The purpose of this letter is to clarify a few points and express opposition to Amendment One, which is on the ballot in the upcoming General Election. The amendment reads, “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities.”
Please do not be misled by the wording, slanted very much to gain approval of voters. Also, please understand I am not opposed to charter schools. We presently have over 100 charter schools, all approved by local school boards, operating in Georgia. Our neighbor, Lamar County, has developed a charter vocational school which was approved by the Lamar Board of Education. I am opposed to this amendment which, if approved by voters, authorizes a state commission to approve and fund charter schools in school districts, even if opposed by local Boards of Education and other local officials. Here are a few facts:
- · Two years ago this legislation was approved by the Georgia General Assembly, only to be declared unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court.
- · In the 2012 General Assembly, our legislators, in defiance of the Supreme Court ruling, approved putting the amendment on the ballot.
- · Enabling legislation will provide millions of dollars for newly created charter schools. This is at a time when the state legislature has badly underfunded public education. The result has been severe cutbacks and increased property taxes. In addition, two-thirds of school systems can no longer afford 180 days of school for students. Teachers and staff have been furloughed, resulting in reduced salaries to help overcome the state funding shortfall.
- · The campaign effort to pass Amendment One is well funded with over 90 percent of the funding coming from out of state, including large donations from for-profit charter school agencies.
Amendment One is a good example of politicians who run on platforms of local control and then, when elected, go in another direction. I strongly urge voters to vote No on Amendment One.