If you’re a regular reader of The Times Opinion page, which I certainly hope you are, over the past few weeks you’ve seen a variety of different columnists espouse on Amendment 1 on the election ballot, otherwise known as the Charter Schools Commission Amendment. The amendment, if approved by voters, would set up a Charter Schools Commission that would basically not be held accountable to local Boards of Education or the state Board of Education in determining where charter schools would open, yet would take money intended for local public school systems to fund these charter schools.
In our Friday, Oct. 5 issue, Dr. Allene Magill, Executive Director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE), expressed the opinion that a “state which cannot properly funds its public schools has no business establishing and funding a parallel system of schools.” Austerity cuts in school funding since 2008 total $4.4 billion, and public schools will lose even more if the Charter Schools Commission amendment is approved.
In our Friday, Oct. 12 edition, Thomaston’s own Frank King questioned the wording of the amendment in a Letter to the Editor, and presented a few facts on the issue, such as two years ago the General Assembly approved similar legislation, only to have it declared unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court, and approved putting the amendment on the ballot this year in defiance of the Supreme Court.
In our Tuesday, Oct. 16 issue, Herb Garrett, Executive Director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, expressed the opinion that the campaign to pass the amendment is based on half-truths and misinformation. One example is that supporters are saying that local Boards of Education don’t want charter schools in their districts, yet fail to mention that local Boards of Education around the state (including neighboring Lamar County) have already approved and opened more than 100 charter schools.
In our Friday, Oct. 19 edition, Dr. Don Livingston, a retired educator and Past President of both the Georgia Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and the Georgia Association of Independent Colleges of Educators, stated that the charter school amendment is not a solution to the state’s education challenges. A three-year study suggested that state and federal over-regulation of schools and systems is one of the major problems.
In our Tuesday, Oct. 23 issue, State Senator Emanuel Jones of the 10th District, which includes portions of DeKalb and Henry counties, expressed the opinion that Amendment 1 is the path to resegregation of schools by having the new charter schools able to pick and choose the brightest and most well-to-do students for their favored schools, causing schools to be segregated by intellect and money.
In last Friday’s Oct. 26 edition, regular columnist Len Robbins, editor and publisher of the Clinch County News , writes that accountability of the Charter Schools Commission is a big question. “When I have an issue with my local public school, I have someone I can hold accountable at the ballot box – my school board representative. Let’s say you have an issue with how a state-commissioned charter school is using your taxpayer money. How are you going to hold them accountable? You can’t.”
In case you’re wondering why we haven’t run any opinion columns or letters in favor of Amendment 1, the simple reason is that we haven’t received any. The backers of Amendment 1, who, by the way, are being funded in large part by out of state corporations who run charter schools and who stand to collect taxpayer funds from the state if the Amendment passes, apparently think that Upson County is too small and the people here don’t count, so they haven’t bothered sending anything promoting the Amendment.
So I ask you, who do you believe? Do you believe the professional educators and legislator who have taken the time to explain their beliefs and opinions on this matter? Or do you believe the ones backing this legislation who don’t think the voters in Upson County matter enough for them to promote the issue here? I believe the ones who have sacrificed their time and service over the years to help educate our children. I believe Amendment 1 needs to be defeated. Please vote ‘No’ to Amendment 1.