I remain surprised at the keen interest in the charter schools amendment, although a metro school board member told me that the issue is not as high profile in rural Georgia where there are few charters and little momentum for or against them.
At an event in south Georgia earlier this month, she discovered that most people knew little about the amendment controversy. I asked a charter school researcher about that lack of interest, and she explained that charter schools are still located primarily in urban/suburban areas and likely will stay that way.
But the issue remains on the minds of metro Atlanta voters.
I was part of an Atlanta Press Club and Georgia Public Broadcasting program Sunday featuring state Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, and Kelly McCutchen, founder of the now closed Tech High Charter School, speaking in favor the amendment. Representing the opposition were J Alvin Wilbanks, CEO and superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools, and Valarie Wilson, president of the Georgia School Board Association and a city of Decatur school board member. Donna Lowry of WXIA-TV moderated, and I fielded online questions for the panelists. Here is an AJC story about the program.
Guest columns are still pouring into the AJC on the amendment, which will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. I am posting another pro/con pairing today on the topic.
First up is state Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, writing in favor of Amendment 1. For the other side, see the companion post by Millar’s fellow DeKalb senator, Democrat Jason Carter.
By Fran Millar
There is a lot of misinformation on the Charter Schools Amendment. I want to try and set the record straight.
•First, charter schools are public schools.
•Second, there are different types of charter schools. For example in DeKalb County, Chesnut, Kingsley and Peachtree Middle are examples of converted charter schools from traditional public schools.
• Third, the charter school amendment primarily deals with charter schools created by the state after a local school board turns down the application. The exception is a school with a statewide attendance zone like the virtual charter school which goes directly to the state.
•Fourth, the academic performance of the state created charter schools by the former commission is as good or better than the schools in the district where the state created charter schools are domiciled. This data comes from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.
• Fifth, parental involvement is a key component of a charter school because in many cases a parent must sign a contract of involvement in their child’s education.
• Sixth, the current state created charter schools that are brick and mortar facilities receive about 85 percent of the funding that traditional public schools receive. The difference is due to the fact that the state created charter schools do not receive local tax dollars.
• Seventh, it is true that the state can currently create charter schools. However, based on the Supreme Court ruling it is very likely that any lawsuit challenging this right will be successful. The reason I say this is because in the Supreme Court opinion ruling that the state could not compel the locals to contribute to a state created charter school, the court also said the following: state special schools are not schools that enroll the same types of K-12 students who attend general K-12 public schools or that teaches the same subjects that may be taught at general K-12 public schools. As a layman this means to me that the state special school (state created charter school) would not be an option except for special circumstances such as for the deaf and the blind.
•Eighth, there are areas of this state where local school boards will not approve any charter school. Everyone can’t move or send their child to a private school. Maybe this is why 44 percent of voters in the Democratic Primary said “Yes” to this amendment.
• Ninth, if a state-created charter school does not meet its objectives, then it can be shut down. When was the last time a traditional public school was closed due to poor academic performance?
•Tenth, for profit-companies can make money by running these schools. Why do we care if this means we increase academic performance?
Bottom line, if we can increase academic performance by injecting competition into a system with mediocre results and increase parental involvement, then I will vote YES! YES! YES!
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog