Published Online: March 22, 2013

Ga. Legislator Withdraws Parent-Trigger Bill

House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, withdrew his parent-trigger charter school legislation Thursday as members in his own party expressed concerns about it.

Lindsey’s legislation, House Bill 123, had already passed the state House of Representatives and seemed to be on a glide path to passage in the Senate. But the bill—which would force school boards to consider a petition from parents or teachers to change a traditional public school into a charter school—ran into problems in the Senate’s Education and Youth Committee.

Instead of the bill being voted out of that committee Thursday, Chairman Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, announced that Lindsey had asked that the legislation be withdrawn.

“It didn’t have the votes,” Tippins said.

Lindsey, his party’s vote-counter in the House, could not be reached for comment Thursday evening. It is possible the legislation could be added to another bill, but Tippins said Lindsey plans to let the issue rest for the remainder of this legislative session, which ends next week.

“Rep. Lindsey realized there were some concerns about it,” Tippins said. “It is late in the session, and I think Rep. Lindsey just felt that, rather than have it be a point of contention, he’d just wait.”

Lindsey’s legislation would have made Georgia the eighth state in the country with a parent-trigger law.

Under HB 123, school boards would have had to consider a request to change a traditional public school into a charter school if that request came from a majority of the traditional school’s student households. A majority of teachers and instructional staff could also force school boards to consider changing a traditional public school into a charter school.

If 60 percent of student households or 60 percent of teachers and instructional staff petitioned for a traditional school to be changed into a charter school, the local school board could only reject that petition if two-thirds of its members voted to do so.

If the traditional public school was a low-achieving school, parents and teachers could force the school board to also consider several turnaround options for the school, some of which include removal of the principal.

Teachers and parents could sign a public petition or hold a meeting and vote in secret, something Lindsey argued would protect them from possible retribution.

Lindsey had touted the legislation as a way to spur meaningful dialogue between parents and school boards.

But Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, said he worried that the bill would open the door to teachers being pitted against administrators.

“I just think you’re opening Pandora’s Box and putting teachers in a very difficult position,” Millar said when the bill was debated during a subcommittee meeting Wednesday.

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Tippins said he would not back the bill if it allowed parents and teachers to vote in secret.

“I’ve got a problem with secret ballots,” Tippins said. “I just believe people ought to stand up and be counted.”

The bill was opposed by a variety of public education groups. Officials from those groups, mindful of Lindsey’s influence in the Legislature, were careful in discussing the bill’s fate.

“I think the bill needed more evaluation and more understanding of its impact before becoming law,” said Tracey-Ann Nelson, government relations director for the Georgia Association of Educators. “We can’t just pass laws because they sound good.”

Vol. 322, Issue 27

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