Defeat Charter Amendment, push for rewrite
by JoEllen Smith
columnist
October 03, 2012 01:42 AM | 3318 views | 15 15 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When you go to the polls on Nov. 6, you will be asked to vote on an Amendment to the Georgia State Constitution. Amending our state Constitution should be done rarely and only with the consequences fully understood.

The amendment reads “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow local or state approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities.” However this wording is misleading. Local school boards already have the authority to form charter schools. And if denied, there is a state-level appeal process in place.

However if passed, this amendment will take power away from parents and the local community and hand it to an unelected state board at the Capitol; individuals who have potential monetary interest in seeing competing Charter Schools squashed. They will be appointed by the governor and State Legislators.

Will the appointments consist of executives from the charter school management industry? A group is already writing investor reports on the “strong economic” prospects available through the use of taxpayer money for education. Many of the companies are advertising that they will “do it all,” including writing the school charter applications to be proposed before their own board.

I am not a blind supporter of the Cobb school system. But I am a strong supporter of local government, responsible to the electorate. And I believe that free-market competition raises the bar for all. I don’t believe in “crony capitalism,” which allows laws to be written favoring donors and special interests. Over a half-million dollars has already been raised to promote this amendment, 96 percent of it from outside of Georgia.

I am also a huge charter school advocate. I implemented a grass-roots advocacy push to help the creation of a STEM Charter Middle School in Cobb. However, I see this new amendment in the same vein as the TSPLOST: an attempt to solve a true problem but poorly conceived. The “devil is in the details” in both cases.

Love them or hate them, local school boards are responsible to the voters who “hire” them every four years; their meetings must be held in public; and board members must submit annual, sworn, financial disclosure documents including conflict of interest issues (the proposed state board will not be subject to any such rules). It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than any other.

However, this is not a zero-sum issue. Local schools are currently funded by the state at $4,290 per pupil. The proposed state schools will be funded at $6,392 per student. That money all comes from one place and it’s a finite amount. You can’t cut a pie into additional slices without making each piece smaller. Parents shouldn’t be asked to sacrifice their own children’s education in order to help educate others. That sounds like “redistribution of wealth,” not conservative legislation.

Additionally, some charter schools block acceptance to certain “undesirable” students. Elite private schools do this too, only not with our taxpayer money. Public schools must accept and educate every student. This should be taken into account when comparing test scores and also for consideration of funding.

In so many ways, this legislation will decrease the number of teachers in our community and respect for the profession. And not just by fiscal stress. According to Fox News, a new trend being promoted by charter management companies is to treat teachers as “coaches,” with only one for each subject area for all grades. Most of the instruction will be delivered by the Internet. It delivers more profit to the bottom line. But I’ve seen what strong, effective teachers can do and I believe we should actually be hiring many more to lower the class sizes. No successful person ever thanked a “great computer video” for helping inspire them to achieve.

As with the TSPLOST, let’s defeat this amendment and ask for a “rewrite.”

JoEllen Smith is a former Republican candidate for the Georgia State House of Representatives from NE Cobb.
Comments
(15)
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Voting for yourself
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October 23, 2012
The person that attacked the Alpharetta Mom for not considering others, needs to remember that the voting process is not for voting for others interest, it is for your own interest. Those that would more benefit by this amendment would vote their wishes, and then when the count is complete whoever gets the most votes wins. That's the democratic process. Her vote is against, she is one vote, just like you.
Real Parent
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October 03, 2012
Your comments are wrong. Why should we trust you or Cobb County or the fact in any goverment to make the right decisions concerning our children.

You should stop trying to control the process and the money. Since Georgia is at nearly the bottom of the education system is the country you and other in power should welcome the fact that parents and yes REAl parents want to be invovled at the neighboor level to manage the process.

Yes we have the Walton HS (which a special charter by the way), Pope HS, and Harrison's of the county. But what about the bottom preforming of schools of county? Maybe you and the county should focus its efforts there!



anonymous
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October 04, 2012
You question trusting "any government" yet appear willing to trust un-elected, unaccountable individuals appointed by elected officials to make decisions affecting how taxpayer funds are spent on education.

Here's your sign!
Wrong Facts
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October 03, 2012
Charter schools CAN NOT discriminate against ANY Georgia student; they are public schools.

Local school systems already send their tax money to the state to be redistributed to the whole state with the QBE Formula.

Charter schools get LESS tax money than local public school and no capital money. It is more cost efficient to have lower cost schools.

Many charter schools would like to serve larger communities than just the local district so a state commission is better.

GA DOE gets Billions for annual budget; State Charter Commission is asking for $7 Million. Big difference.

If the GA DOE and local school systems were really worried about their funds, maybe they can run their department and local schools more efficiently and lower administrative costs so they will have more to spend on the students and teachers.

Finally, if the GA DOE and local schools don't like all the state and federal education regulations then maybe they need to work to fix the regulations rather than trying to kill a new education idea of charter schools that will help many Georgia students.
anonymous
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October 31, 2012
CHARTER SCHOOLS DO GET MORE than traditional schools read the Charter School Act that has already been passed.
Harry123130
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October 03, 2012
And the teachers union endorsed JoEllen's opponent who doesn't even know what the issue is. Guess money talks and loyalty and effort walk. Shame Shame Shame
fanofall
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October 04, 2012
Wasn't a Parson's fan, but JoEllen came off in the primary as a wacko. Too bad that a third person didn't run, as they might have taken it. I don't think voters were thrilled with either choice they had frankly,but JoEllen rubs people the wrong way.
Concerned citizen
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October 03, 2012
While JoEllen is a thoughtful person, I find some things missing in her argument.

She states that there is an appeals process for denied applications... can the state direct the local system now to start a charter school that the state believes the local system denied in error?

She states that "some charter schools block acceptance to certain “undesirable” students." So, if this is true, it is about existing charter schools, which I thought she was a fan of... Furthermore, what students are we talking about? Is it a criminal issue? A disability issue? A racial issue? This is unclear and is important to clarify.

Lastly, I cannot follow the logic that somehow creating MORE schools will lead to fewer teachers as she says in her last full paragraph. Common sense suggests that if you create more schools, not only will there be more teachers, but even teachers will have more options in the unlikely event they don't jive with their school's administration.
JoEllen Smith
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October 03, 2012
Since writing this column I have also learned that these proposed state sponsored schools won't even have to go through the local school boards initially. They can simply declare their attendance zones as "statewide" and then go directly to the new politically appointed board.
M.P.
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October 03, 2012
JoEllen. Please read the law. You are wrong on this point.
Leo Smith
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October 03, 2012
Hi Jo Ellen:

Can we compare notes? I know you to be a fair minded person but it looks like we are reading from different playbooks on some issues. For example - only Virtual Schools, which have no attendance zone, can bypass the local school board. Also, these PUBLIC schools have to follow all federal laws. If they are discriminating, I'll march against them with you hand in hand. If they were already discriminating, I am sure the NAACP and others would have been protesting them years ago.

The commission will be as it was last time, appointed by the state school board from elected official nominees.
@ Leo Smith
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October 04, 2012
Leo:

How about filling in the blanks you left out concerning:

* Funding for a new agency

* Who makes charter school commission appointee recommendations:

Here is the Georgia Code 20-2-2082:

(a) The State Charter Schools Commission is established as a state-level authorizing entity working in collaboration with the Department of Education under the authority of the State Board of Education. Start-up funds necessary to establish and operate the commission may be received by the State Board of Education in addition to such other funds as may be appropriated by the General Assembly. The department shall assist in securing federal and other institutional grant funds to establish the commission.

(b) The commission shall be appointed by the State Board of Education and shall be composed of a total of seven members and made up of three appointees recommended by the Governor, two appointees recommended by the President of the Senate, and two appointees recommended by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Alpharetta mom
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October 03, 2012
Thank you for a clear, factual, ration analysis of this amendment proposal. I will be voting NO
Your Conscience
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October 03, 2012
Of course you will. You live in Alpharetta and it would not even occur to you that every child in our struggling state might not have the same educational opportunities your child has. The 47% of kids in southwest Georgia who don't graduate are of no concern to you to give them an "out" of persistent poverty.

We are becoming, a "me" society determined to protect ourselves and forget about our community and individuals in it. To heck with the greater good, right Alpharetta Mom?

Djpr
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October 06, 2012
I feel that the taxes we pay for schools should follow our voting wishes. IF the parents that want charter schools pay taxes in our county then they should vote for their tax dollars to go to the charter school for their child. I am a tax payer and a teacher, I wish to vote for my tax dollars to go to the public schools in my county. I do not feel that the state has the right to move our tax dollars for schools to wherever they wish. Distribution of tax dollars should follow the students directly, just like parents that pay for private schools, but my tax dollars are NOT to be put in the pool of tax money that goes to the charter schools. My TAXES I pay must go to the PUBLIC SCHOOLS of my county.

I vote no to the amandment proposal. It must be written to include the separation of dollars to each school system.
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