The facts on Charter School amendment

Published 8:30 am Friday, September 28, 2012

Several times over the past few weeks on this page, you have read Dick Yarbrough discuss the upcoming vote on Constitutional Amendment One, or the charter school amendment.
Today, I hope to give you some additional facts, figures, and items you might not have known about a very important vote that could change the landscape of public education in Georgia. And, that change would be for the worse.
It’s no secret, and we have discussed it in depth here and elsewhere, that the folks in Atlanta are not living up to their obligation relative to the constitutionally required adequate funding of Georgia’s public schools.
So, in light of that fact, Governor Nathan Deal determined that the best course of action is to create another costly bureaucratic layer and cut the public schools a little deeper — in the form of an appointed charter school commission.
Governor Deal and the proponents of the amendment say this is all about school choice and student achievement. Baloney. It’s about money and power, period. This is not about traditional schools versus charter schools. It’s about money and power. This is not about opportunity. It’s about money and power.
Currently, and since the State Supreme Court ruled the State Charter Commission as unconstitutional last year, any potential “Authorizer” can appeal to a local board of education to create a charter school. The local board would either approve or deny the application. If the board approves the application, it would operate under the purview of the local board and the local board would fund the school.
If the local board happens to deny the application, the requester could appeal to the State Board of Education. That body would then either approve or deny the application.
This system has worked well for many years, resulting in the approval and operation of over 200 charter schools in Georgia currently. Of those, there are only six in Southwest Georgia. The vast majority is concentrated in metro-Atlanta.
If this amendment passes, and I encourage each of you to vote no, a panel appointed by the Governor, at an operating cost of $1 million per year, would have the ability to override the local board’s denial of a charter school application. This is all about power. Put the decision in the hands of appointees rather than those who were elected. No, it should not work that way.
In the three years that the state panel existed before being ruled unconstitutional, it approved and created 17 new charter schools. Of those 17 schools, 10 opened with management contracts with for-profit Education Management Organizations (EMOs). In other words, state funding allocated for education, and state funding that students of traditional schools would be without, went into the pockets of out-of-state corporations. This is not about school choice, it’s about money.
It’s interesting to note that, according the Atlanta Journal Constitution, only four percent of the money raised by Families for Better Schools, the main proponent group, have come from inside Georgia. The remaining 96% were out-of-state contributions. Hmmmm, makes you wonder.
It’s also interesting to note that every education-based group in the state, including John Barge, the State School Superintendent, have expressed opposition to approval of the amendment.
In a time when state funding of public schools has been cut by $4 billion in the last four years, when teachers are forced to take furlough days, when only a handful of school systems in the state offer a full 180-day schedule, and when more of the financial burden is being pushed to local property tax payers, we don’t need another layer of government burdening our schools.
I urge you to vote no on passage of this ill-advised constitutional amendment.

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