Vote YES for more parental control
We are both proud products of Fayette County public schools. We also both now have young children attending Fayette County public schools.
There is absolutely nothing more important to us than the quality of public education for the children of Fayette County and for all of Georgia. We both understand and profoundly believe in the power of a quality education to transform lives and give the youth of this state, through hard work, the opportunity to strive for and achieve their hopes and dreams.
Unfortunately, in many parts of Georgia, there are entire communities of children whose parents’ only choice is to send their child to a chronically failing public school.
In this regard, we strongly support Amendment One which will give Georgia voters an opportunity to move the education policy needle in Georgia toward greater parental control in their children’s education and away from a government-controlled status quo that has seen Georgia’s K-12 educational system mired near the bottom of national rankings for decades.
Last year in a surprising and controversial 4-3 vote by the Georgia Supreme Court, the liberal bloc of justices held that the state could not approve “general k-12 education” charter applications.
Prior to this ruling, from 2008-2011 both the state and local school boards had the authority to approve charter applications and it worked well.
The state approval mechanism was exercised very judiciously (less than 15 charter applications were approved by the state over this time period) and it served as a protection for local charter applicants against school boards arbitrarily denying a legally compliant application.
In simple and clear terms, all Amendment 1 does is provide local groups a mechanism to appeal a school board’s denial of a charter application.
We trust parents over government officials (regardless of what level on which they serve) any day of the week and the Supreme Court, by removing this check on government control, has effectively given the very school boards that have failed parents and children year after year in these chronically poor performing systems the last and only say over whether a group of parents and community members can band together and seek to provide an alternative education option for their child.
This simply belies common sense and Georgia parents and taxpayers deserve better.
The erroneous claims made by the opponents of this measure are too many to address in this column. They have attempted to paint this as an effort to erode “local control” in education by setting up “state run schools.”
This could not be further from the truth and fundamentally misrepresents the legal and administrative realities of charter schools.
Charter schools (whether approved by the state or a local board) are not run by the state, but rather by an individual non-profit organization located in the school’s community, which is generally comprised of parents, teachers and civic leaders.
Charter schools operate pursuant to the terms of a contract that transparently sets out the manner in which it will operate, including its financial plan and student achievement benchmarks.
If a charter school fails to meet the terms of the charter or if not enough parents elect to send their child to that school, then the school will close, which makes these schools much more accountable to its consumers (i.e., the parents and students) than traditional public schools.
Amendment 1 provides the purest and most direct form of local control by giving each individual parent in districts that have charter schools the ability to have a choice in what type of educational environment best fits their child.
Amendment opponents have also claimed that charter school applicants already can appeal to the state Department of Education and this amendment is unnecessary.
While we wish this amendment was not necessary, this claim by opponents is patently untrue. The Supreme Court’s ruling that is being addressed by this amendment found that the state no longer may approve charter schools that provide “general k-12 education.”
The result of this holding is that a constitutional amendment is the only mechanism available to reestablish this common-sense ability to appeal the denial of a charter school application.
In addition, despite what the education establishment is suggesting, not one dollar of local property tax dollars is used to fund state-authorized charter schools.
Since roughly half of each Georgia student’s education is funded by local property tax dollars, charter schools must deliver results to the parents and children that choose that option with significantly less tax dollars per-capita than the traditional local schools.
At the end of the day, regardless of whether a charter school is approved by a local board or the state, a charter school only succeeds if enough parents elect to send their children to that school.
It is beyond us why anyone would want to prevent parents (the very people paying taxes to fund their child’s education) from having more choice in finding the educational environment best suited to their child.
We are fortunate to live in one of the top performing school systems in the state. As parents, like most of the parents in this community, we are very satisfied with the quality of our own children’s traditional public school education. For this reason, this amendment will likely make little to no difference in our community.
However, it will potentially give parents in low performing school districts like Clayton County or the City of Atlanta a real opportunity to find a better educational opportunity for their children.
It is in the best interests of Fayette County citizens and all Georgians to support efforts to improve the quality of all school systems in the state.
Over the last several decades Georgia has put more and more tax dollars per-capita into our current educational system (K-12 now comprises roughly 50 percent of our state budget) and we simply haven’t seen the results that taxpayers deserve.
Our children deserve something better and different; and we believe moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach by providing more educational options for parents and their children is a good place to start.
We urge voters to put their trust in parents over the government and Vote YES on Nov. 6 to Amendment 1.
Senator, District 16
Representative, District 72
Peachtree City, Ga.