The ballot initiative on the November ballot reads: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow local or state approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities”. The language is misleading. There is already both local and state authority to create charter schools. This amendment is solely to create a third authorizer, a politically appointed State Charter School Commission not accountable to taxpayers or voters. Here are some additional facts you should know:
1. The amendment has nothing to do with charter schools authorized by local boards of education, conversion charter schools or charter systems. Local Boards of Education can already authorize charter schools and will
continue to be able to do so regardless of whether this amendment passes.
2. The State Board of Education can also already authorize charter schools. It serves as a place where those denied locally can appeal. This won’t change regardless of whether the amendment passes.
3. This amendment will create an appointed commission which will cost a minimum of $1 million a year to operate. The Commission can authorize additional charter schools but will provide little oversight of those schools.
4. Students who attend state commission authorized charter schools will earn more funding from the state than students who attend local public schools (including traditional, locally authorized charter schools and schools in a charter system). According to the Governor’s office, traditional students are funded at an average of $4,290 while state authorized charter students are funded at an average of $5,230, or $6,392 if they attend a brick and mortar school.
5. Public education has experienced over $6 billion dollars in funding cuts since 2003. According to State School Superintendent John Barge, authorizing schools through this new commission will conservatively cost the state an additional $430 million over the next five years.
6. Those funding cuts have resulted in 121 of 180 Georgia school systems shortening their school year to meet budget constraints. The cuts have also resulted in teacher and staff reductions, teacher furloughs, increased class sizes and program cuts.
7. This amendment is not needed as there are already over 110 charter schools authorized and operating in Georgia and more in the pipeline for approval.
8. According to the GA Department of Education data, charter schools do no better than traditional public schools and sometimes perform worse. In 2010-11, 73% of traditional public schools made AYP; 70% of charter schools made AYP. See Charter School Report at www.gadoe.org
9. State commission authorized schools do not require any parent involvement and they do not guarantee that parents will even be part of their governance, unlike locally authorized charter schools. Also, commission charter governing boards are not required to adhere to the ethics code or accreditation requirements that local boards of education are.
10. According to campaign disclosure reports as of today, funding for the campaign supporting passage of this constitutional amendment is coming almost exclusively (95%) from out of state donors including for-profit education management organizations who stand to benefit from the passage of this amendment. The funding opposing this amendment is coming 100% from within Georgia.
Karen Hallacy is the GA PTA Legislative Chair as well as the Walton PTSA Legislative Chair. She has lived in East Cobb for over 16 years and has three children who have all gone through public schools in Cobb. She is also active in many children’s and neighborhood advocacy groups including the East Cobb Civic Association and the Cobb Neighborhood Safety Commission.
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