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MEADORS: Local schools should be controlled locally, too

If you support local control, please take note. Local control of public schools almost always yields better results for local communities. And it’s slipping away with House Resolution 1162 and House Bill 797.

I challenge all registered voters for the fall General Election to pay very close attention to House Resolution 1162 and its funding partner House Bill 797. These pieces of legislation equal taxation without representation and slap the Georgia Supreme Court decision on the state charter commission in the face by seeking a new definition of special schools.

If passed, a state commission will have access to local tax dollars for state schools geographically outside of local counties.

House Resolution 1162 is not about school choice. It is about taxation without representation. The wording would appear on the fall ballot as follows: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended for the purpose of raising student achievement by allowing state and local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?

Let's unravel the deceptive language here intended to trick the voter. First, there is no consistent longitudinal data showing that state-run charter schools raise student achievement. Check out the work of national educational guru Diane Ravitch where Ravitch points out that many such schools in fact represent a regression of student achievement. The use of the words "student achievement" is predicated on the assumption that voters lack sufficient intelligence to see through the chopped logic.

Next, the coupling of the words "state and local approval" implies that local boards and systems are in unison on this. Fat chance. Almost every educator in the state, the Georgia School Boards Association and local school boards oppose House Resolution 1162 and its budget buddy House Bill 797.

The final blow is the use of "local communities" as if communities would knowingly make a request to relinquish local funds to the state. The dime store psychology and tricky rhetoric represent clearly that sponsors know this would never pass if voters understood what they were voting for in the fall election.

HR 1162 would allow the state to create as many state charter schools as it wishes and to reduce a local district's state funds to fund a state school as if it were a local school. The state agency would get the benefit of the local tax base without being responsible to the taxpayers.

The Georgia Constitution currently requires that locally raised funds be spent only for the support and maintenance of schools governed by locally elected boards of education unless there is a referendum approving such an action. HR 1162 is that referendum.

If the state only wanted to establish its right to create charter schools, the funding provision, House Bill 797, would not tag along.

If educators, the public and voters alike don't mount diplomatic opposition against the bad things happening to local school governance we'll have more in common with the land of Oz as state and federal intrusion leave us wondering if we only had a brain.

If you're too busy to pay close attention to the wording of HR 1162 and HB 797, then you're too busy. Strong local schools build better communities. State schools do not.

Jeff Meadors is a member of the Newton County Board of Education.