Why you should vote no
I am a successful metro Atlanta business entrepreneur. My political preferences are irrelevant because Amendment 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot is opposed by people in all parties.
As a businessman and a parent, I oppose Amendment 1 -- the school issue -- because despite what the charter school association and the "families" for schools tell you, the reality is that Amendment 1 is about trust and truth.
The ballot question should ask whether you want your local school board, for whom you can vote, to make decisions about your schools; or do you want a small group of appointed people accountable to no one to make those decisions? There is not one thing in the enabling legislation that requires parental involvement so there is nothing local about it, particularly when you see all the out of state corporations paying to persuade you to vote yes.
Folks, this is not about charter schools. It is not about choice. We already have both. This is about truth and trust.
There's a lot of misinformation -- and misunderstanding -- about this Nov. 6 ballot amendment, the T-SPLOST of Education.
Georgia has more than 200 charter schools. More are in the pipeline. Like all schools, some are good, some need improvement. According to the Georgia Department of Education's Charter Schools Annual Report, charter school children do not exceed other public school children's performance. Said their report: "Over the past five years, the overall performance of charter schools compared to traditional public schools has been mixed, but both groups have traditionally demonstrated the same general performance trends."
If the amendment isn't about charter schools, what then are the issues?
Accountability, your tax dollars, and expansion of state government. Trust and truth.
Accountability: Rather than local school boards' accountability to the voter, a state appointed group of seven people will be empowered to create a separate system of schools. Although they will use your tax dollars for funding, they are not elected; if you don't like what they do, you can't vote them out. Unchecked power will be in the hands of this small, politically appointed group that will decide how and where schools operate.
Your tax dollars: Taxpayer dollars -- yours -- allocated to public schools will be siphoned off to pay for these "new schools" and the for-profit companies that manage them. In other states -- look no farther than Florida corporate profits are the overriding goal, not education. Some in Florida have been indicted. Others pay no property taxes. But rest assured, they contribute heavily to state legislators' campaigns. None of us can afford a dual school system answering to no one. Even state school Superintendent John Barge said we can't afford it.
Expansion of state government: We recently voted for or against a penny sales tax to fund transportation. In many regions, it failed. The main reason given? Distrust of government. If you distrust government to build or improve roads, do you want to expand its power with unchecked authority over schools?
The Ballot Question: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?
Sounds logical, but unless we vote no, here's the reality check: budget cuts to our schools, larger classes, shortened school years, teacher furloughs and layoffs. In most counties, schools are our largest employer. This is a serious economic impact in our communities.
Know the facts before you vote:
-- This is not about charter schools or choice. It is about who chooses and who approves applications.
-- Parents already have choices - magnet, public, private, home and charter schools.
Is the amendment even needed?
As the old adage goes, follow the money. Those who favor expanded state government, lack of accountability and a separate, unequal, dual school system are spending millions for your yes vote. They call themselves Families for Better Schools or Parents for School Choice. Don't be deceived. Several out-of-state political action committees are behind this. Visit www.votesmartgeorgia.com to understand the real "families" and the real issues.
Truth and trust. Get the facts before you vote on Nov. 6.
Sean Murphy is a Duluth resident and father of four children enrolled in Gwinnett County Public Schools. He is co-founder of Canvas Systems, which was sold to Avnet in January.