Most people agree that local school boards play a critical role in Georgia public education.
However, most people also agree that local school boards should not have exclusive control over public education.
Businesses considering relocation to Georgia place a priority on an educated workforce. Clearly, we have a state education brand to foster and protect in attracting jobs.
Our ability to do so was jeopardized in a controversial 4-3 Georgia Supreme Court decision last May that struck down a 2008 state law.
The problem with the court’s decision is that it explicitly stated that school boards have exclusive control over general K-12 public education. The decision calls into question whether state government has any meaningful role — except, perhaps, for putting a check in the mail.
The broad court decision sharply deviated from the state’s historically-significant role in public education, including funding half its costs, establishing graduation standards and providing a teacher pay scale.
With that in mind, House Resolution 1162 would re-assert the state’s partnership role in public education through a constitutional amendment. The legislation says, “the General Assembly may … provide for the establishment of education policies for such public education.”
HR 1162 would clarify the Constitution in the way most people thought existed prior to the Court’s action.
The headline-grabbing issue, though, is that the decision also invalidated the state’s general ability to authorize public charter schools, a practice exercised prudently for more than 10 years. Since 2008, only 12 state charter schools opened.
The legislation would allow existing charter schools approved and fully funded by the state to continue teaching students.
The state also could approve additional charter schools, as do other states. Georgia would have another tool to give students learning opportunities, which sometimes cannot be offered within attendance lines.
For example, a technical college covering several counties — as typically is the case in rural Georgia — could partner with a charter school to offer vocational certification while students still are in high school.
In some instances, charter schools could place added focus on science and math, vocational or International Baccalaureate certification, or the arts. They even could offer a longer day and extra tutoring.
Parents, though, would choose whether their children attend optional public charter schools. If HR 1162 passes, voters can decide to put local control where it counts the most — with parents.
History has shown that charter schools are better performing and more apt to grow if school districts are not the sole authorizer allowed by law.
To find a middle ground, the education committee omitted from the resolution a narrow reference to charter school funding as lobbyists for school boards and superintendents requested. This allows the Legislature to reconsider a better method to fund charter schools.
HR 1162 recognizes public education policy has been and should be a shared effort by the state and school boards to deliver the best educational opportunities to students.
Speaker Pro-Tempore Jones represents the citizens of District 46. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2003, and currently serves on the appropriations, education, ethics and legislative and congressional reapportionment committees. Jones also serves as a member of the special joint committee on Georgia revenue structure and as an ex-officio member on the rules committee.