Photo by Dana Towns

Atlanta public charter schools are looking to convince people to vote “yes” in this November’s election for the Georgia Charter Schools Amendment One, but many people ask the same question: “What is it?” The Charter School Amendment is an amendment that would establish a commission to consider charter applications, giving the state more power to authorize such schools. Meaning if parents, teachers, and community leaders see a need for alternative education, they can simply apply for a charter school through their local school board. However school boards of surrounding public schools are allowed to deny charter schools entering in their school system and have done so in the past few years cancelling out the choice of parents and the competition of another school. The amendment would insure a fair and proper appeals process if a local school board refuses a charter school, giving parents a choice as to whether or not their child attends a traditional public or charter school.

Georgia Charter Schools Amendment One came about following a ruling in May of 2011 by the Georgia Supreme Court which ruled that the involvement in the establishment of public charter schools was unconstitutional. Since then, opposing parties for the Charter School Amendment, both pro and con, have been battling it out in their schools and in the media. Local businessman Sean Murphy of Metro Atlanta reported in an opinion piece in the AJC that he opposed the bill, calling it “the T-SPLOST of Education.” In the November election the ballot will read, “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?” Murphy believes that if people vote yes then it will result in higher consequences such as budget cuts from public schools and layoffs. “This is not about charter schools or choices,” states Murphy. “Parents already have a choice between, public, magnet and home schools”.

However, according to the facts produced by the Brighter Georgia Education Coalition (BGEC) and of the administrations Deans at Atlanta Heights Charter School (AHCS), his claims are far from the truth. “It’s all about choice,” states one of the deans at Atlanta Heights who declined to have their name published. “I have the choice of sending my child to a public school or to a charter school. The public schools are threatened because of the competition. No one wants competition.” Charter schools are held at a higher standard than most public schools. If test scores and performance levels of students in public schools drop, they are rarely punished. However, if the performance level of students in charter schools drop, they automatically lose their charter which is an ultimate loss of its credibility. The BGEC has gone on record to say that charter schools will not take money away from traditional public schools but will be funded with state money along with the other schools already in place, traditionally only receiving 62 percent of the funding that is spent per child in traditional public schools.  The BGEC also states that 75 percent of charter schools have had higher percentages in adequate yearly progress (AYP) in the past year, which is higher than public schools in the community. According to the BGEC local taxpayer dollars does not go to Charter schools because Charter schools are public schools. In fact, Charter schools receive less funding than public schools.

Both parties have argued back and forth on what is true and what is not true, but both parties agree in the end; know your facts before you vote in November. For more information on the Georgia Charter Schools Amendment One, please visit www.georgiahope2012.com as well as www.votesmartgeorgia.com for views on both sides of the debate.

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