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Charter school debate heats up

Baconton Charter School

Baconton Charter School

ALBANY, Ga. -- On Nov. 6, Georgia voters will decide the fate of the controversial Amendment 1, which would allow the creation of state charter schools without the approval of local school boards.

As the election draws nearer, the rhetoric is heating up as proponents and opponents choose sides and square off. There is no gray area in this fight -- the combatants are either for it or against it.

On the anti-amendment side are a group of heavyweights such as the Georgia Superintendent of Education John Barge, the Georgia School Board Association, the Georgia School Superintendents Association, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the Georgia Association of Educators, the League of Women Voters, the Legislative Black Caucus, and the NAACP, among others.

On the pro-amendment side are the Georgia Charter School Association, a handful of the state's teachers and parents who want choice in their children's education.

In a meeting Thursday at the Lee County School Administration Building, Superintendent Larry Walters, Board Chair Sylvia Vann and board member Robert Clay all voiced vehement opposition to the amendment.

"This is not a partisan issue; this is a childrens issue," said Vann. "Passage of this amendment would have an adverse effect on schools and school boards all across the state."

Walters then weighed in on local control of schools.

"This amendment violates the whole notion of local control of schools," Walters said. "It would take away control of our schools and put local decisions into the hands of a commission in Atlanta.

"This is not what education is all about. It is redundant and unnerving."

The proposed amendment to the state Constitution reads:

"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?"

Southwest Georgia is unique in that two charter schools -- Baconton Charter and Pataula Charter -- are just 50 miles apart.

Baconton Charter, founded in 2000, was approved by the Mitchell County Board of Education and is considered a board chartered school. Pataula, located in Edison, serves a five county area -- Calhoun, Clay, Baker, Randolph and Early -- was rejected by all five local school boards and was chartered by the state. It is considered to be a state charter school.

Baconton Principal Lynn Pinson finds herself in the awkward position of supporting Amendment 1 while the Mitchell Board of Education is opposed to it. Her position, she said, is one of self-preservation for her school.

"Our Board of Education is currently in support of our school," Pinson said. "But if the political climate changed and that support went away, turning to the state charter commission would be our only hope."

At Pataula, Principal Kylie Holley, supports the amendment and is hopeful that a majority of the state's voters do, too.

"Yes, I am hopeful that the amendment passes," She said. "I feel it is the right thing to do. It will give parents choices and is the right thing for them and their children."

Early County School Superintendent Thomas Challender, however, disagreed.

"If this amendment passes, I will have to have to raise our milliage rate to make up for the money we will lose from the state," Challendar said. "Right now, there are seven new charter schools waiting on passage of this amendment. The state is already giving two and a half times the money to charter schools that it is giving to public schools.

"Passage will cost every taxpayer in the state money."

Comments

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 10 months ago

Of course the Education Establishment is against it. They are threatened by "choice" and giving parents and families power. Of course the Teacher Unions are adamantly opposed to it nationally. Never mind that Obama sends His daughters to an elite Private School. Just give Him a pass.

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Jimboob 1 year, 10 months ago

Do I have this right? Choice is good for parents but bad for women?

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 10 months ago

It's bad for the baby. In the context you are advocating, it's always fatal.

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RedEric 1 year, 10 months ago

Money and Power, Power and Money. They go together like Fried Chicken and Baptists. It wouldn't make much difference in Albany as the majority seemed to be satisfied with the way things are going within DCSS.

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bigbob 1 year, 10 months ago

I would think this would pass easily in SOWEGA where the school boards are all so crocked that the state is always involved. This is the only chance these children have.

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revolutionnow 1 year, 10 months ago

Not so. In the poorer counties, the school is one of the biggest employers. Lots of money at stake for those who favor the status quo.

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Francis 1 year, 10 months ago

Early county's superintendent is using the threat of raising the milliage rate as a scare tactic. Early, Randolph and Calhoun county school administrators have been blaming Pataula Charter Academy for their budget woes for the past 3 years. They telll their teachers that they have to furlough them because of the funds lost when students went to the charter school. In reality, their teachers were being furloughed before the charter school even existed. Last year, Pataula received 40% less funding per student than Early, Randolph and Calhoun; however, they didn't furlough their teachers a single day. Also, many of the students that Early lost to the charter school didn't even live in Early county. They lived in Randolph or Calhoun but attended Early county rather than go to school in their own county. I guess it was o.k. that they took students (and the money that follows them) from other counties? Perhaps Early county and alot of other counties (including DCSS) need to take a long, hard look at their expenditures, cut some of the "fat" out of their budgets and stop blaming the competition for their financial woes.

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sweetfrog2012 1 year, 10 months ago

I couldn't have said it better myself! It doesn't matter if a student leaves ANY school system the money follows them to whever he/she may go, whether or not there is a charter school in place! I keep hearing the oppposition say "it's ALL about the kids and not the money!" This is certainly not the case when you in turn use scare tactics such as the milliage rate to sway people's vote. A little competition never hurt any one. Maybe having charter schools around will in turn make the traditional public schools step up to the plate and educate!!!

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tywebb 1 year, 10 months ago

For the opposition it's about the kids AND the money! the public schools need the funds to work. BUT, it's the companies who come in from other states to run these charter schools are the ones who will be raking in the dough! Did you know that charter students do NO better than public school students on tests? people want to say.....oh, we need a choice.....well, you already have a choice! you need to get your local school board onboard. you also have choice to go somewhere else. that's what I did. I know it's not easy and it wasn't for my family either, BUT it was something that, as a parent looking out for my kids, I had to do. The ability to have Charter schools is already in place. this ammendment will let out of state companies come in and make money off of this. it will also be run by a committee in ATL that gets appointed (by whom i'm not sure) and can't get voted out! If you don't like what your school board is doing......VOTE THEM OUT!!!!!!

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sweetfrog2012 1 year, 10 months ago

Spoken very well. It does not matter which school system a student attends. The money for that child goes to that school. Wheter there is a charter school in place or not, if a child leaves that particular county to attend another school, the money follows. I hear the opposition saying "It's ALL about the kids and not the money", if this is the case, then why are they using scare tactics such as the milliage rate to sway people's vote? Practice what you preach and worry about the kids and not the money! A little competition never hurt any one. Maybe there should be more charter schools in place so the traditional public schools will step up tp the plate and educate!!!

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chinaberry25 1 year, 10 months ago

Charter schools are a way to segregate the whites from the minorities. I am white, so do not call me racist. They do not follow by the rules of DOE, like dress code. Children sit around with hats on class and rumors are spread that you have to do ungodly hours of volunteer work. All this is just a scare tactic to keep your minority kid away. This is another thing to cost taxpayers money and we will have no control over it. Yes, Obama puts his child in private school, and I am not opposed at all for someone to do it. Just not with my pocketbook. Any public school like DHS can be a charter school, but they are like the Amish, we want to be separate.

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Francis 1 year, 10 months ago

Chinaberry, you are saying that minority parents aren't willing to be involved in their children's education? I don't think you have your facts straight. Ivy Prep in Atlanta has an enrollment that is almost completely African American and they are a very high performing school. Also, charter schools are required to teach the state standards (common core), but are afforded more flexibility in how they do it. The main difference is that charter schools can and have been closed if they don't make AYP. Regular public schools are allowed to stay open and continue to have millions of dollars dumped into their coffers, but they often don't improve.

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revolutionnow 1 year, 10 months ago

Who is telling the truth here? Charter school supporters say they educate for less than other public schools. Opponents say charter schools get 2.5 times more money. Most private schools cost less per student than either one. Make no mistake, this fight is all about money, not education.

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tywebb 1 year, 10 months ago

seems to be alot of partial truths in these comments. Here are some facts: -Sister Ruby.....there are NO teacher unions in georgia and there is already the choice of local school boards to have a charter school. - Rederic.....no one SHOULD be satisfied with the way things are going in dcss, so all concerned parents should go to every school board meeting if they want to get a charter school. - Francis.....all FTE money follows a child wherever they go. If, patuala charter got 40% less per student, then that just doesn't add up.....where'd you get that? i do agree with you that there is a ton of "fat" that can be cut from dcss budget.

People, this state run charter school thing will be a MONEY maker for out of state people to come in and open up charter schools! These schools will be overseen by a commission that you will NOT be able to get rid of if you don't like it! They are NOT voted in. Call it a scare tactic if you want, but the early county super is probably right.

The proposed amendment to the state Constitution reads:

"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?"

There is ALREADY local approval of public charter schools!!!!! All this does is put it in the hands of the state if the local community and board doesn't want one!!!

VOTE NO ON AMMENDMENT NUMBER 1!!!!!!! Keep school control local

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Abytaxpayer 1 year, 10 months ago

Ty try again..... GAE members would strongly disagree

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Francis 1 year, 10 months ago

Tywebb, PCA didn't receive the local tax funds. That's why the school's budget was 40% less.

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Francis 1 year, 10 months ago

PCA was one of the commissioned charter schools that became a state charter school. State charter schools are not eligible to receive local tax funds. This amendment would allow the state charter schools to receive additional state funds that would equal the funding that regular public schools receives from the state and local funds. They are real quick to throw out the new funding formula to make it took like state charter schools will receive 2.5 times the funding they receive but they conveniently leave out that detail. I suppose my frustration stems from the fact that so many people that oppose the amendment have no idea what the schools in poor rural counties are like. More than 30% of the children in these counties live below the poverty level and have no other school choice other than the one elementary, middle or high school. Heck, some of their own administrators sent their children to private schools rather than send them to the their local school system.

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tywebb 1 year, 10 months ago

I don't know anything about PCA, so this is educational to me. if they were a charter school, WHY did they become a State Charter School? were they not performing? Why not just have the private entities take over ALL public schools and make them all charter schools? There are poor counties all over this country who can make it on their own. How do they do that without another choice? how about we hold our local school boards accountable? It really says something when the State Superintendant goes against his party because he knows it's not right.

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revolutionnow 1 year, 10 months ago

How is that " hold our local school boards accountable" plan working in counties where the board is made up of pirates who command a majority of the votes? Well, the state steps in and replaces the board and the local system loses control anyway. A voucher program for private schools already in place would be a common sense answer for those who want a choice. Ten states and DC have these programs in place.

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Francis 1 year, 10 months ago

After the supreme court ruled that the legislature did not have the authority to authorize the charter school commission, PCA applied to all 5 counties and asked to become a part of their systems. All 5 counties denied the petition, so PCA applied to become a state charter school. PCA's students have performed higher than the students in these counties for the past two years (the school has only be open for 2 years). I can't speak for the rest of the country, but I do know that the more economically disadvantaged counties have the highest illiteracy rates and more people living at or below the poverty level. You don't have to take my word for it....that data is readily available on the internet. http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/statistics/demographics.htm Sometimes I think a little competition is good. I am old enough to remember when Phoebe was a terrible hospital. It was only when Palmyra Park opened that Phobe finally started to improve and look where they are now!

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chinaberry25 1 year, 10 months ago

Francis, on tv, why do you see no minorities sitting around the other white students? You quote schools out of Atlanta with nothing but blacks. These are still segregated. I have seen kids sitting around in hats and camos, all are never allowed in other schools. They are not even being taught correct manners and not a minority in the whole classroom.

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