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Posted: October 16, 2012 5:46 p.m.

Travis: Keep charter school control local

I received a call at home the other day, and the caller asked if he could count on my vote for charter schools in the upcoming election.

I told him no and offered to explain to him why. He hung up.

I am not an expert, but I have followed the articles in the AJC concerning this subject. I am a retired public school teacher, which may make me biased.

But the following information makes me uncomfortable.

According to the AJC, the overwhelming preponderance of money spent to advocate for charter schools is coming from out of state. This fact said to me that the support for this amendment is not a grass roots support. Follow the money. Charter schools are big business. This amendment is not about helping children; it is about making money.

Second, Herb Garrett, the Executive Director at Georgia School Superintendents Association, stated Georgia will send more state money per child to state charter schools and that budget cuts are not applied to those charter schools.

The AJC's truth-o-meter found his comment to be correct.

Herb Garrett was an educator for several years in the Newton County School System, and many here still remember his straightforward approach to life. What he said makes sense. School systems receive money from the state based on the number of students enrolled in the system. Having charter schools receive part or more of the money sent by the
state means less money for local school systems that are already struggling with state cuts.

Charter schools are able to set standards for enrollment that public schools may not. Public schools must teach all children, no matter what disability a child may have. Children with a wide spectrum of disabilities ranging from physical to emotional to mental are served by public schools. These students need special classes, smaller class sizes and other accommodations. This extra expense is something charter schools may not have. Also charter schools do not have to abide by many of the guide lines set for public schools.

Jay Bookman, a columnist for the AJC, commented on three charter schools in Georgia. Pataula Charter Academy offers services to a five-county area in southwest Georgia. The free or reduced lunch rate in the five counties ranges from 76 to 92 percent. The school systems in these five counties are predominately black. In one county, 1 percent of the student body is white. Yet Pataula has a student body which is 75 percent white and only 54 percent of the student body is eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Ivy Prep in Gwinnett County has a higher percentage of black students than other public schools in the county. But the percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch is at the school is close to half the percentage of students eligible county wide. The same discrepancy in race and eligibility for free or reduced lunch is found in the Charter Conservatory for Arts and Technology in Statesboro.

In Newton County, the school board has hired a private entity to run Challenge Charter Academy. The board is now contemplating renewing its contract.

The Newton County School Board also implemented a theme school several years ago. The school is now housed at Ficquett. Admission to this school is based on parent involvement and test scores.

One of these schools is run by a private entity and the other has restricted admissions. So how are they different from schools proposed by the new amendment?

Both of these schools were created by the local school board and are under the control of the local school board. Schools that could be created by the amendment would not be subject to local school boards.

While our local school board has been the subject of controversy for some time, I believe that every person who serves on the board does so because he or she cares about Newton County and its schools. They give of their time to try to make things better and do not receive compensation adequate to the time and concern, and sometimes grief, they invest in their efforts.

I would rather trust my local school board to make decisions about schools in my county than trust for profit companies who might promise the moon and then not deliver.


Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at ptravis@covnews.com.

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