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Charter amendment masks real purpose

Posted: October 7, 2012 - 12:01am

Whether they vote absentee or in person, vote early or go to their precincts on Election Day, all Georgia voters will have the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to amending our state constitution. The words seem harmless enough to those of us not well versed in General Assembly jargon:

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”

However, these words are anything but harmless, and the best answer for our students and our communities is “no.” Defeating this referendum will retain local control of education. Your locally elected board of education will continue to decide who can spend your tax dollars to operate schools in your county. It just makes sense: Local voters determine who is on the local board. Local students. Local dollars. Local control.

If this measure is approved by the voters, a small, politically appointed state commission will be empowered to authorize new schools within any school system. So even though they are not elected, the commission can authorize schools within your system and use your tax dollars for funding – all without your approval. If you do not like the commission’s actions, voting them out is not an option. There is no accountability.

In the midst of ongoing budget cuts that have yielded shorter schools years, larger class sizes, teacher layoffs and furloughs, and elimination of athletic, art, music and foreign language programs, voters must have the wisdom to vote “no.” Georgia is not able to fund the charter schools or traditional public schools already in existence. Can Georgia afford to create a new school system controlled by a nonelected commission? Does Georgia need a dual school system? Do we need to expand state government?

In addition to the deceptive ballot wording, the issue has been further distorted by those who want to pose this as a referendum on charter schools. Georgia currently has 200 charter schools and more are on the way. This provides sufficient evidence that the current law allowing local boards of education to authorize charter schools within their systems is alive and well. If locally elected boards can adequately provide a service, it should be left at the local level. Do we really want to increase the size of our tax-funded bureaucracy in Atlanta?

Also adding to the confusion are those who attempt to frame this as a school choice issue. Parents currently have choices of magnet, public, private, home and charter schools. Surely parents seeking any additional choices can work within our communities rather than sacrifice local control of our school systems and our tax dollars. Should a nonelected group in Atlanta make our local decisions?

Mention must also be made of the critics who use their disapproval of public schools to justify support of the proposed amendment. Suffice it to say education in any venue is in continual need of improvement. But generating another expensive layer of state bureaucracy, creating a politically appointed commission with no accountability, and establishing dual school systems during a time of painful budget cuts is not the path to improvement.

Considering the challenges Georgia’s public and charter schools currently face due to having less money with more students to educate, voters must wonder why anyone would support this measure at this time. Motivation is apparent when you follow the money.

According to recently filed campaign disclosure reports, one of the wealthiest groups promoting passage of the state created charter schools amendment has received more than 95 percent of its contributions so far from companies that make their money by operating charter schools and out-of-state sources – at least $466,000 of the $486,750.

While our economy might have benefited from their efforts to eliminate local control, it is unfortunate that their concerned dollars have not been used in classrooms across Georgia during this budget-cutting era.

This is not to say that out-of-state companies should not be allowed to operate charter schools in Georgia. Under the existing law, those wishing to establish and operate charter schools must apply to the local board of education. If the local board rejects an application, the denial can be appealed to the state Board of Education, which makes the final decision.

It seems logical for all parties to agree at the local level and only rely on state decisions if an appeal is necessary. This is especially important in light of the fact that local schools – regardless of who authorizes and operates them – will be funded with local dollars. Your dollars.

Please vote “no” on this proposed amendment and encourage other Georgians to vote likewise.

(Judy Teasley, of Evans, is a retired Georgia teacher and athletic director.)

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Comments (16)

soapy_725

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow....

the state or local government. This phrase should always strike fear in the hearts of the electorate. It always means less freedom and more taxes. NO is always the best default answer to government. Just think of how many NO votes could have preserved our republic.

MelPlame

Money and Power: all the districts care about - what about kids?

The retired educator, who is an extension of the current education establishment says, "Defeating this referendum will retain local control of education. Your locally elected board of education will continue to decide who can spend your tax dollars to operate schools in your county. It just makes sense: Local voters determine who is on the local board. Local students. Local dollars. Local control."

Control....money...that's the main things your local school district cares about. NOWHERE do they talk about what's best for kids, so I'm going to start with what's best for kids and move on to address the things they care most about.

Our current graduation rate is 67.4% - a full 1/3 of our kids are unprepared for productive citizenry - to hold down a job or to attend college or technical school. What this does is limits these children to impoverished lives and perpetuate the cycle of poverty and illiteracy in our state. Speaking specifically of Columbia County, Harlem High has a 59.2% graduation rate. These districts are FAILING CHILDREN with persistently failing schools. Nothing, nothing has changed in public education to improve the outcomes of kids. Charters are OUTPERFORMING the districts they serve consistently. That means they are positively impacting not only the individual children they serve and their future potential as productive citizens, but their communities as well.

Now let's get to the money and power.

Columbia County is currently at $7898 per pupil. EVERY SINGLE ONE of our state charter schools have operated at below $5000 per pupil. And because their are outperforming their districts (according to the Governors Office of Student Achievement) this means that these charters are providing a better return on investment. We have districts in our state funded at up to $15,000 per pupil, and these are the lowest performing districts in our state. How much is enough, and at what point will districts be held accountable for performance alignment with taxpayer investment? Our school districts have cried "poor" one too many times. Furlough days and school days cut have been prevalent, and yet, 87 superintendents took raises, and tens of thousands of dollars has been spent on travel to cushy resorts rather than using economical lodging, and tens of thousands have been spent on lobbying.... all of this COULD have been spent on instruction (including not raising class sizes).

Let's look at Columbia County's fiscal stewardship...

Did you know that your superintendent, Nagle has received a raise every year since 2009? Do you think the teachers in this county who are dealing with class size increases will appreciate this?

Travel to Westin Savannah, The Ritz Carlton Lodge on lake Oconnee, The Lodge at Callaway Gardens, Sea Palms Resort, Savannah Marriott Riverfront, Renaissance, Hyatt Regency, Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Crowne Plaza, Courtyard Mariott, Callaway Gardens Plantation, Marriott….travel to these high end hotels alone cost $36,218.53 , and that’s only a drop in the bucket. Why can't they stay in a Days Inn or the like?

Tell me why in the world the district needed to spend $830 at the Rotary Club in BUCKHEAD? Explain to me what would justify spending $8,861.00 to the Georgia School Superintendents Association and $$20,900.00 to the Georgia School Boards Association. Why did they have to spend $5,728.20 to GAE - all of these are lobbying organizations. Aside from these dues and fees paid, the district also spent dollars on their services.

Ms. Teasley, I hardly think the Columbia County School District board and central administration has any leg to stand on regarding "loss of funds" for education. They lose enough funds by mismanagement themselves. This amendment will not cost them a dime - in fact, according to the law, they will KEEP their local funds and not have to serve students, so that is MORE money for them. Funding for the state charter schools will come out of the non K-12 education budget - that's the law.

As for "local control." The charter schools ARE governed by local people - the boards running these schools are local parents, teachers, and community members. The commission does not propose to "run" the schools - they only approve and monitor them. You can try that argument, but it holds no water.

Plus, in spreading absolute lies and misinformation as the local districts, including Columbia County, is doing, YOU are removing "local control" by influencing the votes of the community by using your authority to gain credibility. The public deserves neutrality from its public officials and FACTUAL information from which to make its decision at the ballot box.

Charters provide options for parents. They are accountable for academic outcomes and fiscal stewardship, which is a far cry from what we are currently getting in public education in Georgia - including Columbia County.

MelPlame

kmj67

Charter School Amendment

The charter school amendment is nothing more than a ploy by the efforts of our elected legislature to privatize our public educational system.

To answer some of the points raised above: On a national and state level, it has been shown that charters, for the most part, perform at either the same level or worse than their traditional counterparts. Georgia's 2010-2011 results show that 73% of traditional schools met AYP compared to 70% of charter schools. This is not too bad but you also have to consider that some charters do not serve the same demographics as your neighborhood schools and can decide what type of student they take. They are notorious for taking students who do not have any learning challenges in the form of SPED or are English Language Learners. There are also some which have lower levels of students who come from low SES households. Since poverty is a huge factor in successful outcomes, this too could sway the results when comparing schools "success" with regards to scores.

The next point I want to make is that the average expenditure per child is greatly inflated when you consider the costs of teaching students with learning disabilities since their services cost a lot more than a child who doesn't need any special needs services. The average expenditure per child with no special needs can be as little as $2,500 - $3,500 per year while a child with special needs can be as much as $30,000 per year. When those numbers are averaged out, it is not too difficult to see how the average can be greatly inflated. Considering that charter schools do not serve the same number of students with special needs, it is not too difficult to then negate the argument that they are more cost effective.

The public needs to remember that when they vote YES for this amendment, they are LOSING THEIR DEMOCRATIC VOTE AT THE LOCAL LEVEL. Why would anyone want to give up their local vote and pass it into the hands of a non-elected and probably very partisan committee.

The other thing not mentioned is nowhere does it say where the money is going to come from to fund the charters. We are supposed to agree "blindly" that the state will work in the best interests of public education when their actions in the past 10 years has shown nothing but contempt for our public schools. The $4 billion austerity cuts have crippled districts, especially those outside metro Atlanta.

What the opponents don't want you to know is that this is a move by the policy writing group ALEC to privatize education. ALEC writes the policy that our legislatures then pick up and present as their own. Jan Jones (Rep-Milton) is the chair person of the Educational Task Force for ALEC; a group which has proclaimed it's agenda it to ultimately put our schools into the hands of private business. Who funds ALEC? The very same corporations who will make huge financial gains if this amendment passes. And please remember, if this passes, it is only the beginning of the path towards the total decimation of our schools.

Friends, if our local boards do not approve charter school applications, there is already and appeals process in place via the State Board of Education and it has been working very nicely. Do not give up your vote at a local level and vote no in November. Do not agree to fund a non-elective committee that will not be answerable to the public and COST $1MILLION to operate.

VOTE NO

MelPlame

You need to check your

You need to check your numbers - charters in Georgia are outperforming the districts they serve AND have a comparable population (check the annual report).

You did not address a single point I made about the poor fiscal stewardship of the traditional district....

MelPlame

ED 68

VOTE NO to proposed amendment

Unfortunately MelPlame went to great lengths to slander the wrong school system. Judy Teasley did not retire from Columbia County: She retired from a CHARTER SCHOOL.

It is important to remember that no matter how much he attempts to bamboozle readers with distorted statistics, destructive criticism, and misinformation there is nothing to be gained by giving up local control of education.

As for grumbling about “unaddressed points” - Georgia law currently provides the opportunity for local citizens to create charter schools in their communities. Any "points" or issues with local schools can be best raised and addressed at the local level.

Voting NO keeps it local! VOTE NO

MelPlame

Judy Teasley

You people are a piece of work. Can't tell the truth if your life depended on it - and expect the voters to believe you.

Ms. Teasley was president of The Professional Association of Georgia Educators - PAGE (one of the biggies opposing the amendment) and taught in and retired from traditional public schools - namely Greenbrier High School and Washington County High.

Nice try.

MelPlame

MelPlame

District waste of taxpayer dollars

And I am STILL waiting for someone to address all this wasted money that happens under all this "local control"...

MelPlame

ED 68

Teacher-bashing? Local control is still needed: VOTE NO!

Sadly MelPlame either does not know the truth, or just prefers to resort to surly insults and the kind negative behavior that gives political participation a bad name.

Judy Teasley retired from Warren County High School - a charter school.

In Warren County the parents, other community members, school administrators and teachers felt like they could make changes that would create a school that would better meet the needs of their students so they wrote a charter that was approved by the local board of education. Notice how that worked: The local community identified shortcomings, proposed solutions, got local board approval, then state approval – all without a constitutional amendment.

In 2006-07, while teaching and serving as the athletic director in Washington County, Mrs. Teasley was the president of Professional Association of Georgia Educators. PAGE is composed of 80,000 nonunion Georgia educators, so it is big. PAGE does not contribute to candidates or political action committees: While it is opposes this amendment, PAGE has not contributed any funds to defeat it. So be honest and use “biggie” when referring to the out of state donors writing the big checks. By the way, MelPlame, who signs your check? Who is paying you to attack people you don’t know and bash a retired teacher for exercising her first amendment freedoms?

To save time and prevent further distortions, please note that Teasley also taught at Evans Middle School and Augusta State University and was a member of several professional organizations. However, none of that, or any of the other distractions you have attempted to create, changes our need to preserve local control of education.

Local education decisions can be more effectively addressed at the local level.

The answer to the question is still NO. Vote NO!

Riverman1

All of Warren County A Charter School System?

I don't how this affects this discussion, but Warren County is considered a Charter School System. They became that under Casey Cagle's program a couple of years back. I'm not sure what it realistically means.

Barry Paschal

Casey Cagle?

That would be Carol Jean Carey. A system can become a charter school system by making an application similar to that for a charter school. It allows them relief from specific regulations in return for meeting a list of performance standards, depending on how the charter is written and approved.

MelPlame

ED 68

I'm sorry, I meant REAL charter schools - those with....LOCAL CONTROL at the SCHOOL level where the stakeholders actually have a direct voice. Charter systems (although able to use some flexibility) do not meet the federal definition of a charter school and do not have the same accountability as a start up charter school which can be closed for non performance. If Warren County charters fail, they just swap back to "status quo." Don't mistake me, I'm glad they went for the flexibility - they need it, and that is good for teachers and for kis. But don't try to confuse the issue by comparing them to the charters this amendment is about.

As for Ms. Teasley's affiliation with PAGE...PAGE is supposed to support all teachers in the state. But they have openly lobbied against the amendment, marginalizing a section of their own membership. Our teachers (in my charter school) dropped membership like a hot potato and others across our state are dropping it as well. PAGE never asked anyone who was a member if they agreed with their open opposition. They took a stand, even though we have a lot of traditional school teachers with kids in charters, as well as charter teachers. And PAGE HAS expended dollars - their staff policy person is hosting debates, lobbying the legislature, etc., and they have nice slick color handouts they've been passing out. I have little respect for an organization that would compromise the very teachers who paid for their membership to be protected.

All that aside, Ms. Teasley, as I am, is certainly free to express herself. Have at it. But if it's a bunch of bologna, don't be surprised if people don't jump on here and push back.

I am still awaiting answers about that taxpayer funds waste. And while you're considering it, didn't Warren County lose accreditation a couple of years ago? Tsk, tsk. All this trouble with our current "local control" in Georgia.

MelPlame

ED 68

MelPlame: LOCAL CONTROL…direct voice? Absolutely!

There seems to be no limit to MelPlame’s willingness to distort the truth. But then what else can he do? He can’t tout the benefits of giving up local control. He can’t explain why it would be better to have two entities establishing schools in the same system. He can’t praise the virtues of bureaucratic expansion in Atlanta. The truth is there is nothing good about this amendment. Consequently he uses the facts as if he were engaged in a creative writing assignment. For instance, did he really mean to say the only consequence for nonperformance was a “swap back to the status quo”?

To clarify some of his other misinformation: PAGE represents and supports teachers in public, charter and private schools and all of them are provided the opportunity to respond to a survey that determines PAGE’s legislative priorities and position statements. PAGE does not have a “staff policy person," nor does defeating this amendment interfere with protecting any of its members. This information is not difficult to find for anyone interested in accuracy.

Speaking of accuracy, Warren County had some serious challenges to overcome but it did not lose accreditation. Plus, through their continuing local efforts they have opened a new Career Academy this year.

MelPlame wrote “I meant REAL charter schools - those with....LOCAL CONTROL at the SCHOOL level where the stakeholders actually have a direct voice” The question is why do we need to create a state commission to have local control? How does more state bureaucracy give us a “direct voice”?

While we may not know the answers to those questions, we do know the answer to the ballot question: It’s NO!

The stakeholders - the students, their parents, the elected board of education and others in the community, as well as the issues and the property taxes are all local. This is exactly why this amendment is not needed: Vote NO!

Riverman1

Barry, I meant Cagle's work

Barry, I meant Cagle's work for charter schools STATEWIDE, NOT WARREN COUNTY. Ha.

MelPlame

Pigs and lipstick

You know, you can downplay the disaster called district school boards, but these folks that lose or are on probation for SACS accreditation are harming kids and teachers by demonstrating the inability to properly govern, provide strategic direction, oversee achievement outcomes, or be good fiscal stewards. Warren County (Clayton Dekalb, APS, Sumter...) care more about protecting the bureaucracy than educating children. The sad thing is that there are a lot more districts that would be on probation or lose accreditation, but the members on the boards who understand the dysfunction are between a rock and a hard place - report it and maybe get it addressed, or risk losing accreditation and punishing kids for the mistakes of adults. So most stay silent.

Something needs to be done. Charters aren't going to totally fix the problem, but they do draw attention to what's going on and show that schools CAN run effectively and efficiently. If we can get the ball rolling, we may see some improvement in public education (and provide a great education for those choosing a charter.). Vote YES to show you demand better!

MelPlame

kmj67

@MelPlame-we already have a

@MelPlame-we already have a mechanism in place for charters. What we don't need is another layer of government-non-elected at that, to do a something that the current agencies in place already do.

I do believe that the negative publicity by the recent exploits of Glen Delk and the AG will have a positive impact that will help the NO camp. And remember, the NO camp falls into 2 categories

1. Those who are against charter schools in any form.
2. Those who support charter schools but are against the constitutional amendment because it creates a non-elected board that duplicates a process already available and increases the size of government.

From my perspective, it sounds like many people I have talked to fall into the latter category. I feel that the strong-arm move by the AG and Glen Delk absolutely helps to bolster the NO vote. People don’t like bullies and especially those who look like they are trying to take the voice away from a group of taxpayers for the benefit of others.

Please remember that the group behind this amendment, ALEC, is a policy writing group whose agenda is to privatize education with the hopes of making big bucks for their backers.

ALEC’s agenda is as follows:
1. Introduce market factors into schools, especially the teaching profession
2. Privatize education through vouchers, charters and tax incentives
3. Increase student testing and reporting
4. REDUCE THE INFLUENCE OF OR ELIMINATE LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND SCHOOL BOARDS

Please note the last point in particular; this is their way to reduce your democratic right to vote at the local level. Why would any sane person want to do this? This is not a conspiracy theory; it is already happening and at a greater rate in some parts of our country-see Louisiana for one to see the disaster that these policies mean for public education. Yes, the proponents will say “it’s about the children” but it’s really about big business getting their hands on taxpayers money. Don’t let them fool you.

I strongly feel that the opponents to this amendment felt that they would not see any opposition to this move and it would be an easy ride for them but the voters of Georgia have got to be smarter than that and realize that the amendment has been written to purposely mislead the public. They know it.

VOTE NO in NOvember.

MelPlame

If you get to vote for who

If you get to vote for who serves on a charters board, how would you lose your voice?

The current process could be legally challenged. If the opposition doesn't mind the current process, why is thei campaign against "state controlled schools?"

MelPlame

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