On Amendment 1: “Who’s in charge?” • Dr. Stan DeJarnett, columnist
On November 6th voters around Georgia will decide who will represent us in Washington D.C. and in Atlanta under the Gold Dome. If we are unhappy with their job performance we have the opportunity for change at the next election.
This November voters will also decide whether the Georgia Constitution should again be amended. I will leave the argument on whether we should amend the Constitution as often as we update our Facebook page to another column, but lately there are far too many amendments placed on the ballot, and those amendments benefit far too few Georgians. Worse, they are virtually permanent.
Amendment 1 on this November’s ballot reads:
“Should the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
The key word here is “state” since local approval of public charter schools is already possible. If approved, an APPOINTED state commission will have the authority to approve charter schools all over Georgia without the involvement of local elected boards of education. Since the State Board already has the power to approve charter petitions one has to ask “Why do we need another Commission to do the work that the State Board already does?” Answer: We don’t. If you believe in smaller government and local autonomy can you support an amendment that will create an additional state bureaucracy that duplicates the work of the existing one?
I am an advocate for charter schools. We currently have 120-207 charter schools, depending on if you count charter system schools, and we will have more in the future, even without this amendment. This amendment is NOT about charter schools. It is also not about choice. It is about consolidating power at the state level. The vast majority of the funding to get this amendment passed comes from outside Georgia, much of it from those who support the re-election campaigns of those state leaders who are leading the effort to get it approved.
Since there is very little chance that state education funding will increase in the near future the funding for these state-approved charter schools will surely come at the expense of ALL school systems in the state. How can our state leaders condone funding a separate public school system when our own charter system cannot afford to send its children to school for a full school year? Elected State Superintendent John Barge, a conservative Republican, gave this as his reason for opposing the charter amendment.
Our public schools and locally approved charter schools need our support. Many, like those here in Morgan, do a great job of educating its community’s children. This amendment will do nothing but shift more critical funding and decision-making away from local elected leaders and send it to the Gold Dome. “Who’s in charge?” In my judgment it should be local communities, not the state. I hope you will join me and vote “NO” on Amendment 1.
Printed in the October 25, 2012 edition