Charter schools: Vote ‘no’ on Amendment 1
October 28, 2012 12:00 AM | 16956 views | 23 23 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
COMPETITION is usually a good thing, and it’s at the heart of our free market system. But when the government intervenes to give one side or the other an advantage, it skews the results. And passage of the proposed Charter School Amendment on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot would potentially undermine Georgia’s public schools by steering badly needed financial resources away from them and toward state-approved charter schools.

In the absence of a contest for governor or U.S. Senate near the top of the ticket, this year’s most contentious state-related item on the fall ballot is the charter amendment. Charter schools have more flexibility in designing programs than “regular” schools do, and allow for greater parental input as well. There are two types of charters in Georgia. The first are those approved by local boards of education, which can either be new schools or existing schools that have been “converted” to charter status. The other type is those that have been rejected by a local board, but approved by the state, which are known as “state charters.”

The state set up a charter school commission in 2008 to rule on such applications, but a divided state Supreme Court ultimately ruled that only local boards of education can issue charters. The upcoming amendment would change the law to let the state also approve such schools. If it passes, the charter commission would be recreated, with members appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker.

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DECIDING which way to vote on the amendment is, admittedly, not an easy call, especially for those like this newspaper, which has been a frequent advocate of the charter concept through the years. Proponents of the measure make a number of arguments. They say passage would:

— Give low-income children in struggling schools options they currently do not have;

— Give parents more choice of where to send their children;

— Would give proposed charters an independent “appeals” process if they are turned down by local boards, which has happened numerous times around the state;

— Would make public schools more competitive, and without harming existing public school funding;

— Be a victory for the free-market system.

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BUT AMENDMENT OPPONENTS have strong arguments of their own, and are making the more compelling case.

— They say the amendment takes power from local school boards that usually listen to parental desires and gives it instead to unelected political appointees in Atlanta that have no accountability to voters.

— They note while the appeals process to the State has been ruled unconstitutional, dissatisfied parents still have a remedy at the ballot box for school board members that deny a local Charter application.

— As for pro-amendment arguments that charters are better academically and that public schools are failing, they respond that in 2010-11 more Georgia public schools than charters met Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind. Public-school supporters also are quick to note that charter schools do not have the same restrictions on maximum class sizes and that they are not even required to hire certified teachers.

— State school Superintendent John Barge has said the new state charter school agency that would be set up if this passes would cost taxpayers at least $1 million a year, and against a backdrop of school systems across the state — including Cobb — beset by severe budget problems thanks to deep cutbacks in state funding in recent years. Those cutbacks have resulted in layoffs, furloughs, larger class sizes and shorter school years.

— Amendment advocates like to say the new state charter schools would not cost local taxpayers because they would be funded primarily by the state, unlike local school systems, which are funded primarily by property tax dollars. But unless the state is sitting on a huge new source of income that it has yet to tell the public about, it would be funding those new charters out of its existing education budget. There’s no way to do that without cutting spending elsewhere — most likely from the amount being spent on traditional public schools.

And speaking of money, there’s plenty of it to be made if this passes. And the recipients will not be the taxpayers, but the for-profit management companies from out of state that contract to run the new charters. And let’s not forget the lobbyists who stand to benefit, and above all, let’s not overlook the state legislators for whom the new setup would be a lucrative new source of campaign contributions.

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WE WISH that lawmakers and others who eagerly criticize our public schools would exert just as much effort and enthusiasm trying to improve them instead. This amendment does little to address the underlying problems of failing schools. If the state and local education bureaucracy has too many onerous rules and regulations in place — (we’ll go ahead and answer that one with a loud “yes”) — those same lawmakers have the power to insist on change.

We believe that is a better approach than setting up an expensive parallel school system that siphons money and many of the most desirable students away from the existing schools.

The Charter School Amendment should be voted down.

Do you support the charter school amemdment?


Comments
(23)
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kthomas8
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November 01, 2012
I'm voting YES. I live in Gwinnett where the gestapo superintendent listens no NO ONE except politicians and land developers. Where county commissioners get caught and fired/jailed for making corrupt land deals. Where schools are built in the shadow of a major landfill. Where nicely balanced school districts are split into rich schools and a poor schools. Where school administration must put so much effort into assuring everyone has a right to attend that they neglect to address the majority's need to learn. Where 'virtual' dropouts exist; those that are allowed to attend so they can meet the requirements for a drivers license but have otherwise given up on graduating and instead constantly clown and disrupt each day, making it impossible for others to succeed. Do I believe it is the right thing for the Georgia school system? Probably not. Do I want a choice that today only comes with an address change or the luck of a county charter school's lottery draw. YES.
Vote YES
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October 30, 2012
My main concern is the teacher. There is a tremendous percentage of teachers that are terrible at their profession, but tenure and the "buddy" system that awards teacher contracts allow them to remain in their jobs poorly teaching our kids until they decide to take their lucrative retirement. Most teachers whine at virtually any metric proposed to evaluate their profession. I'm sick of it. Most teachers that I went to college with chose their profession because their academic qualifications did not allow them to enroll in anything else (i.e. those who can do, those who can't teach). I fully realize there are some great teachers out there, but they are the exception...not the rule! If the charter bill is passed and administrators of these new schools hold their employees to a professional standard of either successfully doing the job or "you're fired!", then that's the kind of system I think will bring real positive change in our schools. I don't know about you, but I either perform or I'm fired. I know I've really ticked most teachers off with this blog, but I don't care...and those teachers who are good at what they do and care know I'm right!
Just Sayin'....
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October 31, 2012
Vote YES - Well said, and for the record I did vote yes!!!!
anonymous
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November 05, 2012
I have been a teacher in DeKalb County Schools for 17 years and I am a very good teacher who agrees with most of what you have said. I do not agree with tenure; I do wish the hiring and firing process was more like 'corporate America'; I will not recieve a 'lucrative retirement' - that is crazy that you believe this to be true; I wish I did not have to sign a contract and could leave my school and go to another if an opportunity arose - I am not able to do this; I wish that I was evaluated better so I could prove to you and to others out there that many of us are totally awesome and like other professions the poor workers make a bad name for all of us who do an exceptional job.
D. Wiggins
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October 30, 2012
I live in Dekalb. Our school board has repeatedly let us down. Our "local control", trying to shut down charter schools, is not what I would call a mechanism in place for charter schools to be formed. They need to be over rode at a state level and that is what Amendment 1 would do. Dekalb has done this to itself; it is time for some accountability and responsibility .
Lovecobb
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October 30, 2012
We all know the charter school amendment is just a thinly veiled scheme to return to Jim Crow and separate but equal.. Sure the media play shows a an African American girl from a bad neighborhood who got to go to a Charter School; but don't doubt for a second that the very best charter schools will be private charters in Buckhead, Alpharetta and East Cobb which will be funded by our tax dollars. This is America and we are better than that!
Oh no......
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October 30, 2012
LoveCobb, News Flash...the schools in those area will always be better because the parents get involved. It does not matter if it is public, charter or private. A charter school just makes it easier for you to have input on how your children are taught and what priorities you share. This is not an attempt to return to Jim Crow....just ask David Morgan.
East Cobb?
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November 03, 2012
Walton High School is already a charter. It performs at a very high rate. This is why people want to live in East Cobb. Why can't we provide schools like Walton to kids in South Cobb?
LoveCobb
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October 30, 2012
Vote NO. That is the only choice for us Republicans who want less government!
VoteY
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October 29, 2012
Vote yes! To give options to families who don't have hundreds of extra dollars to spend on private education, to create jobs, create competitiveness....and think about it....our current board of education has a shady, bad track record!!! Vote Yes! It moves us in a better direction for our future.
anonymous
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October 30, 2012
The CCSD Board has approved 6 charter schools, closed one that had financial and leadership issues,and recently did not approve another that was also turned down by the state.

The CCSD initiated a process to assist charter school applicants in the drafting of their application. Hardly a shady record.

You've really gotten to the heart of the matter... Families seeking private education at public expense. The creation of segregated schools where public schools are required to to follow all mandated rules and where charters are petition to be exempted from mandated rules yet be funded by taxpayer dollars.

Local boards can already approve charters. The amendment does not change this authority.

The state can already approve special schools.

Georgia law currently provides for the following: "The General Assembly may provide by law for the creation of special schools." Georgia law goes on to currently say that; "The state is authorized to expend state funds for the support and maintenance of special schools in such amount and manner as may be provided by law."

When Patuala Charter Academy was affected by the recent Supreme Court ruling, the state quickly designated it and more than 10 other schools as "Special Schools."

We don't need to revise the Georgia constitution to allow the creation of charter schools.

Do you really want an un-elected, unaccountable commission having a say over what schools open in Cobb?

The state has one bucket of money for education funding. They pledge that they will fund state commission approved charter schools at roughly 1.5 times the level they will fund local schools. This means that for every $4,000 per student received from the state for local schools, state commission approved charter schools will receive $6,000 per student. Less money, not more will be received by local schools should this Amendment be approved by voters.
anonymous
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October 29, 2012
As has already been stated by @Point of View, the opportunities for even more graft and corruption -- just at a higher level than locally -- will go up tremendously if this passes.

Vote NO and make our politicians go back to the drawing board. They're just in it for themselves and think we're dumb enough to go for it.
Kennesaw Resident
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October 29, 2012
AMEN!
anonymous
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October 29, 2012
The faux conservative "local control" meme is getting tiresome when it comes to the issue of charter schools.

Sometimes it makes sense to drill governmental functions down to the county level.

Sometimes it doesn't. And I say that as a staunch conervative.

Junta-like county school boards can be tyrannical in their own right, disregarding the desires of substantial numbers of parents who are ill served at the local level.
Quiet Professional
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October 29, 2012
When Americans are asked how they feel about public schools, they say they're a disaster. But when asked how their own childrens' local public schools are doing, they say they're doing just fine.

That syndrome is clearly at work here.
SW Gal
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October 28, 2012
1.) We should NEVER change our Constitution without Compelling reasons to do so. It is NOT necessary to change our Constitution to have Charter Schools. We already have an effective mechanism in place. 2.) The Amendment 1 and associated legislation, H.B. 797, do NOT stipulate a cap on the number of taxpayer funded charter schools to be approved each year. Previously, the average was 7/year at roughly $87 million. Our budget is already strained. There is nothing to protect taxpayers from future tax increases to support this out-of-control plan. 3.) This legislation also does NOT specifiy that charter schools go to the most NEEDY districts. We have 179 school districts. If only 7/year are approved, chances are the charter school will NOT be established in the disctricts most deserving. 4.) The charter school industry is a TRILLLION dollar opportunity for special insterests and unethical officials to make millions at the expense of our children. Out-of-state special interests and their campaign funds (bribes) to our legislators lend credence to this fact. VOTE NO to changing our Constitution for CRONY special interests! Work to improve our present schools for our children. NO to giving control to unelected commissions.
Point of View
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October 28, 2012
Unfortunately, the CCSB has proven to be an uneffective advocate for the education of children in Cobb County. The majority of their time is spent squabbling about schedules, SPLOST initiatives or punishing members who oppose the majority. The only thing they do related to the day to day learning experiences of students in the classroom is to increase class sizes, an average of 8 students over the last 4 years, add furlough days to salaried teaching professionals, give raises to the administrators on Glover Street, and generally make a mockery of Cobb County.

I will vote FOR the charter initiative if it means taking the power out of the hands of these people and giving it back to the parents.
@Point of View
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October 28, 2012
Actually very little time is spent on schedules - with the exception of Banks who kept bringing the subject up repeatedly last year.

It was only brought up recently because the district must set a calendar for 2013-2014.

You'd have to be under a rock to think that the district is not friendly to charters. It has two start-up and three conversion charter schools.

As prudent stewards of tax payer dollars, the district did not approve a recent renewal or new petition. The new petitioners also appealed to the state where they were also not approved.

If the state would fund the QBE formula as they should, the district would not have any of the classroom size issues or furlough days you described. Since 2003, our state legislators have effected austerity cuts that have adversely affected the Cobb district to the tune of $430 million. For the current year, that amount is $72 million.

If you think you have problems with the school board, just wait until you deal with an un-elected, unaccountable commission that has a say over what schools open in Cobb County.

3 charter schools closed this year in Orlando after school opened this year. The school district had to contend with the fall out. This is more common than you think.

In another case, a charter school closed due to financial challenges, yet managed to pay out over $500,000 to the top administrator prior to the school closure.

Charter schools typically do no better than local schools and in many cases do worse.

Decisions are best made at the local level.

Vote NO on Amendment 1.
Benji52
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October 28, 2012
Amen. Everybody wins with Amendment 1 passing. The kids who would normally take up space in a "regular" school are no longer there. HOWEVER, the county AND State funds intended for those kids STILL goes to the COUNTY school. Thus it allows more funding for Brick and Mortar schools in the County!! By the way, State Funds are used to support State Charter schools NOT county funds and they get about 2/3 the funding of what county schools get for each kid sitting in a desk!

PS: Read the actual proposed amendment to learn the fine points that people seem to want to overlook.
PineNeedle
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October 28, 2012
If the amendment passes, state and federal funds will follow the student, thus decreasing local system funding. There is no accountability for the new charter schools, and no requirement for them to accept special needs students.

If you aren't happy with the local board, recruit and elect competent candidates. Don't give away the control we now have.

Vote NO on Amendment 1.
@Benji52
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October 29, 2012
You're wrong about state funds... they follow the student.

Ye, "property taxes" will not be used to fund state commission approved charter schools. However, from where do you think the state acquires funds?

Umm... sales tax, gasoline tax, car tags, etc... All of these sources are local. Convince us they are not!

Don't be fooled into thinking that a school district's cost fall significantly with each student opting for charter school. They don't.

If one student leaves, you will still have the same number of teachers.

If 30 students leave from different schools, you will likely have the same number of teachers, the same number of bus routes, the same utility expenses, etc...

With state commission approved charter schools, the state will also be funding them at approximately one and one-half times greater than local schools.

Benji52 - For each student that leaves the district, the district will have less, not more, total dollars to fund Brick and Mortar schools. The local pot remains the same. The state dollars leave. The district's costs are not reduced by the same amount that they will loose in state revenue for each student that leaves the district.
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