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Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 1:17pm

Second Charter School Vote Wednesday

Lawmakers have introduced a bill that sets how the state could pay for charter schools. It’s a companion bill to a GOP-backed charter school constitutional amendment that, despite persistent opposition, is expected to have a second vote in the House Wednesday.

The bill stipulates that the state would pay for the schools based on a formula for the lowest-funded schools in Georgia.

The state couldn’t cut funding for traditional public schools to pay for charters.

But some lawmakers, especially outside of metro Atlanta, remain skeptical.

Rep. Tommy Benton is a Republican representing Hall, Barrow and Jackson Counties.

He says he voted against the amendment during the first vote partly because the state under-funds existing schools.

“If we can’t adequately fund those public schools now, then how are we are going to fund those public schools when we’re adding another layer of schools in there?” he said following a committee meeting.

He says as a former educator, he struggles when he sees the state cutting public school funds year after year. Georgia has cut about $1 billion in school funds in recent years.

He says there are virtually no charter schools in his district, and most school officials there oppose the bill.

Rep. Jan Jones, a Milton Republican who sponsored the bill, says there's a demand for charter schools around the state. And she says they have a role to play.

“The goal is not to have charter schools that would supplant local schools but rather offer something that’s different, something that would complement,” she said.

The bill introduced Tuesday also would create a board within the state department of education to approve charter school applications.

The measure would override a Georgia Supreme Court ruling that banned the state’s charter school commission.

If both chambers pass the constitutional amendment, Georgians would vote on it in November.