The following letter to the editor was submitted by Mike Sansone of Kennesaw. Submit your letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All parents are faced with a very important question: At what level should our schools be managed: at the federal, state, county or city level? We are now potentially facing a very important decision in our upcoming November election. “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
HB-1162 is a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to authorize state charter schools that have been rejected by the local boards of education. This bill has created quite a controversy. On one hand, Georgia PTA opposes this bill, as well as many Georgia school districts. On the other hand, a great many of our legislators in the Georgia State House fully support this bill. In fact, so many legislators in the State House support this bill, . In order to become law, this bill still needs to pass the Georgia Senate and then be voted on by the people of Georgia.
Georgia PTA opposes this bill for a number of reasons. Primarily, Georgia PTA believes that the ballot question is deliberately misleading. They also assert that local school systems already have the authority to create charter schools. Karen Hallacy (Georgia PTA Legislative Chair) adds that “The details of how this constitutional change will be implemented have not been publicly vetted or approved by any committee”.
“Conceivably, if approved by voters this fall, the constitutional change allows a path whereby the state will have the authority to approve a charter school after a local board of education has rejected the applicant. It expands the definition of special schools. Specifically, it states that "special schools shall include charter schools, as defined and provided for by law; provided, however, that special schools shall only be public schools." Approval of a charter school by the state over the objection of a local board would therefore direct funds to a "special school" that would otherwise be directed to the local school district.
What does this mean?
* That there is potential for legislators outside of Cobb County to make decisions about a special school (eg. charter school) opening next door to you.
* That funds, otherwise directed to the local school district, may now be directed to a charter school not approved by the local board of education.
* When a local board determines to not renew a school's charter, its decision may be overridden by the GA legislature thus providing what might be viewed as an appeal pathway.” (Scott Sweeney, Chairman, Cobb County School Board)
State Legislators in favor of HB-1162 state that the question we should all be asking is ultimately, “What is best for Georgia students?” If a community believes that they can educate their students more effectively, and at a lower cost than the county system, why shouldn’t they be able to do so? Legislators are aware that this would take money away from the public school systems, but assert that, if a school system is not educating the students that are in Charter Schools, than they should not receive state funds for students that they are not educating. “HB-1162 is about who should have ultimate control over our schools - parents at the school level as in a public charter school or school board officials as in a traditional school system,” said Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth.
Currently, the sole authority able to approve public charter schools is the local school system. “If you have a monopoly on providing education, why would you allow competition?” questioned Rep. Ed Setzler. When asked who would be ensuring that a given public charter school is performing well, one legislator commented that “The free market will ensure this. When a public charter school doesn’t attract enough students, then the charter school fails and is dissolved. When a traditional school fails, it never goes away and the tax payers keep paying for a failing school.” Many State Legislators believe that this is a fight over money and control, and that there is a conflict of interest for those fighting this bill to be using the public schools to distribute information against this bill.
If the State Senate passes HB-1162 the voting tax paying citizen will have a decision to make: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?
Do you support HB-1162? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments.