Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Governor Perdue Signs Legislation Expanding Support for Choice Options within Public Schools

Today Governor Sonny Perdue signed three pieces of legislation into law to expand support for choice options within public schools: HB 881, 831, and 1277. Each of these pieces of legislation further solidifies Georgia’s commitment to raise student achievement across the state.

HB 881, sponsored by Rep. Jan Jones and known as the charter commission legislation, requires charter school petitioners to continue to seek approval from their local board of education. It also enables the petitioner to request charter approval directly from a newly-formed state charter commission if the local board of education rejects the petition, or if the petitioner seeks conditions different from those approved by the local board of education.
In addition, HB 881 changes the way charter schools are funded. Many previously-approved charter schools operate on fewer dollars than traditional public schools receive.

“HB 881 offers Georgia one more tool in the education toolbox to meet students’ unique needs through high quality charter schools,” said Rep. Jan Jones. “It is the result of careful and inclusive collaboration among the Governor’s office, the State Board of Education, Superintendent Kathy Cox’s office, the House and Senate, and numerous parents and outside groups. This legislation will lead to a greater variety of smaller, specialized or innovative public schools that will be held to high achievement standards.”

House Bills 831 and 1277 build further on the infrastructure support for public charter schools. HB 831 enables the State Board of Education to establish a grant program to provide matching funds to charter school organizations for capital improvements or construction of charter schools, while HB 1277 provides charter school personnel access to the State Health Benefit Plan.

“I would like to thank Rep. Kaiser for working with us during the session to resolve concerns that caused me to veto a similar bill last year,” said Governor Perdue. Governor Perdue also issued a signing statement on HB 1277, making it clear that charter school personnel are not to be considered state employees: “My signing of this legislation should not be considered evidence of anything other than policy makers’ intent to allow charter school employees to enroll in the State Health Benefit Plan; no other aspect of a charter school employee’s employment is affected by my signing of House Bill 1277.”

Another piece of charter legislation, HB 1065, was signed into law by Governor Perdue earlier this month and authorizes local charter schools and state chartered special schools to use their SPLOST funds for capital outlay projects.

“Taken together, these pieces of legislation clearly empower Georgia’s parents and local communities to develop and sustain innovative school choice options to improve student achievement across our great state,” said Governor Perdue. “School choice options should be a collaborative offering between interested citizens, local school systems, and the state.”
For more information on these bills, visit www.legis.state.ga.us.

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