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Charter amendment passes

Staff Photo: John Bohn Gwinnett County Public School Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks talks with Board of Education member Louise Radloff while closely watching election results with opponents of the charter amendment gathered at the Gwinnett School District Instructional Support Center in Suwanee Tuesday evening.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Gwinnett County Public School Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks talks with Board of Education member Louise Radloff while closely watching election results with opponents of the charter amendment gathered at the Gwinnett School District Instructional Support Center in Suwanee Tuesday evening.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Gwinnett board of education member Louise Radloff, views election results with the assistance of Don Howell, right, at a gathering to watch election results at the Gwinnett School District Instructional Support Center in Suwanee Tuesday evening. At second from left, is Ken McClung.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Joe Ahrens, left, Steve Flynt, standing at center, Dr. Frances Davis, seated at center, Delores Hendrix, second from right, and Jonathan Patterson, right, all officials with the Gwinnett County Public Schools, join opponents of the charter amendment, to watch election results at the Gwinnett School District Instructional Support Center in Suwanee Tuesday evening.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- On Tuesday night, Georgia's voters settled a heated dispute over the state's power to charter independent public schools. It was a decision echoed by a majority of Gwinnett County voters as well.

As of press time, about 58 percent or 2,081,274 of the state's registered voters said "yes" to a referendum commonly called the "charter amendment," which seeks to create an appointed commission at the Capitol. In Gwinnett, 145,376 or about 63 percent voted yes.

Those who said "no" to the amendment in Georgia numbered 1,489,244 or about 42 percent of the vote as of press time. In Gwinnett, about 37 percent or 84,988 opposed it as of press time.

Among the opposition was Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, who said Tuesday that the "intentionally misleading ballot language, the massive amounts of money that poured in from out of state companies to promote the amendment and the brazen attempts to silence the opposing voices were too much for our significantly less-well-funded grass roots campaign to overcome."

Nina Gilbert, a proponent of the "yes" vote, talked with excitement about the results.

"In the words of statesman Frederick Douglass 'If there is no struggle, there is no progress,'" Gilbert said. "We have been in the trenches fighting for the right for parents to choose their children's schools for more than five years," Gilbert said. "I am so glad that the end of this fight is near and rests in the hands with the people of Georgia."

Added Gilbert: "Our goal in the charter community has been and always will be to put children first and work to close the achievement gap. We do this by giving parents the option to choose schools with innovative programs, small class sizes and teachers who have the autonomy to make sure students learn at high levels. We offer alternatives for students assigned to low performing schools and students who want a new environment that challenges them. We have done our very best to serve our scholars, engage our parents and meet every requirement mandated by law."

Proponents like Gilbert have said the process in place prior to Tuesday's election allowed local school boards and the state department of education to keep a majority of charter applications from moving forward.

The former process allowed for an applicant to seek charter status with their local school board, and if denied, get guidance from the state department of education.

The new process will place a charter commission at the Capitol: a board that proponents of the "yes" vote feel will underscore the state's power to grant applications. It also will replace the state board of education as the alternate authorizer.

It's been a sore point for many members of local education boards, and despite legal threats they have refused to keep quiet, including Wilbanks.

"Even though tonight's outcome is not what we had hoped for regarding Amendment One, the focus on education has been extraordinary," Wilbanks said. "We now hope that the energy and effort this campaign has generated will be applied where it matters most: advocating for restoring full funding for Georgia's public schools so all our children can have a quality education.

Some recently sought to stop Wilbanks and elected officials with the local board of education from allegedly campaigning against the amendment on the taxpayer's dime prior to Tuesday's election.

A lawsuit filed Oct. 8 against local school officials was tossed out about a week ago by a Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge.

Legal battles aside, Christopher Kunney, board member of an independent charter school in Norcross, said the statewide support for the charter school amendment will open the door for partnership between state charters and traditional public schools.

"The people of Georgia have spoken in favor of school choice," Kunney said. "I am hoping that we can take the momentum of this win and continue to find ways to innovate our public school system in this state."

Comments

Matthew 1 year, 5 months ago

That's great. Instead of insisting that what is broken be repaired, we give the government permission to grow again. These people cannot manage the money they already take from us. What makes any serious person think this commission will be any different?

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earlyam 1 year, 5 months ago

If a charter cannot get approved by the local school board or the state DOE, should it really become a school?! More choices do not mean BETTER choices. All you've done is sentenced good public schools to a slow death by taking more money from it's hard-working teachers and sentencing it's students to even higher class sizes.

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dentaldawg83 1 year, 5 months ago

The people have spoken. Although I don't agree with the majority, the system again proves that it works.

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JHogan 1 year, 5 months ago

The people have been hornswoggled. I'd bet that at least half of the public that voted for the amendment did not understand the implications of this deviously-worded amendment.

"From: “Benton, Tommy”

To: “J. Knazek”

Subject: RE: Today’s House Education Committee meeting & question

Ms. Knazek,

What can I say. People high up are wanting this legislation. I was at the beginning of the meeting. I was the one who got Rep. [Jan] Jones to say that if the bill were changed in the Senate she would not support those changes. I had to leave before the vote was taken to chair my own committee that was meeting at 3:30.

The vagueness of the ballot wording is something they want to keep. They think if they keep it vague it will more easily pass. The wording had been changed from the time the bill was introduced."...

Tommy Benton Chairman, Human Relations and Aging Committee Georgia House of Representatives District 31"

Furthermore, if the public is so dissatisfied with the public schools, then why and how did all the school board members, including Ms. Ratloff, a Democrat in a Republican county, get reelected--by a landslide?

And why do people move into Gwinnett County specifically because of the quality of the Gwinnett County Public Schools? It is one of our biggest selling points.

The numbers in favor of the amendment are irrational.

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pete1965 1 year, 5 months ago

yea, those silly voters who get confused and can not understand anything. there were only 2 million of them confused about this. give me a break.

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DDE 1 year, 5 months ago

After experiencing the way the school board treated the Duluth cluster during reassignment, anything that dilutes the power of King Alvin and his bobblehead Mary Kay Murphy is fine by me. The school board has its pet clusters and to heck with the others. Because we can't trust them, we need additional choices.

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ptm4936 1 year, 5 months ago

Someone should remind King Alvin that "Full Funding" is whatever amount he receives each year from the State.

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LoganvilleResident 1 year, 5 months ago

Actually, full funding would be whatever number is determined by the funding formula written into the laws of our state. Currently, they haven't provided full funding as required by law in several years.

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 5 months ago

I find it interesting that Wilbanks attributes the outcome to misleading language and a more powerful & better funded advocacy for the measure. I suppose that in his mind, we voters are too ill-informed to understand it and fell victim to the persuasive rhetoric of those who wanted it passed. I have news for you Wilbanks, I believe that everyone understood the wording and fully understand its meaning; otherwise, the measure would not have passed so resoundingly. In fact, if you pay close attention to the results, Gwinnett said “yes” even more resoundingly than the state as a whole (a big black eye to Wilbanks.)

The outcome had nothing to do with Wilbanks’ inability to reach the people with his message or any other such nonsense. It had everything to do with people saying we want a reasonable avenue to establish alternative schools, even when the local school authorities attempt to block it. If Wilbanks wants to avoid charter schools from being established, all he has to do is make sure that our current public schools are performing as they should. If people are happy with the schools, they won’t push for alternatives…problem solved!

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Gwinnettsince1991 1 year, 5 months ago

In the world of Education, shouldn't we be teaching our students that life sometimes doesn't work the way you intend, and you should meet it with class and dignity instead of "snarky" comments and rudeness? We all have a right to express our opinions in this country. But to be mean and condescending to those who do not share your view is not displaying leadership as a person or as a professional.

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Don 1 year, 5 months ago

I can not wait to see the lawsuit filed on this. The wording was very deceptive to the uneducated voter, unfortunately that is most.

I spoke with some well educated people (college level) and they though the only thing they were voting for was the ability to have charter schools. Unless one read the entire amendment that is the perception on this issue.

This was truly a issue of verbiage is the only reason why it was passed.

All this does is create another government funded school that is only available to people that can transport their kids to it. As I see it this only helps in socioeconomic segregation of ourtkids and their education.

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 5 months ago

With due respect, the wording isn't the only reason it passed. It passed because many people don't trust that local school authorities will always be objective when making decisions about charter schools being established in their districts. The fact that Wilbanks so strongly opposes the measure certainly indicates that this belief is likely true.

Based upon your last statement, it is obvious that you are simply opposed to charter schools in general and would support having obstacles to their creation. Charter schools exist today and will continue to exist, much to the chagrin of local school authorities. This measure simply offers a community another avenue to pursue if they want a charter school in their community and the local board says “no”. Given the obvious conflict of interest, I think most would agree (and did yesterday) that having this option is beneficial.

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LoganvilleResident 1 year, 5 months ago

Actually, your post is the perfect example that the misleading language is EXACTLY why it passed. The STATE Board of Education, which is appointed and not local, had the power and authority to hear appeals and establish charter schools if denied by the local board. Therefore, if you believe, as you have posted, that local approval was the only way to get a charter school, you were grossly misinformed and misled.

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 5 months ago

No, I'm not misinformed. If you know anything about the system that was in place prior to this passage, you would know that it was clumsy, inefficient, and very bureaucratic. That’s the reason this measure was introduced to begin with. However, if you believe that the measure only replicates the system that was in place, you shouldn’t feel threatened by it.

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LoganvilleResident 1 year, 5 months ago

No. Actually, I feel that it creates another appointed commission that the Governor will hand pick to deliver the results that he wants. I feel it was not needed because the State already had the power to handle appeals.

Also, it is my understanding that the same people doing the process now will move over to the new appointed commission. So.. you'll have the same people doing the same thing but answering to political appointees.

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 5 months ago

...who know that if the current inefficient and bureaucratic system continues to exist, they will be fired and replaced.

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NewsReader 1 year, 5 months ago

Interesting that you support the liberal ideology that is Barack Obama, yet you don't support your supreme leader's support for Charter Schools! Just another one of those idiotic positions you uphold.

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LarryMajor 1 year, 5 months ago

The approval mechanism for the new commission is identical to that of the first commission. The State BOE has the final word on all commission approvals which means, just like before, the Charter Schools Division will independently and simultaneously process every appeal the commission processes. This is duplication of efforts, not replication. Since the State BOE will continue to perform its current function, regardless of which body the petitioner chooses to appeal, it obviously had nothing to do with the reasons behind the amendment proposal.

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 5 months ago

Regardless of who fills these positions (current or new), it will have the effect of eliminating the State BOE's group. The fact that this measure was even proposed coupled with the fact that the State Superintendent opposed it so much is clear indication that the State BOE was not being objective in this appeals process. Now that this commission is independent and not answering to the State BOE, decisions will be more objective. In any case, all ot these arguments have already been had and the voting citizens of Georgia voted overwhelmingly in favor of it, so it's all quite moot at this point.

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docgreen1499 1 year, 5 months ago

If you don't want your kids in public schools, fine...YOU pay for them to go to private school, don't make me foot the bill for your kids....

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 5 months ago

The taxes that I pay more than compensate for my own children going to a charter school, so you shouldn't worry about being personally burdened by my children. Besides, I personally have no intention to send my children to a charter school. In fact, unless I see a reason to remove them from their current PUBLIC school, I will not do so. However, if I see that an established charter school is much better than the one that they go to, you can bet I will consider the option...as any good parent should.

My support of this measure and charter schools in general is not rooted in any intentions I have of placing my children in one of these schools. It’s about the ability to create alternatives to the existing norm so that I can have options if I’m not happy with the education that my child is getting. Also, I see nothing wrong with creating a little pressure on existing public schools to up their ante if they are being outperformed. If they aren’t, then it isn’t an issue because people will not send their kids there and they will close.

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NewsReader 1 year, 5 months ago

Why not doc? I'm footing the bill for yours!

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gwinnettresident1 1 year, 5 months ago

I am 62 doc and have footed the bill for you kids since 92 when my child started to college.

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Don_Coyote 1 year, 5 months ago

The wordsmithing on the ballot is an issue regardless of how you stood on this particular one. In fact, since there is such polarity on this one I will take the even more well received amendment 2 as an example:

"Shall the constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide for a reduction in the state's operating costs by allowing the General Assembly to authorize certain state agencies to enter into multiyear rental agreements?"

See what I mean? Who wouldn't want us to save money? Slam dunk. No brainer, right? Oh, one or two little problems there. You have just approved the current administration which already has displayed rampant cronyism (chicken lab anyone?), to sign up to 20 year leases saddling future administrations and taxpayers with debt to private parties for years to come. While I don't require all of the legalese to be on the ballot something must be done to get the marketing language off and more direct language of the legislation being proposed.

"No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby." --H. L. Mencken

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 5 months ago

Just curious, how would you reword amendment 2 on the ballot to incorporate the idea that passage may result in our corrupt politicians abusing the system to land 20-year contracts for their cronies, and thus, line their pockets?

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Don_Coyote 1 year, 5 months ago

That's just it. I don't want the language used on the ballot to be slanted in favor of passage or rejection. Just the facts, Ma'am. And no lies by omission either. If the 20-year limit that is actually in the amendment had been mentioned on the ballot it might have given people pause to consider why the state wouldn't just buy the dang building or build their own. There is also an omission of any requirements that these leases be let out for bid to multiple property owners in the areas being considered.

Furthermore we have a subjective opinion being interjected that this would save the taxpayer's money and opinions have no place on the ballot either. A long term lease around the capitol area before the bubble burst would have been a terrible deal. Office space in the downtown area can be had for a song these days.

I could get into the language used for the newly created bureaucracy not mentioned in amendment 1 but obviously from your posts here you don't want to hear that. Or perhaps the language used on the ballot for the TSPLOST referendum...

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 5 months ago

I've read the amendment (A1) in its entirety more than once, so no need for you to get into the language for me...same with TSPLOST. In terms of amendment 2, although I appreciate the spirit of what you are saying here, if you omit the phrase about reducing operating costs, you don’t effectively convey the intent of the measure. In legal documents (contracts, legislation, agreements, etc.) the intent of the action or measure is perhaps the most important aspect of it. Without it, you leave it wide open to future interpretation about why the measure was passed to begin with. In this case, perhaps the ballot question would have been better stated, “Shall the constitution of Georgia be amended so as to allow the General Assembly to authorize certain state agencies to enter into multiyear rental agreements [only] when it is determined that doing so results in a reduction of operating costs?" Then the body of the amendment could outline what “determined” means.

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kevin 1 year, 5 months ago

This is about getting the job done; the job of having more Charter schools and not the same old people stopping better choices. Amen. Just look at the board member re-election. People keep the same oldies on the school board forever. Now we can get rid of them another way.

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ptcconcerns 1 year, 5 months ago

Near my house is Ivy Prepatory Academy. I paid little attention to the school until this Charter Amendment came to light. I saw girls (it's and all girls school) out in the parking lot sometimes, in uniform, mostly minority (although I am not sure who is a minority these days). I saw them again at recent debate over the amendment where Wilbanks spoke against it. I talked with a few parents who sent their girls to Ivy Prep. They were worried they would loose their school because GCPS is dead set against it and wihthout the amendment they might have to send their kids back to Summerhour (a district iii middle school that feeds norcross high). The parent said she was sick of summerhour because it was overcrowded, there were gangs, disruptive kids bringing down the whole class, parents who weren't involved etc. (You can NCLB schools all day long and it won't solve those problems - it isn't the teachers fault). Based on my local knowledge of our schools, our school board, how I might be impacted, etc I voted yes to the amendment because I didnt want these girls to go back to an underperforming school just as much as their parents didn't want them to go back. Charter schools hav not affected my life up to this point and I don't see that changing in the future.

The only money GCSB is losing is the state money, the local $'s stay at the public schools. The local public schools should actually see a net increase in the amount of money they receive per student.

Anyhow, education in this country is certainly not perfect so maybe this is part of the journey to improve it.

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 5 months ago

Although the amendment was more about the process of getting charter schools approved than it was about having charter schools in general, this is a fantastic example of the benefit of having alternatives! In this case, it isn’t about “rich” people sending their children to some exclusive school. It’s about concerned parents having an alternative to a public school that apparently has serious issues that are impacting their children’s ability to learn. I agree that these issues are not the fault of the teachers or the school, but they exist and aren’t being solved in public school. Ivy Prep may have its issues, but it certainly sounds better than the picture of the public school painted by this poster.

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kevin 1 year, 5 months ago

There were many teachers voting yes for this. No wonder we had a great turnout to pass this. I hope all those losers get thrown out of a job and replaced with common folk. We the people do not trust "leaders" who proclaim to be doing what is best for us, especially after they have been in office for more than 4 years. Wake up folks. Get some new blood to run things on the school board and in the classrooms.

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Don 1 year, 5 months ago

Why do we need to create another "board" to authorize a charter school? Is this board not going to be a bunch of the governors ( whoever that may be) buddies that he/she owes favors to?

Let the County school board make the decision and then appeal to the State DOE to over rule the decision if needed. Think about the court system and the appeal process there.

We do not need to add another layer of government that includes salaries to handle this.

Kevin I know many more teachers that were voting no rather than yes in the Peachtree Ridge district. Most of them felt that this could give way to more title one schools if a charter school was opened. The logic was the charter would pull the kids that had transportation to the school over the ones that do not. In families that both parents work makes it hard to supply the transportation. In reality leaving the lower income kids in the public school, this is the logic.

Look at where most of the money in charter schools goes and it is not to the teachers or kids but to the administrators.

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ShilohParent 1 year, 5 months ago

Can someone explain to me who makes the decision as to which children get into the charter schools. And do they allow special needs kids into those charter schools. As I'm sure most of you know the special needs programs at the schools are very expensive.

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earlyam 1 year, 5 months ago

I hope you did not vote yes without investigating the answers to these questions first...

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earlyam 1 year, 5 months ago

Kevin- Any time you want to come in my classroom and teach physics, you are welcome to. By the way, I WORK for a charter school and I still voted no to Amendment 1. Until the non-educators (aka legislators and most of the state government) stop being the ones to make decisions about and changes to education, we will not see improvement. If you haven't been in the classroom yourself, you cannot claim to know what works and what doesn't.

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Don 1 year, 5 months ago

As I understand it charter schools have to be open to everyone and if the number of students wanting to get in exceeds the maximum then a lottery is done to select the kids.

They do not have to offer special needs programs.

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earlyam 1 year, 5 months ago

You are correct about the admissions process. However, if it is a public school, federal law requires that they provide accommodations for special education students, according to the student's 504 plan or IEP.

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LarryMajor 1 year, 5 months ago

Charter schools are public schools and may not reject a student with special needs. The reason you don’t hear much about it is because these kids’ parents rarely enroll them in a charter school, but it has happened.

The one case with which I’m familiar was handled by the host school system providing the required services to the charter school student. This is why the us/them mentality displayed by rabid charter school “supporters” is counter-productive for everyone.

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JohninSuwanee 1 year, 5 months ago

Unfortunately, the "us/them mentality" originates with the people who are OPPOSED to charter schools. As I've stated before, I'm all for public education and improvement of the public school system (and have no intentions of removing my children from public schools.) However, I'm also all for having choices when the public school system fails (and yes, it does fail sometimes...see the post from ptcconcerns above.) Most people in public education are adamantly opposed to charter schools because it creates competition for a system that’s had little competition before. So, if I discuss charter schools with educators, most almost shut down and won’t even consider that there are benefits. I, on the other hand, agree that “public” education should be redefined to include both regular and charter schools. So, who’s the one proliferating the” us/them mentality” again?

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kthomas 1 year, 5 months ago

Gwinnett has carefully engineered attendance zones to create highly polarized rich and poor schools. Whether for federal funding for poor schools, pressure from local politicians and developers, or both, hopefully the new amendment will result in choices for those forced into the 'poor' schools (Lanier, Duluth, etc)

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