There’s a logical explanation for the bitter opposition to the charter-schools amendment. Just ask Edward Lindsey, the Buckhead Republican who serves as House majority whip.
“This isn’t about ideology,” Lindsey says. “It’s about turf. It’s about those folks who have a vested interest, no matter how mediocre the present may be, in not changing.”
The turf in question is the power to approve charter schools — and thus how some public education funds are spent. Amendment One would empower the state to create charter schools in two instances. The first is for statewide charters; think virtual schools that teach online courses.
The other is when a local school board denies a charter application. The state could then conduct its own review and decide whether to approve and fund the school.
Who considers those powers an invasion of their own turf? Follow the money.
After its latest report, filed Tuesday, the anti-amendment group Vote SMART! had a donor base comprising 146 people and eight companies that had given a combined $104,263 (along with almost $19,000 in gifts not itemized). Who are they?
Thirty-four of them are current or former superintendents. That group gave more than $16,000.
Another 30 are other types of school-system administrators: area superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors of some kind or another. These folks contributed an additional $14,000.
Eleven members of various school boards around Georgia gave almost $4,000. Ten principals shelled out $2,576.
In all, almost 60 percent of the Vote SMART! donors and more than a third of its donations came from people who run our traditional public schools. That’s one bit of turf.
Then there are the professional organizations: the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, Georgia School Boards Association and Georgia School Superintendents Association. Fifteen employees of these groups donated more than $15,000.
Now let’s look at companies that do business with school systems. Yes, traditional public schools already outsource some work to for-profit firms; the educational management firms that do administrative work for some charter schools would hardly introduce the profit motive into our education system.
In fact, 35 people or firms who do business with traditional public schools, from attorneys and consultants to architects and contractors, have given more than $32,000 to the anti-amendment campaign.
Now, am I missing any job description in the education field? Hmmm, let’s see …
Oh, yes. Teachers. Well, make that teacher: Just one current teacher is listed as a contributor to Vote SMART! Also, one retired counselor. They gave about 500 bucks total.
If these numbers don’t rise to the levels you’ve read about for the pro-amendment side, keep in mind that they don’t include money from education PACs opposing Amendment One. The PAC for the Georgia Association of Educators, for instance, has reported very few itemized gifts this year but almost $115,000 in non-itemized ones — and nearly $350,000 in cash on hand.
From what we can see, though, almost 90 percent of the donors and $4 of every $5 donated come from the people running our schools and the firms they do business with. It’s a campaign of the educational establishment, by the educational establishment, for the educational establishment.
– By Kyle Wingfield