In Georgia this Tuesday, citizens will vote on a constitutional amendment that reads:
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon request of local communities?
Currently, local school boards are able to vote to approve petitions for public charter schools. Public charter schools serve all students and cannot require applications like public magnet schools. They operate under a five-year contract of accountability to the school board that gives them the flexibility to choose curriculum and explore different learning approaches and create innovative learning environments for students in the community. These schools are very successful for students of all backgrounds, and yet local boards are not approving the petitions that come before them, petitions that are hammered out by local parents, business leaders, and educators.
Polls show that parents, who usually fall into the category of younger voters, want more school choices.
Landmark Communications' new poll for Channel 2 Action News indicates that the vote on the charter schools amendment will be vey close.
There is a stark difference in levels of support based on the age of the voter. Younger voters are strongly supportive of the Amendment (57-32% among those aged 18-35), while older voters slightly oppose the Amendment (40-41% in opposition among those over age 64).
The age difference of the legislators who support the charter schools amendment is also striking, with younger representatives like Rep. Alisha Thomas-Morgan and Rep. Rahn Mayo taking a stand against the aging leadership in the Georgia General Assembly.
Opposition to the charter school amendment is being funded by the entrenched educational establishment such as these professional organizations: the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, Georgia School Boards Association and Georgia School Superintendents Association, and GAE, to list a few. Contributions to the anti-Amendment One group Vote Smart! Have now been made public and reveal the financial sources of opposition to the charter schools amendment as comprised mostly of education bureaucrats and the for-profit companies that they hire to provide education services and materials.
Recently, Rep. Edward Lindsey commented in the AJC on the financial backing of such opposition groups:
“This isn’t about ideology,” Lindsey says. “It’s about turf. It’s about those folks who have a vested interest, no matter how mediocre the present may be, in not changing.”
Many in the education establishment do not want the state of Georgia to act as an authorizer as the Charter School Commission did successfully from 2008-20011. The recent discord spread by the Georgia chapter of the PTA has put charter school parents and teachers at odds with the organization, which sometimes operates as the parent organization for public charter schools. However, the National PTA has announced its support for all authorizers, including independent authorizers that serve as an alternative to the local school boards, which consistently deny charter applications. The National PTA is seeking to preserve its relevance in representing ALL parents and teachers in public schools.
Schools that are mandated based on a zip code leave families with no real public school options. When a school is failing a child, parents need options that are successful and that are tailored to meet the needs of students within a community. But after parents and community leaders pull together to develop a great public charter school, refusal by the local school board is often the norm. There is no true appeals process in place since Superintendent Barge has stated that he will not approve any more state charter schools unless the education department is fully funded. However, the state of Georgia spends more than any other state in the southeast on education with almost half of the state's budget, 43%, going toward funding education. The unchanging reality remains that the same number of students in Georgia must be educated in our public schools, regardless of from which pot the finances are drawn.
Families in Georgia whose children attend public charter schools are deeply satisfied with the teachers, learning environment, and academic achievement provided in these unique public schools. Closing opportunities for students, whose schools actually cost local districts less since local funding cannot be used by state-approved charter schools, will not benefit education in Georgia.
-Moms for School Choice