UPDATED (3/20): Georgia’s Charter School Debate

**UPDATE (3/20): Both houses in the Georgia legislator have passed the Charter School Bill. (See more information below) Now voters will get a chance to decide on the amendment in November. I won’t lie–this scares me. It is a big election year, and for good reason the focus will be on the presidency, but I’m hopeful that issues such as with charter schools will get attention as well. Proponents of the bill and detractors (like myself) alike will be pulling out all the stops to get the bill passed or expunged. I again encourage you to look at Georgia’s charter school website and see for yourself the lack of oversight these schools have (Click Here), and moreover to remember that it has already been proven that these schools do not improve student test scores any more than public schools have(Get Schooled). At the very least, individual districts should be allowed to decide if a new charter should be opened and not state politicians. Public schools are at a point where they cannot withstand any more cuts without their being dire consequences for society. No matter what side of the debate you stand on I simply ask that you research the issue and vote wisely if you’re a Georgia voter this upcoming November.

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**UPDATE (2/26): By now, most of you in Georgia know that the Charter bill has passed the house vote as of last Tuesday. It will go to the Senate next where it is predicted to pass without much resistance. What does this mean? Well, for now it only directly means that this upcoming November the public will be voting on this possible amendment. What it means if the public votes it into being is anyone’s guess. At the end of the day, no matter how change the wording, funding that could and should go to public school systems will be siphoned off to charter schools that the state will have the power to approve without consulting local systems first. It could be disastrous to an already fragile system. I strongly encourage you to review the Georgia Charter school website. (Click Here) The most frightening part of the current charter system is that according to any new charter’s bylaws if a they don’t see a need to have certified teachers in the classroom, then they do not have to provide them. Anyone can teach in them if the charter is approved to do as such. I don’t hate charters; I see their benefit, but not with out local systems having a say in their emergence, funding, and quality control.

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I’ll be the first to tell you I am emphatically against the use of public funds for charter schools. If you don’t live in the state of Georgia, you may have little idea what I’m speaking about. Recently, Georgia’s legislator has been pushing a bill that would give the state permission to approve the use of public funds to support upstart charter programs. Charter schools have become all the rage in Georgia in the last few years and many of our politicians see these schools as the answer to poor education choice. The reality is that the schools would, in the long run, make the wealthy wealthier and the poor poorer in terms of education. If passed, the bill would allow local property tax funds to be siphoned from the public school systems and pumped into charter schools. The big issue here besides the fact that school districts already struggling will have even less money is the fact that charters can choose who they accept while public schools take everyone regardless of background. Thus the charter system becomes another system of private schools that happen to be publicly funded.

Proponents of the bill claim that charters outperform their public counterparts. On the AJC’s “Get Schooled” blog today, Maureen Downey has reported that in an in-depth study of charter school performance versus public school performance shows that charters do not outperform public schools in the state of Georgia.  In fact, three percent more of Georgia’s public schools made AYP versus their charter counterparts. The truth is that there is really no difference between the two institutions in concern to student performance, yet it would appear that people are still willing to throw funds at something that would never come close to serving the needs of our students in our state.

I try not to rant often, but public school reform has to begin at the university level and teacher training. That, however, is a discussion for another day.

I won’t lie; I was quite happy to see this report today. It is a solid reminder that there are no quick fixes for public education in Georgia or anywhere else for that matter.

**UPDATE: By now, most of you in Georgia know that the Charter bill has passed the house vote as of last Tuesday. It will go to the Senate next where it is predicted to pass without much resistance. What does this mean? Well, for now it only directly means that this upcoming November the public will be voting on this possible amendment. What it means if the public votes it into being is anyone’s guess. At the end of the day, no matter how change the wording, funding that could and should go to public school systems will be siphoned off to charter schools that the state will have the power to approve without consulting local systems first. It could be disastrous to an already fragile system. I strongly encourage you to review the Georgia Charter school website. (Click Here) The most frightening part of the current charter system is that according to any new charter’s bylaws if a they don’t see a need to have certified teachers in the classroom, then they do not have to provide them. Anyone can teach in them if the charter is approved to do as such. I don’t hate charters; I see their benefit, but not with out local systems having a say in their emergence, funding, and quality control.

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