I encourage a thorough search of the Internet and media outlets to get as much information as possible on this issue for voters who like to do their on investigating. For others who prefer to form their opinions based on their trust in the research and knowledge of others, I offer my take on this highly controversial issue, not only as a superintendent of a local school system, but as a parent and grandparent who is concerned about the future of education in Georgia.
I have spent a great deal of time studying Amendment 1 and what it means. I also have taken time to reflect on how its passage will impact not only Carrollton City Schools, but our entire community. The bottom line — it is not a good thing. And here’s why:
• The role of public education is to educate the public. That means everyone. It is a benefit to all of us to have equal educational opportunities offered to every student. Under Amendment 1, charter schools can be created with admission criteria that risks re-segregating our schools, not only by race, but by ability and class as well.
• Amendment 1 limits local control. Right now, charter schools exist and use a system of establishment that depends on the local boards of education and the state Department of Education for approval. This means local communities have a direct say in what schools are approved for their neighborhoods. Under Amendment 1, a commission of unelected, political appointees will make the decision, potentially without any community input at all. It is very important to me, as a superintendent, to be respectful of the accountability placed on a local board of education, which answers directly to its voting constituency.
• Admittedly, all schools in the state need to improve, some more than others. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the big picture; pockets of need don’t mean we need to change the state constitution to fix them. Those efforts need to be concentrated locally. Here in Carroll County, we have good schools and good options and are making great advances in improving student achievement across the board. Amendment 1 isn’t necessary to continue these efforts.
• No matter what the proponents will tell you, creating a new state bureaucracy most definitely will take even more money away from current public schools, which have suffered greatly over the past few years during these tough economic times. There is only one pot of money. Period. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
• Charter schools receive more state funding per pupil than current public schools.
• Given that Carrollton City Schools is a city school system, our portfolio of programs already has been customized to meet the needs of our students, making charter schools unnecessary to this point. In Georgia, a majority of the state’s 217 charter schools (including Carroll County’s own College and Career Academy) are authorized by local school districts. Fifteen charter schools that were denied by the local districts now operate under the authority of the State Department of Education, proving there is a process in place to give proposed charter schools a recourse for reconsideration.
• There is no doubt charter school businesses are chomping at the bit for Georgia to pass this amendment because it gives them an opportunity to make money here. More than 90 percent of the fundraising to promote passage of the amendment comes from outside Georgia, and most from private charter school companies.
• Student achievement, at current charter schools, is no better, and many times worse, than their public school counterparts. Why establish more schools, costing more money, when there is no significant academic advantage?
Just remember, if the amendment doesn’t pass, the current system remains in place. If it is approved, we really don’t know its overall impact. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the specifics of the amendment, and of what we do know, serious concerns are raised. Voting no allows us to continue to improve student achievement, continue our efforts to emphasize innovation toward excellence and to encourage flexibility to promote success for all students. This is one time we are better off staying the course and reaping the results. I urge you to vote NO!
Edwards is superintendent of Carrollton City Schools.