By Michael O’Sullivan, Executive Director of GeorgiaCAN, and Andrew Lewis, Executive Vice President of the Georgia Charter Schools Association
When it comes to the legislative process and the attempt to seek passage of meaningful education policy, it is important to keep in mind a quote by one of America’s greatest leaders in sport and life, Vince Lombardi. As Coach Lombardi once said,
“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”
The legislative process is not easy nor is it predictable, and the recent passage of House Bill 430 in Georgia exemplifies such. If not for a strong bill sponsor, a robust state coalition of education reform partners, timely strategy and a little bit of luck, HB 430 would have been over early in the first quarter.
This legislation started in 2015 with the work of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission. This 35-member commission was charged with creating meaningful education reform for Georgia in five different areas of K-12 education. One area of focus was the School Choice & Educational Options Sub-committee’s recommendations to improve Georgia’s charter schools law.
The recommendations included among other items, equitable funding, facilities funding, authorizer accountability, and increasing facility options for charter schools.
Two years in a row, Gov. Deal shelved his Education Reform Package at the last minute to address other legislative priorities. This forced education reform groups like Georgia Charter Schools Association, GeorgiaCAN and others to do some late-in-the-game scrambling to identify a bill sponsor, create language incorporating the charter school-related recommendations coming out of the Education Reform Commission, and to navigate the 40 working days of the Georgia legislative session.
The Georgia House and Senate with their respective education committees are policy minefields. There is a need to continuously move forward while at the same time circumnavigating the landmines that will doom legislation for another year.
As education reformers know all too well, meaningful legislation is rarely the 80-yard Hail Mary pass for a touchdown. Meaningful legislation is taking what the defense gives you; a three-yard gain here, a ten-yard pass there. If you lose some yards, what are you doing to pick up more yards on the next play?
House Bill 430 serves as a reminder to those of us who support meaningful education reform policy that to win the game we must: play as a team, limit mistakes and always keep the football moving downfield.