Correcting errors of charter school foes


Please, stop all the “push granny off the cliff” rhetoric about Georgia public schools that are chartered by the state.

The Georgia Supreme Court, in a May 2011 4-3 split decision, ruled that the state Constitution authorizes the state government to approve only special charter schools (typically, for deaf and blind students). Approving K-12 charters was effectively ruled the sole purview of local Boards of Education (BOEs).

The Nov. 6 ballot measure responds to that ruling by amending a paragraph in the state’s Constitution to allow the state to continuing chartering K-12 public schools (as it had been doing for 11 years).

Many of Georgia’s 152 school districts have boards of education that operate excellent schools, but others are seriously failing their children — Clayton County and the Atlanta Public Schools, for example.

With little evidence they’ll change for the better, those parents who cannot afford private school tuition (most all of them) have no effective recourse or avenue for appeal.

Between 2004 and 2011, the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) only approved about 11 of the 162 schools chartered in Georgia. That’s it — local boards of education approved the rest. And the state certainly didn’t run them, they only approved the charters that parents and non-profit community organizations wrote and submitted.

In Georgia, all charter schools are operated by their own boards with members selected according to the charter the parents helped write. They are not operated by the state of Georgia. Control remains at an even more local level than local school boards — with the parents.

The DOE already has a staff that oversees and ensures that all charter schools adhere to the contract/charter that parents wrote and agreed to, and will continue to do so regardless of how this vote turns out; we won’t be creating some massive new government bureaucracy.

If the amendment is approved, the DOE will create a seven-member commission to review state charters. By law, the commission members will only be compensated for mileage and per diem expenses — no salaries.

The DOE hasn’t exempted state charter schools from all Georgia education guidelines. It has approved parent-written charters that allow some adjustments to certain standards in exchange for tighter accountability.

Education in Georgia is funded on a roughly 50/50 basis by state tax dollars and local tax dollars (it varies slightly from district to district). When a parent chooses to send their child to a charter school, the state dollars for that child follow him/her to the charter school to fund their education.

The local school dollars (E-SPLOST and property taxes) previously allocated for that child’s education remain with the local BOE even though it no longer has the obligation to educate that child.

Charter schools certainly do not violate the U.S. Constitution, as opponent Sue Ella Deadwyler proclaims, and have absolutely nothing to do with “taxation without representation” (another erroneous sloganeering point from Deadwyler’s presentation).

Yes, there are some other education topics that are a cause for concern, such as Georgia’s adoption of federal Common Core Standards, but that invasion of states’ rights will run its course irrespective of a response to the Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling on state-chartered schools.

Finally, ask yourself how well the current system has been working across Georgia, not just here in Fayette where our schools are among the best in the state.

Wishing and hoping for poorly performing boards to “do better” is not a strategy or solution, it’s simply more unproductive wishing and hoping against entrenched bureaucrats and special interests — and kids suffer.

Allowing the state to charter schools isn’t a complete solution to Georgia’s low national standing, but it’s certainly a useful part of a solution.

The vast majority of Georgia charter schools are in poorly performing school districts. State-chartered schools provide students in those areas with an alternative that they are literally standing in line for.

Are you going to deny them the choice for a better education at a reduced cost?

Vote “Yes” on Nov. 6 for Amendment 1.

Bob Ross

Co-Founder, Fayette County Issues Tea Party

Peachtree City, Ga.