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GARRETT: Charter amendment as bad as T-SPLOST was

As I thought about how best to describe the upcoming vote on Amendment No. 1, the so-called "charter school amendment" that will appear on the Tuesday ballot, it occurred to me that it should be called the "T-SPLOST for Education" vote! We all remember that summer referendum and how it ended, and this ballot initiative is just like that one in that it is (1) brought to us by the same General Assembly that gave us the T-SPLOST; and (2) favored on the "yes" side by big money companies and organizations. The similarities are almost eerie!

The real problem that I see, though, is the misinformation being used and the half-truths being told to get this monstrosity passed. Supporters would have you believe that charter schools, which are supposed to be "laboratories of innovation" and operate free of many of the rules and regulations that hamstring traditional public schools, are somehow in danger of becoming extinct. They fail to tell you that, under current law, local boards can already approve charter schools in local communities (more than 100 already exist), and the State Board of Education can already approve such schools over the objections of local boards of education (15 of these already exist). Why, in Georgia, current law permits entire school systems to gain charter status, freeing them from having to comply with onerous laws and rules and do what is best for children.

Proponents of the amendment would have you believe this is about "school choice." I wonder just how much "choice" would satisfy some of them, for in addition to the choices I outlined in the previous paragraph, we have many systems that offer in-system school choice as well as opportunities for children to cross school system lines and attend their schools. We have home schools, we have private schools, we have religious schools, etc. Do we really need still another layer?

Finally, I've heard amendment supporters present the bogus argument that this will actually "save" money for local school systems when charter schools open in a community and some students leave the local public schools for the charter school. The argument against that theory takes a bit of explaining, but I'd say folks would have to be pretty naive to fail to grasp the reality that opening a new school (a new "cost center," if you will) would somehow cost the taxpayers less than operating just the schools already in existence.

It is about money and power, though, and to no small extent. Money would go from taxpayers' pockets to the coffers of large corporations that make millions running charter schools in Georgia and all over the country, and money in the campaign funds of lawmakers who support these efforts. The power to decide whether charter schools are appropriate in local communities would be held by a faceless group of political appointees in Atlanta rather than by the duly-elected local officials who should, in my opinion, be making such decisions.

My vote will be "NO" on Amendment No. 1 on Tuesday.

Herb Garrett is the Executive Director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association.

Comments

kmsimpson 1 year, 5 months ago

Herb, it would be REALLY nice if you didn't decide my child is merely a monetary power struggle. As a parent with a child in a State Charter school and also one in the local public school system, I can speak on this from personal experience. Although my younger child is technically a year behind the elder child and both are on their respective school's regular tracks (and the elder has some honors classes), both students are doing the same work. That alone tells me the State Charter schools have

During the first parent meeting at the public school, we were told, "If your child isn't already in honors classes, they won't be able to get in later." We were also told, "If your child is taking all honors classes, they will not be able to get into UGA." So, in their freshman year, before they even get into the school year really, the parents are basically told to give up on their child. Seriously???

Although the county districts are allowed to create charter schools, many do not, or if they do, they do everything they can to make the charter school untenable. What do you say to the parents of those students? Do you take the usual leftist attitude that they should know their place while the elite send their children to a private school?

How about the parents of students that are unlucky enough to not win the lottery? Or do you just ignore the fact of how many students in the county charter schools get turned down because they did not win the lottery? I find it ironic that so many on the left talk about people that have "won life's lottery" while they actually institute life-changing lotteries for our students and let the rest simply fall by the wayside.

Dear Mr. Garrett, please stop using my children as your personal education football. I consider their lives much too important for that, even if you do not.

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Jan 1 year, 5 months ago

First, yours is, obviously, an isolated instance. Second, the information that you received is false. I do not know whether its something that was misstated or that you just misunderstood information about the honors programs. Third, charter schools are a double lottery with a lottery to get into them and then the lottery on your getting a decent charter school - fact is most private charters are not doing as well as their public school counterparts. Even Ivy prep, which latest information indicates drastic improvement, had several years of below standard results. It was only after the state gave them goals that must be met to retain their charter that they accomplished this. If private charters were so great, then the private charters would not find it necessary to publish so many falsehoods to make their case for a constitutional amendment. It probably would not even be on the ballot except for the "gifts" our state congressmen have received to sway them.

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