No one among us, if faced with a persistent disease and a physician who’d failed to cure it, would be content to continue consulting only that doctor — and, especially, to be told we could not seek a second opinion.
None of us believe we could live in a place with only one grocery store, selling only junk food, and be expected to maintain good health.
Nobody I know would want to learn a trade but have the opportunity to work for only one employer.
And I’m certain no American would stand for living in a country where just one name, the same name, appeared on the ballot year after year.
Yet that’s exactly the situation we expect thousands of students, parents and even teachers in Georgia to accept. We can take one small but important step toward changing that by approving Amendment One and increasing their educational choices.
This amendment, which would affirm the state’s role in creating public charter schools, is neither a magic potion nor an indictment of all traditional public schools. Many traditional public schools do a fine job educating many of their students, and nothing about Amendment One would change that.
This amendment is, however, a recognition that our system of offering a single public school to any given student, based on nothing but that student’s place of residence, has squandered the potential of too many kids who needed a different approach.
It is true that some people manage to overcome educational adversity. We rightly celebrate those parents, many of them single parents, who take on additional jobs, who drive long distances, who uproot their families — who do anything it takes to ensure their children can attend better schools. We are justifiably proud of those teachers who transcend red tape and a lack of support to help kids beat the odds.
These stories are truly extraordinary, some of them seemingly superhuman. But it defies these words’ definitions to expect the extra-ordinary and super-human of every person who faces such daunting circumstances.
In a sense, the Rev. Joseph Lowery was right when he recently warned against modern-day school segregation. What he missed is that we’ve already segregated our students — into those who have good public schools, those who have the means to escape the bad ones, and those who have neither — and that the radio advertisements he recorded placed him on the side of those who have given us that segregation.
What he missed is that, in a land where opportunity is supposed to be as close to equal as we can make it, the civil rights issue of our time concerns that third group of students, who are ensnared in a system that diminishes their opportunities.
Opponents of Amendment One have cast it as a partisan, race-based measure, when support for this measure has united Georgians of various ideologies, backgrounds and colors in a way few recent political issues have. They have conjured all manner of supposition about the motives of those who support state charter schools or would approve them (or those who would appoint the approvers), about the numbers of schools that would be created and what their student bodies would look like, about what would happen to those who didn’t attend these new schools.
What they haven’t done is advance a persuasive defense of the system they seek to protect, the one that has left so many people so desperate for another choice.
– By Kyle Wingfield