Youth Committee passed the amendment 7-5, thus passing it to the the full state Senate.[20]

On Monday, March 19, 2012, the Georgia Senate passed the ballot proposal 40-16, placing the measure on the ballot for November.[2]

See also

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External links

Basic information

Support

References

  1. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,"The brewing of a bruising fight over charter schools," June 25, 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 Associated Press "General Assembly passes charter school amendment," March 19, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 Associated Press,"Ga. charter schools will learn if they can remain open," June 27, 2011
  4. Associated Press,"Ga. board committee approves applications of charter schools affected by court ruling," June 27, 2011
  5. Georgia Secretary of State,"Amendment 1," retrieved September 27, 2012
  6. Georgia Secretary of State,"Proposed Constitutional Amendments, General Election, November 6, 2012," retreived October 10, 2012
  7. Associated Press "Gov. Deal Approves Funding System for State-Formed Charter Schools," May 3, 2012
  8. Atlanta Journal-Constitution "Pass charter schools amendment, get back to fixing education in Georgia," January 26, 2012
  9. Times-Herald "Crane speaks on charter schools, DOT, TSPLOST at town hall," May 6, 2012
  10. Savannah Morning News,"Charter schools a positive for Georgia," September 20, 2012
  11. Walton Tribune "Charter school amendment draws local fire," January 29, 2012
  12. Atlanta Journal-Constitution "Barge comes out against charter schools amendment," August 14, 2012
  13. Blackshear Times "CRAWFORD / Here are some facts about Georgia’s charter schools amendment," August 21, 2012
  14. Athens Banner-Herald,"Edwards: Amendment would hurt public schools," September 18, 2012
  15. FOX 5 "Charter amendment debated at Ga. Capitol," September 26, 2012
  16. Rome News Tribune "Poll: Charter-school amendment starts with some support, many undecided," June 19, 2012
  17. Rome News Tribune "Half of polled voters favor charter-school amendment," September 11, 2012
  18. Associated Press "Ga. lawmakers eye vote on creating charter schools," February 22, 2012
  19. Ledger-Enquirer "Georgia House passes charter school measure," February 23, 2012
  20. Associated Press "Ga. Senate committee passes charter amendment," February 24, 2012