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Ga. voters OK charter schools amendment

COVINGTON — Local systems don’t yet know how the passage of the charter school amendment will affect them.

“It remains to be seen as to whether this amendment will result in a continued decline in the funding of the state’s public school systems,” said Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews. “There is only so much money to be distributed in the state and, thus, funding is a concern going forward.”

Tuesday’s election showed that Georgians approved a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to re-establish a new state board charter commission to consider and issue charters for private operators to run independent public schools. Currently, local school boards approve charter applications; and denials can be appealed through the state Board of Education.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting unofficial results, more than 2.1 million voters — or 58.5 percent — supported the proposal. A total of 1.5 million or 41.5 percent opposed it, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website on Wednesday.

Locally, more than 28,000, or about 69 percent of voters, approved the amendment.

“I was very happy to see it was a dramatic win — that’s Georgia saying that we’re tired of being at the bottom … and we want options, something more,” said Jeff Meadors, vice chair of the Newton County Board of Education, who was the only local board member to favor the amendment. “It’s free enterprise and competition, and you know when we have that, the others get better because they want to keep the students.”

The commission would directly consider applications by operators who propose the schools. Local boards will not have any say over those applications.

Charter schools are financed with public money but run by private organizations. They generally are not subject to the same rules and regulations as traditional public schools.

“The people have spoken on this matter. Our democracy has a way of sorting these issues out if not forever, for at least a moment in time,” Mathews said.

Newton County has two charter schools approved by the local school board — Challenge Charter Academy and the Newton College & Career Academy. Earlier this fall, the Newton County Board of Education passed a resolution opposing the then-proposed constitutional amendment.

Proponents of the measure, including Gov. Nathan Deal, say establishing another avenue for charter schools would expand educational options for Georgia families and their children. Opponents, led by state Superintendent John Barge, contend that it duplicates the state school board’s existing power and could siphon money away from local schools that already face tight budgets.

Some opponents have filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court arguing that the amendment should be invalidated because of the language on the ballot — “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”

Proponents say they are confident the legal complaint does not threaten the new law.

Lawmakers first created a state charter commission in 2008, but the Georgia Supreme Court sided with a group of plaintiffs who argued that the state constitution gives control of K-12 education to local boards. The amendment effectively overrides that decision.

Georgia has about 200 charter schools already, including those created by the first state charter panel.

“Perhaps the more cogent point will be the extent to which state-created charters measurably change educational outcomes for the better. For now, the national research on charter schools is clear: they perform no better than the traditional public school,” Mathews said. “There is such angst in the nation regarding the achievement of America’s schoolchildren that passage of this amendment is symptomatic of that fact. At the end of the day, so to speak, it remains my view that substantial improvement in student learning does not come from a particular governance structure. It comes from well-schooled, caring and thoughtful teachers who know best practice and are willing to go the extra mile for their students. It comes from school principals who lead-for-learning and monitor such and from Boards of Education which put student learning first and all else a distant second.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments

OnToday 2 years ago

Dr Mathews, please read your last line in that last quote and DO something about the ones who aren't doing what you say.

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Lucy30016 2 years ago

Phd and mindless. Stop writing our lesson plans for us we are sick of it. And this is a Republic Gary not democracy. Thank God this passed Newton schools are bottoming out.

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RV30015 2 years ago

Smartest member of the board among goons. Thanks for being strong on this Mr. M.

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Chambermaid 2 years ago

Two words to make Newton want power AWAY from local boards: LaQuanda Carpenter. LaQuanda Carpenter has led Alcovy High School for 3 years and every piece of data on student achievement is low or below county or below county and state it is in almost every article every paper. We have to hire principals who are not dating the people overseeing Human Resources. DId we not learn anything from Lead Learners LLC and Dennis Carpenter?

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Satan69 2 years ago

The crime at Alcovy High School alone is enough for me to want a school choice for my child. Gary Matthews turns his head and is blind to the mess at Alcovy High School. He says he comes here? We never see him here. And why did Dan Mulligan cancel visits at a nearby elementary school lately - aren't we paying him six figures to bore the hell out of us?

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Tairuna 2 years ago

One educator on the board and one person who gets it right and votes for students. When Baker and Coggin run if they do in 2 years remember they voted to tell us to vote NO on the charter amendment but hey 70 percent of us didn't listen did we nor did the state. Where do their kids go? The theme school. They sure made it into the lottery didn't they? One board member out of 5 votes with the people on this -remember this in 2014

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Henrycounselor 2 years ago

Newton Public please go to the Newton BOE meeting next Tuesday November 13th at 7 p.m. they are discussing the personnel policies section G and we need a Nepotism policy that will take care of the LaQuanda and Dennis Carpenter situation. Public meeting.

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Bemused 2 years ago

If any of you bothered to read what this amendment will actually do, you should be very upset that it passed. There was already a structure and procedure in place for the possibility of a local school board denying a charter school application. This amendment sets up another state controlled layer that will siphon off public school money for something that is already there, so when your taxes continue to go up and up to make up for the even bigger shortfall that is now going to occur at a greater rate , please don't complain about it. If you voted for this amendment, you screwed us all.

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CW 2 years ago

Thank God for homeschooling. This has been a viable option since 1985, and many local students have benefited from it. I don't know if charter schools can approach this success rate, but if they do as well they are to be commended.

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