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Understanding the Charter School Amendment

Tuesday's ballot includes a Georgia constitutional amendment to re-establish a state commission to approve charter schools. Your job is to decide if that's a good idea.

There aren't a lot of statewide issues on the ballot Nov. 6, but one has the potential to affect school districts, parents and children throughout Georgia.

It's Amendment 1, and the ballot will say it "Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options."

The question voters will answer yes or no to is, "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?"

So what does a yes vote mean?

If the amendment passes, the state will create a commission that can approve charter schools in local communities, even if local school boards oppose them. Supporters of the amendment believe this is necessary to sidestep obstructionist local school boards that are failing to do their jobs. Opponents fear a loss of local control and a shift of resources from traditional public schools.

What does a no vote mean?

If the amendment fails, local school boards will still be able to approve new charter schools, but the state will not have clear authority to do so. (There's debate over whether the State Board of Education can still hear appeals from petitioners whose schools are rejected locally.)

What's a charter school, anyway?

In short, a charter school is a publicly funded school that's exempted from some state and local rules so it can try more innovative ways of educating kids. Some charter schools in Georgia are operating within local school board governance, and some are operating outside it. Amendment 1 would lead to more charter schools operating independently from local school boards.

So what do I have to decide?

Basically, your decision comes down to: Who do I trust more to make decisions about charter schools: local school boards, or the state of Georgia? If you think the state should have more authority, you probably want to vote yes. If you want the state to stay out if it, you're probably a no vote.

How do I learn more so I can make up my mind?

Follow these links, and look for more related articles on Patch.

Arguments for the charter schools amendment:

Local school boards need more accountability

The amendment empowers parents

The amendment is the epitome of small government

The amendment is another tool for improving Georgia education

Arguments against the charter schools amendment:

Local control is critical

The language of the amendment is misleading

The amendment will effectively privatize Georgia schools

Where are you learning about the charter schools amendment? Share links in the comments below.

Allan Peel November 03, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Thank you for a good, UNBIASED view and description of what is at stake and how to learn more (from both sides of the debate) about the Amendment 1 proposal that will appear on the Nov 6 ballot. Kudos to the Patch!
Sherilu November 03, 2012 at 05:34 PM
One of the main problems with the "amendment" is it's misleading language on the ballot. There was intense debate in the legislature about how it is worded on the ballot. The fact that the wording and preamble are so misleading is enough reason to vote against it. Not to mention all of the money given to pass the amendment by organizations that are comprised of "for-profit" companies that manage charter schools.
David B. Manley November 03, 2012 at 09:21 PM
The language used to portray Amendment 1 is possibly misleading, indefinite and partially incorrect including because the preliminary statement indicates student achievement would improve when such is not supported by present scientific studies, that the question uses the term,"local approval" when local approval of charter schools is already constitutional and is already being done, and because "local communities" are not defined in the question. There is already at least one lawsuit filed contesting the Amendment 1 language as misleading, but the Georgia courts traditionally have not been willing to delve into whether language is "misleading" in similar cases. We will see what happens in this case. Perhaps the courts will find the language improper due to lack of factual support and definition of a necessary term. In any event, whether pro or con the Amendment, I trust many would agree that clearer and complete wording would have served to better inform the voting public and best gauge voters' true opinion on the matter.
BJ Van Gundy November 05, 2012 at 02:12 PM
While I've written likely more than a book over the last month or 2 and spoken in forums for 30 or 40 hours during that time, I'm simply going to provide links, as was requested by the author of this well done unbiased (Take a lesson in "unbiased" Tea Party Patriots) column. Here you go: From Nancy Jester, SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER in DeKalb County (several blog entries about charters... go down the page and read what an honest school system representative says about the amendment): http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/
BJ Van Gundy November 05, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Something from the Albany newspaper: http://thealbanyjournal.com/2012/11/the-charter-school-amendment-is-good-for-business-2/
BJ Van Gundy November 05, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Here's one that relates to us here in Peachtree Corners: http://youtu.be/qwlZcr-W0jg
BJ Van Gundy November 05, 2012 at 02:23 PM
From Americans for Prosperity: http://americansforprosperity.org/georgia/legislativealerts/5-reasons-to-vote-for-charter-school-amendment-1-by-virginia-galloway/
BJ Van Gundy November 05, 2012 at 02:24 PM
From Professor Ben Scafidi, Professor of Economics: http://onlineathens.com/opinion/2012-11-01/scafidi-amendment-could-counter-administrative-bloat-schools
www November 05, 2012 at 02:24 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxOnNLdfdkE&feature http://www.gsba.com/AdvocacyCommunications/Newsroom/IssuesAnswers/CharterSchools.aspx Those who are promoting this amendment want you to believe that this is about charter schools. It is NOT. What many don’t understand is that there are three different types of Charter Schools: 1. Local Charter Schools (we have over 100 approved by local boards of education), 2. Charter School Systems (14 school systems, representing 107 schools, have elected to have every one of their schools become a charter, i.e. Fulton County and City of Decatur), and 3. State Charter Schools (those denied by local boards and approved by the state board of education). There are currently 15 state charter schools. This amendment will ONLY address the state charter schools. What this amendment is really about is how we create our public schools and how we use taxpayer dollars to fund them.
BJ Van Gundy November 05, 2012 at 02:25 PM
A Thirty Minute Documentary on the current status and options for education in Georgia called "Making The Grade in Georgia": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k_kGwNYyls
BJ Van Gundy November 05, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Representative Ed Lindsey Opinion piece from Athens: http://onlineathens.com/opinion/2012-10-25/lindsey-amendment-step-toward-education-reform#.UIpg9XBEU7I.facebook
BJ Van Gundy November 05, 2012 at 04:23 PM
LOL www. Those that are opposing this amendment want you to believe this isn't about charter schools. It is. (See what I did there? It's YOUR opinion (whoever you are hiding behind "www") and this is mine. Simply saying something.... especially when you are hiding your identity.... hardly has weight with most that read this... I hope. You are COMPLETELY wrong about the "types" of charters. The TWO major types of schools are "conversion/dependent" charter schools and "startup/independent" charter schools. You addressed the issue of "authorizers" not types of charters. The charter DNA if you will does not change based on WHO authorizes them... but WHO starts them. Conversion/dependent and/or whole charter systems are created by the same folks that have brought us a graduation rate of 67% (48th in the nation) and an average national ranking of Georgia's education system of the high 30s to into the 40s. These typically have been created to satisfy parent groups of a particular school that felt that they wanted autonomy from the school system and ended up having the same kids at the school regardless of the fact of whether they were charter or not! The actual educating of kids doesn't really change much from how it is done by the "system" schools. On the other hand. "startup" charters are truly independent and it doesn't matter WHO created it.... but what matters is HOW the teaching is done. And startups (~70 in GA) independently decide that.
BJ Van Gundy November 05, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Economics professor from GT: http://www.econ.gatech.edu/files/papers/CharterSchools_0.pdf
Charlie Russell November 05, 2012 at 05:33 PM
You are exactly right on this. There are long standing and big reasons involved with this. Our schools are being privatized. Don't know about you, but everything that is privatized has not worked out quite so well for me.
Allison Lanning November 05, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Does anyone wonder why lobbyists are supporting the passage of this amendment?? Or should I end that statement with $$ Just some food for thought. Read the amendment carefully and you will see that a VOTE NO does not mean NO charter schools, it means NO THIRD PARTY making these decisions.
Charlie Russell November 05, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Regardless of the wording, this process was put into action years ago by the Bush family. Ms. Barbara Bush gave a donation to the Katrina victims with the caveat that the money be spent on Neil Bush's Ignite Learning company. This money went directly to Neil Bush in the form of a tax deduction for his parents. This vote by Georgians matters very little. The plan to dismantle American schools for everyone is a done deal. Forget about it. This more of the same. Privatization.
Charlie Russell November 05, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Sorry, Allison, I responded to your comment in the wrong place. Agree with you completely. This is the same old, "we don't trust government with our health care", but we really trust the insurance industry. Now we're to believe in those who have set up this private schooling to be paid for with vouchers. We don't trust our schools, our teachers or anyone involved in government. Perhaps we should become more involve in these institutions that Ben Franklin and Jefferson thought so necessary. Watch our Public Libraries vanish. Public everything is going, including fire and police departments. Wish I felt more optimistic about this.
BJ Van Gundy November 05, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Curious. What lobbyists are you referring to? I'm NOT a lobbyist. Haven't done ANY lobbying for ANYONE for 6 years... so I'm SURE you aren't referring to me... For the record. I've not made a PENNY on Charter School issues. In fact. As a former member of the previous Commission... a VOLUNTEER position for ALL of us on it... I spent ~$1,400 a year serving. I do this because my 4 children in Public schools are getting a good education and I want ALL students in Georgia to have the same opportunity my kids do. Right now. They don't.


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