The charter school amendment — 10 Reasons to Vote ‘No’
by Dick Yarbrough
Columnist
October 31, 2012 12:25 AM | 11145 views | 12 12 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dick Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough
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The charter school amendment will be decided on Nov. 6. If it doesn’t pass, it will be the greatest upset since David conked Goliath with a rock. Give me the money that has been made available to the pro-charter amendment forces (over $2 million, almost all of it out-of-state) and let me quash the opposition’s right of free speech and I could get the little dweeb that runs Iran elected Pope.

Instead, I am going to give you 10 reasons to not vote for the amendment and do it for a lot less money.

One: The amendment isn’t about more school choice. Not at all. There are more than 100 charter schools in operation in Georgia and more on the way. You want to start a charter school? Today? Tomorrow? Next week? There is no law to stop you from doing so. If you are denied by the local board of education, you can appeal to the state board of education.

Two: This is about for-profit charter school management companies getting their hooks in the system. That is why much of the $2 million promoting the measure’s passage comes from these groups. Check them out for yourself at the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission website and search “Families for Better Public Schools.” Most of those “families” are wealthy out of state corporations. Another group called Georgia Public School Families for Amendment One is a single donation from PublicSchoolOptions.org of Arlington, Va. This is the kind of subterfuge proponents are foisting on you, the voter. There is no grassroots support for this amendment. It is being pushed by for-profit education companies.

Three: Politicians love contributions better than ducks love water. Despite our intrepid public servants protestations to the contrary, lobbyist dollars are spent on them to influence legislation — like who will operate charter schools in Georgia if the measure passes? Why else would companies contribute big money to politicians? The for-profit charter school management companies are a cash cow ready to be milked.

Four: Republicans say they favor “local control” but this amendment would take control from local school boards and put it in the hands of an unelected commission, beholden to the governor, lieutenant governor and the speaker. That is hypocritical. Republicans either want to promote local control or they don’t. Which is it?

Five: School boards are made to be the villains in the debate by pro-charter forces for refusing to approve charter schools. In truth, the vast majority of school boards in the state have never received a request from anyone or any group to establish a charter school.

Six: Our legislators are known for a lot of things, but original thought isn’t one that comes to mind. Much of the push for this amendment is coming from ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council — a national network of conservative state legislators and corporations. Two of their major initiatives are vouchers and charter schools. There is much I like about ALEC but I didn’t elect them to run my state any more than I want Ralph Nader’s crowd deciding what I can eat.

Seven: Charter schools are not necessarily a panacea to what ails public education in Georgia. A 2010-11 State Department of Education report shows that 73 percent of traditional public schools in Georgia met AYP targets while only 70 percent of charter schools met those same targets.

Eight: The Legislature has deliberately starved public schools financially and as a result, 67 percent of the schools systems in Georgia do not have the funds to provide 180 days of instruction as required by Georgia law. According to the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, Georgia’s funding for K-12 public education is at its lowest level on a per-pupil basis in 10 years. Legislators like to wring their hands about “failing schools.” If the schools are failing, the politicians need to look in the mirror. It is their fault; not the schools.

Nine: Don’t be bamboozled by the wording on the ballot which says, “Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options.” That is what proponents say, not the opponents who, until two judges ruled in their favor, could not even speak out on the subject.

Ten: I support charter schools, as do most educators. But this amendment isn’t about charter schools. It is about money. Lots and lots of money from for-profit education company lobbyists in a state with the weakest ethics laws in the nation. That’s reason enough that the amendment needs to be defeated.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.
Comments
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Herb Lamb
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November 02, 2012
First off, I want to say that I am a small government conservative and I am totally confused by this issue. I'm not sure if I am for or against it because there seem to be contradictory views on both sides.

First (and this question should be asked about any government program, local, state or federal), why should the state have this power? Counties already have the ability to start charter schools. If a particular BoE opposes granting charters, can't the petitioner bypass the local BoE and appeal to the state BoE? Can't they vote against the Board Member that oppose it? Perhaps I'm being naive, but this just seems like we are simply adding another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy and expense.
anonymous
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November 02, 2012
Amendment supporters suggest control lies with the people rather, than the state.

Opponents suggest that local power is being given to the state.

Yes - Counties already have the ability to start charter schools. The amendment does not change this.

Yes - An appeal process currently exists. The state can already approve state special charter schools. There are plenty of examples.

Yes - Board members can be voted out.

Yes - A new significant layer of bureaucracy will be necessary with the passage of the Amendment.

Vote NO on Amendment 1!
VeteranVoter
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November 01, 2012
I strongly encourage those that oppose to FOLLOW THE MONEY if you really want to know what this is all about.....

FACT 1: Every single one of our school boards are paid for their “public service.” This accounts for $4.1 MILLION dollars in salary. With the austerity cuts, are board members donating their salaries back to put into classrooms? Nope. Just as an aside, charter board members receive $0 in compensation. Ever.

FACT 2: Nearly one third of the superintendents in this state make in excess of $150,000 yearly. Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks, of Gwinnett County, makes $410,000 annually, followed closely by superintendents from Clayton, Atlanta Public Schools, Savannah-Chatham, Fulton, and Cobb (3 of which are in danger of loss of accreditation, by the way). 47 superintendents took a raise last year while furloughing educators.

FACT 3: Our state spent $686 MILLION dollars on central office. 77 out of our 180 districts serve less than 3000 students and have FULL central offices and account for $67 MILLION dollars of the total spent. In these tough economic times, are districts in rural areas combining central offices to reduce duplicative costs? Are large districts cutting central offices to keep money in classrooms? No, and in fact, according to a recent study by Dr. Benjamin Scafidi of Georgia College and State University, central office growth has nearly doubled the growth of students.
anonymous
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November 02, 2012
A plagiarized apples and oranges comparison does not serve you well.

The talking points above are from Kelly Cadman, Vice President of School Services at The Georgia Charter Schools Association.

Public schools are required to have school councils - unpaid by the way.

What does a superintendent's salary have to do with supporting or opposing a constitutional amendment?

If the state and federal government would lay off their mandates, districts would need far less office than needed today.

MikeDudgeon
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November 01, 2012
Top Ten Reasons for supporting the Charter School Amendment.

Drum roll please . . .

#10 Unfortunately, some local boards for political reasons or to cover up the shortfalls of their own failing schools refuse to grant good charters. A state appeals panel granting the charter in many cases is more impartial.

#9 Charter schools, no matter who approves them, are public schools. They have public school teachers who participate in the same benefit systems as traditional schools.

#8 State charter schools give parents and local community members the opportunity to start their own school when the local BOE has them zoned for a consistently failing school.

#7 Local control is great. Parents making an individual voluntary decision to enroll their own kids in a charter school is the most local control possible.

#6 Having an "alternate authorizer" for charter schools other than the local board is a widespread, mainstream, and working idea. 31 other states already have this.

#5 State charter schools in Georgia perform on average better than the districts in which they reside.

#4 In order to compete with other states for companies to locate jobs here, we need to have a better reputation nationally for K-12. If the story on Nov 7 is that Georgia has voted NO on supporting state authorized charters which is a bipartisan mainstream idea, that will reinforce the negative reputation we have and not help economic development. That is one of the many reasons why Governor Deal and the Georgia Chamber are in full support.

#3 We had this (state appeals to approve charters) from 2008-11 and it worked just fine, and it was only controversial to a very small number of people who filed a lawsuit. If you believe in checks and balances between levels of government, this appeals process is a good thing.

#2 State authorized charter schools will use less total taxpayer money (state local) per child than a regular school. A good estimate is 62 cents on the dollar, but worst case that will be 75 cents.

Drum roll please... The #1 reason to vote for Amendment #1 is...

State charter schools have already provided better educational opportunities for some Georgia children than their traditional schools. More kids will get these benefits if the amendment passes and we restore the appeals process. Also, I honestly and sincerely believe that these state charter options will not negatively impact in any real way the kids who are in regular public or local charter schools.

If you love children and think parents know best, then VOTE YES
sbigshan04
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November 04, 2012
Show me honest research that shows charter schools, in GEORGIA, that are performing better. I can't find ANY! According to WSBTV's thirty minute special showing both sides of the arguement, no research has been done to prove these schools are better. Show honest data or don't type misinformation.
ChavalaGirl
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October 31, 2012
Growing up I have lived all across the country and went to over 20 different public schools. I can tell you that the majority of them were not good. There was bullying, promiscuity, drug deals, drugs (in middle school mind you), gangs, fire arms and other weapons, and more. I longed to be homeschooled! I have lived from the inner city to the most rural parts of this country and they, public schools, all have issues. Before my husband and I got married we decided we would homeschool our future children, mainly for their safety, too many weirdoes in the world. I was online one day looking for information on how to go about it when I came across K12.com , a free public online charter school. I thought it was too good to be true. I didn't know that kind of thing existed. I quickly enrolled our daughter. What I love about Georgia Cyber Academy (K12) is that we are assigned a teacher and the children get to interact with other students online, through get togethers, and field trips. I have 4 children now and my older 3 are enrolled with GCA. What appealed to me at the time we first started was #1 It was free, #2 I had help from a teacher (I was scared of doing it on my own at first). We have been with k12 for 6 years now :) I don't know the hearts of the people who are in question (God knows the intents of your heart) but I do know that I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to teach my children at home. If there were no "Online or homeschool charter schools" I simply would have went with my own homeschool curriculum but by no means would I have sent my kids to regular Public School. This is part of my story just thought I'd share. Thanks!
anonymous
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November 01, 2012
The state has had and continues to retain the authority to approve state special charter schools such as the GCA.

Georgia's citizens do not need to amend the constitution to allow "online or homeschool charter schools."
Watcher...
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October 31, 2012
Georgia politicians should be aware of the power and long memories of Georgia Teachers.

Ex Gov. Roy Barnes can tell you about it!
Cobb Taxpayer
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October 31, 2012
well written with points of fact - hard to dispute the facts ! The supporters are merely taking the money and mounting a campaign of mis-information and spin - Can't believe some of Cobb's elected representatives are supporting such rubbish - follow the campaign comtributions must be the buzz under the Dumb Dome !
Concerned Parent
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October 31, 2012
I wish you knew all the details. The fact that this article still talks about 70 vs. 73 AYP rate is enough reason to say that author has really no idea what he is talking about. Unfortunately that 70 is the result of unsuccessful operation of public school systems in Georgia. Why? Very simple. That 70 includes conversion charter schools, the other name for district charter schools. If you only take real charter schools (start-up charters) and calculate it, you will see that charter schools are doing much better. Unfortunately, people are still talking about this misleading data thanks to Louis Erste in State Department of Education. Right before this legislation was approved at Capitol this year, he came up with this misleading data and AJC jumped on it as always. AJC had the news on the first page. Even opponents of the amendment is now talking about how bias AJC is against this amendment.

This is about students and choice. Let there be more charter schools so that there is competition. Competition increases quality. School systems are scared because they don't want competition. They very well know that charters will do better and they will loose more and more students and power. The solution is simple. Leave the politics aside, let the amendment pass and work harder to compete with charter schools. This will be the right direction to increase the quality of education in Georgia. If they only spent their time to increase quality of education in Georgia, instead of taking a political stand to this educational amendment, things would be much better.
Momofchildcharter
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October 31, 2012
Wow, just another liberal idiot with an opinion.

Grandpa, it's odvious you can't have school age children, so why do you care in the first place. Oh, thats right, liberals have to have something to b*tch about!

You need to just take a back seat and allow US parents, with school age children, to make the decision that better fits our individual families needs.

I don't see why the county's school system should hog all the funding when there are other options available to my child that can better improve her education. I DO NOT believe in the one school fits all. Each child is different and it is my God given right to make a decision based on what best fits my child/ren.

We teach our children to share everyday. As adults that shouldn't change all because of liberals views. Share the funding, it's for the sake of our children. There are no facts here people, just another liberal making something right look wrong. It's sad really,as if Obama came up with this, I bet you would be all to happy to vote it in! You say you support charter schools Dick, right... but all we are hearing is that you have a problem with Republicans taken away from the public school system, and whether or not they truly support local control. WHO CARES !.....The reality here Mr. Yarbrough is YOUR liberial opinion, along with your intent to try an confuse anyone interested in this amendment. Charter Schools are a brilliant idea. I support them and thank God we now have that option...... GO ROMNEY!!!
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