YARBROUGH: Pro-charter amendment forces try to bully opponents

Dick Yarbrough

Dick Yarbrough

If the pro-charter amendment people are trying to win friends and influence voters to pass the measure in November, they have picked a bad way to do it.

Attorney Glenn Delk and proponents are clearly trying to intimidate opponents of the amendment by accusing the state's 180 local school districts of illegally using taxpayer money to campaign against the amendment. Fortunately, they lost the first round in Fulton County Superior Court.

While this righteously indignant shot was being fired, an eager beaver in Gov. Nathan Deal's office was sending out an op-ed piece under the governor's byline (Anybody want to lay odds that the governor actually wrote the piece?) in favor of the amendment and suggesting newspapers run it.

If I may be so bold as to cross-examine Mr. Delk: If the governor's office is using taxpayer money to pay an Eager Beaver to write puff pieces advocating passage of the amendment, please tell me how that differs from what you accuse the school systems of doing? If taxpayer funds can't be used by local school districts to poke holes in the charter school amendment, why can they be used by the governor's office to extol its virtues? Will you file suit against Nathan Deal, E. Beaver, et al?

According to Delk, school boards and school superintendents, including the state school superintendent, do not have a legal right to speak out against the amendment. That is absurd on the face of it. How can we get all the facts if only one side is giving them out? And can we trust the pro-amendment crowd to be fair and accurate?

A reader sent me Rep. Matt Ramsey's (R-Peachtree City) response to my comments that the state board of education can still approve charter schools in spite of the recent state Supreme Court ruling. Ramsey cryptically told her, "No, the state cannot approve charter schools after the supreme court ruling. He is wrong."

A spokesperson in the state department of education says in fact Ramsey is the one who is wrong. The state board of education CAN approve charter schools. The Supreme Court ruling struck down a law that allowed a statewide commission to approve charter schools, nothing more.

I tried to contact Mr. Ramsey twice for an explanation and never got a response. Happily, the reader knew better and cleaned his clock. (I love my readers.) But what other things are amendment supporters saying on the taxpayer's dime that are misleading or are downright wrong?

My political opinions are generally 180 degrees from those of Jay Bookman, the liberal editorial columnist of the Atlanta newspapers, but we are on the same page on how the scales are tipped in favor of the governor. Bookman cites the Deal administration's support of the regional transportation sales tax last summer. The Department of Transportation had statements on its website predicting dire results if the tax didn't pass. An op-ed piece under Deal's name that appeared on the website of the Georgia Municipal Association saying, "Georgians need to support TSPLOST."

Bookman correctly points out that GMA serves the same purpose for city officials that the school board association serves for school board members. I'm guessing the school board group could post E. Beaver's paean to the charter school amendment on their website, but never a discouraging word against it. Hark! Do I detect a double standard?

Some of you have asked me what a charter school is. Basically, these are schools not subject to as many rules and regulations as regular public schools, although they are still a part of the public education system. Charter schools have some freedoms that district schools do not but are held to a higher standard of academic and financial accountability. The charter school concept is a good one and I support it. There are over 100 in operation in Georgia and more on the way.

But this isn't about charter schools. This is about the powerful pro-charter forces and the big money supporting them trying to muzzle the opposition so their voice can't be heard and to take away local control to create these schools and put the process -- and the political contributions that go with it -- in the hands of the state.

If Gov. Deal and E. Beaver can spend my tax dollars promoting the charter school amendment, then school boards should have the same opportunity to speak their piece against it. Fair is fair. In the meantime, Mr. Delk, why don't you do something constructive? Go bully a toadstool.

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


BuzzG 2 years, 1 month ago

Dick Yarbrough wants to keep our children locked in the prison of government monopoly schools. He wants us to be required to keep our children in schools designated by politicians.
People are starting to realize it is time for them to break out of this monopoly. Power to the people! Yes to charter schools.


R 2 years, 1 month ago

SO.... the SAME politicians that bring us all statements such as "ethics concerns are the domain of Democrats and fools" are the ones you freely CHOOSE to support making these decisions for your/our children?

YES to charters schools - BUT NO to the amendment in its present text state...

The one that promises controls and ethics AFTER you pass it. (We really could do better here - the TSPLOST lite style ad campaign now in process CONFIRMS it.)

Do we really want to pass it just so we can all find out what's REALLY in it?
Where else did that philosophy not work so well recently?


kevin 2 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Yarbrough, we all know your history and why you are always defending public school issues. However, in this case you are so wrong. You should have read in today's GDP (10/20/12), the "letter to the editor" written by The Augusta Chronicle paper. I have to admit, and also thousands of other voters, that I believe their article more than I believe what you wrote. This is all the more reason why this amendment will be voted an overwhelming YES. Kids at present are not being giving enough choices and you are promoting stopping it further by suggesting we vote no. It is true that the local boards are limiting the number of Charter schools and you can't deny that or you have your head in the sand. I challenge you to respond to the letter written by The Augusta Chronicle.


R 2 years, 1 month ago

The vote will be close for sure no runaway on either side.

But we could save ourselves some real money if we did it right the first call here, instead of signing on because of the link to the FEDERAL Race to the Top funding.


LarryMajor 2 years, 1 month ago

The situation even more one-sided than the points you mentioned.

A few days ago, the Georgia Charter Schools Association abused its affiliation with public charter schools when it urged charter school leaders to use publicly funded resources to elicit support for Amendment 1. The request was from Nina Rubin, Director of Communications for the Georgia Charter Schools Association, and read in part: “Please distribute this email to your teaching and support staff today: We are working under a very tight deadline to put together an ad that will run in local media with the names of Educators, School Leaders & Teachers who support public charter schools. If you support Amendment One, and would like your name included, please send me the following information today or by noon tomorrow." You might think the Georgia Charter Schools Association simply didn’t know it was wrong to use public school resources to gather support for the amendment – except for one thing. Last month they issued a press release written by Rae Anne Harkness, one of the plaintiffs who sued Fulton and Gwinnett for, um, using school resource to oppose Amendment One.


Say_that_again 2 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for pointing out the hypocrisy of charter school leaders!!


dav 2 years, 1 month ago

Oh sorry,I thought this was about the cable company


R 2 years, 1 month ago

About as much truth floating around about either topic...


RetiredTeacher 2 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Yarbrough, You are absolutely correct!!! Thank you for your insight. I am shocked at those who spout the rhetoric we, in public education, know to be filled with lies and half-truths. Their detest of public education is amazing, but we are not nearly as bad as they make us out to be. I'll bet those who are against public education could not even pass the tests we give....in middle or high schools. Yeah, we have failing schools. We teach Algebra in 8th grade.....the same course some of you adults failed in high school. Oh, yes, our 8th grade course is an application course.....not the one you took in high school. You only had to work the problems....our students must work the problems within an application problem. MUCH more difficult. That Biology course you had in 10th grade......our students take in 7th grade...called Life Science. The 9th grade Biology course is an extension of 7th grade.....and harder than what you had in high school. Your old 9th grade Physical Science.....is now taught in 8th grade. It was taught in 6th grade until someone realized it really was too difficult for most 6th graders....so it was moved back to 8th grade. That Rising Junior writing test you took in college......well.....our 8th graders have had to pass a writing test for years that is more difficult than the one you took in college. So, where are those so-called "failing schools" you harp on? Yeah.....must have been back in your day. We've moved on, but some of you have not. Come take our tests. Bet you can't pass them! Kevin and Buzz, we have some tests with your names on them!


kevin 2 years, 1 month ago

I spoke to many teachers recently and the ones I spoke with said they are voting YES. Why? Their main reason was to give students a better choice and a way to get rid of poor teachers that the management in the public schools won't let happen. Period. I always thought that that was the real reason for private run schools. The good teachers will be leaving the public system to get hired by the Charter system. This is what the officials on the school board are trying to avoid. They all know this will happen if too many Charter schools get built. It will pass.


R 2 years ago

" if too many Charter schools get built"

Any private operators interests will be unwound at favorable rates of return for them and when they quietly exit, leaving with a smile and ALL the remaining taxpayers will get the shaft for the long term...

Think Gwinnett Stadium but for the kids!

Everybody makes money, until numbers don't align and then taxpayers step in...


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