Contrary to his column, this is about school choice. This amendment restores the commission the state was previously using to create charter schools. Now the only way to get a charter school is to petition your school board and if it’s denied, appeal to the state Board of Education.
The amendment brings back another avenue that was working well — a commission of non-paid volunteers. If the process was OK then, it should be OK with the amendment.
However, if the amendment fails, our choices diminish. In this very newspaper the same day as Mr. Yarbrough’s column, state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-north Cobb) said that the 16 schools chartered by the state will need to be dismantled if the amendment fails. I also verified this by talking to my state representative. Remember — no one is forced to attend a charter school, but if your local school underperforms and you can’t afford private school tuition, you ARE forced to live with it. Voting “no” on this amendment definitely does NOT protect school choice.
Another concern Yarbrough voiced is the running of these schools and relinquishing local control; as if a group of paid-off politicians will drive a caravan of “for profit” corporations into Georgia as soon as the amendment passes. According to the State BOE, regardless of the outcome, charter schools will continue to be run as they are today — by the people who petitioned to start them. They are locally controlled outside the school system with heavy parental involvement, which is the whole point.
Interestingly, “for profit” corporations operate here in Georgia already, so if you like the idea of charter schools at all, which Mr. Yarbrough says he does, that’s part of the equation. And don’t forget — charter schools fall under the ultimate local control; if they underperform, parents can send their children right back to the public school system and the school will close.
And finally, the biggest concern seems to be funding. I agree that it’s all about money; which is probably why local school districts filed the original lawsuit leading to the Supreme Court decision that abolished the commission. So, let’s be clear — charter schools are paid out of the state budget, and public schools are funded through local property taxes as well as state funds.
The primary reason public school budgets have been cut is because both property and state tax revenues are down. We can argue whether the state should do more to help — and maybe it should. But I do know this: If I lived in Clayton County — where the school system regularly seems to be going between losing and restoring accreditation, I would not enjoy writing that property tax check every year and I would definitely be looking for an alternative.
We have great schools in Cobb, not because we’re lucky, but because we work hard at it. As a result, truthfully, this amendment probably doesn’t affect us much. This amendment is for the parents whose children attend an underperforming school or simply one that doesn’t meet their child’s needs and who cannot afford a private education. This amendment gives them one more way to get the education they are paying for — and deserve.
Allen Koronkowski is a technology professional, a small business owner and with his wife, Mary, a long time resident of Cobb. Two of their three children are enrolled in Cobb public schools.