Local Control?

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. 

Our intent with this blog is to allow for informed opinions from all perspectives, we realize that many posts will be controversial and not necessarily match our organization’s opinion, however, we think that vigorous debate is healthy for democracy and encourages public engagement. We welcome blog contributions that encourage citizens to engage in the political process.

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?

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2 Responses to Local Control?

  1. Emmet Bondurant says:

    Thanks Kerwin for speaking out on this issue.

    There is a fundamental inconsistency between the commitment to the idea that the government that is local and closest to the people is more likely to govern well than an unelected state board or commission that is being created at great expense for the sole purpose of overruling the decisions of elected local school boards—who have, yet, as I understand it, to refuse to approve the creation of a charter school anywhere in Georgia.

    To make matters even worse, the description of the amendment on the ballot is misleading in that would lead voters to believe that local control is being preserved, not subverted.

  2. TERRY TAYLOR says:

    Is there any wonder that voters are discouraged and cynical? Look at the language on the ballot:
    “Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options.
    “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”

    Gosh — that sounds so wholesome and unbiased, doesn’t it? No hint of anything untoward at all. The contempt our legislators show for Georgia’s citizenry is nauseating.

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