Sen. Chance says charter measure still has life

The idea of putting a referendum before voters to restore the state’s ability to approve charter schools is currently on hold but not down and out. Speaking about the current status of Senate Resolution 853, Sen. Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone) said Tuesday he is hopeful that the Senate will muster enough votes to mirror the recent success in the House of Representatives and put the measure before voters.

The charter school initiative on the House side on Feb. 22 received a two-thirds super majority vote on HR 1162 to approve a resolution to let voters decide on a constitutional amendment restoring the state’s ability to approve charter schools. The 123-48 vote surpassed the requirement and resulted in a vote that had 72 percent of representatives in favor of the resolution.
Chance said he carried the resolution to the Senate side at the request of Gov. Nathan Deal. SR 853 went for a third read before Chance tabled it on Feb. 29.

“It’s still alive and can come up at any time,” Chance said, adding that passage requires a total of 38 votes which will likely require two Democratic votes. “I felt like we would have a good shot at it but we weren’t quite where we needed to be. So after some debate I tabled it and it can be brought up again. I’m hopeful that will happen.”

Also supporting the measure is state Sen. Mike Crane (R-Newnan) who recently spoke in favor of its passage to a group of parents and employees at the Coweta Charter Academy at Senoia.

“Quality education should not be left to a single provider,” Crane said, adding that Georgia public schools have 60,000 drop-outs per year. “Education has become one-size-fits-all in many areas.”

Referencing the Supreme Court ruling last year that declared the Ga. Charter School Commission unconstitutional, Crane said he believed that the measure in some form can be successfully addressed so that parents across the state can be provided school choice.

But such a reversal is not without it foes, Crane advised.

“There are great forces at work against competition,” Crane said of the move by public school systems across the state to thwart the move toward greater school choice. “In a one-size-fits-all approach we lowered the bar for everyone at a cost of $7 billion.”

The issue at hand, said Crane, is to press for a constitutional amendment that will give voters the opportunity to have their say at the ballot box.

“If there’s a time to be bold this is the time,” Crane said, bringing the topic back to money and power. “The big battle is over money. School systems are like individual empires and, like with all governments, they don’t want anyone taking their money or power away.”

Area legislators that supported HR 1162 included Rep. Billy Horne (R-Sharpsburg), Rep. Lynn Smith (R-Newnan), Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) and Rep. John Yates (R-Griffin).

A 4-3 vote by Ga. Supreme Court in May 2011 determined that the legislation that created the Ga. Charter School Commission was unconstitutional. The commission subsequently ceased operation last June 30.

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