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Charter School Amendment: A Mother and Teacher Offers Her Passionate Plea

"This is not about money or anything else the opposition may want you to believe. This amendment is simply about these precious children."

Following is a letter from Kathy Bantz, a teacher and parent from Cuthbert, GA. She located Peachtree Corners Patch through a Google search on the upcoming Charter School Amendment and asked that her letter be published before the Nov. 6 elections. Although she is not from the Peachtree Corners area, this issue effects the entire state.

 

Dear Editor,

I am writing as both a parent of students who attend a charter school and a teacher who works at one.  The school I speak of is Pataula Charter Academy (PCA) located in Edison, Georgia. 

This is one of the controversial schools that was created by approval of a state commissioned board rather than the local school boards. Now we are in danger of having our doors closed unless an amendment to the constitution is approved in the November election stating that it is legal for a state commissioned board to approve charter schools when local boards refuse. 

I am urging everyone reading this to please vote yes to this amendment. PCA serves students in five counties. All five of the local school boards of the counties that we serve denied our application for approval when we asked to form a charter school, thus forcing us to go to the state commissioned board.

Prior to the creation of PCA, parents in our area had very few choices for their children’s education. One option was to send their children to sub-par public schools which were consistently on the needs improvement list due to the fact that they were not making adequate yearly progress as determined by the state.  The other option was to send them to a private school which might not even be an option due to financial limitations or race.

PCA is a public school open to children of all races and economic status in five counties in our area.  Since it is public, of course it is free. All of the parents who choose to send their children to PCA care about education and are actively involved in their children’s school life. 

Perhaps the best thing about our school is that ALL children are made to feel loved, accepted, and proud. Many students at PCA have attended three or four schools prior to ending up here. They have not been successful anywhere else, and have previously hated school. Now, they love it! They came to our school very behind academically and with very low self-esteem.  However, through nurturing, patience, and the fostering of a school culture based on tolerance,  these students are thriving. That is what touches my heart the most about PCA. 

Students come here from all walks of life. Children who have been bullied in their other schools now feel safe. Kids who have been the bullies in their others school have learned to be civil.  This is due to the fact that our school focuses on school culture as much as academics. As a result, all students feel accepted.  Once you have a good culture, learning can take place. Perhaps this is why our test scores were so high last spring!

If the amendment to the constitution does not pass, then all of these children  will no longer have this school as an option. 

Please hear me. This is not about money or anything else the opposition may want you to believe. This amendment is simply about these precious children.  Please come visit our school if you would like. I have been teaching for 20 years in four states, and I have never had the pleasure of working in an environment like this. 

When you vote on November 6, please vote with your heart. Vote yes for amendment one. You will be blessing our children!

 Kathy Bantz

 

Editor's note: The opinions expressed here are strictly those of the writer and do not necessary reflect those of Peachtree Corners Patch. If you have an opposing view to the one expressed here, send your opinion to the Patch editor. Please include your phone number so we may contact you. We are delighted to offer both sides of this very important issue to our Patch readers.

Duluth2 October 15, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Please explain why this school would no longer exist if the charter amendment does not pass.
Mar H October 15, 2012 at 01:00 PM
I have the exact same question.
Proud Parent October 15, 2012 at 01:43 PM
On Saturday October 13, 2012, the XC team from this very school ran their team with Vote Yes T-shirts on the team. I find this appalling for two reasons; this commission charter school is publicly funded and is not allowed to propagandize this amendment issue using school funds ( i.e., registration for the race, monies for the uniforms of participants, paid school personel using tax dollars to state political view, etc.). Sam Olens, the attorney general, has taken a very strong stance against public school officials acting in any way to inform the public about this confusing amendment and should take note of this blatant use of tax dollars. Secondly, it is appaling to use these middle schoolers as billboards for the school political views. Vote NO on amendment #1!!
Think about the Kids October 15, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Pataula Charter Academy was created by the state commissioned charter school board after being denied by the local school boards. Then, a local school board of another similarly created charter school sued the state commissioned board. The Georgia Supreme Court declared the State Commissioned board unconstitutional after a close 4-3 vote. Therefore, this school will be denied existance by the local school boards once again if the amemdment does not pass.
Duluth2 October 15, 2012 at 04:19 PM
So, how is it that this school can exist now - after the Supreme Court decision and without the amendment?
Elizabeth Hooper October 15, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Kathy, You really need to check with a lawyer on this. The state BOE holds the charter for your school. It will not be shut down if Amendment 1 doesn't pass. The only way it could be shut down is if someone decided to sue the state to challenge the state BOE's authority to grant a charter to a petitioner who was denied by a local board - this law was written in 1998 and is still intact. The commissions authority was ruled unconstitutional, not the state BOE's. This is very important to understand. Please do not tell people your school will be shut down if it isn't true - an email to the state charter division - Lou Erste - could clear this up quickly.
Elizabeth Hooper October 15, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Kathy, I just checked with the State DOE charter schools division. Your school will not be shut down if Amendment 1 fails to pass. You have a charter with the State BOE who's constitutional authority was established in 1998 was not challenged. Your school is a SCSS - state chartered special school and will be up for renewal on June 30, 2013. Please do not spread fear and misinformation. Voters deserve to know the facts.
Kids First October 15, 2012 at 05:49 PM
If the charter amendment doesn't pass, 797 will be challenged. Once again these exemplary schools will be stuck in another legal battle and if overturned, back down to total funding less than 50% of the non-charter public schools which is obviously not sustainable. Why are opponents so against the amendment if they say it's the same thing as going to the state BOE today? The reason is because they will challenge the funding mechanism in 797 (one opponent has already said this is step 2). The amendment needs to pass so parents can have options all over Georgia.
Duluth2 October 15, 2012 at 06:08 PM
@Kids First - maybe so, but I am not willing to vote to amend our state's constitution based upon the threat of a lawsuit that may or may not happen. Is it this threat of a lawsuit that is behind the assertion that charter schools will be shut down if the amendment does not pass? @Elizabeth, thanks for your posts...
Kids First October 15, 2012 at 06:35 PM
@Duluth2 - That's ok. I'll definitely be voting yes. We have 180 school systems in Georgia and yet only 15 have approved independent charter schools. So we have a few systems willing to give the schools a chance but most are not (school board association has been directing board members for years to deny these petitions). I know a lot of proponents like to talk about failing school systems but I like to also argue that not every child learns the same way. If a fantastic school system has a charter middle school that teaches math and science in a single gender environment. You and I may walk in and think, 'not much, my kid's doing great at the non-charter public school'. Next walks in a mom who's watched her daughter, who used to love math, become shy around boys and unwilling to participate in class the way she used to. Now, this daughter is one of our own. She's a public school student in Georgia. She might do ok at the good non-charter public school....but she might thrive at the charter school. Who am I to say she shouldn't have this option. It's a public school. It's educating a different way and it might work for some kids better than others. I want to see this type of thing happening all over Georgia.
Think about the Kids October 16, 2012 at 02:04 AM
First of all, these middle schoolers were not being used as billboards for the school's political views. These students were simply being passionate about their school. They love their school and want it to remain open. They have been to other schools and do not want to return to them if this amendment doesn't pass. Secondly, tax dollars were not used to purchase the shirts or pay for the race registration. The parents paid for everything. PCA has never been about the money, and yet almost everyone arguing against charter schools seems overly concerned with money. If you could have only come to the school this summer and seen our families and staff working in the heat to lay sod, build ramps for our modular buildings, install playground equipment, reburbish lockers from the 1970's, etc., you would realize that no one is in this for the money. PCA is about EDUCATION.

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