School board opposes ‘charter school’ amendment

Published 9:57 am Friday, October 19, 2012

During Thursday’s meeting of the Decatur County Board of Education, board members issued a public statement explaining their stance and opinion on the upcoming vote on Amendment One, or the charter school amendment.

The statement is as follows:

“As members of the Decatur County Board of Education, we believe we have consistently demonstrated our commitment to providing as many educational opportunities and choices as possible for the students of this county.

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“On Nov. 6, you will be asked to vote on an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Georgia. The amendment reads, ‘Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow local or state approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?’

“Although it is not our duty to tell our citizens how to vote, we do have concerns about the proposed amendment.

“The wording of the amendment itself is troubling. This is not about voting to approve establishing charter schools. Local Boards of Education can already apply for approval of Charter schools in cooperation with the State Board of Education. This amendment would allow for a State of Georgia politically appointed commission who could place schools in our local communities with no local control. This would also potentially divert funds from Georgia Public Schools to create a for-profit charter school system. In essence, you would have dual school systems, one governed by local boards that are accountable to the voters and one who is governed by political appointees who have no accountability to the local stakeholders.

“Georgia public schools have experienced $4.4 billion in state funding cuts. According to State School Superintendent, John Barge, this new commission could conservatively cost the state an additional $430 million over the next five years. We have to ask the question, ‘Is it wise to continue in this direction when existing schools all across our state are severely underfunded?’ It is estimated that the State Commission alone will cost a minimum of $1 million per year to operate.

“We understand that there are other areas in the state that are not as fortunate as those in Decatur County. Therefore, there are those who would make the argument that this will help other areas of the state. However, Georgia has well over 100 charter schools and many more are being established. We already have a reasonable and rational process to develop charter schools and offer more choices for our students. We also have leaders who are accountable to local parents rather than state appointees.

“For all of the aforementioned reasons, we, as members of the Decatur County Board of Education have substantial concerns about the proposed amendment. We highly encourage all voters to educate themselves on this matter that could have a devastating impact on the students in our state. We urge our citizens to consider all of the facts surrounding this issue and most importantly, we encourage you to ‘vote no’ on Amendment 1, on Nov. 6.”