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Georgia Voters to Decide on Charter School Measure

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Georgia voters will decide in November on whether to approve a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to create charters over the objections of local school boards.

State lawmakers this week approved legislation to place the item on the ballot, after securing the necessary two-thirds majority in each chamber. The proposal had stirred a furious round of lobbying and political manuevering at the state capitol.

Backers of the measure have argued it will create a route for establishing more educational options at the local level, and overcoming resistance from board members who are opposed to new charters. Critics say it usurps local control. The legislation includes language spelling out that while the state can devote funding for the charters it authorizes, no "deduction shall be made to any state funding which a local school system is otherwise authorized to receive" as a result of the founding of those independent schools.

The constitutional amendment, if approved, would essentially re-establish the state's ability to authorize charters, a policy that had been voided by a Georgia Supreme Court ruling last year.

See my colleague Erik Robelen's piece on that court decision, which noted that it seemed to run counter to an overall trend toward the creation of state-level commissions to authorize charter schools.

Approving the amendment would "restore the ability of the state to approve charter schools, so that the [families] who want to attend charter schools can choose them," said Tony Roberts, the president and CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, which backs the amendment.

Georgia currently has about 60 independent charter schools and about 140 that are operated by districts, he said, in some cases after being converted from traditional public schools.

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