I know traditional public school teachers who will quietly vote yes on Amendment 1. For those who are considering voting no, I would like to offer some thoughts that you may or may not find compelling.
I understand the feeling that charter schools are not needed if you work in a high performing district. It is easy to stop at the thought that these children are doing well in a good system and you feel the comfort of an optimistic future. It is not the same in all school districts. Even though the state authorized charter schools form a tiny fraction of Georgia’s public school system, they are the most immediate hope for some parents in low performing systems or systems that have substituted cheating for teaching. Do you believe that limiting a parent’s choice to the 4-year election cycle empowers them in a meaningful way to help their child? Would you endure four years of your child languishing in a dysfunctional district? Consider these parents in the balance when you make your decision.
For the education bureaucrats, it is about power. Defeating Amendment 1 consolidates exclusive power within their domains. I believe ensuring state authority as a second authorizer is a balanced way of providing protection against the negative effects of absolute power. It ensures parental choice, promotes innovation, and sets up a natural comparison between state charter and traditional schools that encourage both to improve and to refine their priorities. It diffuses the potential for a radical pendulum swing that could lead to more disruptive reforms. The public charter school amendment is the most balanced and effective way to pursue improvement in Georgia’s schools.
Cherokee County School District teachers are enduring eight furlough days this year. There were no furlough days at Cherokee Charter Academy. It seems the first place the central office looks to cut spending is with the teacher. This serves the dual purposes of meeting budget and aligning the teachers’ interest with the administration. Have you ever heard an administrator threaten to cut central office spending to make their point? A lean system empowers the school principal and focuses money and energy in the classroom. State authorized charter schools bring renewed focus on the financial priorities of the local districts. This is good. Teachers should not be fodder in a bureaucratic fight. Renewed focus on financial priorities would make teachers the last item, not the first, to be cut.
Your vote is between you, God, and the voting machine. The public charter school amendment provides many benefits, tangible and not, to the parents, teachers, and children of Georgia. Amendment 1 is a threat to the bureaucrats, not to the teachers. Please consider these thoughts as you cast your vote.