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Vote Yes for charter amendment

A few vocal opponents of the charter school amendment make a big deal about a Georgia Department of Education (DOE) commission approving some charters. IS it a big deal?

Parents (and non-profit groups) can now submit a charter to their local school board for approval, and if it is denied, they can appeal to the state DOE. The DOE established a commission in 2008 to hear and decide these matters, but a Gwinnett County lawsuit challenged the commission’s authority and the case was appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.

In a 4-3 split decision, the liberal majority of the Ga. Supreme Court ruled in Gwinnett’s favor, saying that the commission did not have the constitutional authority to approve general k-12 education school charters.

So far, no one has challenged the DOE’s authority to approve a charter directly (since the commission no longer exists), but that likelihood is always lurking and hence the amendment to clear the air.

This brings us to the matter of who would be accountable to whom. Voters can exercise four options if they’re dissatisfied with decisions from a new commission that would be established if the referendum passes:

• Since the elected governor, Senate majority leader, and speaker of the House nominate commission members, voters can express their displeasure when those officials are running for office by voting against them.

• The DOE Secretary reviews nominees and selects seven of the 14 for appointment. Don’t like how his appointees are doing? Vote him out as well!

• The best and most immediate redress for commission decisions is even simpler — don’t enroll your children in a state-chartered school in the first place.

• Finally, parents can withdraw their children if they become dissatisfied with their charter school.

The last two options are absolutely the most local form of control possible — authority is even more local than that of an elected county board of education.

Neither of those two options requires any campaigning or publicity, just a parental decision to enroll their children back in their traditional public school.

The latest Ga. DOE Charter School Division Annual Report lists nine state-chartered schools in operation long enough to receive an Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) rating. Six achieved that standard, and three of those passed in districts that did not (and two of those schools were operated by an Education Management Organization — a free enterprise outfit hired by a charter school’s board; pgs. 100 & 181). The three schools that did not achieve AYP were in districts that failed to achieve the standard.

Many of us moved into the Fayette County school district because of its educational excellence, but others don’t have that option. Is it right to deny the state-charter school choice to those parents and children, especially in the most poorly performing districts?

Vote “Yes” for Amendment 1 on charter schools.

Bob Ross

Co-Founder, Fayette County Issues Tea Party

Fayetteville, Ga.

Location: 

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