Under the amendment, the commission could reverse any rejection of a local charter school application by a local school board. But as pointed out here before, the Nov. 6 ballot question gives no clue to the true intention. It asks only: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
It’s supposed to be all about “choice,” the popular term among public school critics.
It’s a theme of Republicans in Georgia and around the nation. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney told the party’s national convention: “When it comes to the school your child will attend, every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance.” Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who at least one pundit suggested might wind up as Romney’s education secretary, said parents should have the same kind of choice in schools as they do for milk in the supermarket.
Charter schools are privately created and operated but they receive public tax funds. They are not subject to all the rules and regulations governing — strangling, some critics might say — public schools. In exchange for their freedom, charter schools are supposed to have accountability to produce results per their charters.
There’s been a virtual explosion of charter schools around the country in the past decade. In Florida, more than 500 of charters have opened since the first came on the scene in 1996. Enrollment in Florida charter schools, second only to California nationally, has doubled in the past seven years, reports the Tampa Bay Times. The state paid more than $1 billion to charter schools last year. “Charter chains and entrepreneurs have followed the money,” the Times said, with 150 charters in the state run by for-profit companies — a bone of contention in Georgia concerning the proposed constitutional amendment.
Charters in Florida have their share of problems. One for-profit chain with eight schools has been taken to court “by whistle-blowers who claim the school inflated enrollment and faked grades to earn more state funding,” the Times reported.
RedefinEDonline.org, affiliated with American Center for School Choice, pointed out that 48.7 percent of Florida charter schools earned A’s last year compared to 42.7 percent in traditional public schools — not much advantage considering there are far more public schools. And get this: 19 charters, or 6.1 percent, had F’s last year versus 28 traditional public schools with F’s, or only 1.2 percent.
Clearly, charter schools are no panacea, but this is not to oppose charter schools. It’s about our choice between amending the Georgia Constitution to take away local control or leaving the oversight where it belongs with duly elected local school boards. That’s the real choice, friends.