Barge said that until all the state’s public schools are on a full 180-day schedule and teachers regain “full pay for a full school year, we should not redirect one more dollar away from Georgia’s local school districts — much less an additional $430 million in state funds, which is what it would cost to add seven new state charter schools per year over the next five years (the annual average of the Charter Commission that would be revived if the amendment passes).” Currently, he said, 121 of the state’s 180 school systems are on shortened schedules and 4,400 teachers have lost their jobs in the past four years.
“I cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by the local districts, the Georgia Department of Education and the state Board of Education,” Barge said. “What’s more, this constitutional amendment would direct taxpayer dollars into the pockets of out-of-state, for-profit charter school companies whose schools perform no better than traditional public schools and locally approved charter schools (and worse, in some cases).”
Those were fighting words to Barge’s fellow Republican backers of the proposed amendment, starting with Gov. Nathan Deal who issued a statement saying he stands with two-thirds of the General Assembly that voted for the constitutional amendment and a companion bill. Note: These are the same folks who brought us the TSPLOST.
The Washington-based Center for Education Reform, a pro-charter school group, issued a news release accusing Barge of reneging on support for the amendment and caving “to those representing the failed status quo.” On the other side of the fence, Georgia Association of Educators president Calvine Rollins praised Barge for “standing up for Georgia’s 1.6 million kids and against” the proposed amendment.
Denying that he reneged, Barge pointed out that existing state law already allows charter school applicants to appeal denials by local school boards. The problem with the proposed amendment is that it would allow the state to override applications denied by local boards. Granted, turf protection may come into play but, again, there is an appeal route. That’s sufficient.
Once again the creative legislative framers of ballot questions have fixed it so uninformed voters will find this question on the Nov. 6 ballot: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?” That oh-so innocuous question gives no clue to the true intention of the proposed amendment — to give the state authority to override local school boards on charter schools. It evades the true meaning of the proposed amendment.
That, my friends, is why the people’s trust in elected officials is at an all-time low — and sinking.