Speaking of charter schools this morning on the blog, this is big news as state Schools Superintendent John Barge has been a loyal GOP party member, even endorsing Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, who is one of the chief proponents of school choice in the Georgia Legislature.
Barge’s decision to oppose the charter schools amendment on the November ballot will likely anger supporters of the controversial measure, including Gov. Nathan Deal.
However, Barge’s action confirms what his supporters have said all along about him: He is his own man and will act independently of the Republican party if he disagrees with a stance.
Barge will announce his opposition to the proposed charter school amendment to the constitution today, becoming the highest profile Republican to break with his party on the issue.
Barge, elected superintendent in 2010, met with Gov. Nathan Deal this morning and later called other legislative leaders so they would not be blind-sided by his position.
The charter school fight was an especially bitter one during the most recent legislative session, when Republicans successfully pushed to place on the ballot a proposed amendment to the constitution that would guarantee the state’s power to authorize and fund charter schools.
Barge had not previously announced a public position on the issue, saying up to this point that he would respect the decision Georgia voters make this fall.
That stance changes today.
“I cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education,” Barge said in a prepared statement. “What’s more, this constitutional amendment would direct taxpayer dollars into the pockets of out-of-state, for-profit charter school companies whose schools perform no better than traditional public schools and locally approved charter schools (and worse, in some cases).”
Barge said the passage of the amendment, the restoration of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission and state funding for the charter schools it approves would be too costly for the state.
“Until all of our public school students are in school for a full 180-day school year, until essential services like student transportation and student support can return to effective levels, and until teachers regain jobs with full pay for a full school year, we should not redirect one more dollar away from Georgia’s local school districts — much less an additional $430 million in state funds, which is what it would cost to add seven new state charter schools per year over the next five years (the annual average of the Charter Commission that would be revived if the amendment passes),” Barge’s statement read.
Barge’s opposition to the amendment is a boon to other opponents, who have made the same arguments against its passage. Members of Barge’s party, however, aren’t likely to be thrilled.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog