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Forum speaker urges rejection of charter school amendment

Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 9:13 PM
Last updated Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 2:27 PM
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 At first glance, the wording on the ballot question for a constitutional amendment regarding charter schools looks like “motherhood and apple pie,” said Georgia School Boards Association President Valarie Wilson.

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Valarie Wilson, the president of the Georgia School Boards Association, urges voters to oppose the charter school amendment question on the Nov. 6 ballot.  ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
Valarie Wilson, the president of the Georgia School Boards Association, urges voters to oppose the charter school amendment question on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The preamble to the question states that the amendment “provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options.”

What it leaves out, Wilson said, is that the amendment would allow the state to create another agency with its own budget to open charter schools against the wishes of local school boards and beyond their control.

“This is really about state control versus local control,” Wilson said. “The language on the ballot is extremely misleading.”

Proponents say a constitutional amendment that allows the state to launch charter schools will provide more options to the public, but opponents say it will take money and control away from already struggling school systems. On Thursday, members of the Richmond County Board of Education invited Wilson to a forum to educate voters on the issue and urged them to vote it down.

Like school board members, Wilson said she supports charter schools and believes they complement the traditional public education offered across the state. Problems occur, though, w+hen a state allows a charter to open with local money but doesn’t give local officials control over the mission, spending or practices.

Wilson said a structure is in place for local boards and the state to approve charter schools. Establishing the new committee will cost $1 million a year, Wilson said.

State school Super­intendent John Barge also has come out against the amendment, saying the state charters would direct $430 million over the next five years to establish just seven charter schools. Saying that $5 billion has been cut from state schools since 2003 and that 121 of 180 Georgia school districts shortened the school year to deal with budget crises, Barge said the state cannot afford to direct money away from public schools.

Mark Peevy, the executive director for Families for Better Public Schools, however, said the amendment would give families more options for schools in places where traditional education is failing.

He said because state charters are public schools, the money would not be leaving the public education system. He said that in admitting students, state charters are blind to color, disability and economic stance.

“Charter schools can’t be selective in any sense of the word,” Peevy said. “They have to take any student that comes their way.”

Peevy also challenged Barge’s $430 million estimate and said, “All these state charter schools that will be authorized will only get a level of funding that is equal to the lowest 5 percent of school districts in the state.”

Juanita Dicks, a former secretary of the Richmond County School System, attended Thursday’s forum to get more information. Besides the potential effect on schools, she said, she didn’t like the idea of altering the state constitution.

“If we allow the amendment to go through, they will have the opportunity to change the constitution at any time for anything,” Dicks said.

Wilson said she hoped voters will read more about the issue and make an informed decision. Although Peevy said the system would not discriminate against, Wilson said that without local control, the state charter schools would not direct money or education with the consent of public educators.

“It may not be the dual school system we remember, but it is a dual school system,” she said. “It is a dual school system of the haves and have-nots.”

AMENDMENT WORDING

Provides for improving student Achievement and parental Involvement through more public charter school options.

House Resolution
No. 1162

Act No. 762

Ga. L. 2012, p. 1364

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”

Yes or No

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Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 10/04/12 - 10:18 pm
2
0
I know the school system

I know the school system isn't using our tax dollars to campaign against an amendment, so when will the school board be hosting the School Choice Forum?

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 10/05/12 - 02:32 am
1
2
You'll get plenty of info in

You'll get plenty of info in favor of the amendment thanks to the kind folks from out of state that are so concerned about our welfare here in Georgia. Why Alice Walton of the WalMart Waltons up in Arkansas chipped in 1/4 of a million ($250,000.00) just by herself. Corporations that run for profit schools kicked in a bunch as well. These folks are so so nice that 96% of the money on favor of the amendment came from out of state. And people say folks just aren't nice to each other anymore. These out of state folks giving all that money and not expecting anything in return. Or are they?

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 10/05/12 - 06:52 am
6
1
Vote Yes!

Break the public school monopoly. Fight for our children. And give them a chance.

Traditional public schools have failed. It's time for a new form of public school.

Fiat_Lux
16205
Points
Fiat_Lux 10/05/12 - 09:04 am
4
0
But if the local controllers don't do the job

beyond pitching virtually everything based on the lowest social/behavioral/cultural level, why wouldn't parents who can't afford private schools want a better option for their kids?

Why should educable and motivated students who know how to behave in a classroom be forced to spend their days dealing with peers who have no interest in getting an education, who disrupt classes, who brutalize other children? And an alarming percentage of the parents of those disruptive, semi-savages are just as bad as their offspring. They threaten school staff and other parents, and their kids pursue revenge against anyone who stands up to them.

Local control has not been the answer to this problem in decades. Local control is about keeping every penny allocated for public education under control of a failing system. It's about the money and nothing more. And such huge amounts of the money we are forced to put out for public education is being totally wasted on children who not only don't profit from it, but who also prevent other children from getting the value of what it has cost their parents. We aren't just paying for our own children's public education, but for all those children of all those parents who pay absolutely no taxes at all. In fact, here in Augusta, we are also supporting their parents' lifestyle as well.

There would be no complaints about any of that taxation if it resulted in an increase in productive citizens. But it doesn't. It has only made the illiteracy and the dependency expand, exponentially.

Charter schools are about educating children, effectively and safely. It's about letting parents have some control over what happens to their children day in and day out, about what they are taught and how they are taught, about what values will be expressed and modeled for them during their many formative years. The public school system is forced to simply try and hold the line against the rising tide of dissolution in our society, and that simply is not acceptable.

Parents who don't want that for their children, and who are raising their children to be productive citizens, but who can't afford private school tuition, shouldn't be forced to settle for an educational system that can't rise to their level as the minimum standard.

Fiat_Lux
16205
Points
Fiat_Lux 10/05/12 - 09:07 am
5
1
So vote "yes"

and open the door to better schools for children who really want an education.

And vote "yes" also for schools that will deal with those whose interests lie far from academics but who still must be taught how to survive without becoming a predator..

Little Lamb
47928
Points
Little Lamb 10/05/12 - 10:02 am
5
0
Monopoly Power

Tracey McManus wrote:

“This is really about state control versus local control,” Valerie Wilson, president of the Georgia School Boards Association, said. Proponents say a constitutional amendment that allows the state to launch charter schools will provide more options to the public, but opponents say it will take money and control away from already struggling school systems.

Again, the same tired, thoroughly-discredited argument about money. Yes, when a public charter school is established, educational funds from taxpayers go to the charter school from the state and the local system. But what the opponents fail to mention is that students are also taken away from the local system. It's the same money. The result is a wash. The local system has fewer students it is responsible for, so it should have less money, i.e., the money that goes to the charter school.

And here's the deal on "control." These state-sanctioned public charter schools are established by parents who are concerned and involved in children's education. These charter schools are under control of parents. The students who go there go voluntarily.

Little Lamb
47928
Points
Little Lamb 10/05/12 - 10:09 am
4
0
Advocacy

Insider Information is correct when he points out that government agencies (including school boards) should not advocate one way or another on political matters, including constitutional amendment referenda. In fact, it is against the law. But don't hold your breath for local or state law enforcement agencies to enforce the law. (Just as the Obama administration is not enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act, enacted into law during the Clinton adminstration).

I saw the news story about this charade last night on Channel 6 News. At least the television camera panned the room so that viewers could see there were about a dozen people in the audience. I wish the Chronicle would put meetings such as this into perspective by telling its readers how many people attended.

Little Lamb
47928
Points
Little Lamb 10/05/12 - 12:34 pm
2
0
Clueless

It's scary how little people in the education system know about the world around them. From the story:

“If we allow the amendment to go through, they will have the opportunity to change the constitution at any time for anything,” said Juanita Dicks, a former secretary in the Richmond County school system.

I'll bet Ms. Dicks voted for the TSPLOST, too.

CobaltGeorge
170231
Points
CobaltGeorge 10/05/12 - 01:14 pm
0
0
Fiat_Lux

Very well written. I second every word. Thanks

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 10/05/12 - 03:37 pm
1
0
This letter

... is only slightly more patronizing than patting us on the head and saying those magic words, "Trust us, we're from the government."

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