Legislature shifts focus to education in annual session
by Mark Andrews
Apr 05, 2012 | 1061 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Georgia Legislature last week finished its annual session, with the House and Senate approving a number of education items that focus on areas ranging from home schooling and online education to truancy and charter schools, followed by Gov. Nathan Deal signing the bills into law. However, it still will be up to the voters to decide the fate of the controversial charter amendment.

There are positive revenue reports coming from the capital, with officials saying Tuesday that the $656 million jackpot -- the largest ever in U.S. lottery history -- spurred the Georgia Lottery's highest week of sales in its 20-year history. Sales soared to $115 million for the week ending March 31, which is $14 million more than the previous weekly sales record.

Officials say the record Mega Millions jackpot generated $25.2 million for the HOPE scholarship and pre-K programs in the state.

Mega Millions tickets are sold in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. So far, no one has claimed the jackpot, though winning tickets were sold in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland.

While Cartersville City and Bartow County schools are on spring break, Cartersville Assistant Superintendent Ken Clouse previously responded to questions regarding a bill that would, according to the Georgia Department of education, "reduce the burden of paperwork for cash-strapped local school districts" by placing the documentation of home school students in the hands of the state.

"Although Cartersville City does have some home school students, the number is not so overwhelming to make reporting and keeping up with it a burden to the system," Clouse said in an email. "It may be a problem in larger systems, but I have not heard of anyone having an issue with this.

"As usual, I don't see this coming at the request of a local system to have DOE take over this responsibility. To me, this is in opposition to what legislators claim as giving local control to local school systems. You have to wonder is this is a continuing distrust of local systems to be able to run their school districts."

Charter schools dominated the education agenda under the Gold Dome this year. After weeks of back-room deals and thousands of lobbying dollars, state lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to establish charter schools over the objection of local districts.

Cartersville schools are considered a charter district, but the decision could affect Bartow schools.

Voters will decide in a referendum this fall whether to approve that change to the constitution. Lawmakers approved legislation that explains how those new schools would be funded.

The constitutional amendment addresses issues with the state's education law outlined in a May ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court.

"As a parent, I don't think there's anything more important than my child's education and having those options," said state Rep. Alisha Morgan, a Democrat from Austell who has been a vocal supporter of charter schools. "On behalf of parents and kids in this state, it was critical that we fix what the Supreme Court saw as a problem and further clarify it in our constitution."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this article.