There are several aspects of one proposed Constitutional Amendment that will be put to Georgia voters in November that worry me. The subject of the question concerns “charter schools.”
Notwithstanding whether charter schools are good or bad, here are several aspects of this proposal that are of worry.
1. The proposal would give the state of Georgia, in addition to individual county school boards, the power to establish schools in any county in the state, no matter whether the local school board is in agreement, upon the request of “the community.” This bypasses the local school board and creates an unelected and unaccountable body to get state funds.
2. In effect, the state approving local charter schools would mean that state funding which went to the charter school would be deducted from that county’s state funding, further eroding public schools in favor of charter schools.
3. The wording on this amendment that voters will see on the ballot is highly questionable and even points to the way some want you to vote. Here’s what the wording says:
First, there is a preamble: “Providing for improving student achievement and parental involvement through public chapter school options.” Then it puts the amendment to you in this way: “Should 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?”
While the proposal itself can by-pass the duly-elected school board, we now find that at the “request of local communities,” that is, people other than the school board in any county, such unofficial groups can propose and possibly get funding of a charter school. That alone usurps the authority of local schools. It would amount to having a county-wide public school system, and then a group of others having funding for a parallel school.
Something’s not right here.
Now to the sinister aspect. The wording on the ballot appears to be possibly unconstitutional, in that it directs your response to the eventual question by telling you it would mean improved student achievement, and more parent involvement, through the public charter options.
It’s saying something like: surely you want this, for it’s improving and giving more parental options.
Why all this? Proponents of charter schools were thwarted by a Supreme Court decision, limiting their establishment. But even now, the state already has that power through the state Board of Education, though limited. Simply put, charter school proponents want not the state elected officials, but a rogue group named by the governor, to create more charter schools. We might … and spend taxpayer dollars.
We’re always told to “follow the money.” And if the state creates a charter school which the local school did not choose to create, it means that the state will fund the new charter school, while reducing the funding for the public school board. That is wrong. It comes at a time when the state has defunded public schools in the last few years.
Georgia ranks low in education, we all know. Taking more funding away from public schools, even if that money is used in another way in the community, still does not fund the local public schools as they should be. They need more money, not have funds taken away from them (even if from a charter school.)
Georgians should reject the amendment on charter school funding. But with the ramifications, the complications and the sinister wording, such an amendment could pass. We can only hope not.
Elliott Brack is editor and publisher of the Gwinnett Forum.