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Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 10:57am

House Blocks Charter Schools Amendment

House lawmakers have rejected a proposed change to the state constitution that would have given Georgia lawmakers the power to create special charter schools.

The amendment failed 110-62 on Wednesday. It needed the support of two-thirds of legislators in the House of Representatives to pass.

The legislation from Republican Rep. Jan Jones responded to a state Supreme Court ruling that found a lawmaker-created commission that created about a dozen charter schools was unconstitutional. The ruling did not affect charter schools approved by local school districts.

Jones said the bill would have ended the legal uncertainty around the charter schools.

The Milton Republican also said the state has a role to play in public schools.

“Most people do agree that local school boards play a critical role, a vital role in Georgia education," she said on the floor during debate. "I also think most people agree that local school boards do not have exclusive control, exclusive funding and exclusive policy-making over public education.”

Jones' opponents, including both Republicans and Democrats, said the amendment eroded local control over schools and that existing schools do not have enough funding.

Rep. Al Williams, a Midway Democrat, said he questioned the Republican sponsors' intent because they typically favor smaller state government.

“You cannot talk about streamlining government and continuously add another layer of government whenever things don’t go your way!" he said during floor debate. "The Supreme Court is not bound by our wishes!”

Many school boards, especially in rural areas, oppose the bill.

The vote broke only partially along party lines. Seven Democrats sided with the GOP while nine Republicans voted against the measure.

Backers are seeking a second vote on the resolution. With only ten votes between the two camps, some observers say the measure has a good chance of passing the second time.

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