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Newton school board passes resolution opposing state control

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Board of Education has passed a resolution to oppose the constitutional amendment for charter schools that will be on the November election ballot.

During last week's work session, the board passed the resolution that was drafted by Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews, who took from other school boards' similar resolutions. Board member Jeff Meadors voted against the passing of the resolution.

The amendment would give the state legislature the right to allow for charter schools that are not approved by local school boards.

In August, state Superintendent of Schools John Barge issued a statement in opposition of the amendment, saying the measure takes away local control and could give taxpayer dollars to out-of state, for-profit charter schools.

"I trust our local school districts will continue to approve only high-quality charter schools for Georgia's students, and I am committed to working with all of our school districts to ensure that high quality applicants are not denied locally including mediating between high quality charter school applicants and any local districts that are reluctant to approve them, as provided by existing Georgia law," Barge said in his statement.

Although NCSS has a charter program through the Challenge Charter Academy, it is locally supported and operated, unlike ones the state law would allow.

The resolution passed last week states that the Newton County BOE requests that voters of Georgia oppose the amendment relative to the state approval of charter schools.

The one-page resolution states that the board is "in support of quality public education, the essential foundation of America's past, current and future greatness."

"The (board) believes that quality public education for every child, regardless of heritage or circumstance, is the key to equality, freedom and the realization of individual potential," the resolution continues. "The (board) believes that without quality public education, a great divide will exist between the educated and the uneducated, corresponding to a divide between the prosperous and the impoverished."

The board cites reasons for opposing the charter amendment: NCSS reducing its general fund budget by $8.2 million last school year by eliminating teachers, programs and other personnel and services and causing NCSS to experience ongoing increases in class sizes, fewer resources and reduced compensation for teachers.

The resolution goes on to say that school vouchers and state-approved charter schools divert public school funds away from the local community schools to support the operation of private and for-profit schools.

The board also states that it stands behind the Georgia Supreme Court ruling, which declared it unconstitutional for an appointed state commission to approve charter schools over the objection of the elected local school board.

"(The local school board) is accountable to the taxpaying public," the resolution reads.

The resolution urges Governor Nathan Deal and state legislators to "adequately fund" Georgia public education, to cease efforts to "erode" local control of public schools and to encourage flexibility, innovation and accountability needed to improve schools.

A copy of the resolution will be sent to the governor, appropriate state representatives and senators, the state Board of Education and the Georgia Department of Education.

Meadors said that he opposed the resolution because he doesn't personally believe that he has any "business asking or requesting that voters vote yes or no" on the issue.

"I have long contended that the voters deserve the right to cast ballots on House Resolution 1162 and while I strongly support public education, if they believe that students in zip codes which offer little to no choice of an alternative need a choice, then I won't interfere," he said after the meeting "I will live with the outcome of the fall vote. That said, I tend to agree that students need viable and successful options if they don't currently exist."