Charter School Bill Passed by Georgia Senate, A Big Mistake

Although HR 1162 successfully passed the State Senate, I stand firm on my decision to oppose it.  I was elected to serve the best interest of the greater good, and this bill clearly does not.  Georgia State Senator Doug Stoner, District 6.

The Georgia Senate was able to persuade three democratic senators to support HR 1162, a bill that would change the state constitution and allow the state to create its own set of charter schools, without  local school district approval or advice.

This is a big mistake.

The bill is a resolution proposing a change to the Georgia Constitution.  The resolution as passed by the Georgia Senate reads as follows:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia so as to clarify the authority of the state to establish state-wide education policy; to restate the authority of the General Assembly to establish special schools; to provide that special schools include state charter schools; to provide for related matters; to provide for the submission of this amendment for ratification or rejection; and for other purposes.

Right now, charter schools in Georgia must be approved by local school district boards of education.  This was determined by the Supreme Court of Georgia in the case Gwinnett County School District v. Cox in May, 2011.

The Republicans in the Georgia legislature were not pleased by the Supreme Court of Georgia’s decision to neuter the state commission on charters, and submitted legislation in this year’s legislative session to circumvent the court’s decision by making an amendment to the State’s constitution.  That is what HR 1162 is all about.  The Republicans were able to convince three democrats to vote with them to pass the bill.  Now it will be on the Georgia Ballot in the November 2012 election.

Dangerous System.

Senator Doug Stoner, District 6, who voted against HR 1162, believes that the Charter schools amendment would set up a dangerous system.  He wrote this in his newsletter:

To change the Constitution in order to create a charter school or any “special school” favored by current or future state bureaucrats, and forcing local school districts to accept such schools would set up a very dangerous system that clearly violates the concept of local control. I cannot support such a state government mandate, especially when the legislative majority has slashed local school funding by more than $1 billion in recent years.

Locally elected school board members across the state have spoken out against HR 1162, which comes as no surprise. It is certainly reasonable to ask why the state is creating a new funding stream for charter schools while reducing financial support for other schools, forcing reduced education calendars, elimination of programs and teacher furloughs.

These are decisions that should be made by school districts at the local level, not from a high-rise office tower in downtown Atlanta. The sponsors of HR 1162 say it is necessary to overturn a Georgia Supreme Court ruling against state-mandated charter schools. But common sense says the court got it right. That’s why I will oppose HR 1162 if it comes to a vote in the Senate this week. (Emphasis mine)

If the Georgia Constitution is amended as set forth in HR 1162 it will result in the following kinds of events in the state over the foreseeable future.

  • The Georgia Charter School Commission will be able to create its own network of charter schools throughout the state in direct violation of Georgia law.
  • The Georgia Charter School Commission will supersede the authority of local boards of education by authorizing new charter schools, that in the end will be paid for by the taxpayers.  According to the Supreme Court of Georgia, “no other government  entity can compete with or duplicate the efforts of local boards of education in establishing and maintaining general K-1 2 schools.  And it further states that local boards of education have the exclusive authority to fulfill one of the primary obligations of the State of Georgia, namely “the provision of an adequate public education for all citizens” (Art. VIII, Sec. I, Par. I.).”
  • The destabilization of public schools.  Charter schools established through state commission will use local funds (along with grants from the state), thereby further damaging the financial state of local public schools.
  • Real estate investment firms will find a pot of gold in Georgia.  This firms will come in a purchase land and/or empty buildings (schools, factories) and then in turn lease them to for-profit charter school management companies, such as KIPP, Academica, or Charter Schools USA.  This is big business in Florida.  Two-thirds of the charter schools in Florida are run by for-profit companies, who exist on the backs of the taxpayers of Florida.  The management companies charge fees that sometime exceed $1 million per year per school.
  • Increase in politics and influence peddling in the context of  multimillion dollar opportunities by establishing charter schools in various counties in Georgia.

To prevent this erosion and destabilization of the public schools in Georgia we must:

  • Defeat the proposal to amend the constitution enabling the state to create its own charter network.
  • Support local boards of education and  superintendents of schools in Georgia to file a legal challenge to the constitutionality the propositions set forth in HR 1162.

There is no research to show that charter schools are more effective than traditional public schools.  Although the initial conception of charter schools was to create spaces of innovation and change within the context of public schools, and with their cooperation and collaboration, charter schools have become one arm of the corporate take over of American public schools.  Charter schools are seen as the alternative to public schools, and the solution to failing schools across the country.

It turns out that charter schools do not increase student performance on academic tests.  In fact, charter schools tend to turn away English language learners, and special needs learners.  Most charter schools have created segregated environments, which in the words of The Civil Rights Project, has been a civil rights failure.

Enabling the state to establish charter school is not only a big mistake, its not educational sound, and probably is unconstitutional.

Vote against the amendment.

Special thanks to Senator Doug Stoner,  and other Senate democrats who voted against HR 1162.

 

The final vote in the Georgia Senate which passed HR 1162.

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University.

…and I’M STILL FOR HER.

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