Frankly, this newspaper having been a supporter of the really, truly charter-school concept long, long before it was distorted into a mindless political weapon of deception, hasn’t even known where to begin in warning readers about it. This Trojan horse is, pure and simple, designed to destroy — not improve — local-level public education.
Early polls show most voters, being far too easily and routinely deceived, might actual favor what little the ballot will say on the matter — apparently many believe “charter” to be shorthand for “freedom of choice” instead of, as in this instance, meaning the freedom to spend your tax money to pay for somebody else’s choices. And, defeating this would not stop local creation of charter schools (there are already about 100 in the state). However, approving it would allow charter schools the local community has said it does not desire to be rammed down its throat.
THIS NEWSPAPER continues to support true charters that are paid for and governed and directed and supervised and supported by the local voters and their elected officials. Also it especially supports magnet schools, which are far more needed and focused and could be created by the charter method — in fact, that’s what the highly respected county “career academy” actually is. Not only that but the entire Floyd County system — every single school — is already officially designated as of charter status in the sense that teachers, parents and community members have a hands-on role in direction and decision making. That’s the way to go, not having the state’s politicians, with their appointed cronies, telling hometown citizens/parents what their schools should be like, teach and who would be allowed to attend.
Thus, it is with appreciation for true guts that all should applaud the position taken by John Barge, the state school superintendent who resides in Floyd County and has worked for both the local and Bartow County systems. In open defiance of his own Republican Party, that seems to prize blind obedience above intelligence, he came out against this amendment — and swinging.
This is no small example of political bravery. This amendment was floated by GOP Gov. Nathan Deal (after the Georgia Supreme Court had struck down as unconstitutional an earlier attempt by the state to take over local public education). That all GOP members of the local delegation actually voted for this atrocity would be reason enough to vote them out of office — except nobody is running against them. Citizens beware: You get what you allow to happen.
BARGE, WHO should get a “profile in courage” award, did not hold his fire, saying:
“I cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education and the state Board of Education. This constitutional amendment would direct taxpayer dollars into the pockets of out-of-state, for-profit charter-school companies whose schools perform no better than traditional public schools and locally approved charter schools (and worse, in some cases). …
“Until all of our public-school students are in school for a full 180-day school year, until essential services like student transportation and student support can return to effective levels, and until teachers regain jobs with full pay for a full school year, we should not redirect one more dollar away from Georgia’s local school districts — much less an additional $430 million in state funds, which is what it would cost to add seven new state charter schools per year over the next five years.”
The danger in this being on the ballot is that it doesn’t at all look like what the public would get. What appears on the surface is like asking voters “Do you think children should be able to read and write?”
It doesn’t explain that such charters could set their own admission requirements, which some fear would mean denying entry to the poor, minorities and special-needs children who some, sadly, believe “drag down” the opportunities offered their own little geniuses.
IT DOES NOT reveal that the legislature has already set it up for any such state-blessed charters to receive more than twice as much in taxes as “ordinary” children in local public schools get from the state ... and takes those extra sums away from them. By the way, parents who already ante up tuition to send their children to this community’s several excellent private schools have particularly good reason to be infuriated.
Not only that but that could just be the start of the money diversion as, in HB 797, there is this interesting clause:
“Actively seek, with the assistance of the department, supplemental revenue from federal grant funds, institutional grant funds, and philanthropic organizations. The commission may receive and expend gifts, grants, and donations of any kind from any public or private entity to carry out the purposes of this article.” (The italics are ours.)
Also, among the many booby traps in plain sight on something few voters will ever read (the actual legislation) it says the state can define attendance zones — including of up to “statewide” size.
The state already has such as the School for the Deaf in Cave Spring. Perhaps that envisions special boarding schools for future violin virtuosos or Nobel Prize winners — with the taxpayers anteing up for room and board, probably in Atlanta, as well as education. Frankly, such intense specialized schools are better created locally (and would be far more likely if the Rome/Floyd systems consolidated) as children with individual special talents are more common than rare when properly nurtured.
OR, THIS could allow a “statewide” boarding school, say at Sea Island, with admission requirements limited to the children of legislators and Georgia government employees making more than $100,000..
This thing is ugly, ugly, ugly and downright un-American. Barge is a hero for standing up against it and every voter in this state, including supporters of what charter schools are really supposed to be, should join him in not only voting “No!” this Nov. 6, but also in crushing it so viciously that nothing of like evil would dare be attempted ever again.