With Charter Schools, Parents Lose and Feds Gain Power
Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, March 30, 2012
By Sue Ella Deadwyler
Good morning, Jim. In the November Election we’ll be asked to change the Georgia Constitution, so the state can charter schools. Before you decide that’s okay, let me give you a little background.
The first President Bush trampled states’ rights in 1991 when he created the charter school movement. Six years later 1,000 public schools had been chartered, with more to come. In 1998, the Charter School Expansion Act passed and schools clamored for a slice of the 500 million federal dollars appropriated to entice schools to be chartered. Also in 1998, the Georgia Office of Charter School Compliance was created to allow businesses and colleges to establish charter schools, in addition to the chartering of up-and-running public schools.
To speed up chartering in Georgia, the Charter Systems Act passed in 2007 to charter entire school districts at once. In 2008, the Charter Schools Commission was created, but it was ruled unconstitutional in 2011. However, the Court did not rule on the constitutionality of charter schools, which have been unconstitutional since their inception. Now a year after the Commission was deemed unconstitutional, H.R.1162 passed the Georgia General Assembly as a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Georgia that would authorize a state-controlled parallel school system to interfere with the constitutional authority of locally elected boards of education.
But here’s the big secret. Parents do not control charter schools. Actually, charter schools are controlled by the federal government, because Georgia law allows charter schools to waive state and local laws, rules, policies and regulations. However, they cannot waive federal laws, rules, policies and regulations.
So these are the facts. (a) The charter school movement is a mechanism for central control of K – 12 schools. (b) Charters govern the schools, so charter schools are removed from representative government. (c) Meaning, voters lose control of their children’s education. (d) Site-based management by appointed councils and school staff replace the authority of parents and locally elected school boards. (e) Taxpayers, parents and voters provide the students and bank-roll the schools, staff, supplies, and maintenance, but (f) appointees and hired hands make decisions without voter input.
Here’s another secret. When schools were under local control, the great majority of students learned to read, write, spell and do math … without a calculator. They could even find a foreign country on a map, but with diminishing local control, excellence in education has all-but disappeared.
The charter school bill did pass the legislature this session, but voters will decide in November whether the constitution should be changed. As for me, I’ll be voting against it. For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.