This post comes from State Rep. Rahn Mayo of district 91. Rep. Mayo is a supporter of the proposed charter amendment and a Democrat. Rahn give us his reasons for supporting the proposed amendment.
There is a common misconception that public charter schools can choose and accept only the students that they desire. The truth is that any parent who wishes to enroll their child in a charter school has that option, provided they live in the attendance zone or county in which the charter school is located. In many cases, charter schools, much like the most popular theme and magnet schools have waiting lists due to high demand for their outstanding academic results.
In my opinion, many who oppose to the charter amendment are not focused on what’s in the best interest of children, parents and taxpayers, but instead motivated by protecting the power and exclusive control currently held by local school boards and systems. Considering a history of underperformance, fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer resources, local systems have not proven to be deserving of exclusive control, free of state intervention when neccessary. In DeKalb County, a former superintendent and school system leadership are currently under indictment on charges of running a criminal enterprise. The DeKalb School Board is under review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) for mismanaging the district and budget. Elsewhere in Georgia, Clayton County lost it’s accreditation in 2008 over alleged corruption among board members and mismanagement of that system, which put the academic well being of thousands of students at risk. SACS issued a scathing report in which it labeled the Clayton County School Board “dysfunctional” and “fatally flawed.”
Prior to 2011, under the leadership of Dr. Beverly Hall, the Atlanta Public School System enjoyed tremendous support by status quo leaders and polticians who defended the success and great improvements made by that superintendent. It was later discovered that APS leadership attempted to cover-up one of the biggest cheating scandals in United States history. The APS cheating scandal has been an embarrassment to the state and the consequences continue to hinder our progress in Georgia.
In Dougherty County, criminal charges were filed against a school board member who was removed from the board by the governor. Furthermore, the Dougherty County School System is not eligible to receive at least $10 million in federal funds because of concerns that the district has inflated the number of students who qualify for federal meal assistance. These are a few of the reasons why I believe it is a misguided notion to suggest that local school systems always know and do what’s best for our children.
With respect to the charter amendment, the belief that money to fund state authorized charter schools will be taken from local school systems is false. These schools will be paid for with state taxpayer money. HB 797, which created the law outlining the details of funding for state charter schools, explicitly states that no deduction shall be made to any state funding which a local school system is authorized to receive as a result of a student in that district enrolling in a state charter school. The Georgia Charter Commission appointees will be volunteers at no cost to taxpayers and accountable to the State School Board, which has the authority to to deny charters schools recommended by the Charter Commission.
While we debate the idea of whether or not the state should serve as a secondary authorizer of charter schools, it is my belief that most parents are more concerned with the quality, culture and academic performance of their child’s school, rather than which level of government creates the school. It is time for Georgia, which provides approximately 45% of funding for local public schools, to maintain a shared responsibility with local school systems in the creation of quality public school options. Georgia leaders can no longer afford to fiddle while Rome burns and we allow another generation of children to suffer and remain trapped in struggling schools.
In an effort to provide more quality public school options for parents, I am urging you to vote yes on November 6th to re-create the Georgia Charter Commission and give the state and local school systems the ability to authorize public charter schools.