A charter school in our community will only divide us

Published 6:04 pm Friday, March 23, 2018

The Pataula Charter Academy administration and board stood in front of a room jam-packed with members of our community on Tuesday to explain the model for their school and why they would like to bring it to Decatur County.

What the presentation boiled down to was the concept of choice. Parents should be allowed to choose where their children go to school, they said. PCA was founded on that idea in Edison, Georgia, in 2010. It now serves more than 500 students, touting a safe, nurturing learning environment that inspires students to reach their full potential, according to the charter school’s mission statement.

Parents should absolutely have a choice of where to send their children to school. A new charter school like PCA is not the answer.

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We at The Post-Searchlight believe a charter school would only serve to divide our community, catering to more affluent families and receiving public funds that should be used to support the Decatur County School System.

The same safe, nurturing learning environment that PCA claims makes them so unique is also fostered in Decatur County schools. PCA isn’t offering anything to benefit a student that Decatur County schools can’t.

Even for families in Decatur County that are interested in sending their children to PCA, there is no guarantee they will get in.

Despite PCA’s claims that it is a public school, they still turn kids away. Admission is not open to all students like in Decatur County schools. Instead, names are pulled from a hat via a lottery that gives priority to the kids of board members, staff and current students’ siblings. That isn’t “public.” That’s very, very selective.

And what happens to the Decatur County schools when the smartest, most affluent kids leave for a charter school? They’ll lose their best teachers to the allure of a better classroom environment, making it harder for struggling students to learn and understand and grow, and eventually graduate. That isn’t a future we should offer any child.

Decatur County Superintendent Tim Cochran is working hard to improve the school system’s financial shape. Currently, there are too many classrooms and not enough kids to fill them, making it harder to receive funding from the state. More kids leaving Decatur County schools to attend PCA will make this even more difficult.

We make choices every day, from where we shop for groceries to who we vote for at the polls. However, you can’t apply that same concept to public services, not when taxpayers’ money is involved. If you are unhappy with Decatur County schools, choose to vote for new Board of Education members, choose to become more involved as a parent, or choose to send your kids to one of the many private schools in our region.

Don’t choose a charter school that doesn’t have the best interest of our community in mind.