This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Wednesday, November 7th.
Yesterday, voters in Georgia completed a process that had once been considered impossible — they overruled their own Georgia Supreme Court to legalize state authorized charter schools.
It all started back in May of last year when the Georgia Supreme Court in a controversial 4-3 decision, held that only local boards of education should have the power to open and pay for public schools, essentially invalidating overnight 17 state chartered schools. At the time, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein called those schools “clearly and palpably unconstitutional.”
So faced with the finality of that language, what did Georgia school choice advocates do? They said if those schools were unconstitutional, they’d change the constitution. They wrote an amendment; introduced it to the statehouse last February where… it promptly failed the required 2/3rds majority by ten votes. Ten votes short. So, they submitted it again, the second time it gained 13 more votes, which was enough for passage. Then in March, it moved on to the state senate where it passed 40 to 13 on the first try.
Yesterday’s statewide ballot referendum was the last step, with the public saying yes, loudly. It passed by an 18% margin, 59% “yes” to 41% “no.” I asked Tony Roberts, the CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, why it passed.
“The major vote for the amendment was a statement to the local school district that their children deserve better, and they expect better of their schools.”
The opponents of the Georgia charter question usually took the tack of claiming it would circumvent the autonomy of the local school districts. I asked Roberts for his thoughts on why parents didn’t go for that logic.
“They realized that those messages were coming from the keepers of the status quo, the local school boards and the superintendents who don’t want to lose their money and power. I think they saw right through it.
“So I hope this signals to the nation that parents are not going to stand for less than the best education possible anymore, and if it means going to the polls on a cold, rainy day, like it was here yesterday, they’ll do it. “
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