Before I go one step further, let’s get one thing out of the way. I’m not against charter schools or innovation in our educational systems. Nor is a “No” vote on the proposed constitutional amendment a vote against charter schools. What I’m against is a government agency or commission having the authority to overrule local folks with respect to whether or not a charter school will be allowed in their districts, and as a result, funnel budgeted funds away from the schools already there. And that’s what this amendment is really about. Don’t be fooled.
There are already 162 charter schools in the state of Georgia. By definition, these schools are released from having to comply with some state mandates, which means they operate with a degree of freedom not allowed to other schools. “Pilot” projects of a sort, their goals are to demonstrate alternative methods that result in higher test scores and graduation rates. God knows that as a graduate of both a rural Georgia high school and a Georgia college, I hope that charter schools eventually succeed in their missions. But the cold honest truth is that they haven’t…yet. Earlier in the year, a report to the state Department of Education revealed that in the 2010-2011 school year, charter schools became not more, but less successful relative to their “traditional” counterparts in meeting federally mandated annual yearly progress (AYP) targets.
So what is this about? I’m not sure, but it sounds like sour grapes to me. Or perhaps special interests. People who don’t care much about whether their model works or not or whether they know what they’re doing or not—just that they get their way. They’re persistent, though.
What a “Yes” vote will do.
· It will give authority to a state agency to approve charter school applications OVER THE OBJECTIONS OF THE LOCAL SCHOOL BOARDS.
· It will take already severely reduced funds ($5.7 Billion has been cut statewide since 2002) and divert them away from the public schools in the area OVER THE OBJECTIONS OF THE LOCAL SCHOOL BOARDS.
· It will take decision-making and control over how school taxes will be spent out of local hands and placed in the hands of a state agency. (For those of you in rural Georgia, like Cordele, where I went to school, that means Atlanta will have the power to make decisions for you.)
What a “Yes” vote WON’T do.
· It won’t give the power to establish charter schools. That approval was given a decade ago and a well-functioning system for evaluating applications is already in place.
· It won’t improve graduation rates or close the achievement gap. The evidence so far is mixed on the effectiveness of charter schools, not only in Georgia, but nationwide.
WE DON’T NEED AN AMENDMENT TO GIVE AUTHORITY TO A STATE AGENCY TO OVERRULE LOCAL SCHOOL OFFICIALS APPROVING SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T WORK.
Be careful what you vote for. If you truly believe in limited government and in reducing the effect of special interest groups (like the Charter School Association) on decisions made for you without your consent, please vote NO.