A proposed state constitutional amendment would allow a state commission to establish charter schools in communities where local school officials don't want them.
The proposed amendment is on the November 6th general election ballot. It reads, "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?"
As it stands now, charter schools are created when a non-profit board of directors submit a detailed petition to a local school board. Local board members, then state Board of Education members have to give approval.
If a local school board rejects a charter petition, the group can go straight to the state board of education and get approval-- but that's rare. Louis Erste, the state's charter school division director, said from 2001 to 2011 the state received about 20 petitions rejected on the local level and only five were then approved on the state level.
He said even if the state did reach a different conclusion than the local board, without local approval, the school would only receive state funds which can be significantly less than what a traditional public school would receive.
For four years, there was another way.
Petitioners could appeal to the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, a group of seven people appointed by state officials. The commission had the power to increase state funding for charter schools they approved.
Proponents say the commission allowed petitioners to bypass local school boards, and create competition for public schools, thereby making both charter and public schools strive harder to improve. Opponents say charter schools take money from public schools, which also get state money based on attendance.
Last year the Georgia Supreme Court ruled the law that created the commission was unconstitutional. But this year, state legislators passed a new bill to recreate the commission. But it only takes effect if voters approve the constitutional amendment in November.