About HR 1162 and HR 1335
HR 1162 IS NOT ABOUT CHARTER SCHOOLS: The proposed amendment would enable political appointees to override the decisions of local school boards and local voters and re-direct tax funds to any “special school” the state creates or designates. Charter schools are only one type of special school – and there is a better way to solve the charter school issue without giving up local control or expanding the reach of government in education.
LC 33 4555S CHANGES: The revisions offered in committee today continue to amend “special schools” to include charter schools but offers no meaningful limitations to the expanse of power. Because the term “special schools” can also include schools for the deaf and blind and because “charter schools” is not defined, no provisions in HR 1162 clearly constrain the ability of the state to expand the definition by statute. (See Lines 23 and 41-42)
MAKES TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION CONSTITUTIONAL: HR 1162 enables the General Assembly to re-direct tax funds to any type of special school over the objections of local boards and local taxpayers. The funds would be spent by political appointees, who have no obligation to respect the wishes of voters. There is no appeals process, no referendum and no proof that a school was denied authorization or is even necessary.
LC 33 4555S CHANGES: The changes adopted today fail to address the funding aspect opposed by the House Democrats and others. The state maintains the ability to appropriate funds from both local districts and from general funds, without any rights being explicitly accorded to taxpayers. Although the authors indicate a willingness to do so in the enabling legislation, without constitutional constraint, such legislation may later be changed by a future legislative body. (See Lines 42-44)
GIVES THE STATE UNPRECEDENTED, UNCHECKED POWER: HR 1162 would give the General Assembly unlimited power to identify what constitutes a "special school" under the Georgia Constitution. The amendment does not define or limit “special schools.” It also prohibits the Supreme Court from reviewing state use of these new powers by using such a broad term.
LC 33 4555S CHANGES: The revisions adopted remove the phrase “define and” from the bill; however, by using the operative phrase “[s]pecial schools shall include,” the legislation continues to explicitly restrict the reach of this bill. By setting forth a definition of charter schools, identifying other special schools to be included, the bill can effectively close a potential loophole.
BALLOT QUESTION MISLEADS VOTERS: The ballot measure language mischaracterizes the current state of Georgia law: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
• Locally approved charter schools are currently constitutional – and this amendment is not necessary to confirm their status. Many, if not most, voters may believe that they are deciding whether any local charter schools may continue to operate, rather than only whether the state will be permitted to create its own competing system of local charter schools.
• Despite the ballot language “upon the request of local communities," the local community will have no say in the state creation of “special schools” including charter schools.
LC 33 4555S CHANGES: No changes were made to the ballot question, which remains misleading.
SUCH A BROAD AMENDMENT IS NOT NECESSARY: The Supreme Court expressly limited their decision to the constitutionality of the Charter Commission Act. Nothing in the Court's opinion questions the State's power to set standards and regulations for K-12 education or conditions for local receipt of state financial assistance.
HR 1335 IS A BETTER OPTION: HR 1335 stays out of the murky territory of “special schools” and focuses only on charter schools.
• Clear: HR 1335 puts charter schools squarely in the Constitution, removing any doubt about the state’s support of this educational option. This will help with Race to the Top and with foundations. It also reaffirms the state’s role in education policy.
• Concise: The amendment directly addresses the goals of HB 881 and the Supreme Court decision by creating a method for the state to act as an alternative authorizer.
• Fair: The amendment limits funding of state-created charter schools to state-provided funds. Removes the risk of a power-grab or financial grab from local tax payers.
• Honest: The ballot language is direct, simple and straight-forward: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to authorize the state to create and fund state charter schools when such schools have been denied by a local board of education?”