Lawmaker, County superintendent square off on charter amendment
by Lindsay Field
October 30, 2012 01:28 AM | 4515 views | 10 10 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa listens as Rep. Ed Setzler speaks, during a charter amendment forum at Lassiter High School. <br> Photo by Emily Barnes
Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa listens as Rep. Ed Setzler speaks, during a charter amendment forum at Lassiter High School.
Photo by Emily Barnes
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MARIETTA — A little more than 40 people, including some Cobb County school board members, attended a charter school amendment forum last night to hear both sides of the argument on the Nov. 6 ballot issue.

Lassiter High and Mountain View Elementary schools’ Parent Teacher Student Associations hosted an informational forum with Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa arguing against House Resolution 1162 and Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) for it.

Passage of the amendment would allow the state to create a seven-member commission, with members appointed by elected officials, that would determine the fate of petitioning charter schools that are turned down by local school boards.

JoEllen Smith, who lost to Rep. Don Parsons (R-east Cobb) for the State House 44 seat in July and is a member of the Mountain View PTA Legislative Committee, moderated the event.

At the beginning of the nearly 90-minute forum, each speaker got to say why he supported or opposed the amendment.

Setzler opened by asking the audience a series of questions he wanted them to consider throughout the discussion, including if poor families should have the same options as wealthy families and if local school boards should be the dictators as to what school a child attends and what he or she learns while enrolled there.

“The broader issue here is one of parental choice,” Setzler said. “What we have before us friends is a civil rights disagreement. Should poor kids and parents in general have options, or should duly elected officials have absolute power over the education of our children?”

Hinojosa, who joined the Cobb school system last July after being in Texas for the first 18-plus years of his career as a superintendent, said he primarily opposes the resolution because it will create a new agency.

“I would agree that those vehicles and opportunities (for charter schools) already exist in Cobb County,” he said. “I just ask you to look at this topic with due diligence and vote your conscience.”

Members of the audience were given the opportunity to write questions down for Hinojosa and Setzler to respond to.

There were about 15 questions asked throughout the night, several of which dealt with whether there is already an appeals process in place for charter schools to petition if they are rejected by local school boards.

Setzler argued that it does not exist. Hinojosa, however, said there is a state charter commission within the state department of education that reviews petitions for approval and that the committee under consideration within House Resolution 1162 would be an addition to that.

“There is no ability that I’m aware of and certainly no ability that clearly provides any way around school boards if this thing does not pass,” Setzler said.

Another question was why school districts were against charter schools coming in.

Hinojosa said that is not the case and that Cobb welcomes thriving charter schools.

“I have accepted that we have to co-exist with great charters,” he said.

Setzler responded: “If there is any school in Georgia that you would not put your child in, you should support Amendment One. Even if you’re not doing it for you, do it for that child who doesn’t have options. It’s our moral obligation to give those kids an option.”

Setzler was also asked if the newly created committee would be compensated for their work, to which he replied no, but there would be a staff that helps organize data for the group and that could consist of about four people.

An audience member also asked Hinojosa if he should be “engaged in lobbying against House Resolution 1162.”

“I learned a long time ago that I have the authority to speak on a matter of public concern, free speech,” he said. “As an individual, I have that ability. I think I am entitled to give my own opinion.”

Another question was why so much out-of-state money has been contributed to support the amendment.

According to the Oct. 26 campaign finance report for the pro-resolution group, Families for Better Public Schools, approximately $1.8 million has been donated in favor of it.

Those opposing the amendment have contributed a little more than $123,000 in all to an organization called Vote SMART!

Hinojosa explained that the push for charter schools is something not just here in Georgia but a big topic nationally, so attention has spread beyond the borders of this state.

Setzler said it’s a “national movement” and that philanthropists are recognizing the efforts to bring this amendment to Georgia therefore they are supporting it.

Setzler said the issue is “very important” and that if parents or guardians have children in schools they like, “great,” but they need to recognize that not every family is in that situation and can’t afford to move to a better school zone, place their child in a private school or home school them.

“We owe these kids the same options we can enjoy,” he said. “We owe more to our Georgia families.”

Hinojosa said that while Setzler made some “articulate arguments” but what the amendment asks for already exists.

“We are already cutting everywhere we can, why are we adding something that’s not necessary?” he said.

Angela and Brandon Perry of Smyrna, who do not have children in the school system, attended the forum to learn more about the resolution.

“We were just talking about what this amendment was about,” Angela Perry said.

She said not all of her questions were answered, but the information she received gave her grounds to do a little more research on her own.

“It brought up further questions,” she said.
Comments
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Think folks!
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October 31, 2012
Charter School Saved My Son! Vote YES! How can you argue money or agency when there are CHILDREN suffering in schools that are not giving them a good education? You seriously want to nit pick & hurt your own future? The kids not properly educated TODAY will be governing, treating & serving your future TOMORROW! Take care of our children now or they will not take care of you when you need it in your golden years.
Kids First
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October 31, 2012
I'll be voting yes. Cobb County has done a fair job reviewing charter petitions. The commission confirmed this by also denying the schools that Cobb's board denied. It's not that way in every county though.

I agreed with Rep. Setzler that even with a great school like Lassiter, there may be a couple hundred children making Cs, who might thrive in a smaller environment. They would give up the sports teams and awesome music programs but they may not be involved anyway.

As for the evil profiteers lurking at the four corners of GA, this is just not an issue. A school's governing board may contract with a management company. That in itself does not lead to bazillions of tax dollars falling in their laps. The school must attract and retain students. The school may dismiss the company (as Kennesaw and Smyrna charters did) or they may renegotiate the contract asking for fewer services as some other schools have done. The partnerships can work as public/private partnerships have always done.
Crooked Deal
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October 30, 2012
Recall Nathan Deal! Vote out every self-proclaimed “republican” supporting this amendment. Amendment 1 has been intentionally written to mislead the public. It will bankrupt an already financially stressed educational system - a system underfunded and over regulated!

John Barge is a beacon of light in this corrupt deal. Mr. Barge, THANK YOU for standing up to the gold domed bullies. I believe your voice represents the true republicans in our state. John Barge for governor!!!

Larry p
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October 30, 2012
The amendment is bad legislation and should be rejected.
JJ Mule
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October 30, 2012
Amendment One is a political issue for the

support of and re-election of Gov. Deal and his

liberal cronies.

DON'T FORGET DEAL'S, WASHINGTON DEALS.

VOTE NO, AMENDMENT 1
Max Burnsmith
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October 30, 2012
Setzler's constant use of the term -fiends. is far from the truth is you support public education. Simply he claims that this amendment will even the playing field, when in fact it will destroy public education.

It would be a little nice if just a few members of the state assembly would actually send their kids to public schools before they supported the destruction of this institution. It is a fact that most members of Cobb's delegation send their kids to private schools or home school. They simply want taxpayers to pay this cost of education their children.

Kind of a "Damn the torpedoes" mentality for the public school kids! go peddle your snake oil somewhere else.
Kennesaw resident
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October 30, 2012
Good point about the use of the word friends. With friends like Setzler, public education does not need any enemies.

His claim that school boards' have a monopoly on public education is nothing short of strange. Of course they do, thus the word public.

Finally, under Setzler's flawed argument, a few counties should be allowed to join together to form a new state government because the current state assembly does not give them options.
Legal Eagle
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October 30, 2012
In their infinite lack of wisdom, our legislators and Gov. have put the proverbial cart before the horse. Read Georgia Code 20-2-2083 taken from House Bill 797.

Multiple references are made for State Charter Schools.

The code states that the State Charter Schools Commission shall have the authority to "Approve or deny petitions for state charter schools and renew, nonrenew, or terminate state charter school petitions in accordance with rules and regulations established pursuant to this article."

Should Amendment 1 not pass;



What is the effect of the code?

Will it be removed?

What steps must legislators then take?

In their brilliance to think this through, legislators missed.

Setzler has stated that a dual system will not be created. However, the HB797 legislation states that the State Charter Schools Commission shall "assist in the establishment of state charter schools throughout this state."

These schools are not accountable to the local boards of education. It's the State Charter Schools Commission charge to monitor the schools it approves. Specifically - "Monitor and annually review and evaluate the academic and financial performance, including revenues and expenditures, of state charter schools and hold the schools accountable for their performance pursuant to the charter and to the provisions of this article."

We can't afford what the state is obligated to do now.

Vote NO on Amendment 1.
Money an issue
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October 30, 2012
The bottom line is businesses want charter schools because they will make money. It is all about politics, not the best needs for your child. David and Alicia Morgan are a prime example. They are making money off lobbying for charter schools. It all comes down to lining the pockets of politicians and businesses while pretending it is for your children. Politicians have been blaming teachers for your failing children, but in reality, a charter school will not do anything more for your child. You have the option to send your child to another school by the school choice act. Don't allow these politicians to tell you any differently. I am glad Mr. Setzler believes your child shouldn't have to learn what everyone else in learning? We have NATIONAL standards Mr. Setzler that every state follows. I would be a bit concerned if my child was not learning what everyone else in the nation is learning. That would be your first clue that their push will be to hire non-certified staff!
anonymous
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October 30, 2012
Mr. Setzler suggests that this is a Civil Rights issue. Poor Kids - Parental Choice.

Why then does a school like Baconton Charter Academy in Mitchell County have an 80% white demographic, while the community is 50% white?

According to Setzler's logic, it must be a question of poor kids, and parental choice at East Cobb's Walton High School which is a Charter School approved by the local board.

We don't need to change the Georgia constitution to allow what can already be authorized by local school boards.
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