Many people are confused about the charter amendment due to misleading wording of the ballot and untruths from government leaders. We have been told that the amendment is needed to clarify and protect the state’s power to authorize and fund charter schools. The state Board of Education and local school boards already have the authority to approve charter schools.
There are more than 100 charter schools in Georgia. The majority were approved by local school boards. The Floyd County school system is a charter system. Every Floyd County school is a charter school.
WE HAVE been told that our tax money will not go to charter schools. All public schools are funded by taxes paid by the citizens of Georgia. Charter schools are public schools. They will be funded by tax money. If the charter amendment is passed, it will establish a commission to consider charter applications. The members of the commission will be appointed, not elected. The voters of Georgia will have no role in the selection of the commission members or any way to remove an unsatisfactory member of the commission.
The purpose of this proposed amendment is not to enhance Georgia schools. This amendment is about power and money. In May 2011 the Georgia State Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the mechanism for establishing charter schools that bypassed local school boards. That should have been the end of it.
After an initial reluctance by local boards to establish charter schools, more than 150 exist in the state today. In some cases, as with Floyd County, entire systems have adopted charter status. So why the need for a constitutional amendment? Follow the money.
THE CHARTER School Amendment is getting a lot of corporate and conservative money, as much as 95 percent is coming from out of the state. The largest donor, Alice Walton of Arkansas, gave $250,000. The Walton family owns Walmart. There are other companies who are watching this election. If the amendment is passed, these companies will be applying to start for-profit charter schools funded by our tax money. These companies come from outside our state and our country.
Amendment 1, if passed, would create a new state commission that will certify and fund these “special schools” with state money. Particularly troubling, the amendment would allow individuals to form special schools and receive state funds without the approval of local boards of education. As it stand now, local boards of education, with the input of the Georgia Department of Education, certify and oversee the operation of our community’s schools, which includes all charter schools. Amendment I would remove local control from the equation and give unaccountable state bureaucrats unprecedented power over the creation, the funding and the operation of our schools — and thus, the education of our children.
FRREA Is Not against charter schools. We are against the loss of local control of our schools. We feel that elected local school boards are the primary place where charter school applications should be considered. Since 2003, our state leaders have cut over $6 billion from the state’s budget for public education. If they truly want to improve Georgia education, they can restore that money to our public schools.
Edward D. Waters of Rome is president of the Floyd-Rome Retired Educators Association.