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Local officials should speak out

Posted: February 19, 2012 - 12:01am

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.

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Comments (20)


Yes, it was unusual

BOE members and superintendents should run the type schools the public wants and the legislature approves. Because an offical personally doesn't favor schools that have more input from the community and private enterprise, he shouldn't use his official position to undermine legislative efforts to accomplish what many feel would be an improvement over the way things are done now.


From Today's Chronicle

This is a quote from the Chronicle editorial on the same subject this morning.

"Notice it’s all about the impact on the bureaucracy and its “jurisdiction.” Not about what’s best for kids.

If kids would be better off in a charter school, that’s apparently secondary to what’s best for the public education bureaucracy."


Charter school

Barry you are a little bias with your wife a principle in Columbia county.


A Practical Point

There's also a practical point here. I've long said it's the families that determine the effectiveness of schools. You can look at the demographics for any school and accurately predict the results.

So what does this mean? I'd bet my bottom dollar a charter school in Columbia County would show results superior to anything we've had in the past. The parents and businesses would support it completely to a degree not seen with regular schools.

So for a BOE to politic to keep such a possibility from even being considered is puzzling.

Craig Spinks


His name is Barry. And his wife is the principal of arguably the best traditional public elementary school in east central Georgia.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence


Chronicle headline: More Georgia schools converting to charter..

It appears many schools in the state are going to become charter schools. What bothers me is our local BOE took the political position that they don't even want such a possibility to be examined. I'm not necessarily even in favor of the move in Columbia County because things are working well enough now, but why rule out even looking at the concept?

Acutally, I'll tell you why, exactly as the Chronicle editorial said yesterday morning, it takes power from the eduotocracy. The Columbia County school budget is huge with most of the tax money going to it as we all know. There's power in controlling so much money and anything that wants to usurp that power will be met with resistance. A classic Sleeper-Harbin-Dean triumvirate manuever.


Interesting Sleeper Praises Harbin

It's interesting that Mike Sleeper took it upon himself to praise Ben Harbin.

Barry Paschal

Why wouldn't he?

Harbin was the only Columbia County representative to vote against the amendment. Why wouldn't his school board member praise him for it?


Ha, Don't Even Get Me Started

Beside it being a bad idea to prevent people from deciding if they want to try this, there are many political reasons not to praise Harbin for pretty much anything.

Barry Paschal

Don't get you started?

You clearly don't need prompting, or even a reason, to take shots at Harbin "for pretty much anything." It seems to be a reflex action.



You told me the same thing when I used to go after Dean. Rim shot and all that. Would you really like to get into a discussion of the pluses and minuses of Ben Harbin?

Barry Paschal

That's false, but OK.

The point is that at every mention of Harbin (and he's a state representative, so, he'll be mentioned), you make it a point to deliver a snide comment. It's tiresome. But everybody needs a hobby, I suppose.


Barry, The Whole County is Wondering about Harbin

This is not just me. Everyone is tired of him. Heck, I supported him in the last election. I mean there are so many negatives I don't know where to begin. If you really want me to get into listing all the problems with Harbin, female lobbyist and all, I can.

Barry Paschal

I stand corrected

I mean, since you've talked to everyone in the county and all. By all means continue to obsess.



That's been the problem in far too many cases with the press ignoring politicians' improper conduct.


Charter Schools

As I said before I’m not convinced such a concept as charter schools is necessary in Columbia County, but I’d at least like to keep that option on the table. Education reform in the state as a whole is sorely needed and there is at least one high school in the county that should consider such a move. In addition, if we implemented such a move at our finest schools, the results could be astonishingly positive. What if the parents of Stevens Creek Elementary felt more empowered and were able to bring their talents and money to the table? That school may be even better than it is recognized to be today.


Part 2

Charter schools take a major step toward accountability by having to show results with objective student performance in the evaluation of teachers. Teachers have major input into the evaluation of principals. Why take away that accountability? Educators can be easily fired. What a novel concept? And that brings us down to the opposition. It comes from educators and their powerful lobby, speaking of lobbyists. Charles Nagle has talked about the voting power of educators openly at meetings when discussing furloughs. Harbin and Sleeper sought to throttle the charter school concept and appease the education lobby in Columbia County.


Part 4

It appears Harbin and Sleeper would rather let the charter schools enter a hospice program to die and keep our toothless educational system sucking up the gruel providing mediocre results. Shameful actions by our BOE and one Representative. They would rather deny the sunlight of a charter school with required standards.


Anyone See the Debate?

It appeared ALL 4 Republican candidates left in the race are in favor of charter schools. Romney specifically mentioned them and the rest agreed.

Craig Spinks

Sis and Hank

Let Sis Henry of the Georgia School Boards Association and Hank Garrett of the Georgia School Superintendents' Association earn their salaries by "speaking out" on the charter school issue in our county. These two state-level educrats make too much money to run out local officials and to hide behind them.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence