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Charter School Amendment - An Important Tool in the GA Education Reform Tool Box

An Op-ed by State Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta), Georgia House Majority Whip

 

The Charter School Amendment is an important education reform for Georgia.  Statewide, the overall high school graduation rate hovers in the mid 60% range, and in many school districts serving mostly low income students the graduation rate is closer to the low 50% level.  This is morally and economically unacceptable for both our students and this great state.

Like most voters, I believe that local school systems should have primary responsibility of education in our communities.  However, this local control should never be confused with exclusive control.  There must always be checks and balances for any government activity -- and this is especially true in the area of education. 

Time and again in recent years, laws providing for targeted extra help for special needs students, giving high school students greater flexibility to joint enroll in college courses, expanding AP course offerings to students  in rural areas through the internet, requiring a higher percentage of taxpayer education dollars be spent in the classroom, investigating school system cheating on student performance test,  or imposing penalties against local school boards that lose full accreditation have been met with stiff resistance from local status quo bureaucrats  worried more over their control of their turf than the welfare of the students.  Enough is enough.   It is time to put Georgia students and their needs first.

As the chairman of a House Study Committee on Charter School Governance, I discovered wide differences in how charter school applications were handled by different local school systems around our state.  Some were treated fairly.  Some were summarily dismissed.  Some were starved to death.  This proposed bi-partisan amendment merely guarantees parents and students a check and balance appeal process for those whose needs are being otherwise ignored by their local systems. 

Charter schools are public schools.  Charter school students are public school students.  Charter school teachers are public school teachers.  Thirty two other states have a similar state authorization process which is supported by the National Parent Teacher Association. 

Under the proposed constitutional amendment and enabling legislation, a charter school application to the state must still meet rigorous standards for consideration, including strong local support.  While an outside service can be hired to manage the school, ultimate authority over a charter school’s operation will rest with a local non-profit board.  Student attendance is open to all public school students through a lottery system. 

It should be emphasized, however, that this is only one tool in the reform tool box.  Much more needs to be done including tougher curriculum standards in pre-school, closely tracking students’ reading progress in the critical K-3 grades, recognizing and rewarding good teachers and weeding out poor ones, strengthening our technical school programs for kids uninterested in college, giving teachers greater say so in school governance, and demanding that local systems spend more money in the classrooms and less in the central office.

The bottom line is we need to have an educational system that is flexible and can adapt to the needs of our students in the 21st century.  The Charter School Amendment is one important tool to accomplish this.   Therefore, I ask for you to Vote “YES!” on November 6 to Amendment 1. 

Harold Lloyd October 28, 2012 at 09:20 PM
too bad you didn't check out how charter schools are working in florida. In 2011-12, NorthStar High School's directors paid Principal Kelly Young more than twice as much money as they spent on the school's educational program. When you use public money to fund private enterprise, don't be surprised at the result. http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-10-25/features/os-troubled-orange-charter-northstar-20121025_1_charter-school-charter-law-english-language-learners
Harold Lloyd October 28, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Kids First sounds a lot like a lobbyist.
Lee Moore November 06, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Wow, looks like Kids First is Kids Last to Mr. Bertis, Mr. Peel, Mr.Ponsoldt and Mr. Lloyd. As Georgia Citizens the majority of our annual property taxes, a sizable chunk, goes to school tax. As it stands today, a taxpayer has no control over how this money is allocated. So it appears that Charter Schools are an alternative to absolutely no options today. Please, I would like to hear you answers to the questions you posed. 1) Why is there so much out-of-state money being poured into the coffers of the pro-amendment forces? 2) Why is there so much corporate money being poured into it as well? 3) Why is it necessary to pose the question on the ballot in a manner that is so misleading and inaccurate and to couple that with a preamble that is so clearly biased that it simply begs an uninformed voter to vote Yes? Lee Moore
Kids First November 06, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Hi @Lee. I assume you sit in the opponent's camp and want to bait me, but ok. Today I'm actually relaxing as I know there's very little else I can do for something I feel strongly can change the landscape of public education for the better in Georgia. 1. There are individuals and groups across the country who want to see education reform. Alice Walton has been skewered by opponents here for donating her money to this cause. She has given money for years to school reform groups because she actually believes it can make a difference. She, like so many others understand, that no small group can make a dent in the established and organized education systems we have set up. The school board association, the superintendent's association, the teacher groups, they will protect their monopoly at all costs. Remember that the proponents also have more parents making contributions than the other side as well. The other side raised money from people making money off the established system. 2. You're most certainly talking about the 3 management organizations that already are invested in GA with their four charter schools approved and successfully operating. They have partnerships here and want to continue. That's just not ominous and threatening to me but it appears to scare the pants off others. 3. I don't think the wording is misleading or inaccurate. I looked back on past amendment requests and it appears to be right in line with how we do it here in GA.
Harold Lloyd November 06, 2012 at 10:41 PM
I'm all for education reform. But that doesn't mean charter schools, it means holding politicians accountable for the performance of the school system. Isn't that how democracy works? It should be...

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