Georgia is in the midst of an intense debate over a proposed charter school amendment that will be on the ballot in November. Whatever your position, you need to read my story.
The polls predict this amendment will pass with ﬂying colors, thanks to a misleading ballot question and a majority of funding from outside the state. If this amendment passes, politics and corporations will shape our schools. Groups with multi-faceted objectives are lining up to grab their market share. If a state controlled charter school comes to town, you will have no recourse if there is a problem.
Why Local Control is Critical
The problems I encountered at Fulton Science Academy were not anticipated by our local and state board of education or by educators across the country. Charter schools are new territory and bring new problems, however politicians should never ignore or bully a concerned parent into silence. Jan Jones is the author of the charter school amendment, had not only the power, but also the knowledge needed to create legislation that would protect our community, tax dollars and students.
My son attended Fulton Science Academy charter school, for three years, when I found out about problems that also led to my learning that the school was being operated by followers of the inﬂuential and controversial Turkish Imam, Fethullah Gulen.
Fulton Science Academy’s problems were serious and later validated, by an external audit, commissioned by the local school board. My concerns left me fearful to speak up because the Gulen movement is a powerful international organization and because of the federal investigation into the school. Details can be found in this article about Fulton Science Academy in the New York Times, by Stephanie Saul. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/us/audits-for-3-georgia-charter-schools-tied-to-gulen-movement.html)
Turns out the Gulen movement was the least of my worries.
The real problem? Legislators with tunnel vision, hoping to open the Georgia education frontier to more charter groups at any cost. My legislators demonstrated that they will look the other way, as long as, a school has high test scores. What is the impact if a school has received a National Blue Ribbon Award, as did this particular charter school? Well, it is untouchable.
Ultimately, the local school board held Fulton Science Academy accountable and did not renew its charter. The local school board did the right thing, which equaled political suicide. The politicians condemned the local school board’s decision, continue to vilify the board in public and have put legal pressure on the board to reverse their decision.
I understand that the landscape of education is changing and with that rules and regulations need to be adapted. However, it is irresponsible of the Governor and our legislators to lobby for a constitutional amendment that does not stop the known problematic consequences of charter schools.
While detractors like to scream foul when the Gulen connection is pointed out, this is no longer an issue debated in the national circles. Even our local Istanbul Center has been forthcoming about its link to Gulen.
So, if you want to call me names, that is OK. Let me get you started, I am an over-educated, naive, dumb, unassertive mom who sat back for two years and watched a charter school hi-jack our tax dollars, mislead parents and break rules.
(Oh. For those of you who want to call me other names, let me remind you that my son went to FSA for three years, I respect the diverse population of teachers and kids. I sought out that diversity and I am incredulous that the FSA administrators I trusted were not (or maybe could not be) forthcoming about the Gulen afﬁliation.)
It is all public record. The most vocal supporters of Fulton Science Academy have been Chip Roger, John Albers and Jan Jones, even after they knew about the issues I have described. The photos, the awards, the campaign contributions speak for themselves.
FSA supporters: the wind has shifted and the same politicians that lobbied for the school now state that Fulton Science Academy is a problem created by the local school board. A problem charter school that would never have been approved by a state board. So, much for the blue ribbon. (And the fact that local charter contracts are signed by the school, local BOE and State BOE)
This is not a partisan issue. It is about keeping a voice in your community. I am a Republican and Hillsdale College alum, I understand the Republican agenda and I will vote no on this amendment.
Details, including the letter I sent to the North Fulton Delegation can be found at: www.georgiacharterschooldisgrace.com