These successful charter schools were formed and commissioned according to provisions already in place in the Georgia constitution. The existing process requires a rigorous charter application that must be approved by the local board of education. Only then does the charter petition undergo a review by the Department of Education.
The charter school constitutional amendment, as it will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot is misleading for several reasons. While any parent or concerned citizen wants increased student achievement and adequate services for all students, each community and county in Georgia is different. Our democratic process allows citizen the right to elect school board members to represent community and county opinions, needs and plans. Then, these elected school board members receive extensive, mandatory annual training to better represent their constituents.
The charter school amendment would allow the formation of a new state agency with a million-dollar budget to do what local boards and the Georgia Department of Education already have the authority to do. At a time when local community control has been the saving grace of most school systems, this new agency will bypass local boards and superintendents who have made the hard decisions over the past few years in order to keep their school systems afloat. Since 2003, at least $5 billion has been withheld from Georgia’s students. These cuts have led to 121 of 180 school systems having shortened school years, pay cuts for thousands of Georgia teachers and approximately 4,500 teacher lay-offs since 2008.
A Yes vote on the charter amendment will diminish those funds even further by directing, not only state funding, but also the equivalent amount of local funding, to these charter schools that have gained their approval, not through your locally elected school board, but through another bureaucratic agency in Atlanta.
It seems perplexing that when looking at the recent history of the education budget that our General Assembly would even consider finding more than $430 million in new state funds that would be required if a new commission created only seven new charter schools per year.
Instead, our General Assembly should be considering restoring the 180 day school year for all Georgia students, restoring teaching positions with full pay and restoring student services like transportation and student support services.
Public education should be a priority in our state — it should be protected and supported. Most successful, hardworking individuals were educated in the public school system.
As you enter the voting booth on Nov. 6 examine how the passage of this amendment will affect your public schools. Local boards have the authority to approve charter applications that will benefit their local communities. For those denied, an appeal process is already in place.
Please, as an informed citizen or a concerned parent, look deeper than emotion and opinion. Please look at the facts when considering the implications of this amendment and please vote no to the charter school amendment.