Charters Offered Support in Georgia
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2007 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Though legislation that would have changed the method used to pay for education in Georgia failed to win passage, lawmakers in their recently concluded session approved bills aimed at giving charter schools some financial help and easing some of the barriers to the approval of new charters.
One bill sets up a new statewide commission that could approve requests to create charter schools even if local school boards denied the applications. There are some limitations, however. The commission would not be able to approve new charters in districts that are operating, or have applied to operate, as charter districts. Gov. Sonny Perdue signed that bill, as well as legislation to provide matching funds to charter schools for capital improvements or construction.
The governor’s effort to give all schools, not just charter schools, more freedom from regulations also passed. The initiative allows school systems the opportunity to contract with the state education department for greater flexibility in how they administer their programs, in return for increased accountability for performance.
The $21.1 billion fiscal 2009 state budget includes $8.19 billion for education, a 4.9 percent increase over fiscal 2008.
This year’s legislative session also included a bill to expand the state’s popular lottery-financed pre-K program to 3-year-olds on a pilot basis, but the proposal failed. A committee will be formed to study the issue.
Even though sympathy for students from Georgia’s Clayton County school district, which is facing the loss of its accreditation, has been strong in the state, an attempt to pass voucher legislation that would have allowed students from a district losing accreditation to attend private schools at state expense failed.
In action involving the troubled Clayton County district, lawmakers did, however, approve two measures since signed into law by Gov. Perdue. One will set up a county ethics panel to hear complaints and monitor the actions of the Clayton County school board, and another will extend eligibility for the state’s HOPE college scholarships to graduates from the district until 2010 if the district’s accreditation is revoked. ("A Local Feud Proves Toxic," this issue.)
But the session, which kicked off with House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s pledge to push a property-tax overhaul that would change how education is funded, ended without the passage of any tax-reform bills.
Vol. 27, Issue 39, Page 15