Improving Education Is Truly A Bi-partisan Issue

Joint op-ed in support of the Charter School issue by Jan Jones, Speaker Pro Tem of the Georgia House of Representatives, and Alisha Thomas Morgan, a Democratic member of the House.

Between now and November, hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising will be spent telling us all the differences between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

They will disagree on nearly every issue, but one area where they have found common ground is the need for more public charter schools. We feel the same way in the Georgia House of Representatives.

While there are many issues that our constituents expect us to draw a hard line in the sand and oppose much of what the opposition party supports, education reform is frankly too important to let our differences in political parties get in the way.

As the Republican Speaker Pro Tem and a leading Democratic voice on education, we are together asking voters to support the charter school amendment on the November ballot. The amendment does something very simple but very profound – it will allow the state to create a commission to hear appeals when charter applications are denied by some school boards and superintendents.

Some school systems in Georgia have embraced the charter concept, while others have been more obstinate. Many are unfortunately worried more about who has the authority and power in education decision-making rather than what is best for our kids.

True local control should begin with giving parents the option to make more decisions and to get more involved in their children’s education. Charter schools are public schools that are free from many of the onerous mandates that schools are under these days.

They may separate boys and girls into different classes or schools, or have a more specific curriculum focus on science or math. They may be a virtual school with no building. These types of options are not right for every student, but for some they offer the kind of opportunity that can literally be life-changing.

Some school systems are going to tell you that public charter schools take money away from other public schools, but that’s just simply not the case. Any school approved by the state charter commission will operate with no local contribution – only state funds will be available. Those local dollars are kept by the school systems and used as they see fit, actually increasing the amount of money per student enrolled they have to spend.

We’ve tried the “one size fits all” approach to education for decades, and we’ve had too many students fall through the cracks. Let’s increase the educational options for parents, students and teachers by voting “Yes” for public charters on Nov. 6.

Jan Jones is Speaker Pro Tem of the Georgia House of Representatives and Alisha Thomas Morgan is a Democratic member of the Georgia House.


Mar H September 24, 2012 at 01:05 PM
The state board of education is authorized to approve charter schools that local schools turn down. Why do we need a charter commission?
Josh Austin September 25, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Well said!
Josh Austin September 25, 2012 at 08:48 PM
The state board of education is not interested in granting new charters anymore than the local boards of education are. That's the problem. This will allow the government of the State of Georgia to approve the charters rather than the department of education, as I understand it. Every charter school that opens undermines the power of the department of education and give parents the option to vote with their feet.
Mar H September 25, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Josh, what evidence can you cite that proves that the state board of education isn't interested in approving charter schools?
Josh Austin September 25, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Lack of charter schools... Here is a recent example of school board tyranny in Cobb County: http://northeastcobb.patch.com/articles/smyrna-charter-school-bid-rejected-e6fda984
Mar H September 25, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Your example shows a local school board rejecting a charter school, not the state board. My question was about your assertion that the state board is not interested in approving charter schools. I think this is an important question to ask, as we are voting on forming a state charter commission that, it seems to me, will duplicate the state board's approval process.
Josh Austin September 25, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Another: http://alpharetta.patch.com/articles/fulton-science-academy
Mar H September 25, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Again, this is a local school board you are citing as an example, not the state board.
Mar H September 25, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Did Fulton Science and Smyrna submit their applications to the state board when their local boards turned them down?
Josh Austin September 25, 2012 at 09:28 PM
The problem is with the incentives. The school boards don't want to create institutions that they don't have much control over, that often perform at higher levels than the "normal" public schools. These issues are not such a big deal in very affluent areas, but in the more economically depressed areas of Fulton, DeKalb, and Gwinnett, parents have little choice but to send their kids into schools where the teachers are accused of cheating on tests and student behavior problems run rampant. What we are doing now has failed. It failed me, it failed you, and worst of all it's failing an entire generation of kids without any other options. If we are going to have public schools, it's our responsibility to try and provide a safe environment where educators are free to try and figure out the best way to teach each child. Anyone who defends the status quo needs to take a long and hard look and why they are doing it. What is really motivating you to protect a system that performs so poorly? What do you get out of it?
Josh Austin September 25, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Why should they have to? This is the problem. What purpose does that serve? Why are they being rejected at all? Fulton Science was shut down after it proved that it delivered superior results.
Mar H September 25, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I am not against forming charter schools. I simply asked for evidence that the state board of education is an obstacle to forming these schools. If they are in cahoots with the local districts in blocking these schools, then a charter commission would be desirable. If there is no evidence that the state board of education is an obstacle, then I don't see the point in amending the state constitution.
Mar H September 25, 2012 at 09:42 PM
I agree that some of the charter schools should not have been rejected, but my question still stands. Are you saying that the local and state school boards should not be part of the process at all? My understanding is that if local boards reject charter applications, then they can apply to the state or to the charter commission if it is approved by the voters.
Josh Austin September 25, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Fulton Science Academy was denied by the State Board after being rejected by the Local Board. The school in Cobb was more recent and may not have had time yet to resubmit their application to the State Board. The State Board only granted one charter for the 2012-13 School year. All other applications to the State Board were rejected. I can only find evidence of 15 Schools charted by the State Board. http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/default.aspx
Mar H September 25, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Using your link (thank you!) I found 7 new charter schools authorized by the state for this school year (2012-13). I also see that Ivy Prep was approved by the state after having been rejected more than once by GCPS. I also see that they turned down Fulton Science Academy Middle School. I remember reading about this school and their trials trying to get reauthorized. I wonder why the state turned them down. This seems to be the only school denied recently. If the amendment passes, I'll be interested to see if the charter commission approves them.
Annette Rogers September 25, 2012 at 10:39 PM
I'm not sure, but I think that the state was afraid of being sued again. It is my understanding that if GCPS has not successfully sued the state BOE, Ivy Prep, and the charter commission, we wouldn't be needing an amendment. From what I've been able to find, GCPS has never approved a Charter petition from outside the ISC.
Mar H September 26, 2012 at 02:51 AM
@Annette, New Life Academy of Excellence is a charter school in GCPS with 2 campuses.


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