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Why You Should Support the Charter School Amendment

'This amendment is about giving public school students a chance and parents a choice in for a quality public education.'

by Kelly Cadman

There has been an awful lot of energy expended by opponents of the Charter Amendment. The opposition to the Amendment claim, that the state can “already” act as an appeals body for charter schools. Those supporting the Amendment wonder, if the state can already approve charters, why is the Education Establishment fighting THIS hard against affirming that on the ballot on Nov. 6? Most of the arguments posed against the Amendment are related to the enabling legislation, which establishes a Commission. The ballot question, however, ONLY reaffirms the state’s role in K-12 general education, so why the nasty battle against the Amendment?

At the heart of the argument employed by the school districts and affiliate associations who earn their bread and butter from dues and fees from the Education Establishment are two primary arguments: CONTROL and MONEY. And the Establishment doesn’t even deny it.

For those on the fence about voting on the Amendment, here are some facts to consider as you make your decision about how to vote:

LOCAL CONTROL is currently vested in elected board members in each of 180 school districts. The public is led to believe that it can, through its vote for 1 individual on the district board, every 4 years, only 3 times in the course of a child’s educational career, actually influence what happens in their school district. That’s nonsense. The set up, although through an election process, does not allow for a community to easily overhaul a district board that is failing its children and not meeting its fiduciary obligations. Moreover, you have an unelected superintendents that actually run the show – aided by the Georgia School Boards Association and Georgia School Superintendents Association, both who train up weak and passive board members to follow the superintendents’ bidding. It’s a recipe for disaster without recourse.

Just look at the number of districts who have lost SACS accreditation or who are on probation. Even in these very serious situations, the local boards cannot easily be voted out by its community, and those living in the systems of Atlanta Public Schools, DeKalb, Clayton, and Sumter counties can attest to this. They are trapped and so are their children. But goodness knows, let’s protect “local control.” Interestingly enough, we have recently had a charter go before Clayton County that was denied. Denied. What absolute arrogance to deny the rights of parents and community members trying to get out from under failure to give their kids something better and to be denied by the very district who failed the whole community. But it is this district Establishment the opposition to the amendment wants you to “protect” by voting no. Forget what’s better for kids.

FOLLOW THE MONEY is the mantra of the opposition, but to be fair, let’s turn it around and follow the money on the other side to see how protecting the money (which isn’t in danger to begin with) ties with protecting the fiefdoms of the districts. Without doubt, the districts have had austerity reductions over the last 3 years due to the state of our economy. There is another side to the equation to consider, and that is with spending. Without getting too deeply engaged in the rampant waste on travel and unnecessary expenses not tied to instruction, let’s look at spending just at the heart of “local control” – the boards and central offices - to see why they are fighting so hard to protect it.

  • Every single one of our school boards are paid for their “public service.” This accounts for $4.1 MILLION dollars in salary. With the austerity cuts, are board members donating their salaries back to put into classrooms? Nope. Just as an aside, charter board members receive $0 in compensation. Ever.
  • Nearly one third of the superintendents in this state make in excess of $150,000 yearly. Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks, of Gwinnett County, makes $410,000 annually, followed closely by superintendents from Clayton, Atlanta Public Schools, Savannah-Chatham, Fulton, and Cobb (3 of which are in danger of loss of accreditation, by the way). Forty-seven superintendents took a raise last year while furloughing educators.
  • Our state spent $686 MILLION dollars on central office. Seventy-seven out of our 180 districts serve less than 3000 students and have FULL central offices and account for $67 MILLION dollars of the total spent. In these tough economic times, are districts in rural areas combining central offices to reduce duplicative costs? Are large districts cutting central offices to keep money in classrooms? No, and in fact, according to a recent study by Dr. Benjamin Scafidi of Georgia College and State University, central office growth has nearly doubled the growth of students.

This is all very important in the context of this fight for money and control against the Charter Amendment. The Education Establishment is not fighting for your
children. They aren’t fighting for quality education. They aren’t fighting to protect the voice of parents or teachers. They aren’t fighting for kids to become work or college ready.

Don’t be fooled by the Education Establishment. This amendment is about giving public school students a chance and parents a choice for a quality public education.

Ms. Cadman, vice president of school services at the Georgia Charter Schools Association, is a former founder of a charter school, dedicated charter school
mother and public education supporter.

jeff October 29, 2012 at 06:09 PM
This will hurt lower income schools. Look at the recently created privatized music program "music matters". Poorly ran and will not hold classes in lower income areas. It's not profitable. Let's look at the real problem and not turn a blind eye on the real problem. We need better funded schools across the board, not just in "profitable" areas. It is time that Georgia does the right thing. No to this bill, save public schools instead. Don't turn the blind eye.
Dick Jones October 29, 2012 at 11:01 PM
"Ms. Cadman, vice president of school services at the Georgia Charter Schools Association, is a former founder of a charter school, dedicated charter school mother and public education supporter." means that she has a personal financial interest in making sure that the charter schools thing passes. It's her JOB. Don't buy the "It's good for the kids" line. This whole thing is about taking the taxpayer's money while avoiding oversight by the board of education. The truth is, we can have charter schools now. They would just have to be accountable to the school board. Why would anyone trust a group of people who want to force you to fund them while they are avoiding local accountability? Don't buy their line that they are locally accountable to the parents, etc. It's a total money grab with no oversight.
MP October 30, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Sounds like you've got a little personal bone to pick, Dick. There's not room for pettiness when kids' education is at stake. Grow up.
MP October 30, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Elizabeth, you live in Alpharetta where great schools exist and your kids don't worry about failing schools. If charters can't help the situation, please, enlighten us all about how YOU believe we should address the 67.4% graduation rate, the poor (and segregated) south Georgia schools, and our state's economic plight due to an unqualified work force. You seem to be able to deconstruct very well. Why don't you try to do something productive and SOLVE the problem instead of hammering on people who've put skin in the game and done the hard work to make a change in their community.
cg October 30, 2012 at 03:04 AM
As a parent with a child in a virtual public school, we have been told to vote yes by the principal of our school because a vote no would endanger the future of our school, which currently has 12,000 students statewide. I cant speak for other counties but our county does not have good schools....of no fault of the teachers themselves. I feel sorry for them and the effect they think this amendment has on them but no amendment is going to fix the drugs, teen pregnancy, gang violence and other negative influences on the campuses of the schools in our county but a vote no could endanger the future of the school we love without those distractions.....for that reason alone I have to vote yes.....unless someone can tell me a better reason than the character of my children?


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