Georgia’s legislature voted to add the Georgia Charter Schools Amendment on the voting ballot in November. If passed, the referendum would create a state constitutional amendment that would clear the way for the outlawed Georgia Charter Schools Commission, giving it the power to create charter schools—even those rejected by local school boards. The renewed John Milledge Elementary School could become a charter institution.
In May 2011, Georgia's Supreme Court overturned the state's Charter Schools Commission, which for the previous two years had the power to approve and fund charter schools over the objections of local school boards. The court ruled that only local elected school boards had the power to decide how local tax dollars for education could be spent.
School boards and many local elected officials around the state cheered the decision, but parents and students at the 17 schools opened by the commission -- whose fates were unclear -- protested outside the state Capitol. They called on the legislature to amend the state constitution to clarify the state's power to fund charter schools.
The 17 schools that the commission had opened scrambled to re-apply for charters with their local school districts or to the state Department of Education for "charter special school" status, which typically granted half their normal funding.
Privatization of schools in Georgia, abolishing Board of Educations and the Department of Education, the real plan behind voting Yes for the referendum, according to critics.
No Child Left Behind?
In July, Governor Nathan Deal plugged eight schools' budget gaps with $10 million to replace the funds the schools had received from their local systems before the Supreme Court ruling.
Who should have the power to decide which charters can open and where they go? Should local elected officials have that power exclusively, as opponents of the state charter board argued? Or, as charter supporters responded, should the state be allowed to override a local board's decision as a way to prevent boards from denying charters for reasons that have nothing to do with academics?
John Milledge Elementary School in Harrisburg, Augusta, GA is a private company categorized under Public Elementary and Secondary Schools. Many minority students were served in the old school and now there are talkings about becoming a charter school that could limit the school to those children. In other word, John Milledge could be more exclusive to certain kind of students and not open to everyone.
The legislation that passed stipulated that the state -- not local school districts -- would pay for state-approved charter schools based on a formula for the lowest-funded schools in Georgia. Critics of the measure maintain that the language is vague enough that the state could still redirect funds that would otherwise have gone to school districts to fund the charters. Critics also argued that the state should fully fund traditional public schools - which have seen their budgets slashed in recent years - before financially supporting charters.
The main opposition is fronted by district public school boards, which have expressed concerns over the amendment granting the ability to the state commission to establish charter schools outside of school district approval.
“Voters need to decide who they want running school systems,” said Angela Palm of the Georgia School Boards Association, in an April 9 Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) news report. “Do voters really want to give up part of local control, and part of what has always been the local system of schools, to allow a state-appointed body to say, ‘Yes, we’re going to put a school in your district?’”
Charter / Public School vs. GOP Power Grabbing
According to an AP analysis, by mid-March pro-charter groups spent nearly $7,800 on everything from food to framed photos of former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz for lawmakers. Groups opposed to the charter amendment spent roughly $2,400 on lunch and coffee for lawmakers.
While at the federal level states are demanding more control from Washington, D.C. in several southern states controlled by republicans they are demanding from local governments to give up power.
Ultimately if the federal and local governments capitulate power to the states controlled by one political party, in this case the Republican Party, democrats and independents could just move somewhere else or stay to be imposed with the neoconservative way of life: No compromise to anything good for the country.