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Bulloch County BOE opposes charter amendment

Passes resolution against measure

Bulloch County BOE opposes charter amendment

Bulloch County BOE opposes charter amendment

Bulloch County Schools Superintendent...


Joining an intensifying debate around the state, the Bulloch County Board of Education publicly declared its opposition to the controversial constitutional amendment concerning charter schools.
Board members agreed unanimously Thursday to sign and adopt the “Resolution in Support of Quality Public Education” at their regular board meeting, railing against the amendment, which would allow for state approval of charter schools.
“The board felt that it was important to state its position on the rights of local school systems,” Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson said. “We equate this amendment to taxation without representation. Education in our community is about local people, local communities, who should be able to determine how to best serve its students.”
The charter schools measure, which will be included on November’s general election ballot, would, if approved, amend Georgia’s constitution to allow for the creation of a state-level charter schools commission. That body, which existed previously but was struck down as unconstitutional last year by the Georgia Supreme Court, would allow charter schools not approved by local school boards to seek approval from the state level.
Education officials from across the state, including the Bulloch County school system, say the amendment could detract from the quality of education provided in public schools, arguing that a portion of funding would be shifted to pay for charters.
“We need to try to keep all the money we can for our boys and girls,” said Maurice Hill, the school board chairman. “Also, we have rules and regulations to go by as a public school system, and I feel charter schools should have some rules and regulations to follow to be approved.
“I think we need to keep all of the finances in our community in our school system. We’re already struggling as it is,” he continued. “We are going to stand by our boys and girls.”
That is a position expressed by several school districts across Georgia, as well as State School Superintendent John Barge. It is a position that puts Barge, a Republican, at odds with Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who strongly advocated for the amendment, as well as the GOP-controlled Legislature, which approved placing the measure on the ballot.
Thursday’s resolution cites funding challenges as a major factor for the Bulloch County school board’s opposition.
“The Bulloch County Board of Education opposes the state’s establishment of a separate system of state-authorized public charter schools that are funded through a funding formula that unilaterally takes critically needed funds from local public school districts and redirects them to the state-controlled charter schools, thereby further debilitating the significantly underfunded existing system of funding for public education for all Georgia students,” the resolution reads. “The Bulloch County Board of Education urges the Governor and State Legislators to commit to adequately funded quality public school education for all K-12 students in Bulloch County and throughout Georgia; to acknowledge the countless, unheralded successes of public schools in the state; to cease efforts to erode local control of public schools, and to encourage the innovation, flexibility, and accountability that are necessary for Georgia’s public schools to continuously improve.”
The board also issued a call to all voters.
“The Bulloch County Board of Education does hereby request that voters of the State of Georgia oppose the Constitutional amendment relative to state approval of charter schools, which will be on the November 6, 2012 General Election ballot,” the resolution says.
Earlier this week, supporters of the amendment sued Georgia school districts in a suit filed in the Superior Court of Fulton County Monday, alleging that the Fulton County Gwinnett County school systems were illegally campaigning against the charter school measure.
Georgia law generally restricts public officials and employees from using taxpayer money for blatant campaign activities.
Plaintiffs cited officials giving public speeches opposing the amendment, several local school boards adopting resolutions against the measure and school systems posting varying documents on their official websites.
Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob declined to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the Fulton County system from publishing an online Q&A about the referendum.
According to reports, Shoob's decision on an injunction suggests a high bar for proving that public officials have acted inappropriately, opening the door for local boards to continue issuing their opinions of the amendment.
“We were watching that (case),” Wilson said. “I think the board had already made up its mind to pass the resolution, but the judge’s decision did clarify some issues.”
“The board is just providing information and supporting its point,” he said. “The board will not spend any time or money advertising its opinion.”

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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