Is the danger of a Georgia charter school constitutional amendment in the state Legislature so dire that it should draw the opposition of the local board of education?
Not only is the answer “yes,” but it raises a bigger point: There should be more such outspokenness, not less, from local elected officials.
The issue immediately at hand is the proposed constitutional amendment that, if passed and later approved by voters, would allow the state to create quasi-public charter schools without approval from local school boards. A ruling last year by the state Supreme Court says such schools are illegal unless the state constitution is altered to fit.
Never mind the inconvenient information coming out just this past week from a state Board of Education analysis that shows charter schools, despite their boosters’ glowing praise, don’t perform any better than garden-variety public schools. The fact is that some lawmakers, every one of them an elected official, are trying to undermine the authority of school board members all over the state – each of whom is elected by local voters to govern publicly funded school systems.
School board members in every county answer to the voters who elect them. If those promoting the charter schools amendment have their way, they’ll siphon off funding and local control of public schools and give it to people with no accountability to voters – or taxpayers.
That’s why this issue attracted the unusual attention of the Columbia County Board of Education this week, prompting its members to rally around a resolution opposing the legislation. Such outspokenness ought to be encouraged.
Local elected officials who work in and around their neighborhood constituencies every single day not only should keep those constituents informed about state and federal actions that could affect them, but must also speak out to state and federal officials on behalf of those voters to promote good legislation and oppose bad ideas.
That applies not just to the school board, but to county commissioners and city council members, too. We elect them to govern; we shouldn’t expect them to do so in silence.