YARBROUGH: Charter school amendment debate gets ugly

Dick Yarbrough

Dick Yarbrough

I knew it was going to get ugly, but I didn't know it would get this bad this quickly. I am talking about the constitutional amendment on charter schools to be voted on in November that asks, "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?"

John Barge, Georgia state school superintendent, opposes the amendment. House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta) infers that Barge is a liar. Is the charter school crowd running that scared this early? They have to resort to personal attacks on their opponents?

Write this down in indelible ink: The state can already approve charter schools. This weasel-worded amendment isn't about reaffirming that approval. It is about setting up a redundant bureaucracy and allowing legislators to get their hands on the big money that for-profit charter school management companies can donate to their campaign coffers in return for political influence to operate charter schools.

It is no accident that one such company, Florida-based Charter Schools USA donated to the campaigns of Gov. Nathan Deal, State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) and House Speaker Pro-Tem Jan Jones (R-Alpharetta.) It was also no accident that the governor signed the bill authorizing the amendment to be placed on the ballot in Rogers' home county of Cherokee, which has one of the finer public school systems in the state and where the local school board had turned down a request by Charter Schools USA to operate a charter school there.

Despite our intrepid public servants' pious denials, lobbyists do win political influence with politicians. That's why they donate to political campaigns. But you don't win and influence voters by demeaning the integrity of those who disagree with you. That is bullying.

Lindsey seems peeved by the fact that while the superintendent publicly opposes the charter amendment, during his campaign he had told a survey sponsored by a charter school group that he was a "4" on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the highest), on local education agencies and the Georgia Charter School Commission being able to create charter schools. (The GCSC was later found to be unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court.) Perhaps Lindsey missed the rest of Barge's answer to that question, "I find it greatly disappointing that we need another administrative body to do something that the local, and ultimately, the state Board of Education should be able to do." Sounds pretty consistent to me.

In a saber-rattling release, Lindsey says, "If you were in court on cross examination the people of Georgia might enjoy watching you answer one of my favorite questions when someone impeaches themselves by testifying two entirely different ways to the same question: 'Were you lying then or are you lying now?'" Oh, please. Give us a break with that Perry Mason shtick, Mr. Lindsey, or I may have to sic Matlock on you.

If the name Edward Lindsey is familiar to you, he is the poster boy for the politically tone deaf. After announcing in the House that the state would have to furlough more teachers, he popped up in the local newspapers shortly thereafter at a fancy soiree in tony Buckhead, splendidly attired in his tuxedo. The people of Georgia might enjoy seeing him do that on a school teacher's salary.

I asked Barge about the attacks. He seems untroubled by the political hyperbole. And he is resolute. "I am not against charter schools," he reiterated, "We have over 100 in the state so far and another 11 in the pipeline. We have a whole division devoted to charter schools."

What frustrates the politicians is that for-profit charter school management companies can't control the current process. That is why legislators want to change the rules. This isn't about the kids. It is about money.

Speaking of money, what Edward Lindsey and others haven't told you is that more than $4 billion has been cut from public schools in the last four years and two-third of the state's school districts have had to shorten their school year due to lack of funding and more than 4,000 teachers have been laid off. It looks to me like they want public schools to fail.

I would welcome Rep. Lindsey's response. But be careful about pulling that courtroom crapola on me. I know Latin and I'm not afraid to use it. I think the people of Georgia might enjoy that, too.

Email columnist Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/dickyarbrough.


Say_that_again 3 years ago

Refreshing for some truth in this controversy! You do realize that you are about to get extraneous slanders from an assortment of unthinking individuals? Right?


kevin 3 years ago

Sorry I have to disagree with you on this one. I will take Charter schools anyway we can get them. It is also a fact, that since school systems get paid based on head counts, the systems do not want to lose any students. They know this will reduce "head counts" and thus less money they get to spend, unions included. There are no unions to deal with in charter schools. Charter schools seem to set a higher goal than public schools today. Todays public school budget just in Gwinnett costs taxpayers over $10,000 per student. (Try dividing the budget by the # of students and you will see for yourself.) If everyone agrees the Charter schools have great results, then what is wrong with getting more no matter how we do it? Are unions really any different than lobbyists? No they are not. If things go wrong in one Charter school, we simply get another company to run it. Try to do that will school unions kicking up your rear end!


Say_that_again 3 years ago

What unions? There are no teachers unions in Georgia! Public school teachers are not allowed to form unions but charter school teachers can form a union so that is one lame argument. In the original budget for 2012, the anticipated expenditure per student is only $7549. this includes the part contributed by the state. A charter school is private and the only thing that can be done is take away their charter. We do not have the means of taking it away from one company and giving it to another, that would be communism. In charter schools, we cannot even demand the resignation of any staff for any reason. Please try to do some research before making such erroneous announcements. Do know that your reference to unions is misinformation from charter school propaganda but am really curious where you found something as absurd as taking assets from one company and giving them to another.


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