Amending the Constitution is a serious and far reaching action that should not be taken lightly. It often results in consequences that are unintended by many of those who vote for it. However, if passed the consequences will be exactly what those promoting it intended. The Legislature, governor and lobbyist representing out-of-state charter school management firms intend for tax dollars to be diverted from the existing K-12 program to a dual program operated by a politically appointed commission that does not answer to voters and taxpayers.
Follow the money trail. The committee supporting the passage of Amendment I has received 95 percent of its donations from out-of state charter school management firms and foundations. They expect to profit financally by this amendment.
Politicians have long criticized public schools to gain political advantage. They promise to fix the system. Certainly there are some situations that need fixing. However, the governor already has this authority and has exercised it on at least one occasion. Continuous improvement is the goal of all Georgia schools and much success in this area has been experienced over the years.
Maybe Georgia's public schools are not as bad as politicians would have you believe. Education Week, a respected national publication, ranked Georgia schools as No. 7 nationally on educational quality during the 2010-2011 school year, up from No. 8 the previous year. This in spite of the fact that Georgia ranked 38th in per pupil expenditures. Our schools are doing more with less.
Before she resigned, State Superintendent of Schools Cathy Cox presented information at numerous statewide meetings showing that when disaggregated by ethnicity, Georgia students did better on the SAT than the national average of comparable ethnic students. Politicians are not telling this side of the story. Neither are they telling you that charter school students achieve no better than students in traditional public schools.
Admittedly, there are some situations in Georgia that need to be corrected. However, there are already means in place to make these corrections, short of a constitutional amendment. Constitutional amendments should be limited to those that benefit all Georgians, not just a select group. Historically they have benefitted a favored few to the detriment of everyone else. My vote on Amendment I will be "No." I hope you will join me.
Robert A. Clay, of DeSoto, is a member of the Lee County Board of Education and a former superintendent of schools for Lee County.