The charter school amendment will be decided on Nov. 6. If it doesn't pass, it will be the greatest upset since David conked Goliath with a rock. Give me the money that has been made available to the pro-charter amendment forces (more than $2 million, almost all of it out-of-state) and let me quash the opposition's right of free speech and I could get the little dweeb that runs Iran elected Pope.
Instead, I am going to give you 10 reasons to not vote for the amendment and do it for a lot less money.
1: The amendment isn't about more school choice. Not at all. There are more than 100 charter schools in operation in Georgia and more on the way. You want to start a charter school? Today? Tomorrow? Next week? There is no law to stop you from doing so. If you are denied by the local board of education, you can appeal to the state board of education.
2: This is about for-profit charter school management companies getting their hooks in the system. That is why much of the $2 million promoting the measure's passage comes from these groups. Check them out for yourself at the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission website and search "Families for Better Public Schools." Most of those "families" are wealthy out of state corporations. Another group called Georgia Public School Families for Amendment One is a single donation from PublicSchoolOptions.org of Arlington, Va. This is the kind of subterfuge proponents are foisting on you, the voter. There is no grassroots support for this amendment. It is being pushed by for-profit education companies.
3: Politicians love contributions better than ducks love water. Despite our intrepid public servants protestations to the contrary, lobbyist dollars are spent on them to influence legislation - like who will operate charter schools in Georgia if the measure passes? Why else would companies contribute big money to politicians? The for-profit charter school management companies are a cash cow ready to be milked.
4: Republicans say they favor "local control" but this amendment would take control from local school boards and put it in the hands of an unelected commission, beholden to the governor, lieutenant governor and the speaker. That is hypocritical. Republicans either want to promote local control or they don't. Which is it?
5: School boards are made to be the villains in the debate by pro-charter forces for refusing to approve charter schools. In truth, the vast majority of school boards in the state have never received a request from anyone or any group to establish a charter school.
6: Our legislators are known for a lot of things, but original thought isn't one that comes to mind. Much of the push for this amendment is coming from ALEC - the American Legislative Exchange Council - a national network of conservative state legislators and corporations. Two of their major initiatives are vouchers and charter schools. There is much I like about ALEC but I didn't elect them to run my state any more than I want Ralph Nader's crowd deciding what I can eat.
7: Charter schools are not necessarily a panacea to what ails public education in Georgia. A 2010-11 State Department of Education report shows that 73 percent of traditional public schools in Georgia met AYP targets while only 70 percent of charter schools met those same targets.
8: The Legislature has deliberately starved public schools financially and as a result, 67 percent of the schools systems in Georgia do not have the funds to provide 180 days of instruction as required by Georgia law. According to the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, Georgia's funding for K-12 public education is at its lowest level on a per-pupil basis in 10 years. Legislators like to wring their hands about "failing schools." If the schools are failing, the politicians need to look in the mirror. It is their fault; not the schools.
9: Don't be bamboozled by the wording on the ballot which says, "Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options." That is what proponents say, not the opponents who, until two judges ruled in their favor, could not even speak out on the subject.
10: I support charter schools, as do most educators. But this amendment isn't about charter schools. It is about money. Lots and lots of money from for-profit education company lobbyists in a state with the weakest ethics laws in the nation. That's reason enough that the amendment needs to be defeated.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139.