Ten questions — Ask them before you vote on Charter School Amendment
by Roger Hines
November 04, 2012 12:35 AM | 2206 views | 3 3 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Charter School Amendment vote on Tuesday should not be taken lightly. Proof of its significance is the vigorous campaign that both its supporters and opponents have waged for several months. It’s always wise to ask questions about things that relate to voting; therefore, I pose the following questions about charter schools generally and the charter school amendment specifically.

One: How many charter schools have metal detectors? I cannot give an authoritative answer for this, but I would bet my house that the answer is None. Countless regular schools do have metal detectors, but charter schools don’t need them. Charter schools are smaller, more manageable, and more easily supervised. Serious mischief is not in the air at charter schools. Ask their teachers, parents, and administrators.

Two: Do crowded halls in charter schools render teachers unable to supervise students during class changes? This is a definite No. Many charter schools don’t even have halls. They are allowed to do things a bit differently, remember, and don’t necessarily have bells ringing all day long. They are allowed to innovate and experiment with different class structures. Halls are the chief source — the headquarters, actually — for half the mischief that regular schools are resigned to putting up with: drug deals, profanity, loving couples, etc. Even when teachers or administrators see these things going on in regular schools, crowded halls prevent them from getting to the culprits.

Three: Are charter schools plagued with violence? No. That’s why they don’t need metal detectors.

Four: Are charter schools for everybody? This is a definite No. Charter schools don’t necessarily have the multiple agendas that regular schools have: the academic agenda, the social-psychological agenda, the extra-curricular agenda, and the sports agenda. When they do, the non-academic agendas don’t wag the dog. Charter schools are for students and parents who desire focus and who don’t need the therapy centers (the social-psychological agenda) that so many schools have become. I’m not referring to special needs programs, but to the ubiquitous psychologizing that marks education today. Charters focus on science, math, English, history, computer science, geography, social skills, etc. A very fresh concept.

Five: Why do charter schools place more emphasis on dress and appearance? For the same reason that regular schools once did before they gave up. Appearance still matters. The first thing that all of us judge others by (especially if we are a prospective employer) is appearance; the second thing is language. Charters are known for instilling personal pride, for believing still that learning environment and moral tone matter. Most charters even require the guys to pull their pants up and cover their posteriors. Another fresh, exciting concept.

Six: Do charter schools emphasize the typical quasi-political “celebrations” such as Earth Day that are void of intellectual content? Since each charter school is governed by its own distinct charter, that would be up to the school, though I doubt that most charter school parents care too much about injecting socio-political trendiness into their children’s education.

Seven: How many local school boards are excited about the charter school amendment? The answer is not many, if any. The amendment would absolutely affect their authority, granting it, though, not to another government entity, but to parents who are footing the bill in the first place.

Eight: Are state legislators supporting the amendment in order to receive campaign contributions from for-profit charter school management companies? Not the legislators I know, and that’s a bunch. Probably the most eloquent General Assembly supporter of the amendment is state Representative Ed Setzler of Acworth. If anybody thinks Setzler can be bought, they have never met him.

Nine: If the charter school amendment passes, would the Charter Commission it sets up be the first or only appointed body that makes educational decisions for Georgia? No. Georgia public schools are already governed by an appointive body called the State Board of Education. Members of the state board are all appointed by one person, the governor, whereas the Charter Commission, with half the membership of the state Board, would be appointed by three people: the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the House.

Ten: Will the amendment destroy public schools? The answer to this is “Oh, please.” Charter schools are public schools, but they are indeed an effort to substantively improve public education.

In his best-selling book, Real Education, sociologist Charles Murray raises the question, “Why do so many politicians still oppose school choice for poor people but exercise it for their own children?” His question was directed to members of Congress.

In Georgia it’s the other way around. It’s our state representatives and state senators who are leading the charge for choice. I say we should join them.

Roger Hines of Kennesaw is a retired high school teacher and former state legislator.

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Off Balance
November 05, 2012

First time I have disagreed with you. This is a power play.
JoEllen Smith
November 04, 2012
Roger, you're a very nice guy and I respect you. I actually agree with nearly everything you wrote! That's because you sung the praises of Charter Schools in our state. However, this amendment ISN'T about Charter Schools and whether we want them or not. It's about state control by a board of political cronies who may have strong financial interests in WHICH charter schools are approved or denied. They have no requirements to file a financial disclosures, so they may be the Presidents of Charter School Management Companies voting down their competition. Also there is NO requirement for parental involvement, nor a parent on the board of the charter school, nor even community notification. A management company can waltz into town, draw up the charter contract and proceed without the community even knowing about it. Then it all depends on their marketing and sales ability to bring in families. And as for pulling your child out of a school? That is a difficult thing emotionally, better to not have been hoodwinked going in! Better to have the parents and community actually involved in the process and running of the school. Parental control? This looks like "crony control" to me!
November 04, 2012
You are so right JoEllen! This article has nothing to do with the charter amendment. I hope the voters are not fooled by all this defense of charter schools. No one is saying there is anything wrong with charter schools. However, there is something wrong with an amendment to change the GA constitution which is not needed to create more charter schools.

Too bad the Republicans won't work this hard to eliminate some of the unfunded mandates given to public schools.
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