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Georgia charter school legislation worries Richmond County educators, parents

Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012 12:04 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 2:34 PM
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A proposed Georgia constitutional amendment that would give the state authority to establish charter schools over the opposition of local school boards is causing concern among Richmond County educators.

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Fifth-grader Sean Keith reads a book at Jenkins-White Elementary Charter School. The school is a conversion charter that has the freedom to specify curriculum and instruction but still reports to the local school board.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Fifth-grader Sean Keith reads a book at Jenkins-White Elementary Charter School. The school is a conversion charter that has the freedom to specify curriculum and instruction but still reports to the local school board.

House Resolution 1162 would return power to the state after the Geor­gia Supreme Court ruled last year that a law allowing the Legislature to create special schools without local board approval was unconstitutional.

After the amendment failed to pass by 10 votes Feb. 8, the Georgia House voted the next day to bring the issue back for reconsideration. The House Rules Committee could schedule the vote as early as today, according to a spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston.

Some Richmond County educators say the amendment would allow charters to undermine school districts by taking taxpayer money while avoiding the control of local boards. The Rich­mond County Board of Education passed a resolution Tuesday asking state officials to recommit to adequately funding K-12 education without taking money away for charter or private schools.

Acting Superintendent James Whit­son said the amendment could drain funds by diverting Richmond County students to schools where the district has no jurisdiction.

“Here’s where you lose control,” he said. “If someone in Atlanta says, ‘This person wants to open a charter school, they have a building, we’re going to approve it,’ … then the local school board has no real initiative. If you take kids away from our schools, that’s less money for us.”

Proponents of the legislation say the move would secure the state’s partnership in public education and facilitate the process for opening charter schools.

Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta, and Rep. Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown, were the only Augusta-area legislators to vote for the amendment. Sims said she voted knowing residents would be able to decide on the issue if the bill made it to a local ballot.

Since the bill could go through rewording and clarification before returning to the House, Sims said she also wanted to “be on a level with those people who were going to be making some changes.”

“It’s a strange situation,” she said. “You want the state’s money, but you don’t want the state to have input. That’s one of the main things the state is responsible for is the education of the child.”

House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, who sponsored the bill, wrote in a column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the amendment would give the state reasonable
authority, similar to funding local budgets or establishing graduation standards.

“The legislation would allow existing charter schools approved and fully funded by the state to continue teaching students,” Jones wrote.

Local opposition to the amendment does not mean opposition to charter schools in general. Richmond County has two board-approved charter schools, and the board can participate in planning and appointing officials there.

Jenkins-White Elementary Charter School is a conversion charter that has the freedom to specify curriculum and instruction for the specific needs of students but still reports to the local board. Murphey Middle Charter School had a similar plan but opted to not renew its charter for the 2012-13 school year.

The amendment would let independent parties establish charters without input from local boards so long as they received state approval.

At a news conference Tuesday, Richmond County Council of PTAs President Monique Braswell said parents don’t want to lose control of local funds.

She called the amendment “taxation without representation” and worried that these state-controlled schools could choose who they enroll while receiving taxpayer dollars.

If students left existing schools to go to a state charter, they could return later in the year after the budget and teacher allocations were complete, causing overcrowded classrooms and a squeeze on district resources, Braswell said.

“When a school is about making a profit, can education be a top priority? Absolutely not,” she said.

With possible confusion between board-approved charters and the state-approved charters under HR 1162, Braswell said parental awareness is key.

Jessica Fuselier, a PTA member and mother of two Richmond County students, said a parent’s voice is needed in the discussion. She said she is worried about how her district’s funds would be spent but is still hazy on some of the details.

“This is important, so we need to understand before (legislators) act,” she said. “I will not support anything without the proper education.”

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Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 02/14/12 - 01:37 pm
0
0
Do we really care what

Do we really care what Richmond County Schools think about this proposal? Lets see, the paper just recently showed that Richmond County Schools were the worst of the worst in one of the worst states and yet spend far more per pupil then successful schools.

I don't care if it is a for profit school or not so long as it a well disciplined school that is properly educating our youth. If Richmond County and other schools placed education as their top priority and were doing their job then this would not even be an issue. Sure, I understand parents are to blame, etc. but again, even based on demographics our schools are the worst of the worst. The graduation rate is deplorable and the return on investment per pupil is a joke.

Our students deserve an opportunity to learn in an crime free well disciplined school and I am 100% positive that the private sector will do a far better job than our current system.

I agree with "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" but this system is broke in more ways than one.

db16
95
Points
db16 02/14/12 - 02:20 pm
0
0
Agree 100% AsItIs...but what

Agree 100% AsItIs...but what you fail to realize is that the system is broken from Top. It is the old saying that shunt slides downhill faster than it will move uphill. The Gold Dome is corrupt, the State BOE is bullied and playing the cards they are given and the folks who are in the trenches (Local Systems) are at the mercy of the ignorance and oblivion from the above. Georgia will continue to slide off the map until the good old boy system is removed and we get QUALITY FOLKS AT THE TOP AND THEY listen to the voices at the bottom. A 'represented' teachers union (fully organized with representation) would rock this state and turn things around. It isn't about the Educators anymore...it is about the Students that are being short sided and failing b/c of careless policy and wasted spending from the TOP. Not to mention, this legislation would encompass ALL GEORGIA SYSTEMS. Not just a broken Richmond County System.

inform
0
Points
inform 02/14/12 - 02:29 pm
0
0
Asitisinaug. I agree to a

Asitisinaug. I agree to a point with you but you ask,Do we really care what Richmond County Schools think about this proposal? Yes because these people represented on the board hold their seat because Richmond County voters voted them in. They were voted to represent a district. (some not all do their job)

Private sector is great but even better along with government dollars. The more the merrier . Discipline will come with a structured atmosphere, more people being held accounted for and the citizens with or with out children invest in a child life. You are right, Education needs to ranked at the top of everyone's list.Graduation rates aren't the best but have increased recently as did the parents being more informed with what they children have going on and what they school business is on a daily basis. In other counties they deal with the same thing just less criticized and publicized. The community needs to fight crime so that our children are not a product of their environment negatively.

Columbia County is against this too so whatever county your in it will probably make it to the ballot, educate yourself on the HR1162 and vote accordingly.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 02/15/12 - 02:19 am
0
0
Speaking of "less money for

Speaking of "less money for us," are local boards of education in GA required by law to undergo the scrutiny of regular, comprehensive financial audits conducted by competent, disinterested, out-of-state entities whose reports would be contemporaneously issued to local media and scrutinized BOEs?

If not, why not?

sand gnat
400
Points
sand gnat 02/15/12 - 03:10 am
0
0
Most administrators of

Most administrators of charter schools have the authority to fire teachers and kick thugs out since they are independent of the BOA. If that is the case in the Ga. proposal, I think it would be great.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 02/15/12 - 03:41 am
0
0
dlb16, I agree it is broken

dlb16, I agree it is broken from the top and the more government intrusion we have at various levels, especially bigger government will never help to solve the real problems. These people may care about the youth whom need an education but they are not their main priority.

Inform, I agree and understand. I also do care what they have to say and their opinions, etc. my comment was more of a general statement because with them, this is ALL about $$$ and has little to do with what is in the best interest of educating our youth. Frankly, I wish our public schools were doing a great job. Money certainly helps but it is not the cure all and many districts who use far less funds per pupil have much better results.

Craig, we both no the answer to that and as for why not....well try to get the politicians to approve that, lol.

Columbia County (a good school district) also opposes and I understand their reasoning as well, less $$ for them. But, they only lose $$ as they lose pupils who opt out of underperforming or bad schools. Therefore, even though I think the CC school system does a good job, etc. their opinion is greatly biased and is being made on behalf of what they believe to be in the best interest of THEIR SCHOOL SYSTEM, not in the best interest of ALL children within the state of GA.

Bottom line, ALL of your children and youth deserve the right to a good education in a safe and secure environment no matter their race, sex, age or socio-economic status. Charter schools are good for those who want an opportunity for a better school, who go do school to learn but have little to no choice in the matter due to not having any money.

http://www.charterschoolcenter.org/

wondersnevercease
9216
Points
wondersnevercease 02/15/12 - 10:13 am
0
0
it's not about the
Unpublished

it's not about the students....it's all about the money..these local folks are worried about the cash cow that is most certainly going to be closed down.....then perhaps with more charter schools real education can begin in Augusta.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/15/12 - 02:18 pm
0
0
Put the focus on education,

Put the focus on education, not schools.

Rather than fighting charter schools, why doesn't the school system work with them?

Shouldn't they have the same goal?

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 02/15/12 - 03:16 pm
0
0
II, you are very correct.

II, you are very correct.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 02/15/12 - 08:46 pm
0
0
II, Public education should

II,

Public education should be concerned primarily with educating our kids. But, like every other bureaucracy, the PubEd bureaucracy, which includes not only local school systems but also several education-related special interest groups, has become more self-serving over time. It has become less concerned with our kids and more concerned with its power, prestige and money. State-sponsored charter schools threaten PubEd's access to tax monies to which it has come to believe that it is entitled.

casimir56
10
Points
casimir56 02/15/12 - 11:11 pm
0
0
If a Charter School only

If a Charter School only receives the same amount of local money that other local schools receive (per student), then I have no problem with them. Charter Schools have a "contract" with their students similar to the ones for Magnet Schools. Make and keep grades up, and no disciplinary problems, or you're OUT. They have control in their schools, unlike your regular public schools. Plus, teachers in Charter Schools have to PERFORM!! They cannot just go through the motions and draw their paychecks. Since Sonny Perdue eliminated "tenure" for teachers, a lot of them that were not performing have had to actually do somthing. With the Charter Schools performing, it makes this small group of teachers very nervous that they may be replaced if they don't get their students to achieve also.

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