Early Poll Shows Support For Charter Amendment

Via the Florida Times-Union:

A poll conducted March 29-30 and released Friday by the Georgia Charter Schools Association showed that 58 percent of those surveyed said they would support the amendment when an interviewer read them its wording. But firm support is soft with 38 percent saying definitely yes and 20 percent saying probably.

On the other hand, 23 percent said they would vote no, while 19 percent were undecided at the time.

The poll of 600 likely voters conducted by McLaughlin & Associates of Alexandria, Va., has a margin of error of 4 percent.

As the article mentions, opposition groups have yet to crank up their campaigns. Gwinnett School Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks has been public in his opposition for some time now. He blasted the proposal at GCPS’ 5 area budget meetings earlier this year.

Wilbanks concluded his speech with an impassioned appeal for parents, teachers, taxpayers, business owners, and community leaders to vote against H.R. 1162, which was passed by the Georgia General Assembly in its 2012 session, and oppose the campaign promoting charter schools. The proposed constitutional amendment, which allows the state to create charter schools, will appear on the November General Election ballot.

The campaign to create charter schools, Wilbanks said, discredits public education. Charter schools, he said, decrease funding for public schools and remove control of educating students and accountability for tax funds from local elected school boards.

The debate over this Amendment will be an important one and sure to be intense as we move closer to November.

5 comments

  1. Jackster says:

    I love that they are planning for additional capacity, but ONLY public school capacity is acceptable. When Charter schools are indeed public school capacity, just not Wilbanks’.

    I should also note that he took a dig at the state’s continued cuts for local school boards –

    “Over the past 11 years, Wilbanks also said, GPS has lost $631 million because of “temporary” state funding cuts including $113.3 million in 2013. “With that $113.3 million, we could have offset the $89-million deficit, hired 195 teachers, lowered class size, and eliminated furlough days.”

    I wonder if he is aware that the state disagrees with his assumption: In a recent interview with WABE, Reps Millar Coleman reinforced their view that these funds are not the state’s responsibility to provide: http://www.peachpundit.com/2012/06/07/is-our-leaders-committed-to-education/

    I also love how GCPS is rolling out a massive new e-textbook program, but that doesn’t actually add to the deficit.

  2. John Konop says:

    Charter schools are becoming a main character in a separate but equally contentious drama: public financing of private projects. Here in Cherokee County, Georgia, we’re having bad experiences with two in particular, the Fairway Golf Course and the Ball Ground Recycling Plant in which tax payers will likely face a loss of at least 20 million dollars with a good chance of it being substantially more.

    Whenever a county considers accepting an ongoing private and or public operating liability—such as guaranteeing the bonds, providing up front funding, excepting material on going liabilities—protecting tax payers against unreasonable risk should be a top priority. When a private company receives public money, it is irrational for the private company to receive all the upside of success and the tax payers to be on hook if the venture fails.

    Let’s start with the Cherokee Charter Academy. I actually support charter schools, if they are properly funded. But before we debate the viability of charter schools, we should first understand the liabilities put on us tax payers. From what is reported it is obvious that we have discrepancies about the financial viability of the school. Tax payers would not only loose their initial investment, but the quality of our school system will be shaken as it struggles to absorb close to 1,000 kids from the failed charter school mid-year.

    We, as a community, can prevent these kinds of financial losses in the future by requiring a surety bond or other forms of security from the company taking public funds for future private/public ventures. This kind of security means that independent experts have validated the viability of the project to the point that they’re willing to put their own company’s money at risk if the venture fails. It also establishes stronger financial controls than the government which are not typically capable of executing; neither the charter school, recycling plant or golf course has the above requirements.

    If no financial institution will provide a reasonable rate for guaranteeing a particular public/private venture, that should be a red flag that the project scope and financing needs to be restructured or not implemented. We need to demand that our elected representatives treat tax payer money in a fiscally conservative manner before they approve any future publically funded projects, like charter schools, recycling plants, aquatic parks, golf courses, etc. Let’s agree on fiscally rational financial requirements of these projects before we debate the politics behind them.

  3. For the average person listening to this debate, it sounds very much like a voucher debate. It was the same way in General Assembly. Unfortunately, the average Georgian doesn’t realize that charter schools are public schools.

    John brings up a good point. That’s why I have been hesitant about facility funding. A lack of facility funding has always been a major challenge for charter schools, but I also don’t want my taxpayer dollars being used to build a facility the school system doesn’t need for a charter school that might need to be closed in a few years for failure to meet its goals.

    Today, charter schools are completely responsible for their own buildings. What we need is predictable year-to-year facility funding that could support a lease or mortgage payment — the payment would end the moment the charter was closed and the charter would have responsibility for any unpaid mortgage. This is fair to charters and protects taxpayers.

    However, John, most charter schools are very small, which mitigates the impact if one closes. Once we equally fund charters, it might make sense to require a bond for schools that grow beyond a certain point. Larger schools would be better able to afford that extra cost. (This would be similar to the “standby costs” that electric power companies incur when large solar facilities stop producing power due to clouds but people still want their electricity.)

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