In the next election, we will have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment concerning charter schools. Charter schools can be a good thing as children trapped in failing public schools can benefit from them.
However, a constitutional amendment is not needed to establish charter schools because a mechanism for establishing them already exists. Many charter schools are already operating.
Several aspects of this constitutional amendment run counter to many peoples’ core beliefs about government, including the following:
1) If local government can adequately provide a service, it should be left at the local level. This amendment will make it possible for charter school applicants who have been disapproved by the local board of education to obtain approval from a new state charter commission and to obtain both state and local funding. Currently, if the local board of education turns down an application, the decision can be appealed to the State Board of Education; however, this will not continue to be the procedure if this amendment passes. This arrangement is a state power grab that will assist rejected applicants in doing an “end run” around local boards’ proper authority to approve and fund local educational endeavors.
2) People should have an opportunity to elect officials who govern. This amendment takes the governance away from the locally elected officials.
3) Government should be limited. This amendment creates a new bureaucracy appointed by politicians in the form of a state commission to administer charter schools.
4) A world-class public education should be provided every student in Georgia. Funding for public education (K-12) has been reduced over the past eight years by $5.7 billion. If Georgia cannot adequately fund the current public education program, how is the state going to finance a whole new system of charter schools administered by a new bureaucracy that is in addition to it current system of education?
For these reasons, this constitutional amendment should be defeated, and the legislators and the governor who have aggressively promoted this amendment should be carefully evaluated in terms of their core beliefs about the appropriate function of government and their commitment to the support of public education before they are re-elected to office.
J. Paul Copeland
A retired educator with 31 years of experience as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent and the former administrative assistant for education for Alabama Gov. Guy Hunt