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Georgia charters reap what legislature sowed

Georgia’s high court recently struck down HB 881, a 2008 revision to the state’s charter law which empowered a new commission to approve charters, putting a dozen new schools and thousands of children in jeopardy. Was the court right that this conflicts with the constitution? Well, it does if you consider that the legislature in GA — not wanting to conflict with the state education department — failed to create the truly independent authorizer that would have fallen outside the education powers clause of the constitution. All states have these clauses, and in effect, they regulate the flow of all education affairs that exist through school district boundaries.  The state education department also derives its authority from this clause. However, the legislature has the authority to tax and spend and create institutions outside of the education powers clause that withstand constitutional lines of authority. In effect, legislatures can create authorities to solve just about any state problem. Georgia legislators were poised to do this when they first were introduced to the notion of multiple authorizers by yours truly. But they, along with a bevy of local advocates, decided to placate local school boards (who sued them anyway) and avoid a clash with the state education department and thus failed to make it truly autonomous. That led to all sorts of practical and process difficulties during their first approval process as Commission members clashed with state department of education authorities. But they did approve several schools two years in a row and now those schools inevitably will close.

A pity for the kids and families. And a big lesson to be learned by legislators.

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