Senate approves home school bill, House eyes charter
by Mark Andrews
Mar 26, 2012 | 1432 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Local school districts will no longer be responsible for keeping up with what students are enrolled in home school programs under a bill passed by the Georgia Senate.

The Senate voted 41-9 this month on legislation that would move that responsibility to the state Department of Education. The legislation now goes to the governor's desk.

The bill is part of recommendations made by a commission created by Gov. Nathan Deal to overhaul how the state funds education. Education department spokesman Matt Cardoza said the change will reduce the burden of paperwork for cash-strapped local school districts.

Cartersville Assistant Superintendent Ken Clouse said while there are home school students within the Cartersville City School System, the volume is low.

"In terms of the state taking over that so-called 'burden of paperwork,' it really isn't a huge issue for us," Clouse said. "I do have concerns to some degree as it just goes against the plausibility of local control and some folks could read it as a lack of trust in local school systems in some areas this issue of reporting may be a problem, but it's certainly not with us, and my thinking is, if there is a problem some place, deal with that problem and not create a blanket that all school systems are affected by."

During the fall, Bartow County home school parents addressed the Bartow County Board of Education, saying their contact information -- acquired through required attendance reports -- had been used in a way inconsistent with school board policy when they were contacted by the school system regarding the expected opening of the Bartow County Learning Center.

Superintendent John Harper ceased that method of contact and said one of the goals of the Learning Center is to provide supplemental instruction for home school students.

Calls to the Bartow County school system regarding home schooling were unsuccessful at press time.

The legislation also calls for parents whose children are skipping school to receive notice by certified mail before they are prosecuted for violating the state's truancy law.

Clouse said the school system already has in place what he considers a "successful" letter-based contact system for parents who's children are violating the law.

"Our schools are very much on top of that and our social workers as well ... and occasionally we'll have to take a parent to court," Clouse said. "... Going to a certified letter requirement is going back to the way it used to be, but what's not being taken into consideration is it's extremely costly for a school system so that's again a mandate without any kind of funds and putting the burden on the school systems."

A House committee has passed a bill that would allow charter school students to participate in sports and clubs at traditional public schools.

Senate Bill 34 is headed to the full House for a vote. It already passed the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, the bill's sponsor, says the proposal would give children who attend a charter school where some activities aren't offered a chance to participate in team sports and clubs. Opponents say the measure places added costs on cash-strapped schools to accommodate children that aren't enrolled there.

The legislation was prompted by Rachel Sackett, a Gwinnett County high school student and lacrosse player whose charter school did not offer the sport.

The bill was debated last year but wasn't approved.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.