The bill, which was pushed through the Legislature by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, would eventually allow school boards to apply for the same flexibility for their entire systems that are already granted to charter schools.
The plan creates a pilot program in which five systems would be allowed to pursue charter status as early as next year.
Charter schools are created when groups of parents, teachers and administrators petition the state. Often based on innovative concepts, the charters are free from state and federal regulations and are required only to meet standards negotiated between the school and state education officials.
This is the ultimate flexibility that also will have the accountability to assure we're getting the best educational product possible," Perdue said.
Liberties granted under Georgia's charter school law can include exemptions from class-size limits and teacher hiring practices, as well as guidelines on how state money is spent in the schools.
The schools must still meet state and federal education standards like the No Child Left Behind law and "benchmarks" set forth in their agreement with the state, but have more leeway in how they get there.
Cagle's plan would create a state charter advisory committee to consider applications and consult with the state board. Each school would have governing councils that would negotiate a charter with the state - spelling out how the school would be run.
At least a dozen of Georgia's 180 school systems have expressed interest in becoming one of the five pilot systems, said Cagle spokeswoman Jaillene Hunter.
A related plan, which would provide funding for public schools that partner with technical schools to provide students advanced job training, also passed the Legislature this year.
Cagle, who joined Perdue for a bill-signing ceremony at the state Capitol, called the move toward charter systems "a landmark decision" that will give local leaders more control over how their schools are run.
"I believe charter systems will create an education system that really is built on a new foundation," he said.
Backed by the Bush administration, the charter school movement has gained steam nationwide over the past decade. In Georgia, the number of charters has increased from 35 in 2002 to 57 this year.
Critics of charter schools argue that the freedoms granted them are too broad.
Some local school boards criticize them because the schools are funded with money from the boards' budgets without giving the boards control of that money.
Teachers groups have been critical because it is easier for instructors who are not certified teachers to lead classes at charter schools and charters may not have to follow "fair-dismissal" practices for firing teachers.
Jeff Hubbard, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said his group generally supports charter schools, but opposed the charter system plan because it doesn't provide enough protection for teachers.
"We encourage academic freedom, academic expression and creativity," Hubbard said. "On the other side, because of the way the bill's written, if you are creative and take risks, it can end up costing you.