No one would challenge that Georgia’s, or the country’s, education system, could not be improved, however a parallel system that is not governed by local citizens is not the answer.
Education leaders acknowledged the challenges three years ago and created work groups whose job was to propose research-based solutions for Georgia education. The group was made up of education leaders from across Georgia, including community leaders, teachers, school and system leaders, and higher education faculty.
The group used multiple levels of data collection including focus groups and town meetings in order to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly from students, parents, teachers, community leaders, and local and state politicians. There were no data that suggested that the education problems faced in Georgia would be improved by loss of local control of schools. In fact, the majority of the input suggested that state and federal over regulation of schools and systems is one of the major problems—from funding to discipline issues. The Executive Summary of the Vision for Georgia Education solutions report can be found at this link: http://www.visionforpubliced.org.
There was much excitement over the project results that addressed education as a complex issue that will require a complex solution—then the focus shifted way from research-based recommendations to rethink public education in Georgia, to simplistic highly political solutions. If our youth are going to be competitive in a global/flat world, we will need to rethink the complex roles of schools with a renewed emphasis on basic skills of course, but much more attention to critical thinking, writing, computing, and problem solving focused on real world problems—skills that will be applicable to the jobs they are preparing to fill—one that have not even been invented yet. With all this said, the Georgia Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which is made up of all public and private education preparation programs in GA wish to express the following:
• We support the numerous State educational organizations and leaders in opposition to the amendment (teachers associations, parents, principals associations, superintendents association, etc.)
• We are in opposition to the Charter School Constitutional amendment. We do not oppose charter schools.
• We are in favor of locally governed schools.
• We are in favor of funding the public schools at the mandated level before we expand to any additional costs to the local schools.
We hope you will consider this editorial before you vote on November 6. Your vote is not for or against Charter Schools or parental choice, although the wording of the amendment would make you think so; it is for or against local control of all schools in your community. It is about your right to say where your education taxes are spent, that you are represented in that decision. The challenges facing education today are unprecedented, complex, and multifaceted. The solution involves social, leadership, cultural, and other factors. The Vision document does not have all the answers but it certainly begins to address the issues in a way that will have lasting impact—a total rethink of schooling in Georgia.
Vote no to the Charter School Amendment. You are not voting for or against charter schools. Instead, you are voting for or against the creation of a new, costly, and unnecessary state bureaucracy. Then let’s all begin discussion with our local school boards, and educator preparation institutions about local solutions to the more complex issues facing schools.
Dr. Don Livingston is a retired educator and Past President of the Georgia Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and the Georgia Association of Independent Colleges of Education.