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Rob Jenkins: Charter school debate comes down to turfism versus choice

If there's one point on which liberal teachers union activists and conservative school administrators agree, it's that the proposed charter school amendment would be bad for Georgia.

Thoughtful voters should find that troubling.

After all, it's often said that a person can be judged by his or her enemies. Might the same be true of an idea?

Teachers unions exist to advance the interests of teachers. Not students. Not schools. Teachers.

(Yes, I know that Georgia doesn't literally have teachers unions. But the state's largest teachers group, the Georgia Association of Educators, is affiliated with the nation's largest teachers union, the National Education Association. The GAE publicly opposes the charter school amendment.)

Meanwhile, administrators exist to advance the interests of ... well, themselves, as far as I can tell -- and as a father of four and a professional educator for 28 years, I've encountered a lot of administrators.

What this all boils down to, in terms of the charter school debate, is turfism, pure and simple.

Teachers unions don't want charter schools because they're afraid their own schools will lose students, which will mean fewer jobs for teachers. (That's kind of silly, when you think about it. We'll still have the same number of students, even if some of them go to charter schools, so we'll still need the same number of teachers.)

And administrators don't want charter schools because they're afraid they'll lose funding, as state and local dollars follow students to their new institutions.

This is the same argument, by the way, that administrators have used for years to attack dual enrollment programs, which allow qualified high school students to take college courses during their junior and senior years. Administrators want to keep students on campus, taking AP classes, even though AP classes don't necessarily translate into college credit.

Please note that neither teachers unions nor administrators are primarily concerned with the welfare of students. Why should they be? Those aren't their kids. They're more concerned about their own jobs, their own careers, their own livelihoods. That's human nature.

But as parents, we are concerned primarily with our children's welfare. That's why we need to take with a grain of salt -- or perhaps a whole shaker-full -- everything the unions and administrators keep telling us about charter schools.

Surely, for parents and children, having more educational choices would be a good thing. And that's exactly what charter schools do: they provide parents and kids with options.

(I wonder: why is it that liberals are so keen on choice when it comes to a woman's decision to kill her unborn child, but no so much when it comes to the education of living children?)

The bottom line is that, if teachers unions and administrators are so deathly afraid students will bail at the first opportunity, what does that tell us about the current state of public education?

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter@rjenkinsgdp.