CCGA Board Member Kerwin Swint recently wrote this for his Official Blog. It has been reproduced here with permission. The views and opinions expressed in this post are not necessarily those of Common Cause Georgia or Common Cause national.
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The debate over the Charter School Amendment on the GA election ballot next month is heating up, as supporters and opponents of the measure are on the march. GA schools superintendent John Barge, who announced his opposition to the amendment, has been warned by the Attorney General not to use public resources to campaign against it, and has been now threatened with legal action by the attorney representing the GA Charter Schools association.
Republican legislators are almost uniformly in support of the amendment. They believe public schools in GA are failing and that parents and students deserve alternatives. Practically everyone agrees that students need alternatives. The question is, who has the authority to approve charter schools? Remember, charter schools are also public schools. Right now that authority lies with local elected school boards, an interpretation upheld recently by the GA courts.
When I have talked to Republican officials over the years and read official statements by GOP candidates, one thing I’ve heard a lot is the phrase “local control,” especially when it comes to education in GA. Their position has been that local officials and leaders know best when it comes to the education of their children – better than some unelected bureaucrat in Atlanta or in Washington, D.C.
Now, however, it seems that “local control” is a mere inconvenience. If approved, the Charter School amendment would give the state government the authority to approve charter schools at the school district level over the objections of the local school board. Is that really a precedent Republicans want to establish?
Is the drive to establish as many charter schools as possible really worth abandoning conservative principles? And will dramatically increasing the number of charter schools significantly improve education for most students in GA? Are we sure about that?