State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R - Marietta, opposed a upticking of state charter school funding that he says is unfair to traditional public schools.
Photo: BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Cobb senator resigns ed committee chairmanship over increased charter school funds

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, a Republican from Cobb County, has always championed traditional public schools. That is apparently why he could not abide the passage of a law he contends gives preferential treatment to charter schools. 

The Marietta Daily Journal is reporting Tippins resigned his chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee over the passage of House Bill 787 in the waning hours of the Legislature last week. House Bill 787 raises the per-pupil allotment for state charter schools at an annual cost to taxpayers of about $17.9 million.

Tippins was one of seven state senators to oppose House Bill 787 and the only Republican.

According to the Marietta Daily Journal, Tippins said: “[I]f that bill is reflective of their vision for education in the state of Georgia, they got the wrong person being the committee chairman. Because I cannot further that vision. I want to be fair to charter schools, but I want to be fair to traditional public schools, which have to take every kid that walks in the door and have to provide an education for students regardless of what the challenges are.”

This afternoon, Tippins told my AJC colleague Eric Stirgus,  

“I didn’t see a fruitful future if the vast majority of the (Republican) caucus is different than you on a critical issue.”

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle pushed for the increased money for state charters. But Tippins told Cagle the bill put him in the indefensible position of telling Jeff Davis County, the lowest funded district in the state at $6,952 per student, that lawmakers intended to increase the funding charter schools received from $8,415 to $8,816, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

Tippins apparently did not want to be in that position and underscored the point by giving up the chair’s seat. It’s too bad as Sen. Tippins was a lawmaker who tried to be fair to all students in all schools.

Tippins told the AJC that Cagle did not pressure him to resign and there is no ill will between the two Republican leaders. Just a difference of opinion on charter schools and what constitutes equitable funding policies. 

Yes, charter schools are public schools, but there is a key difference: They enjoy an edge the traditional public schools down the street do not. They can eject students from their schools – directly through expulsion or indirectly by counseling them out – because they know the traditional school must take all comers. 

At a conference I attended, a leader of a celebrated charter school in another state was asked about his school’s sky-high expulsion rate, which far exceeded that of the regular public schools. Speaking off the record, he acknowledged he could and did expel kids with greater ease and frequency because he knew those students had a seat waiting for them at their local school.

His rationale for the higher expulsions was something any public-school principal would understand: The kids with behavior problems got in the way of other students who wanted to learn. The difference is principals and traditional schools are under tremendous and growing pressure not to expel students.

A few years ago, a Washington Post review found D.C. charter schools expelled 676 students in the past three years, while the city’s traditional public schools expelled 24.

Charter also serve fewer students with disabilities. Eight to 10 percent of charter school students have disabilities, compared to 13.1 percent of traditional schools. 

According to Western Michigan University education researcher Gary Miron, writing in Education Next, “On average, however, the disabled students charter schools enroll tend to have disabilities that are less severe and less costly to remediate than those of students in district schools. ”

About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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