By Sally FitzGerald and Karen Hallacy
The Georgia Parent Teachers Association supports public school choice and recognizes that public charter schools are an important component in providing a variety of education opportunities in our state.
PTA supports multiple choices for education, including charter schools, provided the creation of the charter schools doesn’t adversely affect existing public education. Unfortunately, Amendment 1 isn’t about school choice or charter school or student achievement. It is about money and power, and it will adversely affect public education. PTA strongly opposes Amendment 1.
PTA has major concerns about the negative impact Amendment 1 will have on Georgia’s 1.67 million public school students.
This amendment will create a favored class of student who will receive more state funds based solely on the school the student attends, not on the student’s needs. Students who attend a state-commissioned charter school will receive more funds from the state than the same students would receive attending a traditional public school, a conversion charter school or a locally-authorized charter school. That’s not equitable.
These state commission charter schools will result in reduced funding for local public schools.
Public schools have already experienced over $6 billion in austerity cuts since 2003 that have resulted in larger classes, teacher furloughs, program eliminations and fewer days spent in the classroom.
None of those cuts help student achievement. According to the State School Superintendent, Dr. John Barge, over $430 million will be needed to fund these new state-authorized charter schools over the next five years. That’s assuming the commission only authorizes seven a year, but it has a financial incentive to approve as many as possible, since it earns 3 percent on each one approved.
That $430 million will likely come from existing education funds used now to support local public schools. Local school systems may need to raise property taxes to offset the state funding cuts.
Study after study has shown that parent involvement leads to student achievement. Nothing in Amendment 1 supports parent involvement. Parents in locally authorized charter schools must have representation on the governance board of the school, but in state commission charter schools parents aren’t guaranteed a voice at the table.
Further, the bill does not require that state charter school board members sign the ethics code required of local school board members, nor take any of the training required. This suggests that the state charter school operators are not required to be fiduciaries of our children’s education. Commission members are appointed, not elected, and accountable to no one, so there appears to be a lack of accountability.
We cannot support this constitutional amendment which will create an inequity in funding, siphon funds from local public schools where over 94 percent of the students in Georgia receive their education, and deny parents meaningful engagement. Vote no on Nov. 6.
Sally FitzGerald of Sandy Springs is an education policy specialist with Georgia PTA. Karen Hallacy of Cobb County is the Georgia PTA’s legislative chair.