ATLANTA — The Senate delayed a vote Wednesday on a constitutional amendment to allow the state to create charter schools after two hours of debate.
The legislation would clarify state law after a May ruling from the state Supreme Court outlawed the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. The court ruled the commission was illegally creating charter schools over the objection of districts.
"What we're trying to do with these charter schools is put another tool in the tool box of parents or legal guardians if they feel they need to do something else," said Sen. Ronnie Chance, one of the governor's floor leader in the Senate. "We're talking about doing the right thing for our children."
Lawmakers said they didn't have the required 38 yes-votes to get two-thirds majority. The measure can be brought up for a vote during any regular session of the Senate this year because it passed the House 123-48 last week.
If it passes the Senate, the constitutional amendment would go on the ballot in November for voters to decide.
Supporters of charter schools say the court's decision was overreaching. Opponents say the state should not pass laws that would usurp local control over education.
"It seems to me we should be less concerned about 16 state-created charter schools and more concerned about making sure our regular public schools have the funding that are necessary for them to educate the children of Georgia," said Sen. Vincent Fort, a Democrat from Atlanta.
Charter schools receive public funding but are freed from regulations like class size and teacher pay schedules in exchange for promises of improved student performance.
The Georgia Charter Schools Commission was created in 2008 by frustrated lawmakers who said local school boards were turning down charter school applications because they didn't like the competition. The commission began approving and funding charter schools over the objection of the local boards, sparking the lawsuit that eventually ended in the Supreme Court ruling.
Statewide groups representing school boards, school superintendents and teachers oppose the constitutional change.