Since the amendment is written in such a way that is so confusing, I believe our task is to make sure that we understand that the state will be able to override the locally elected school board members and will certainly do so in its quest to privatize schools. Gloria
WHAT’S AT STAKE IN GEORGIA? FUNDING MORE CHARTER SCHOOLS OR IMPROVING PUBLIC EDUCATION?
“The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia. Public education for the citizens prior to the college or post-secondary level shall be free and shall be provided for by taxation.” This is the 8th Article in the Georgia Constitution. But in the last decade $4 billion has been cut from state funding towards public education, and it continues to fall.
Unfortunately, many of our youth in the state of Georgia have not been privy to an “adequate” education because of how our education is funded in Georgia. Many urban and rural areas have not had the tax base to provide the resources such as science labs, computer labs, updated textbooks, enough qualified teachers and smaller classroom sizes.
With less funding but wanting more control over spending, the state legislature passed a law in 2008 that created a state commission that would have the capacity to create and fund state charter schools. Thus, this state commission would override the duly elected board members of local school districts. This is similar to a law that is taking place in Michigan whereby Emergency Management Firms replace elected officials in cities, towns, school boards, etc. So, do our votes really make a difference?
Seven of the local school boards challenged this Georgia Charter Schools Commission and the Georgia Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional later in 2008. To get around this, the state leaders and proponents of charter schools would rewrite the Georgia Constitution, so in November, 2012, voters will see this amendment on the ballot. It confusingly reads “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?” Local approval is already in place and we don’t need a constitutional amendment. It will cost $430 million to create only seven charter schools. Every charter school created dilutes resources available for public education.
Among those who support amending the state’s Constitution are The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), For Profits Management Companies interested in lining their pockets and those who support school vouchers and tuition tax credits to private schools. Investors are also counting the dollars signs coming their way when privatization of public schools keeps expanding. This is a national movement for charter school expansion and state control. For example in Texas, charter school advocates have launched a lawsuit in Travis County to look at school finance for non-public schools. In North Carolina a new virtual charter school program for K-12 is being proposed and it is a for-profit institution. In Missouri, the Governor signed a bill that allows for expansion of charter schools.
Those who oppose this amendment are educational organizations, local school boards and the parent teacher associations and anyone else who sees that the public education system in the U.S. is at the center of its democracy. Yes, it needs improvement but if this amendment in Georgia passes the resources will not be there to help it improve.