It is Halloween week, election day is just around the corner, and there is some scary stuff going on around the so called "Charter Schools" vote. Don't be tricked!
On November 6th, voters will be asked to vote on Amendment #1, to change our State Constitution. Is it a Trick or a Treat? I contend that it is a trick, and hope you will take the time to educate yourself on what this vote really means.
The outcome of this vote will have significant implications on our education system and I am particularly concerned because of the misinformation being circulated. This issue will impact all of us, whether you have children in school or not, and whether they are in private, public or home school.
The wording on the ballot will read…
Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options.
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
Don't be tricked by this misleading wording. Without knowing the facts, it would be quite understandable for most people to vote yes on this.
Those who are promoting this amendment want you to believe that this is about charter schools. It is NOT. I believe charter schools are a good option and are something we should continue to create. Just because a school is a charter does not make it a good school. Good schools are a result of strong leadership and strong communities. The fact is we already have charter schools in Georgia. What many don’t understand is that there are three different types of Charter Schools:
- Local Charter Schools (we have over 100 approved by local boards of education),
- Charter School Systems (14 school systems, representing 107 schools, have elected to have every one of their schools become a charter, i.e. Fulton County and City of Decatur), and
- State Charter Schools (those denied by local boards and approved by the state board of education). There are currently 15 state charter schools.
This amendment will ONLY address the state charter schools. What this amendment is really about is how we create our public schools and how we use taxpayer dollars to fund them.
Advocates for this amendment will tell you that this is necessary in order to ensure that existing charter schools will not close. Not true. Charter schools will remain operating as usual regardless of amendment 1's outcome.
Advocates say that this is necessary to give parents a choice to get their kids out of failing schools. Again, not true. Voting for this amendment will in no way guarantee that 1.) a new charter school will be created in any community that has a failing school in our state and 2.) cannot guarantee that even if it did create a new charter school that it would guarantee student success.
Fact - see attached PDF from Dr. John Barge stating, only 1 of the 13 state charter schools authorized under the former commission meet the definition of a high-quality charter school - and that school is now a locally-approved charter school (The Museum School of Avondale Estates).
Fact - money is pouring in from out-of-state, not from Georgia families, to fund TV ads, mailers, etc. to entice you to vote yes. Don't be fooled by the slick propaganda.
I am voting NO for this Amendment because…
- I oppose the expansion of our state government and the granting of this kind of power to a newly appointed board that is not accountable to local taxpayers. I believe my locally elected board of education is better equipped to understand our community’s needs and there is already a process in place to approve charters that are denied by local boards of education.
- The state will provide more state money to state charter schools than they do for local public schools (including local charters). With no additional state funding appropriated for the additional costs, the only way to fund it will be to reduce the amount of money given to our local schools (even if there are no charters in our area). Currently the state is not even meeting its existing legal financial obligation. Our public schools have had over $6 billion in cuts since 2003, resulting in most school systems having to shorten the school year and furlough teachers.
- I do not trust the State based upon the way they have handled this entire issue. Just look at how the state has approached it.
- First they tried to do this by ignoring the constitution and creating a state charter commission even though opponents warned that it was unconstitutional. This was subsequently challenged by school districts and ruled unconstitutional by the state supreme court.
- Then the legislature proposed a House Resolution to get this constitutional amendment put on the ballot. It failed in the House but after bullying tactics on those who voted against it, the legislation passed on the second try.
- The wording that has been placed on the ballot is very misleading and does not clearly explain what it will do. Despite efforts to change it.
- Finally, as opponents to the amendment have worked to educate voters, proponents have used bullying tactics to try to silence those who have spoken out to educate their community.
- I believe this Amendment will hurt more students than it will help.
Education is the cornerstone of our democracy. We are blessed to live in this great country where we can freely discuss and debate crucial issues. Be sure to exercise your right to vote on November 6th. I encourage you to not be tricked by this Amendment and join me in voting NO.
Here are some additional resources that might also be helpful:
Constitutional Amendment Facts by Dr. John D. Barge, Georgia State School Superintendent, Georgia Department of Education (see Attached PDF)
Video - http://youtu.be/LxOnNLdfdkE
Vote Smart Georgia Website – http://www.votesmartgeorgia.com