Education policy for the past decade might well be summarized as follows; "Please give me a waiver from the unintended consequences of your mandates." The past two Presidents have announced big plans for education reform early in their term. Some folks feel this should not be part of their job description but they haven't been getting the message.
For George W. Bush it was No Child Left Behind. NCLB was signed into law in January 2002. The idea was to make all public schools and teachers accountable for performance improvement and close achievement gaps. Each state was required to develop their own standardized tests and test students performance in reading and math annually in grades 3 - 8 and once in high school. Severe penalties were assessed on any school which failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress, AYP, in successive years.
Unintended consequences began to surface; schools which were not failing the majority of students, but failed to improve minority students performance, were labeled "failing," administrators started gaming the system to avoid failing AYP, teachers had to "teach to the test," curriculum was narrowed to focus on math and reading, funding was not adequate to address improvement areas, and certain schools started cheating on tests to avoid failure.
By 2004 advocacy groups had started to form to change the law. The good initiatives such as identifying failing schools and adding accountability where there hadn't been any, were outweighed by the negatives mentioned above and looming benchmarks which were deemed unattainable.
In 2012, President Obama granted the first waivers to 10 states, including Georgia, who applied for a waiver from AYP in exchange for a different accountability system, designed by the states, for Title 1 schools.
President Obama wanted to make his own mark. He dangled $4 billion, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in front of governors launching the education reform/improvement initiative called Race To The Top (RTTP). He invited all states to submit grant proposals to compete for a piece of the $4 billion - points were awarded for satisfying his education reform criteria, including authorizing more charter schools.
Can we call Barack when the feds run out of money and we have put in place unsustainable initiatives like charter schools that are not the magic bullet he thought they would be? Don't think he'll be picking up.
Georgia was awarded $400 million in RTTP grants for school systems that wanted to participate. Each state that got the money also had to agree to adopt the Common Core State Standards - even though these standards had yet to be developed.
It appears quite likely that many of the 45 states agreeing to adopt the Common Core will soon be asking for waivers - if not from standards requirements which are just being rolled out, then from the hi-tech testing that will be required in 2014-15. No one bothered to tell states strapped for cash that they will have to buy each student a device required to take these tests or figure out a creative way to share or whatever!
The Common Core Standards, which many are calling unconstitutional in the first place, were partially funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - $250 million apparently http://truthinamericaneducation.com/. Misguided, impossible to implement? Can we call Bill, Barack, or Arne Duncan down the road for more money to implement this plan? Don't think so. If Romney wins will he scrap this plan and produce another one? What a colossal waste of time and money.
The waivers don't stop there however. Our state legislators often pass bills that come from other places, like ALEC, just because they can. Traditional public schools have to follow them all; charter schools and charter system schools, can ask for waivers from the most "onerous" laws as Jan Jones and Alisha Morgan call them. All public schools however will have to implement the new Common Core Standards and adhere to the accountability process whatever that turns out to be. So - we're really just transferring the money from public to private hands?? Have we all lost our minds?
So what does this mess have to do with the Charter Amendment? Top-down initiatives pushed by politicians, bureaucrats, special interests, and billionaires who don't live nearby don't work well very often. They are costly to implement and maintain and have unintended consequences - negative ones. Amendment 1 is an intitative which will be carried out by political appointees under the Gold Dome. Do they know anything about your community or exisiting public school? No. Can you call them if you have a concern? No.
This amendment is backed by Alice Walton, personally and through her foundation, Betsy DeVos (American Federation for Children), the Koch brothers (at least David - Americans for Prosperity) and I'm sure Bill Gates is in here somewhere. Do they know anything about the kids and parents in Georgia or your community? No. Will they clean up their mess 10 years from now? No.
This amendment is also backed by the governor and politicians who are tangled up with ALEC and beholden to the billionaires with an agenda and private corporations who want to make money from charter schools. Are your kids their first priority? No. If you give up your elected voice to them via this amendment will you ever get it back? Not likely.
Reason # 8 to Vote "NO" on Amendment 1 - the costly unintended consequences of misguided public policy are always paid by you.