JENKINS: Charter school debate comes down to turfism versus choice

If there's one point on which liberal teachers' union activists and conservative school administrators agree, it's that the proposed charter school amendment would be bad for Georgia.

Thoughtful voters should find that troubling.

After all, it's often said that a person can be judged by his or her enemies. Might the same be true of an idea?

Teachers unions exist to advance the interests of teachers. Not students. Not schools. Teachers.

(Yes, I know that Georgia doesn't literally have teachers' unions. But the state's largest teachers' group, the Georgia Association of Educators, is affiliated with the nation's largest teachers' union, the National Education Association. The GAE publicly opposes the charter school amendment.)

Meanwhile, administrators exist to advance the interests of ... well, themselves, as far as I can tell -- and as a father of four and a professional educator for 28 years, I've encountered a lot of administrators.

What this all boils down to, in terms of the charter school debate, is turfism, pure and simple.

Teachers unions don't want charter schools because they're afraid their own schools will lose students, which will mean fewer jobs for teachers. (That's kind of silly, when you think about it. We'll still have the same number of students, even if some of them go to charter schools, so we'll still need the same number of teachers.)

And administrators don't want charter schools because they're afraid they'll lose funding, as state and local dollars follow students to their new institutions.

This is the same argument, by the way, that administrators have used for years to attack dual enrollment programs, which allow qualified high school students to take college courses during their junior and senior years. Administrators want to keep students on campus, taking AP classes, even though AP classes don't necessarily translate into college credit.

Please note that neither teachers unions nor administrators are primarily concerned with the welfare of students. Why should they be? Those aren't their kids. They're more concerned about their own jobs, their own careers, their own livelihoods. That's human nature.

But as parents, we are concerned primarily with our children's welfare. That's why we need to take with a grain of salt -- or perhaps a whole shaker-full -- everything the unions and administrators keep telling us about charter schools.

Surely, for parents and children, having more educational choices would be a good thing. And that's exactly what charter schools do: they provide parents and kids with options.

(I wonder: Why is it that liberals are so keen on choice when it comes to a woman's decision to kill her unborn child, but no so much when it comes to the education of living children?)

The bottom line is that, if teachers' unions and administrators are so deathly afraid students will bail at the first opportunity, what does that tell us about the current state of public education?

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of "Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility." Email him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter@rjenkinsgdp.


willey07 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm a bit appalled at this incredibly assumptive opinion piece. This amendment has nothing to do with turf wars or turfism. It has everything to do with money, where it goes, and how it is spent. I work at a school where the administrators DO work for the students and DO support them thoroughly. If this amendment passes, it will be nearly impossible to ever repeal and we'll give yet another un-monitored bureaucratic body the power to shift tax dollars wherever they wish damn the consequences for public schools. I would think this would trouble conservatives. Charter schools are a good idea and we HAVE them in our state. The issue that is ignored is that one, they don't currently outperform our best public schools and two, parents have choice in their schools, but they only really get involved when something bad happens. You want change in education, it starts with teacher training at the college level. Beyond that it is going to take schools and communities working together to achieve an equal vision. If you want to talk about the groups who don't care about education, start with the testing industry and the College Board who is hardly ever questioned yet work within a billion dollar yearly industry. (And for the record, I've never worked with an administrator who wanted to down play the availability of dual-enrollment for junior or senior student!)


NewsReader 2 years, 11 months ago

It has everything to do with turf wars and turfism. You said yourself "...It has everything to do with money..." LOL, what do you think he meant by turfism? Jenkins is right on target. Since you obviously work at a school, and presumably as a teacher, your literary work above only demonstrates and reinforces what is wrong with our public school system. We will never have an equal vision. That is because while I care deeply about the best possible educational outcome for these children, many parents are either not on board or they are simply misguided by their own selfish motivations as opposed to what is in the best interest of the child. I've said it before, and I will say it again a million times. If what the public school system was doing was working, we wouldn't be having this discussion/debate, nor would there be a charter school amendment on the ballot. The decision, thank God, is not up to you any longer, but up to the people of the State of Georgia. They will have their say in a week. Is the charter school amendment ideal? Absolutely not, but barring bonafide school vouchers where the money follows the child no matter where they go to school, it's as good as we are going to get for now until the country finally wakes up to this madness called "public education", and treats it as the dismal failure it has become.


SickandTired 2 years, 11 months ago

Well said NewsReader. Willey07 you say "and two, parents have choice in their schools,". How so? I hope you're not going to say the choice is public vs. private school!! In Gwinnett County your childen go to the pubic school the BOE dictates. Ever try fighting the GCPS BOE on a re-districting issue? I have and it's not pretty. In the end our current BOE does what ever they want and parents and children be damned. BTW, it is time to change the BOE. Louise and Mary Kay need to be voted out next Tuesday.


Sign in to comment