Richmond County PTA officials say they will not change their opinion on a controversial piece of legislation going before voters in November, even if it means going against the National PTA’s stance for one of the first times in history.
The National PTA announced recently it supports states being the authorizing bodies of charter schools, while the Georgia PTA has come out against the practice, specifically HR 1162, which would give the state power to open charter schools over objections of local districts.
Richmond County Council of PTAs President Monique Braswell said parents have an obligation to stand behind local school boards, and state PTAs should be able to decide what is best for students.
“I do feel like we’re against the national viewpoint, but I think some of those viewpoints should be made on a state-by-state and a case-by-case basis,” Braswell said. “Each state are the ones who are out there doing the legwork, the grunt work, so we know what our state needs.”
National PTA spokesman James Martinez declined to say whether Georgia PTA will be penalized, fined or punished if it continues to publicly oppose HR 1162. However, he said there is a process that is followed if state chapters go rogue.
“National PTA affiliates must adopt the mission and purposes of National PTA and operate in accordance with the policies and positions of the Association,” Martinez said in an e-mail. “The National PTA operates under a clear set of guidelines should an affiliate fail to comply with our National Standards of Affiliation.”
Georgia PTA President Donna Kosicki said the chapter has not been fined but would not say if she expects sanctions against the chapter. She said Georgia supports school choice and charter schools but not when they adversely affect the public school system and take power and money away from local school boards.
Kosicki said she also is concerned that the new legislation would take parent voices out of the leadership of the state charter schools.
“We are a child advocacy association based on parent engagement,” Kosicki said. “I don’t understand why we’re creating schools in communities but we’re not providing an opportunity for parents to be a part of the shared decision making.”
HR 1162 IS a constitutional amendment that would allow states to form committees that would establish charter schools, even if local school districts don’t want them.
Proponents say this would give families more options in an educational climate riddled with budget and instruction deficiencies.
Opponents say the creation of these schools would divert much-needed money away from the under-funded public schools and take control away from local school boards.
In Augusta, the RCCPTA and the Richmond County Board of Education have publicly opposed the legislation. State Superintendent John Barge also voiced opposition, saying until all schools in Georgia return to full 180-day years with full staffs, he cannot support diverting money to state charter schools.
ACCORDING TO DATA released by the Georgia Department of Education, it would cost an additional $430 million to add seven state charter schools per year for the next five years as would be allowed under HR 1162.
That money would otherwise go to public school districts, according to Barge’s data. Since 2008, public schools have been severely under-funded while enrollment has increased by 37,438. At the same time schools have lost 4,280 teachers and had $4.4 billion in cuts.
“I cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education,” Barge said in a news release.
For these reasons, Braswell said her group has no plans to change its stance on HR 1162, even if it means going against its national chapter.
“We will continue to have our forums to get our word out and explain to the families, the community and the people about the issue,” Braswell said. “I’m proud of the state president for standing up for our children. We will continue to educate the people on the pros and cons of 1162.”