ATLANTA — The sponsor of legislation permitting charter school systems in Georgia has formed a taxpayer-supported foundation to lobby for the schools.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that former Senate Education Chairman Dan Weber, R-Dunwoody, has been asking charter school systems to contribute $2 per student to fund his Georgia Charter System Foundation. The foundation’s board meets this week and could approve a $10,000-a-month salary for Weber, who has not previously been paid.
Weber, who left the Senate in 2010, said he is sensitive to criticism about public officials leaving office and becoming lobbyists. But he said he is best situated to be executive director because he understands the charter school legislation and what policymakers are trying to do.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who wrote the 2007 charter school legislation, said Weber has a passion for improving education.
“If he can make a living reforming public education, our children and our state are going to be better for it,” he said.
State law makes legislators wait a year after leaving office to sign up to lobby. Weber was not prohibited from registering to lobby in this year’s legislative session because he had been out of the Legislature longer than the law requires.
Still, former House Appropriations Chairman Ben Harbin, R-Evans, said, “When you had a hand in drafting something and a few years later are making money off what you have drafted, there should be some questions asked.”
Charter schools are publicly funded schools that have greater freedom than traditional public schools. Georgia is the only state that has taken charter schools to the district level. Districts have been steered toward becoming charter systems with offers of extra funding at a time when money is increasingly hard to come by for districts.
Fulton County is Georgia’s largest charter system. Fulton Superintendent Robert Avossa said he talked with Weber and charter system superintendents last year about forming a foundation to support the concept through lobbying and to help more districts join the effort. He said Weber is the right person because of his passion for charter schools.
“It was very clear when I first met him he was very passionate,” Avossa said to the newspaper.
Weber said at last count, the foundation had about $90,000 in the bank.