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Charter school debate heats up
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On Nov. 6, Georgia residents will have the deciding vote on whether the state will have the ultimate authority to approve charter schools.

A resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia will be on the ballot for voters, giving them the option to restore a state commission that would issue charters to private operators.

Currently, that power is reserved for local boards of education, with the state board able to approve charters that the local boards opt out of.

The resolution would re-establish a third party — the Georgia Charter Commission — that would have the final say in whether a charter school can be established.

The commission has existed before, but was considered unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court because it forced local boards to help fund charters they did not approve.

Advocates for the commission argued that local officials were dragging their feet in approving charters.

On Tuesday, state Superintendent John Barge came out publicly against the amendment, saying he “cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education and the state Board of Education.”

He said the General Assembly plans to come up with more than $430 million in new state funds over the next five years to fund the commission and its charter schools.

“Instead, this $430 million should be used to restore the austerity cuts to students in Georgia’s traditional public schools — including those in Georgia’s locally approved charter schools,” said Barge, adding that he “fully supports the continued creation of high quality schools.”

Barge is a part of the Republican Party, which has supported this amendment, including the governor, Nathan Deal.

“I stand with 2/3 of the General Assembly and will uphold the promises I made when I ran for office: Parents and students should have public school options; this is true local control,” Deal’s spokesman told The Associated Press.

Deal’s office did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

House Resolution 1162 will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.