June 26, 2013

The question of charter schools

June 26, 2013 The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Representatives from the Georgia Charter Schools Association visited Valdosta again Tuesday night to address questions and concerns regarding the future of charter schools in the area and in Georgia.

The association is a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of charter schools. The last time the group came to town, the meeting was highly contentious and the organization’s reps were hoping for a calmer meeting this time. However, the educators and concerned parents who are opposed to the concept of charter schools won’t be easily mollified anytime soon.

The concept of public education is that all students receive the same education, regardless of socio-economic background, ethnicity, where they live, religion, etc. All students are treated the same, and schools are governed by the community, with input from parents, teachers, and officials elected from the area that pays the taxes that run the schools. Charter schools take those public funds from school systems, those tax dollars, but do not have the same level of accountability. Their boards, their curriculum, their teachers and their students are determined privately. That’s the rub.

With the possibility of private schools becoming charter schools, with the possibility that community schools will suffer at a time when they have no spare funds in order to support a school where taxpayers have no input, with the inevitability that this will happen in our community, yes, people are concerned and upset.

The charter schools association states that its only mission is to improve education by giving students options; that by allowing children to go to any school of their choosing will promote education and parental involvement

It sounds as if the state has drained the education coffers over the last decade and is now decrying the state of education. It sounds as if Georgia is willing to allow what are essentially private schools to be run off taxpayer funds with no input from taxpayers.

Yes, Georgians had the choice at the polls last year, although the confusing language of the ballot question left many not understanding what they were voting for, but yes, the initiative passed.

But the question still remains — how can those who govern Georgia expect public school systems to share their already limited funds with charter schools? Unless the legislature takes a good hard look next year at the budget and decides to restore some of those austerity cuts, this initiative could seriously jeopardize the ability of cities and counties to effectively educate the children they are mandated to educate.

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