“I fully support the continued creation of high quality charter schools for Georgia’s students, but after careful consideration of what is best for all of Georgia’s students, I have decided to take a position in opposition to the constitutional amendment that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. Until all of our public school students are in school for a full 180-day school year, until essential services like student transportation and student support can return to effective levels, and until teachers regain jobs with full pay for a full school year, we should not redirect one more dollar away from Georgia’s local school districts — much less an additional $430 million in state funds, which is what it would cost to add seven new state charter schools per year over the next five years (the annual average of the Charter Commission that would be revived if the amendment passes). I cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education. What’s more, this constitutional amendment would direct taxpayer dollars into the pockets of out-of-state, for-profit charter school companies whose schools perform no better than traditional public schools and locally approved charter schools (and worse, in some cases).
“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.”
Backers of the constitutional amendment fear that without a stamp of approval from voters this fall, the state’s power to authorize and fund charter schools could come under legal threat.
“All opponents will have to do is go back to the court and say, ‘The state is in contempt of court,’ ‘They’re not following your directions,’ ‘They’re still violating the constitution,’” said Tony Roberts, president and chief executive officer of the Georgia Charter Schools Association.
“They haven’t filed suit yet, but if past history is any indication, they will.”
Opponents maintain that charter schools take money from public schools, and many Democrats oppose the new amendment. The Democratic Party of Georgia has sought to highlight what it describes as the misleading nature of the ballot question.
“We have found that once people realize these charter schools take money from the public school systems, their opinions change,” said Eric Gray, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia.
— The Associated Press
contributed to this article.