Reprinted from the Dunwoody Crier
by Rick Callihan
This November in Georgia voters have an opportunity to amend the state constitution via the Charter School Amendment.
The drive behind this amendment is to allow public funds to be used for a different type of public school – a public charter school. In many areas of Georgia, parents, students, employers, and concerned taxpayers are not satisfied with the performance of the existing public schools.
These existing public schools have a monopoly on public funds, forcing parents not able to afford private school to stay in schools that do not meet the educational needs of its students. Just as in the private sector, when you go from a monopoly to a competitive environment, you see improved results and innovation. Regardless of what you hear from those opposed to the Charter School Amendment, the end goal of those of us in favor of public funds for public charter schools is to have better schools for the children of Georgia.
So if this issue is truly about the best education for children by allowing competition, why are teachers and school boards opposed? First , don’t believe that all teachers are opposed to charter schools. It’s the teacher organizations who are opposed. Teachers who have taken the time to research the issue and realize charter schools will help reduce overcrowded classrooms, allow for more funds per student, and create a competitive environment, welcome the competition.
However, most school board members across the state do oppose this amendment not because they fear loss of funds (school districts will actually have more money per student with the creation of charter schools as students opt to attend a charter school), but because they want to keep power and control over parents, students, teachers, and taxpayers. They fear competition and want to maintain their monopoly.
Several new principals and dozens of new teachers were hired for Dunwoody schools this year. Across DeKalb County many teachers, principals and administrators were transferred, promoted or fired. The same thing happened in districts across the state. How many of you were asked what teachers to keep or let go at your local school? How many of you were asked what person would be the best principal and assistant principal for your local school?
The answer is none of you were asked, and you never will be asked in the current system. There is no local control. The school district superintendent, with input from a few select school district employees (who most likely have no children and no direct interest in your local school) made those decisions for you. Under the charter school model, it is the parents and local (not district) board members who make those decisions. The parents and leaders of each public charter school choose their administrators and teachers. That is local control.
In regards to funding, you’d expect the bean counters at the school districts to encourage the start-up of charter schools. The school districts keep all their local funding regardless of how many students choose to attend a new charter school. If 5,000 students in your district leave their current public schools and switch to a charter school the district keeps the local funds regardless.
On average that is nearly $3,700 per student.
In this example the district keeps the $18.5 million in local dollars but has 5,000 fewer students. That $18.5 million can be used to reduce class sizes. Of course the district does not receive state funds for those 5,000 students since they no longer need to provide an education – the state funding portion goes to the public charter school.
The state money is used at the charter school for the same things as before: teacher pay, teacher management, supplies, and building expenses. In summary, the mega districts especially, should celebrate the financial gains of losing students but keeping local funds. But remember, to educrats this is not just about money, it’s about keeping their monopoly.
Should this amendment pass, it’s doubtful you will see a charter school immediately established in a city like Dunwoody. I doubt you’d ever see a charter elementary school in Dunwoody. But a charter middle school or charter high school? Those odds increase a bit.
Currently well over half of Dunwoody’s middle school and high-school-aged children do not attend DeKalb County schools. DeKalb collects millions of tax dollars in this part of the county, but serves less than half of its eligible population. A charter school with support from the community would be a success in Dunwoody. But this charter amendment is but the first step for a city like Dunwoody. If a majority of state residents approve the charter school amendment, it shows the General Assembly that we the voters are not satisfied with the current system.
The next step is an amendment to allow new school districts to be established in Georgia, disassembling the mega-sized districts. Cities like Dunwoody, Milton, Johns Creek, Brookhaven, and Sandy Springs can keep those millions of dollars local and establish their own school districts (with charter schools as an option in these new districts).
You want real local control? Vote yes for the charter school amendment.