Forum on Charter School Amendment Draws Large Crowd

Peachtree Corner' UPCCA event featured two well-known speakers who discussed the pros and cons of what has become a hotly debated issue.

During a forum Monday night, Gwinnett County School Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks and Georgia House Speaker Jan Jones, had the chance to go head-to-head to present their sides of the proposed Charter School Amendment which voters will decide on Nov. 6.

The forum drew some 150 at Christ the King's Fellowship Hall. Nearly half of the audience were students, teachers and parents of Ivy Preparatory Academy, a charter school located in Peachtree Corners.

, affecting 15,000 students who attended one of the 16 institutions.

Jones authored an amendment to the state's constitution which was approved by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal this year. Voters will decide this fall whether to approve the amendment.

Each had 20 minutes to make a presentation.

"I'm here for the moms and the dads and the kids," said Jones who said she and her husband have four children who all attend public schools.

"I fervently support all public schools," said Jones. "I just happen to believe we should give parents and students more choices. Some schools are just not a good fit for some students. Georgia's priority must be that all students have choices."

The House Speaker said that deciding on the amendment has nothing to do with money. "Charter schools do not take local education funding," she said.

"What it is about is parents having a choice, 20 percent fail to graduate. Public education needs to remain our highest priority," she said in closing.

Wilbanks, superintendent of the largest school system in the state, has spoken out against the need for the amendment. "I'm not opposed to charter schools, in fact, I support them. In fact we have plans for two to five others [which would be part of the Gwinnett County School System]."

Wilbanks questions the need for a duel school system. Under the proposed amendment, a state commission would issue charters to private operators.

"Why would you want to do this," he asked the audience. "The big reason is there is a serious campaign in this country to profitize, defund and dismantle public education."

Wilbanks questioned where the state would get the money to fund the state charter schools. "I think the crux of this is, 'where is the money coming from?'"

He cautioned the audience; "I appeal to you as a grandfather and a citizen, think twice before you give up something."

See also:

Peachtree Corners Charter School Delt Blow

Governor Supports Charter School Amendment


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Judy Putnam (Editor) September 26, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Did you attend the Charter School Amendment forum? What did you think of the presentations by Ms. Jones and Mr. Wilbanks?
PTC Concerns September 26, 2012 at 08:26 PM
I thought Rep. Jones' presentation was excellent (except when she stepped away from the microphone). I wish Mr. Wilbanks had stepped away from the microphone. As he stumbled through his not very well thought out presentation I wanted to crawl under my seat. The crowd was mostly Ivy Prep students and parents and you could tell that they didn't enjoy Mr Wilbanks ramblings. If you could have taken them out of the room, there would not have been many people present. It is unfortunate that it has come to having to produce a constitutional amendment for Ivy Prep (and other schools) to remain in operation. GCSB voted against Ivy Prep because they were doing to good of a job providing a great education to these young ladies and making GC look bad. I guess they thought they better get those girls back into some overcrowded schools where they can experience life in a 30-1 student to teacher ratio. I don't know that this amendment is the right solution, but I do think it is better than the current solution which is do nothing. I am disappointed with Wilbanks leadership and Murphy's representation of my district. I would like to see them voted out, some fresh ideas voted in and also some term limits set for school board members. Also, Mr. Wilbanks - what are those 3-5 new charter schools you are working on? Is this something he made up? Does anyone know about these?
Jim Nelems September 27, 2012 at 12:56 PM
It is ironic that an Ivy Prep spokesman was not one of the three invited speakers (Gwinnett online, New Life Academy and Norcross High prior to the debate between Jan Jones and Alvin Wilbanks) when I understand that this successful new charter school was originally denied approval to operate by one of the school board members( Mary Kay Murphy) who acknowledged their large presence at the meeting.
Annette Rogers September 28, 2012 at 01:27 PM
If making a decision based on the presentations in this forum alone - yes. The Ivy Prep families filled the room, except the first row of GCPS and PTC persons. The rest of us sat in the midst of the families that sat politely in their uniforms through the entire forum as they have so many past GCPS school board meetings. Mary Kay Murphy seemed uncomfortable and did not present a "state of the schools". The 3 speakers were fine, but I think the audience would have benefited more from a short Q&A with Wilbanks and Jones. We did have the opportunity to take a single green index card and submit a question to the speaker of our choice. Has anyone received a response? I wish these Q&A's would be posted publicly. Jones was personable, well-spoken, and well informed. She thanked Christ the King (where the forum took place) for hosting Ivy Prep when they had no home. I felt Wilbanks was ignoring and maybe even condescending to the audience which was almost all Ivy Prep families. Wilbanks seemed to be saying, I support charter schools - just not yours. Both pro and against the amendment and both Republicans and Democrats do seem to agree that the real problem is with the GCPS school board and their Gwinnett "connections". I've known and supported the incumbent District III candidate for almost 20 years but this year, I'm voting for Jen Falk.


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