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Ga. parent urges vote against charter school amendment
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I join concerned parents throughout Georgia who support our Republican State School Superintendent in opposing the creation of a costly new government bureaucracy that will take away true local control in the way we educate our kids.  Now there is no question that the quality of education in existing public schools in Georgia could be improved or that current school systems could operate more effectively.  My problem with the proposed constitutional amendment creating an appointed statewide commission to authorize new charter schools is simply that it fails to provide the right fix for our educational shortcomings. 

There is no evidence that charter schools run by “for-profit” management companies will produce superior results compared to traditional public schools.  And, as research and experience has shown time and again, charter schools often get worse results.  With budget cuts affecting every school in Georgia, this is clearly not the time to create a new and expensive state bureaucracy, especially an unnecessary one since Georgia already allows appeals for quality charter school applicants denied by a local school board.

I view the state’s continuing cuts in funding for traditional public schools -- a staggering $5.5 billion in austerity cuts since 2002 -- as clear evidence that something else is at play in the proposed constitutional amendment, something that has nothing to do with the best interests of kids. The proposed amendment creating a charter school commission will pave the way for out-of-state “for-profit” management companies to replicate themselves anywhere in the state. It will lead to a parallel system of schools that has a lot more to do with money, power and influence than it does with the education of Georgia’s school children. This brand of privatized education policy has not worked in places a little further down the “reform” road than Georgia — places like Florida, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. How will this “vision” benefit Georgia’s kids? It won’t.

I think most everyone would agree on what makes a school good: skilled and dedicated teachers who emphasize instruction and experiences that give children opportunities to learn, a safe and healthy learning environment including adequate facilities,  and a critical mass of involved parents and community support, all of which results in a school community as a center of learning. But, instead of working to ensure that all of Georgia public schools share those fundamental qualities, the state’s political leadership seems intent on developing a new, costly, parallel system of corporately managed charter schools. Simply put, the state cannot afford a duplication of efforts. Wouldn’t we rather see our limited funds devoted to making our existing public schools better -- for all kids?

The hard work of improving and transforming our public schools must be done day by day, with caring, concern and attention to detail, and it must include teachers, administrators, students, parents, and the greater community. Thank goodness many of Georgia’s education leaders recognize this and are speaking out against this insidious amendment that would drain resources and attention away from the majority of kids – those in our traditional public schools.

When it comes to educating the next generation of Georgia’s school children, we really cannot afford to give up on our local public schools. I urge voters to reject this amendment by saying no to the politics of business as usual. 

Bertis Downs

Athens, Ga.

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