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The Charter School Amendment – An Important Tool in the Georgia Education Reform Tool Box

An editorial by State Representative Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta)

The Charter School Amendment is an important education reform for Georgia.  Statewide, the overall high school graduation rate hovers in the mid 60% range, and in many school districts serving mostly low income students the graduation rate is closer to the low 50% level. This is morally and economically unacceptable for both our students and this great state.

Like most voters, I believe that local school systems should have primary responsibility of education in our communities. However, this local control should never be confused with exclusive control. There must always be checks and balances for any government activity -- and this is especially true in the area of education. 

Time and again in recent years, laws providing for targeted extra help for special needs students, giving high school students greater flexibility to joint enroll in college courses, expanding AP course offerings to students  in rural areas through the internet, requiring a higher percentage of taxpayer education dollars be spent in the classroom, investigating school system cheating on student performance test,  or imposing penalties against local school boards that lose full accreditation have been met with stiff resistance from local status quo bureaucrats  worried more over their control of their turf than the welfare of the students. Enough is enough.  It is time to put Georgia students and their needs first.

As the chairman of a House Study Committee on Charter School Governance, I discovered wide differences in how charter school applications were handled by different local school systems around our state. Some were treated fairly.  Some were summarily dismissed. Some were starved to death. This proposed bi-partisan amendment merely guarantees parents and students a check and balance appeal process for those whose needs are being otherwise ignored by their local systems. 

Charter schools are public schools. Charter school students are public school students.  Charter school teachers are public school teachers. Thirty two other states have a similar state authorization process which is supported by the National Parent Teacher Association. 

Under the proposed constitutional amendment and enabling legislation, a charter school application to the state must still meet rigorous standards for consideration, including strong local support. While an outside service can be hired to manage the school, ultimate authority over a charter school’s operation will rest with a local non-profit board. Student attendance is open to all public school students through a lottery system. 

It should be emphasized, however, that this is only one tool in the reform tool box.  Much more needs to be done including tougher curriculum standards in pre-school, closely tracking students’ reading progress in the critical K-3 grades, recognizing and rewarding good teachers and weeding out poor ones, strengthening our technical school programs for kids uninterested in college, giving teachers greater say so in school governance, and demanding that local systems spend more money in the classrooms and less in the central office.

The bottom line is we need to have an educational system that is flexible and can adapt to the needs of our students in the 21st century. The Charter School Amendment is one important tool to accomplish this. Therefore, I ask for you to Vote “YES!” on November 6 to Amendment 1. 

State Representative Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta), 
Georgia House Majority Whip

jshore October 13, 2012 at 11:01 PM
If
jshore October 14, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Part 1 of 2 If Georgia is ready to return to Segregation Academies then charter schools are the way to go. Charter schools are paid for with public funds and are purported to have “newer, innovative, creative, rigorous" methods and curriculum to make students “successful" and "ready to learn” They don’t and it’s a lie. What State Representative Edward Lindsey is neglecting to mention is that the populations of charter schools, paid for with taxpayer dollars, are “cherry picked” and do not reflect the demographic of the traditional public schools. Charter schools will tell you that students are chosen by “lottery” but they don’t tell you that you have to fill out an 11-page application to get a ticket. Charter schools do not “back-fill” seats. When a Charter school boasts a 100% graduation rate, look at how many students are in the graduating class, and then look at how many students started out with them! When a student leaves or is “counseled out” because they “are not the right fit” for a charter school or that the charter school tells a parent they “cannot meet the child’s needs,” that seat remains unfilled. Charter schools return these “not the right fit” students to traditional schools just before test time, bringing down the receiving schools scores. Representative Lindsey fails to mention that charter school suspension rates are off the charts!
jshore October 14, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Part 2 of 2 Now, segregation is when you impose the separation of a race or class of people from others or from a main body or group. That is what will happen in Georgia Public Schools if you vote yes on Amendment 1. Only this time, the segregation will also include Special Education students, English Language Learners and students found “not to be the right fit” for the schools philosophy (read behavior problems). The most successful public schools are in communities that don’t farm out their children. All students attend traditional “heterogeneous” schools. Advanced students are offered Advance Placement (AP) courses, or have International Baccalaureate (IB) programs within their regular schools. These communities don’t separate and send students to charter schools! Poor communities are being targeted by charter school vendors out to make a quick buck at the expense of their children! Don’t give it to them, vote NO to Amendment 1!
Philip Beck October 15, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Well you appear to have your mind made up. Tell us what your actual real world experience is with charter schools.
Harold Lloyd October 15, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Public school is where we teach youth from every background what it is to be a part of this great nation. It's where children learn the values we hold as Americans. In the shared experiences of public school, we form a unity of culture, and of purpose. Public schools are where we build citizens. Lately, there has arisen a pattern of denigrating and underfunding public schools while at the same time allowing easier withdrawal from the public system in favor of private schools and in-home education. As long as a home schooled child can do academics at a minimum level, there is no control regarding what else the child is being taught. Children of white supremacists can be educated as white supremacists. Children of radical fundamentalists can be educated as radical fundamentalists. The result is a fragmented population with no common purpose or shared values. The nation weakens, and the culture that makes us Americans is fading away. We must not destroy the public school system. Do not allow home schooling except in cases where the child cannot, for good reason, attend a public school. Private school curricula should be closely monitored to be sure that divisiveness is no part of what is taught. No public funds should go to support either home schooling or private schools of any kind, excepting only specialized facilities for special needs children.
Philip Beck October 15, 2012 at 01:43 PM
As far as the culture that makes us Americans, it always evolves, and apparently knowing the lyrics to a Justin Beber song is more valuable that knowing the lyrics to "And I'm Proud to Be An American" by Mr. Greenwood. Children of "white supremacists" and "radical fundamentalists"?? Really? Your scare tactic will not work with reasoned, intelligent people. Educating our children in order to continue this “the greatest nation on Earth” has not been a "funding" problem for several decades. Annual expenditure per public school pupil $9,649. The percent of public school fourth graders unable to read at grade level is @ 67.6% and those unable to do math at grade level is @ 63.0%. The percent of public school eighth graders unable to read at grade level is @ 72.4% and those unable to do math at grade level is @ 72.2%. The United States now ranks near the bottom of the list of advanced economies for its high school dropout rate. 23.3 percent of American students do not receive a high school diploma. One out of four will drop out before graduation. That’s 7,000 every school day. Nearly half of all students in the nation’s 50 largest school districts drop out before graduation, CBS News reported. In the U.K. the rate is 8.9 percent; in South Korea, 7 percent; in Japan, 5.3 percent; Ireland, 4 percent; Germany, 2.8 percent, that’s according to OECD figures reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Philip Beck October 15, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Harold, your first sentence tells me that you are not very knowledgeable when it comes to what public school children are being taught today in government-run schools. Go ahead, pick up an American history text book and look at the table of contents. They do not contain anything of substance regarding "what made this a great nation", or what made America the envy of the modern and third world. We have a fragmented population because those ideas that our founding fathers used to build this nation are now being explained to our public school children as severely flawed. It's easy to do. All you have to do is fail to describe the philosophical and economic environment that our founding fathers were living in. Children today if not told differently will assume that Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Henry and Hamilton were just a bunch of old white guys huddled up in a conference room making laws for the peasants to abide by. The children won't know the risks that these men took or how their individual lives were adversely affected because they did what they did. Only home-schooled children will have the chance to learn the trials and tribulations of founding a nation. Today, they learn from 15 pages about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a great American, and from a couple paragraphs about George Washington, the greatest American.
Elizabeth Hooper October 15, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Is your solution to set up a separate set of schools unaccountable to the taxpayer funded by state revenues in an amount yet to be disclosed from a location in the state budget yet to be disclosed? Have you actually read the legislation - please tell me where it identifies "dropout" as a targeted problem. I'll save you the time - it doesn't. HB797 is a joke - if you want to throw your money and vote away into a large black hole, please do. At least with the current system one can get involved if desired. Try raising an objection with an appointed commissioner - I don't believe taking your phone call is part of their job description. This Amendment will only make things worse - just look at Florida. Parents are suing the state over failing to live up to their constitutional mandate to fund an "adequate" education for all children. EB5 visa money is pouring in - to charter school developers. There is no strategy to improve education here. Just money musical chairs and politics.
Terri Daigle October 15, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I would like my grandchild to go to a school where he can "on a daily basis, as part of his curriculum" be taught not only reading, writing, arithmatic, but also Christianity. Can vouchers be used to attend Parochial schools as well? I also hear that parochial schools aren't usually "accredited" so time spent would not be considered. Can anyone provide insight on this subject? thanks
Harold Lloyd October 16, 2012 at 05:09 AM
Philip, you're all numbers and no sense. The cultural assimilation doesn't come from the books, but from the teacher, the environment, and even the playground. It's not a scare tactic to suggest that you have no idea what is being taught to home schooled childeren other than that they can pass tests of academic progress. Outside of that, there is no control, and a child may be indoctrinated in any fashion the parent desires. Why do you think kids are home schooled anyway? You read all those terrible statistics and you have to wonder how we keep on going. So I'll tell you. We have a two tiered system of education. The lower tier is underfunded, disrespected, and neglected public schools. The upper tier is a few public schools, but in the main, private schools of all types excepting fundamentalist religion based schools, and home schooled children. Sarcasm is a weak argument.
Harold Lloyd October 16, 2012 at 05:13 AM
If you want your grandkid to learn Christianity, take him/her to church. Religious indocrination is not the job of public schools, and in fact would be forbidden under the First Amendment.
Philip Beck October 16, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Harold, you have a way with words... "you're all numbers and no sense", meaning apparently that we shouldn't measure progress, benefits, cost-benefit and achievement. I guess we'd better only use "feelings" so as not to upset our self-esteemed oriented children. My wife and I raised our two daughters as best we could and the result was both were accepted into UGA. Our oldest graduated cum laude this year and our youngest started UGA as a Junior at age 18. You see, she saw the waste of her time in public high school and she did what was necessary to get her high school credits by attending GA Perimeter College beginning at age 16. She received awards for her academic achievements there and she has received academic achievement awards at UGA too, in chemistry. She didn't receive recognition for her "feelings", she got them for her hard work which was reflected in her acquired knowledge of the course material. My daughters are not typical, and we know this. But, if a child is capable of achieving at a higher level but they are being smothered by mediocrity, I am of the opinion that there is a better way to serve that student. If you have a problem with numbers, get some help with that and you won't get so upset when you need to comprehend some of them in the future.
Philip Beck October 16, 2012 at 01:39 PM
I'm getting "distrust", "hopelessness", and "status quo" from your comments. These along with scare tactic rhetoric are common arguments against Amendment One (1). Elizabeth, the way you put it, charter schools have never worked. You know differently. You say this "separate set of schools will be unaccountable", but you know that isn't true.
Philip Beck October 16, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Terri, all of this information can be found on the internet. I'm with Harold on this one. Our public schools cannot even teach reading, writing and arithmetic satisfactorily to our students, so I can only imagine what they would bring home in their minds full of mush after a few hours of "Introduction to the Holy Bible". Best to tenderly teach Christian principles at home and let your children hopefully be a good influence on their class mates, and teachers.
Harold Lloyd October 17, 2012 at 12:27 PM
http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-10-16/features/os-scott-maxwell-charter-schools-101712-20121016_1_charter-schools-imani-elementary-traditional-schools

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