As of Friday, October 19, 2012
© Copyright 2013
Don't be fooled by a vague and seemingly innocent ballot question regarding charter schools that will appear on the November 6 ballot. There is much more to this constitutional amendment than meets the eye. If the Amendment passes, the provisions of H.B. 797 will come into play.
Among other things this would:
Change the Constitution so as to get around a Supreme Court ruling that declared commission-approved charter schools unconstitutional.
Provide a non-elected commission in Atlanta with authority to approve charter schools anywhere in the State. Local boards of education and the state Board of Education presently have this authority and have already approved 210 charter schools.
Provide tax dollars for administrative and operational costs of running a k-12 system of education that parallels our present system. We would have a dual school system with all the additional costs associated with it. This, at a time when cuts in state funding have resulted in staff reductions, larger class sizes, a shortened school year, delayed maintenance and a host of other austere measures in traditional public schools.
Give appointed bureaucrats authority that is presently held by elected boards of education.
Studies in Georgia and a 2009 Stanford University study, show that charter school students made educational gains that varied very little from gains of students in traditional public school. In fact, these studies show that charter schools in Georgia performed below their traditional public school peers in math and found no difference in reading performance. This, in spite of the fact that charter schools have subtle ways of selecting their students.
This is not in opposition to local school board or state approved charter schools. It does seriously question the need for charter schools approved by an appointed commission that is not answerable to local voters and taxpayers.
ROBERT A. CLAY
EDITOR'S NOTE: Robert A. Clay is the former superintendent of schools for Lee County and is vice chairman of the Lee County Board of Education.