State schools superintendent John Barge on Monday explained his personal opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment on today's general election ballot that would re-create a state commission with the power to approve charter schools.
Fielding questions from the Golden Isles Republican Women group on St. Simons Island, Barge said the amendment would reinstate a commission with the power to approve publicly funded charter schools in local districts without approval from local boards of education.
A similar commission was deemed unconstitutional last year by Georgia's Supreme Court.
"I do not support the amendment," Barge said. "In my opinion it is not fiscally responsible."
He added that his opposition is not against charter schools themselves but rather the creation of a third organization to do what two others already have the power to do. The state department of education and local school boards can both currently approve charter schools, Barge said.
The Golden Isles Career Academy is Glynn County's only locally approved charter school.
Charters are an excellent concept, he said, adding that the education department seeks to approve quality charters that provide valid options for school choice in communities seeking them.
The amendment would not only be redundant, but it would also cost too much money, Barge said. He estimated that if seven state charters were approved by the commission each year for five years, they would cost the state around $430 million based on the charter school funding formula.
"If we had that kind of money, we could restore what's been cut from all of our kids in the state of Georgia," Barge said, citing the hundreds of millions cut from state education over the past decade.
With around 50 percent of the entire state budget going to K-12 education, Brunswick resident Sandy Dean asked why the education department needs more money.
Barge said even with the money from the state, his department still gets around 60 percent of its operating budget from the federal government. Taking any state money away at all would cause fiscal harm to local school boards, one-third of which are already operating at a deficit this year, Barge said.
The charter school question is one of two amendments residents will vote "yes" or "no" on today. The other asks voters if state agencies can sign multi-year leases for private property.
(c)2012 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.)