Healthy competition

Charter schools shouldn't have to beg at the feet of public boards

Not a big surprise. But a huge disappointment.

The public school bureaucracy is in full throat now, opposing to its last breath the proposed freedom to form charter schools in Georgia.

They don’t even want to give you the freedom to vote on it.

Public school officials in Richmond and Columbia counties have added their voices to the establishment chorus against a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow charter school supporters, with state approval, to form schools over the objections of local school boards. Currently, parents and supporters who want to form public charter schools must go on bended knee to local school boards that quite often oppose them. A Georgia law providing charter school supporters a second chance at the state level was struck down by the Georgia Supreme Court. This amendment would fix that.

But notice the arguments that opponents of the amendment make: Allowing charter schools to pop up against the wishes of the local school board will undermine that board. It will “take kids away from our schools,” and “that’s less money for us.”

One Augusta school official, reported a Wednesday Chronicle story, “said the amendment could drain funds by diverting Richmond County students to schools where the district has no jurisdiction.”

Notice it’s all about the impact on the bureaucracy and its “jurisdiction.” Not about what’s best for kids.

If kids would be better off in a charter school, that’s apparently secondary to what’s best for the public education bureaucracy.

Beyond all the establishment’s sky-will-fall rhetoric are a few important truths.

First, the amendment must be approved by Georgia voters. Second, all it would do is set up a way for determined citizens to appeal local school boards’ refusal to allow a charter school; the school would still have to be approved by the state.

Most importantly, it’s time we took the shackles off disadvantaged children. Their more well-to-do peers already have school choice. It’s the poor kids who are told where to go, sometimes to schools that are failing them. Sadly, graduation rates often show it.

The beauty of charter schools is that the creators and parents can fashion a public school around challenging, often specialized, curricula and avoid many of the one-size-fits-all rules, regulations and approaches of a district. In such cases, lights are shined on both the schools and the students, and accountability can be greatly enhanced on all parts.

How can that be seen, except from a bureaucrat’s viewpoint, as a bad thing? Undermine the district? Absolutely – in the same way Hardee’s “undermines” McDonald’s.

How can we tell our kids that competition is healthy in athletics, but that when it comes to academics, competition “undermines” the status quo?

What kind of lesson is that?

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