The first, regarding charter schools, has been widely publicized in the media but the second, about multi-year office leases for government agencies, has not.
Amendment 1 asks, “Shall the constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
District 54 State Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, is the House majority whip who co-sponsored House Resolution 1162, the bill, which became the charter school amendment. It gives the state the “ability to create a charter school commission to review charter applications from schools who believe their local school district has has treated them unfairly in denying their charter application,” he wrote in an email.
“This amendment is important because the Georgia Supreme Court ruling in the case of Gwinnett School District v. Cox threatens to bar the state from having any kind of meaningful oversight over local school systems in this area,” Lindsey wrote. “While local systems should be primarily responsible for education, no governmental entity should ever have unfettered and unrestrained authority over any governmental action – and especially in the area of education. Checks and balances are critical in a free society.”
Everyone from State Superintendent John Barge to local school systems to teachers’ organizations have given their opinion on the amendment. The Georgia Federation of Teachers opposes it, writing in an email, “It creates a new Atlanta-based government bureaucracy, the new commission will be filled with political appointments and Georgia has more than 200 charter schools and an appeals process that works.”
The second amendment states, “Shall the constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide for a reduction in the state’s operating costs by allowing the General Assembly to authorize certain state agencies to enter into multi-year rental agreements?”
It would give the state the freedom to negotiate multi-year leases on office space, which could save Georgia money. Currently, the state is only allowed to sign one-year leases.
District 19 State Sen. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, the Senate president pro tempore and a co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 84, the bill that became Amendment 2, did not return email and phone messages at pres time. In a letter to the editor in last week’s Neighbor, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, R-Gainesville, talked about the importance of the amendment’s passage.
“The State Properties Commission estimates taxpayers will save $66 million over 10 years, with potential future savings. When we think about government spending, big-ticket items come to mind like education and transportation. But routine items, like leased office space for government workers, add up,” Cagle wrote, adding state agencies spend an average of 10.7 years in leased office space.