Amendment One Passed in Georgia, So Now What?

My thoughts on the passage of the charter amendment here in Georgia should be fairly predictable. I’m saddened mostly. I think I knew it would pass due to the many bully-like tactics by those who were proponents of the amendment to begin with. Still, I wonder what Georgia education will look like in the next five years. Here is a quick blurb from the GAEL (Georgia Association of Educational Leaders) on their take on the amendment’s passage as well as what may be waiting for us in the crystal ball:

By Jimmy Stokes

Wednesday morning brought the sad news that our attempt to defeat the contrived Amendment #1 fell short. On behalf of our organization I want to thank all of you that made a valiant effort to do what was right and encouraged others to vote against the amendment. We knew it would be an uphill battle given the structure of the ballot question and it became even more difficult with the preamble that was added and the advertising using children to change the focus to charter schools in general. The proponents of the amendment did not play fair from the beginning and for that they will eventually have to answer to the citizens of Georgia.

It is important to let you know what many of us feel are the next steps. The legislators that pushed the amendment, notably Jan Jones, Ed Lindsey, and Chip Rogers feel they have a mandate to push the agenda even further. Lindsey has already announced that he will reintroduce the parent trigger bill. The provisions of the bill allow parents to take over a “failing school” and convert it to a charter school—obviously a state charter school. I cannot imagine any school board that would willingly cede a school to a parent group. The second consequence of the ballot success will be an all out attack on the State Department of Education and the State School Superintendent. We fully expect legislation to be introduced that will change the elected State School Superintendent to an appointed position giving them ultimate control over public education. In addition to the frontal attack on the Superintendent, we expect there to be legislation to move various State Education Department offices to other state agencies such as moving School Nutrition to the Department of Agriculture, putting Race to the Top under the Office of School Accountability, and even moving Facilities to the State Building Authority. One pundit even suggested that there may be a move to even further separate State Charter Schools from the authority of the State Board of Education. There is no end to the bullified tactics that those folks can and will use. Herb Garrett suggests if you want to get an idea of some of the things that are on the horizon, read this column by Jim Galloway in the AJC’s Political Insider.
Perhaps the most important message that I can convey is that more than ever we must support one another, support public education, and support the State School Superintendent. Failing to support and encourage one another will bring quick demise to public education as we know it. It is now even more important that we develop and maintain an ongoing, active relationship with our legislators. This may not be a time where we have to stand in front of the tanks but we are not far from it. Do what is right!

I generally agree with the author’s assessment of needing to work to support one another and our superintendent who took a bold stand against the amendment when the rest of his republican counterparts pushed for the amendment’s passage. I worry that we’re going to continue to lose sight of what really needs to happen to change the course of education in our country. I agree with most that more money does not fix the problem, but nor do creating charter schools at the whims of a legislation that clearly despises public education. Until we really take note of how teacher quality makes all the difference in the classroom, no state mandate will ever change the results we see with out students. You change teacher training and collegiate education then you change the quality in the classroom. Period.

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