By Mike Klein
Promising that Georgia would never knowingly turn a pig into a horse, House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey suggested Thursday that two changes to a charter schools constitutional amendment resolution might help secure bipartisan support. HR 1162 requires a two-thirds majority vote in the House, and then it would be sent to the Senate.
At issue is whether voters in November will be asked to decide whether the state shall become an alternate authorizer for charter schools after they are initially turned down by a local board of education, and, how to fund those new schools.
During remarks that lasted just a few minutes, Lindsey told a House education hearing that the state’s official definition of a charter school would be placed into HR 1162 – something the resolution currently lacks — which became a priority for critics who contend it could give the state too much power to authorize new charter schools and fund them with local dollars.
“No one has to worry that someone is going to later come around and try to turn a pig into a horse,” Lindsey said, “call something that clearly shouldn’t be a charter school, a charter school. We thought it was important to allay concerns like that.” House education chair Rep. Brooks Coleman asked Lindsey for brief remarks after a day of conjecture about possible compromise.
Lindsey said another change would “make sure folks are reassured that local dollars will not either directly or indirectly be used to support a school that is chartered by the state of Georgia.”
Lindsey said legislators “from both sides of the aisle” helped to craft language “so that local systems can be reassured, if the state should elect to charter a school, those funds will be from the state of Georgia and will not either directly or indirectly be pulled from local school systems.” There was no discussion about where Georgia would find those state funds.
Conjecture about HR 1162 revisions has circulated since last week when the legislation lost a House floor vote 110 – 62, needing 120 votes for a two-thirds super majority to pass. The vote was largely along party lines with heavy Republican support and heavy Democratic opposition.
Democrats offered their own constitutional amendment resolution – HR 1335 – which had a fairly timid public hearing on Wednesday afternoon. Democratic Rep. Scott Holcomb testified that he voted against HR 1162 last week because, “What we advocate is that if the state wants to have state charter schools, we think that’s great, but they should fund them.” Holcomb was a principle behind HR 1335 and he was seated in the committee room Thursday when Lindsey discussed compromise.
Holcomb released this statement on Friday morning: “Democrats are proud to enforce limits on the state with regard to charter schools. The original legislation gave the state unrestrained powers. This puts sensible restrictions on how we operate. We also unequivocally require that if the state wants to create charter schools – they must pay for them. Under the changes, no local funding can be reduced.”
Sources familiar with the plan say a new version of HR 1162 is now expected on the House floor next week. “Someone asked me when we should expect to bring the bill to the floor,” Lindsey said on Thursday. “The simple answer is, we’ll bring it to the floor when we are comfortable that we have the language right and that we have the 120 plus votes.”
As an employer, and a parent and a graduate of Georgia public schools, I am pleased that the Foundation has undertaken this project. (The report card) provides an excellent tool for parents and educators to objectively evaluate our public high schools. It will further serve a useful purpose as a benchmark for the future to measure our schools’ progress.