If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. What a great motto. If something is very important to you, as making sure voters know what they are really voting for in the constitutional amendment is to me, one just can't give up. We all know that information is power. If we don't know what we're voting on, we really cannot make an informed decision. I would say that perhaps less than 10% of Georgia voters know what's at stake with the constitutional amendment question. The majority of voters don't even know what the conversation is about or that it has been going on for years. I certainly didn't.
To be fair to those Georgia voters who may be jumping in on the question at the last minute, basic questions must be clarified and answered. The most basic are;
1) What is the current charter school law in Georgia with regard to authorizers,
2) What change will the constitutional amendment make to current law with regard to authorizers.
Simple right? Without this fundamental knowledge, voters cannot decide whether or not this amendment will benefit them as taxpayers, with or without children. I heard several legislators running in primary elections this past July declare their desire to "let the voters decide" - on TSplost in particular. It would follow that we should now lay out the facts on this constitutional amendment and let the voters decide on Nov. 6th.
Here's the problem. Based on the attached documents obtained from the 3E Summit sponsored by Americans for Prosperity on August 25th and the brochure shown in the "pro amendment" campaign's power point presentation leaked to Jim Galloway last week http://bit.ly/ODBouu , the facts are being distorted. Not just little facts, BIG facts - precisely the two basic facts that everyone needs to have a grasp of to make an intelligent decision on Nov. 6th.
For example - on the Georgia Charter Schools Association Q & A flyer attached;
Q: What is the reason for a constitutional amendment on the November ballot?
A: ....If approved in November, the constitutional amendment will re-assert the state's partnership in public education, affording parents who want to create a local charter school an appeals process if turned down by a school board.
FACT: Parents have an appeals process under current Georgia law. The State BOE, with 13 appointed members and one elected member, has the authority to approve a charter denied by a local board - O.C.G.A. Section 20-2-2064.1(c). The Charter Advisory Committee mentioned is an appointed 9 member committee.
What difference will the amendment and the enacting legislation, HB 797, make then?
Again the KEY difference is omitted from "pro-amendment" backers marketing material. From the brochure shown on the power point on slide 16 - the first question:
Q: Is the state trying to take away local control?
A: No. All charter school applications MUST originate at the community level and go through the local school board. The state can only be involved if members of the community believe the local board unfairly denies the school.
FACT: This omits the KEY difference between current law and HB 797 - lines 166 - 170; "For petitions for state charter schools with a state-wide attendance zone, the petitioner shall submit such petition to the commission and concurrently to the local board of education in which the school is proposed to be located for information purposes; provided, however, that this shall not apply to a proposed state charter school which will solely provide virtual instruction."
Bottom line, information purposes is not a denial, it requires no action on the part of a local board. Under current law charter petitioners, even virtual schools, must apply to a local board(s). State schools declaring a state-wide attendance zone under HB 797 can bypass local control - school boards and voters. These state schools will be under the exclusive authority of an appointed commission with no accountablilty to voters or local elected officials.
Does this make taxation without representation part of the Georgia constitution?
It is disheartening to see that the legislators who are promoting this amendment have allowed the Georgia Charter Schools Assocation - the communication arm of this campaign - to print and disseminate information that has serious errors and ommissions. But there is good news! Now that many people are aware of these errors and ommissions there is ample time to do the right and honorable thing -correct them. Certainly our legislators want all voters to understand what they're voting for.