"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people ... They are the only reliance for the preservation of our liberty."-- Thomas JeffersonThe Founding Fathers of the United States lived more than 200 years ago and understood the value of public education. An educated populace sustains our democratic nation. True democracy encompasses such qualities as independent thought, critical and analytical thinking. These very qualities are what the proponents of H.R. 1162, the Constitutional Amendment on Charter Schools, will restrict to a certain group of people.
Last year, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down a 2008 law allowing the state to create and fund a dual system of state charter schools against the wishes of the local school board and communities. H.R. 1162 is not about educating the public; it is fundamentally an expansion of state government. It will provide an appointed state commission unchecked power to approve charter or other schools without the approval of local school boards. The ballot language is vague and misleading: "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?" Not only is H.R. 1162 is an expansion of government, but it strips the autonomy of locally elected school boards to approve or disapprove charter schools in local communities.
The reality is that local school boards can already approve charter schools. If approved, this amendment will give a state commission power to make decisions about our children's education without local accountability.
Charter schools differ from traditional public schools. Charters can waive state laws and local board policies that regular public schools must follow. For-profit charter school companies are responsible to their shareholders, not students.
Protect voters' control of public schools. Locally elected school boards are accountable to the voters who elect them. Protect funding for Georgia's public schools. The state has cut public school budgets by $3 billion in the last three years and another $1 billion for the upcoming school year. Georgia is not funding existing local charter schools and traditional public schools. The amendment will allow the state to take more money from Georgia's public schools. If H.R. 1162 passes, school class sizes will increase and there will be more of a possibility of teacher furloughs and layoffs.
When local accountability shifts from local voters to a state-appointed body, it matters. When appointees of appointees can decide to place an unlimited number of schools in a school district without regard to the effect on taxpayers, it matters. When the state sets out to intentionally create a separate school system, it matters.
This is not about choices, it's about who chooses. Vote smart on Nov. 6.
For more information, visit VoteSmartGeorgia.com.
Katrina Young is a member of the Rockdale County Board of Education and District 4 director of the Georgia School Board Association. This commentary is made in an individual capacity and not as a member of the Board of Education.