Former lawmakers named for charter school agency

Former state lawmakers Buzz Brockway (left) and Hunter Hill are in line for appointement to the State Charter Schools Commission.

Former state lawmakers Buzz Brockway (left) and Hunter Hill are in line for appointement to the State Charter Schools Commission.

Two former legislators will help shape education in Georgia if their appointments to the State Charter Schools Commission win final approval Thursday.

Hunter Hill, who served in the Georgia Senate, and Buzz Brockway, who was in the state House of Representatives, are in line for seats on the seven-member commission.

The two Republicans ran unsuccessful campaigns for higher office last year, Hill for Governor and Brockway for Secretary of State.

Hill was referenced in a surreptitious recording that dogged the campaign of Kemp’s main gubernatorial rival, then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

The recording was made by Clay Tippins, a candidate who had been knocked out of the governor's race. Cagle, not realizing Tippins was recording their conversation, said he had backed "bad public policy" to gain an edge on Hill, who was still in the running.

Cagle told Tippins he supported the education legislation because it was desired by a group that he thought was going to give money to Hill’s campaign, and he thought his move would discourage that contribution. Cagle identified the donor as the Walton Family Foundation, which backs charter school initiatives.

The recording referenced two pieces of legislation approved last year: House Bill 217, which increased the annual limit on tax credits for contributions for private school tuition; and House Bill 787, which increased funding for schools operating under the State Charter Schools Commission.

The commission, created by a 2012 constitutional amendment, gives out — and takes away — operating charters that allow independent schools to receive state funding. It comes from the same pot of money that grew due to HB 787. As the AJC has previously reported, that bill may have played the more important role in the Cagle controversy, since it was opposed by Tippins' uncle, Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta.

That extra money, incidentally, has sparked new interest, with 21 would-be schools petitioning for a state charter this month, a representative from the State Charter Schools Commission told members of the state Board of Education Wednesday.

Hill and Brockway both passed a vetting process to serve on that commission.

Hill was one of two people nominated to the same seat by Gov. Brian Kemp. Per state law, the governor names two candidates for open seats, and the education board picks one of them. Brockway, who served on the House Education Committee when he was a state representative, was among two named by House Speaker David Ralston for another seat.

The Georgia Department of Education works with the state board and helped to vet the four candidates.

“We’ve selected the two legislators,” Lou Erste, a staffer with the state agency, said Wednesday, at a meeting of a committee of the state education board. The committee approved the two selections, and the full board will consider them Thursday. The board will also consider Kemp’s recommendation to reappoint Carmen Dill to the commission and Ralston’s recommendation to give Jose R. Perez another term.