Columbia County school board approves resolution against charter school legislation

With a state constitutional amendment on charter schools stalled in the Georgia Legislature, Columbia County school board members on Tuesday approved a resolution recommending its rejection.

House Resolution 1162, which would circumvent a Georgia Supreme Court ruling striking down charter schools not created by local school boards, failed by 10 votes to win a two-thirds majority of votes needed for passage last week.

State Rep. Ben Harbin, of Evans, was the only member of the county’s House delegation and one of only a handful of Republicans to vote against it.

Board member Mike Sleeper praised Harbin, saying, “One of our legislators has a backbone and took a stand in favor of public education,” calling the proposed amendment “detrimental to public education.”

The school board resolution, approved 4-0 with Wayne Bridges absent, criticizes moves in recent years to “redirect” public school funding to private and charter schools.

The resolution asks that lawmakers first “adequately fund a first-class K-12 education across our state.”

The resolution now will be sent to the governor and other state officials, Superintendent Charles Nagle said.

If passed and later approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would allow the Legislature to create charter schools even when opposed by local school boards, which the Supreme Court said violates local control of education under current law.

Education organizations throughout the state have expressed opposition to the proposal, fearing that it would take money away from public education while giving it to appointed officials at charter schools without direct accountability to voters.

Charter and private school supporters have argued that the legislation would give greater control to parents and prevent school boards from blocking charter schools from creation.

After the narrow failure of the legislation, it has been sent back to committee where its sponsors say they plan to bring it back to the House for reconsideration.

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