Local leaders divided on charter legislation

ATLANTA -- One school leader calls it a "step in the right direction," and yet another says it's a "disservice to the community."

While local officials continue to voice strong opinions on one of the more polarizing topics in education, it's the voters who will ultimately decide in November whether to change the Georgia Constitution to allow the state to create charter schools.

After a victory by Republican lawmakers on Monday, the Georgia Senate passed a constitutional amendment that would give the state power to establish charter schools over the objection of local school districts. It passed the Senate 40-16 after three weeks of efforts by Republican lawmakers to round up the required two-thirds majority. The legislation passed the House 123-48 last month.

The chairwoman of Gwinnett County Public Schools said she was "extremely disappointed" by the actions of legislators.

"This is not in the best interest of the publics schools of Georgia or America," said Louise Radloff. "I appreciate the few senators who continued to support the position of the public schools, and I'm very disappointed in the individuals who voted in favor of the amendment when they said they'd vote against it. It's a disservice to the community."

Ivy Preparatory Academy Founder and Executive Director Nina Gilbert said, however, the senate's approval was "a step in the right direction toward creating collaborative relationships between charter schools and traditional public schools."

In January, the Gwinnett County Board of Education voted to deny a charter extension of Ivy Prep Academy's Gwinnett campus as well as a proposed new location in the county.

The decision came after a district charter review committee cited "significant deficiencies" in Ivy Prep Academy's financial statements and curriculum as well as its vision.

Gilbert said that the proposed constitutional amendment is "less about charter schools and more about how we can improve public education. It's about how we can improve public education by providing choice."

The legislative proposal dominated much of the session, stealing the spotlight from priorities including tax and criminal justice reform and the state budget. It divided not only Republicans and Democrats but also led to infighting within both parties.

Gov. Nathan Deal has pushed for the legislation and met personally with some lawmakers to persuade them support the bill. He is now encouraging voters to support the proposal.

"The General Assembly has acted wisely and courageously to give Georgians the choice to implement true local control: parental choice," Deal said in a prepared statement. "Starting a state-chartered school is not done easily or without lots of hard work, but we need a system that allows for this option."

The matter arose after a May ruling from the Georgia Supreme Court outlawing the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. The state's highest court ruled the commission was illegally creating charter schools. The Legislature vowed to change state law to address the issue.

Opponents said the state should not create charter schools when public school districts are facing $1 billion in state cuts and steep declines in local property tax revenue. Statewide groups representing school boards, school superintendents and teachers opposed the constitutional change and have promised public campaigns against the ballot referendum in hopes of getting voters to stop the constitutional amendment.

The Georgia Charter Schools Commission was created in 2008 by frustrated lawmakers who said local school boards were turning down charter school applications because they didn't like the competition. The commission began approving and funding charter schools over the objection of the local boards, sparking the lawsuit that eventually ended in the Supreme Court ruling.

Charter school supporters said the state should also be able to create charter schools because some local school boards are anti-charter school, which means children in those districts have fewer choices when it comes to public education.

--The Associated Press contributed to this report.


NewsReader 2 years, 1 month ago

Cat got your tongue Larry? We're all gonna go vote for it now! Go ahead and make your case here. We'll ignore you here in much the same way we will ignore you at the voting booth. Radloff should have said "This is not in the best interest of the public school board(s)!". Don'tcha just hate it when that happens? LOL!


LarryMajor 2 years ago

Anyone who read (and understood) both my position and the changes in HR 1162 knows why I haven’t had much to say after it crossed over to the Senate. If you can’t figure it out, I’ll gladly explain everything in November after the vote.

There are countless stories about initiatives that failed because the proponents underestimated the opposition. Be careful not to make the same mistake by thinking the popular vote will be a slam dunk approval. If you really want this to pass, you need to get your message out to the public. Consider organizing and placing newspaper ads, running radio spots, using billboards – whatever it takes. If you aren’t willing to do what it takes to win, then you won’t.


BuzzG 2 years, 1 month ago

"This is not in the best interest of the public schools of Georgia or America," said Louise Radloff.

No, Louise Radloff, you are not in the best interests of our children. What a disgusting world we live in were the people of Gwinnett have to provide the funds for your bloated paycheck.


LoganvilleResident 2 years ago

Buzz, since you're an expert on the matter... What is her bloated paycheck?

I'm betting you didn't know before you typed that malicious comment. So, for the record, she makes $16,524.00 per year. For comparison, our Georgia Representatives earn $17,000 per year for 40 days of work.

I have met Mrs. Radloff on numerous occasions. Every time I've met her, she's trying to figure out ways to improve our schools. She is probably one of the nicest and most caring individuals I've ever met. For you to personally attack her as you have tells me about your true intentions.

Your goal appears to be to smear the GCPS school system any chance you get regardless of whether it is deserved or undeserved.


micronmike 2 years ago

You do know that school board members only get like 20to25K per year. If you think that is bloated, fine, maybe they should not even get paid. I am for it being public service. But, most would not consider that a bloated paycheck.


Jan 2 years, 1 month ago

NewsReader, shouldn't just read the news but should check facts yourself. You and BuzzG demonstrate why advertising works. Shout something loud enough and often enough and, no matter how absurd the idea, their are many that will believe it. One fact we need to face, it is easier to get a constitutional amendment passed than it is to get it removed once it is on the books. I have researched the stats and none of the research I have found can prove that private charters can provide a better education. My research did, however, show that private charters can be a major money maker for investors. I want my education tax dollars to go to educate our children, not to line the pockets of multimillionaire investors. Charters have had 20 years to show some kind of improvement. Shouldn't we require some degree of success before we vote to give them access to more tax funds?


NewsReader 2 years ago

Jan, your argument is old and tiresome and I find it completely ironic of you making the claim "...Shout something loud enough and often enough..." LOL, that is precisely what you have been doing here. But here is something for you to ponder. I didn't read about it in the news. I promoted it and I met face to face with our legislators to get it done. You can sit back on your thumbs and whine and complain about it all you want. The status quo isn't going to work for you, nor anyone else, anymore. We're tired of it and we're tired of people like you arguing over it relentlessly. I am painfully aware that constitutional Amendments never go away. We live that every day with TADs in Georgia which siphoned so much educational dollars from our schools and the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution. Elections have consequences which we are living with every single day. Spare me and the rest of us your educational lecture. And BTW, I'm going to tell you this one more time because you don't seem to get it. When you say "...I want my education tax dollars to go to educate our children...", it's not "your" education tax dollars. It's my children's education tax dollars. It's my neighbors children's education tax dollars. It’s my friends children’s education tax dollars. And best of all, "...Shouldn't we require some degree of success before we vote to give them access to more tax funds?" LOL, that is RICH! That is really RICH!


Jan 2 years ago

I glad you enjoyed a few laughs. I notice, also, that you are unwilling to support your position on charter schools with facts but prefer personal attacks against those with a different view. I am curious. If you are someone that met face to face with our legislators, obviously pro charter, are you financially invested in charter schools? Why else would you be "we're tired of people like you arguing over it relentlessly" without offering any rebuttal? Your assumption that I am for the status quo is false. I am a progressive and believe we should have a progressive educational system, properly funded and equipped. Under Republican rule, we have taken funds from education which results in outdated equipment and understaffed schools.


LoganvilleResident 2 years ago

Actually, it is OUR educational tax dollars and they should remain under LOCAL control. A charter school usurps control of local tax dollars with no recourse for the taxpayer. If my local schools are not performing to my satisfaction or my district is abusing my tax dollars, I have options available for redress. On the other hand, if I am not a parent of a student at a charter school, I have absolutely no control.

Charter schools take students with engaged parents concerned about their children out of the local school in the area. Those are NOT the students that our schools are failing. They are the ones performing well in school. The failing children that are dragging down the local school system's test scores are the ones that won't ever make it to a charter school to begin with.

The bottom line... Charter schools won't reach the kids that need to be reached to see significant improvement in schools. A comprehensive educational fix will require a comprehensive societal fix.


NewsReader 2 years ago

Jan, this isn't a personal attack. Calling you an idiot would be a personal attack. You haven't supported anything with fact. All you have done is spin the same old tiring rhetoric. But if it will make you feel better about it, I can call you an idiot and personally attack you. You believe what you want to believe and I'll believe what I want to believe. We have the best system of government in the world, which is also why we won our supported initiative in the legislature and you lost. It doesn't always work for us either though such is the case with Obamacare. Put a sock in it already. If you want and expect someone else to demonstrate facts, start by producing your own. And your interpretation of the facts does not constitute facts, but an opinion based on your interpretation of the facts. And BTW, to answer your question, which also is baseless and without merit, I do not have a single interest, financial or otherwise, in any charter school or such organization whatsoever. I have a vested interest in my country moving from worst in education in the industrialized world back to where we were at first in the industrialized world. And I'm tired of it for the same reason the rest of us are. No matter how many times and ways we 'splain it to ya, we have to keep addressing the issue ad nauseam with you.


kevin 2 years ago

How can a "leader" vote against charter schools? Not much of a leader if you ask me. They are the wave of the future in getting better classroom teachers and not keeping 25-30 yr old employees who sit around waiting for those fat pensions. Of course you have to blame their supervisors for not getting rid of them sooner.

People are always scared that someone else will show them up.


micronmike 2 years ago

Fat pension?????? Why do all retired teachers have a job and sub. teacher?


Jan 2 years ago

Newsreader: Let me clarify for you. Obviously you do not understand the facts. It is a fact that charter schools have not, in the 20 years they have been here, been able to demonstrate any improvement over public education. This is not an opinion, as you apparently want to categorize it. The data shows that about 1/3 of charters perform significantly below public schools while only half as many performed better. Studies do show a correlation between other factors. For instance, most states with teacher unions outperform most states without teacher unions. Of course, this is not because teachers are allowed to pay dues. Teacher unions do bargain for better classroom conditions, up to date equipment and texts and other things that improves the learning environment. Contrary to your apparent opinion, very few teachers are in it for the pension. Most teachers would earn more in the private sector and have larger pensions. Shouldn't we do what works before committing public funds into a losing bet?


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