When a campaign devolves into this level, as it has on the Nov. 6 ballot’s constitutional amendment to grant the state the power to create local public schools over the opposition of local citizen majorities and their elected representatives, it is intended to divert attention from the actual issue and its satanic elements. In this case those now “evil people” are the very ones who have dedicated their lives to educating children in the public schools.
What nonsense! The only intention of this political outcry is to take the citizen/taxpayer/voter’s eye off the actual ball in play.
Hence, voters are encouraged to ignore the largely irrelevant and actually quite minor unproven accusations about how evil opponents are by their — gasp! — daring to speak out against this, supposedly by using taxpayer resources to distribute “anti-amendment propaganda.” Example: State School Superintendent John Barge of Floyd County having posted (and later removing after objections were raised) his opposition to the amendment on a state website paid for by taxpayers.
Really? Would it surprise anyone to learn that Gov. Nathan Deal’s official state-paid website contains his reasons for supporting the measure? No kidding. Among a number of places it can be found is gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2012-05-03/deal-signs-state-charter-schools-bill.
SURE, IT IS an official statement by the governor but isn’t the school superintendent similarly an official elected statewide to oversee education ... about which he is now supposed to keep his mouth shut? As are, apparently, school boards, administrators, teachers and all other educators because they can’t possibly know what they are talking about?
Considering the few polls taken on this show the pro-amendment forces being miles ahead because the voters are reacting to how this amendment sounds and not what it contains, what are they worried about? Might the electorate actually be starting to get wise to what is afoot?
This paper, a supporter of the true charter concept long before it became a political football, has opposed this Trojan horse from the outset. What the voters see on the ballot is not what they will get, as earlier pointed out. They will be asked the following:
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
If adopted it would trigger House Resolution 1162 that actually makes changes to three separate parts of the constitution and triggers already-approved HB 797 that spells out how it would work — and how state tax money would flow into such schools if Georgia political appointees approve them. Local approval already exists and is only affected in that it would no longer be necessary.
THIS IS LIKE being asked: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of motherhood and apple pie?” only to learn later that what it actually does is: Make every female from the ages of 16 to 45 bear a child annually or lose their right to vote. Outlaw the sale of any fruit in Georgia other than apples and make it a crime to be caught with a peach cobbler.
There are, let’s be quick to point out, many well-meaning supporters of the amendment, most particularly parents. They, too, are not being fully informed by this diversionary tactic. They haven’t been told that what is wrong is not the amendment’s intention but rather the process it creates. They haven’t been told that for-profit contractors, not parents themselves, will actually be in charge.
What should be under discussion is the “pro-amend-ment propaganda” being distributed by supporters who have built a million-dollar war chest of which an estimated 95 percent comes from out-of-state sources, some of whom would profit monetarily from such a state role in creation of charters and others of whom are on record as opposed to any government role in education whatsoever.
Those trying to pipe up with “anti-amendment propaganda” have only managed to raise about $50,000 within the state. Guess teachers and such who have furlough days and seen Georgia politicians strip $5.5 billion from state education funding in the past decade don’t have many extra dollars left to try to protect the equal-access rights of children to an equal-quality education.
AMONG the many, many big, fat, nasty questions not raised are such as what has happened in Florida, that legislators openly said they were imitating. After a decade, as the Miami Herald continues to report in an investigative series titled “Cashing in on kids” (www.miamiherald.com/charterschools), among the findings are:
“During the past 15 years, Florida has embarked on a dramatic shift in public education, steering billions in taxpayer dollars from traditional school districts to independently run charter schools. What started as an educational movement has turned into one of the region’s fastest-growing industries, backed by real-estate developers and promoted by politicians.
“But while charter schools have grown into a $400-million-a-year business in South Florida, receiving about $6,000 in taxpayer dollars for every student enrolled, they continue to operate with little public oversight. Even when charter schools have been caught violating state laws, school districts have few tools to demand compliance.
“Charter schools have become a parallel school system unto themselves, a system controlled largely by for-profit management companies and private landlords — one and the same, in many cases — and rife with insider deals and potential conflicts of interest.”
There is more. For example, studies have shown these charters suck as much as a third of students from existing private schools — no small concern locally where Darlington, St. Mary’s, Unity Christian and others have built reputations that most charters only wish they could attain. And that very few children of low income or special needs seem to be approved for enrollment.
OR, THAT when a private property owner leases land/buildings to a state-mandated charter it instantly becomes exempt from real-estate taxation. In addition, parents don’t wind up running those schools. Their management is turned over to private companies specializing in this sort of thing, lobbying legislators for more perks and additional funding, and even coming up with clever new fees inside the schools such as (no kidding!) at one charging $600 extra to be allowed to graduate.
And, even if they know this, the amendment boosters don’t want educators being allowed to talk about this or to afford the distribution of such “propaganda”?
The absolute best reason to vote in the coming election, given that most other local outcomes are so predictable, is to give a resounding “No!” not only to this amendment but also to such gag-the-opponents tactics.