State senator resigns chairmanship over charter school bill vote

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, is resigning as chairman of the senate's education committee after disagreeing with Republican colleagues on a bill that would pump more money into state charter schools.

“I didn’t see a fruitful future if the vast majority of the (Republican) caucus is different than you on a critical issue,” said Tippins, explaining his decision in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Lawmakers went back-and-forth during the final days of this year's legislative session over House Bill 787, which wound up raising the per-pupil allotment for state charter schools. Tippins was the only Senate Republican to vote against the bill, which passed Thursday, the final day of this year's legislative session. The bill also includes a provision that offers grants to low-income college students.

Charter school advocates have said a supplement the schools have received is not enough money since it is equal to the average per-pupil local funding of the state’s five poorest school systems. The legislation sent to Gov. Nathan Deal for his approval increases that to the average per-pupil funding for all of Georgia’s 180 school districts for state charter schools with statewide attendance zones.

Tippins didn’t support the legislation. The senator said he discussed his concerns with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who did support it.

Tippins noted many state charter schools have College and Career Ready Performance Index scores below the state’s average. He proposed those schools could get the additional funding if they meet the state average. Tippins’ proposal was unsuccessful. The senator said he wrote Cagle a resignation letter on March 20.

“I just told (Cagle) I could not pass the bill based on the merits of it,” Tippins said. “I felt from a public policy standpoint, there were some problems with the bill.”

Tippins stressed Cagle, who is running for governor, didn't ask him to resign and that there's no ill will between them. Tippins told the AJC he's not reconsidering his decision, despite some pleas to stay, reported by the Marietta Daily Journal.

Tippins, who has been the committee’s chairman for six years, said he didn’t know who would be the next chairman. With education accounting for about half the state’s budget, the post is one of the most influential positions in the Georgia Legislature.

Cagle’s office did not respond to requests for comment before deadline Tuesday.