Georgia Senate to Confront Fallout Over Court Ruling on Charter Schools

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Georgia lawmakers who backed an ill-fated effort to skirt local school systems in setting up charter schools now are faced with a daunting task.

Last week, the state Supreme Court ruled the setup unconstitutional because it diverted local school money to fund schools overseen by a state commission. Legislators already have promised to press for a constitutional amendment that would work around the high court ruling. But there are too many hoops to pass such an amendment before the 2011-12 academic year begins.

So those same lawmakers are now faced with a more pressing challenge: Finding room in other schools for students who were enrolled in the eight existing “commission” charter schools that will now be closed, along with students who were set to attend eight new schools this fall.

To deal with both issues, state Senate Education and Youth Committee Chairman Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, has established a Special Subcommittee on School Choice, which will hold its first meeting at 10 a.m. June 3 in the state Capitol. Millar, a commission charter school supporter, said the panel’s priority will be to ensure that students currently enrolled in the schools will be placed in an appropriate school setting for the next school year.

“We are optimistic that proactive steps taken by this committee will help to protect the valuable education we offer our youth in Georgia,” Millar said in a statement. “By examining short and long-term solutions, we hope to answer the many questions stakeholders have and return confidence to families and students [affected] by this court decision. We encourage our constituents, and those involved, to reach out to us with solutions and ideas on how to overcome this unnecessary barrier and determine the best route for excellence in education across Georgia.”

Among those expected to speak to the special subcommittee are State School Superintendent John Barge and various advocates for charter schools.

While the Supreme Court ruling has had a dramatic impact on the state commission’s  charter schools, more than 150 charter schools established by local school systems were not affected.


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