TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4TH, 2012 by S.D. LAWRENCE
In two months time, Georgians will vote on an amendment that would restore the state’s ability to approve and fund charter schools. The Georgia chapter of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has openly opposed the amendment, but the state organization is coming under increasing pressure from its national parent body to rescind their opposition and remain neutral during the debate.
While the Georgia PTA supports charter schools approved by local school boards, “we reject the state power grab from local communities in the education of their children, the financial inequities, and the overt attention being given to those who intend to profit from the education of children,” Sally FitzGerald, the group’s educational policy specialist, wrote in the July 1 position statement.
Since that statement, the National PTA has extended its support to charters approved by all authorizers and wants its local chapters to support the policy shift. While the Georgia PTA hasn’t yet indicated whether it is willing to step back from the opposition fight, the Georgia Charter Schools Association has praised the National PTA for their willingness to revise their previous position. The GCSA hopes that the state PTA chapter will follow suit.
“We applaud the recognition by National PTA that just as one size doesn’t fit all in educating our students, a single charter authorizer doesn’t fit all either,” Georgia Charter Schools Association President & CEO Tony Roberts said in a statement. “High-quality authorizers such as the Georgia Charter Schools Commission give parents and students a needed appeals process when a school board refuses to fairly consider a charter application. The entire charter community here in our state is asking Georgia PTA to follow their national organization and end their opposition to the November vote on the charter amendment.”
While the shift in National PTA policy is excellent news for charter organizations in Georgia, they are also facing some surprising bad news. State Superintendent John Barge, a Republican who was expected to support the amendment, has come out against it. He claims that no more money should be redirected away from local school districts to charter organizations until critical problems are addressed within the current education system. He wants finances to stop flowing out of school districts until attendance at public schools is drastically improved and services like transportation and student support return to effective levels.
The question that will appear on the November 6 ballot is ‘Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of the local communities?’ There will be check boxes for voters to indicate yes or no as they prefer.
Governor Nathan Deal signed legislation in May that enabled this amendment and claims that local districts wouldn’t lose any money.