Ga. House deals blow to charter school movement

4:03 PM, Feb 8, 2012   |    comments
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  • Rep. ALisha Thomas Morgan prepares members of the clergy and other supporters for a press conference on charter schools.
  • Students at Ivy Preparatory Academy attend press conference favoring charter schools.

ATLANTA - The Georgia House has voted 111-62 against HR 1162,  a proposed state constitutional amendment that would reassert the state's right to approve charter schools.

Last May, the state Supreme Court struck down a commission that could overrule local school districts that turn down charter applications.

"Georgia's Representatives have failed our students who are stuck in low-performing schools due to their zip code or bank account," said Jerri Nims Rooker, Director of the Center for an Educated Georgia at Georgia Family Council said in a press release. "Today, many Representatives chose to put the entrenched political interests of adults over the interests of children, blocking the state's development of high quality charter schools that are inappropriately denied by their local school boards. Because of today's vote, students will have less access to quality educational options, and the state will not be able to help them."

The resolution seemed to have momentum and bi-partisan support until yesterday when the state Democratic party split over the move.

Some lawmakers who usually agree found themselves on opposite sides when it came to whether decisions on charter schools should take place at the local or state level.

House minority leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) and Representative Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Cobb), outspoken members of the same party, found themselves in separate corners.

Each held press conferences on Tuesday.

Rep. Morgan stood with some members of the clergy, the Georgia Charter Schools Association and students from Ivy Preparatory Academy for Girls to urge her colleagues to support HR 1162.

"I trust that some school districts actually want to do the right thing for kids and will make decisions in the best interest for kids," said Rep. Morgan. "The problem is we don't have that same equity across the state. We have school districts that are hostel towards schools and see themselves as competing and so we don't feel that all schools will have a fair opportunity to be opened and so we need a state authorizer."

On the other side, her fellow democrats in the house said called it unfair that the state would approve a charter school under the proposed amendment and force a local school district to fund it.

"If you want it, you pay for it," said Rep. Abrams. "The state is going to create these schools, the state should pay for these schools. Any less is shirking our duty and our responsibility, not only as legislators, but as Georgians."

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