The amendment’s passage, by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent, triggers a separate law re-establishing a seven-person Georgia Charter Schools Commission. That law goes into effect Jan. 1.
The state Board of Education will choose the members from nominations submitted by the state’s top elected officials.
While the board itself will be expanded to match the new Congressional districts that took effect with this election, Floyd County’s representative is unlikely to change. The 11th District member is Dr. J. Grant Lewis, a Rome physician who is now in the new 14th District along with the rest of the county.
“I’ve heard they’ll need someone for the 11th — Phil Gingrey’s district — but Grant is expected to stay on,” said state Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville.
Gov. Nathan Deal, who headlined the list of supporters pushing the charter schools amendment, said his office began vetting potential nominees for the new commission on Wednesday.
House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said they will be ready with their names as well.
It’s unclear if there will be an opportunity for input by other Georgia General Assembly members. State Sen.-elect Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said the charter school commission isn’t on his radar yet.
“We do have a meeting with the Senate on Thursday, but we’re going to discuss the Senate leadership before we do anything else,” he said.
Coomer, state House Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, and state House Rep.-elect Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, all said their talks with other House members have yet to touch on charter schools.
“I’ll be down at the Capitol for meetings this week, though, and I’ll do some checking then,” Dempsey said.
nor will propose a slate for three seats. The speaker and lieutenant governor will have two each. All of the nominees must have at least a bachelor’s degree.
The commission could begin its work as early as February, meaning new charter schools it creates could open for the 2013-14 school year.
It remains to be seen exactly how the staff support for the commission will play out. State Superintendent John Barge was the most high-profile opponent of the constitutional amendment. The new law states that the commission must be established “in collaboration with” his Department of Education.
Barge said Friday that he has not had any conversations with board members or anyone from Deal’s office about re-starting the commission.
Current law gives local school boards the power to grant or deny applications from operators that want to run the independent schools. The state Board of Education can override the local decision.
Under the new system, a prospective operator proposing a school with a “defined attendance zone” like a traditional neighborhood school will still apply to a local school board. The new commission will hear appeals of those decisions.
More importantly, applicants for a state charter could bypass local school boards altogether. To do so, they would either have to propose a school with a statewide attendance zone or successfully argue that their proposed model warrants the elevated status.
The Board of Education could override the commission’s decision on state charter schools.
Staff writer Diane Wagner contributed to this report.