There has been an enormous misinformation campaign waged by opponents of this amendment, who see this, correctly, as a danger to the monopoly stranglehold they hold on education in Georgia; or rather, on the BILLIONS of education dollars that the public school system controls. One of the most curious attacks on this amendment is the claim, uttered with vague but ominous undertones, that the campaign in favor of the amendment is being funded with money that comes, in part, from out of state sources. In fact, I was told this week by someone opposing the amendment that this was “sin money,” and that we couldn’t trust the motives of those contributing money from out of state.
So let me get this straight … I am supposed to be suspicious of, and frightened by, the fact that a portion of the million or so dollars funding the pro-amendment campaign comes from out of state sources, yet I am supposed to trust implicitly the motives of those trying to protect the billions and billions of dollars that they receive for their education monopoly which they are determined to protect, with a campaign funded by taxpayer dollars? Sorry, I am not buying it. I asked this gentlemen to justify his accusation that this money was somehow tainted by virtue of it coming from out of state, and likewise, if he thought that all of the schools across the nation who receive the hundreds of millions of dollars of education grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation should return that money in order to maintain moral purity. For that matter, when I send in my donations to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, should I stipulate that they receive that money only on the terms that it not help a single person outside of Georgia? Or is it possible that there are people around this country who realize that education is the key to prosperity, and who feel compassion for those kids trapped in failing schools, no matter which state they live in?
The irony of all this is that, 1) good schools have nothing to fear, and 2) traditional schools actually make out better. In order to get buy-in from the public school systems throughout the state (that’s right, those working with the legislature to craft the amendment agreed to this initially), the legislature agreed to prohibit charter schools from getting a single penny of local money, and are limited to receiving state and federal funds only. Due to that fact, the charter schools will receive only 62 percent as much funding as the traditional public schools. So for every kid in Bartow County (assuming for the sake of argument that Bartow citizens would even want a charter school) that moved from a traditional public school to a charter school, the public school would actually benefit to the tune of about $1,000, because they would have kept the local money allocated to that child but have shed the cost of educating him or her! Remember though, that not every county will petition for a charter school. After all, if your child is going to a great public school, are you likely to wake up one day and decide “Hey, my kid is going to a great school and excelling academically, so let me take her out of that school and stick her in a new one!”? Of course not! The whole point of this amendment is to give kids in FAILING schools a means of escaping from a dead-end future.
And that is really what it comes down to … many schools are failing our children. Georgia spends an average of about $9,000 per student per year on education, and in return we get schools which consistently rank near dead last in academic achievement nationwide. This failure to prepare our children for the real world, this failure to prepare them for employment in a rapidly changing global economy, is dooming their future to one of low-skill, low-wage jobs and an inability to compete with workers in foreign countries. Our current public school system is archaic, developed more than a hundred years ago in order to transition our workforce from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy. Unfortunately, we are no longer in an industrial economy, we are deep into the information age, the age of social media and web applications and blindingly fast technology advancement. Our schools are not preparing our children for that world.
Another argument is that this would take away local control, which is an absolute falsehood. What this amendment does is provide an avenue of appeal (a method for a redress of grievance, for the constitutionally literate) for those parents and students who are denied a charter application by the local school system. Before the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional, only a small percentage of these charter denials were reversed. However, shouldn’t the parents and kids have that opportunity? If the charter application appeal is approved, then control goes right back to the parents and the local charter school. How much more local control can you have than that? I’ve had opponents claim that this is not true, that the state commission will have the control, and my challenge to them still stands … show me the exact text in the law which provides for state control after charter approval. If you can’t, then stop making false statements to try to win votes to your side.
This is also not an attack on our teachers, as some have claimed. In fact, it is just the opposite. Several of my dearest friends teach in local public schools, and they have told me for years of their frustration at having their hands tied, of having to “teach to the test,” of having to teach a certain curriculum in a certain way, a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching that is frustrating for them, for the students and for the parents. It is an approach to teaching that has produced mediocrity for decades. This will allow for competition, for innovation, for new approaches to teaching. It will give teachers the flexibility they need to be successful. We have some great teachers, but even great teachers have a very difficult time being successful in a system that constrains their talents. It is like handing Michaelangelo a putty knife and a toothbrush and telling him to paint the Sistine Chapel.
So remember this when you walk into that voting booth on Nov. 6, if your county has great schools, no one will be clamoring for a charter school, so this won’t affect you. But failure to pass this amendment means that kids in poor and underachieving school systems will be trapped there, shackled and enslaved by their own ignorance and inability to get a good education. So please, let next Tuesday be the declaration of a 21st century Emancipation Proclamation for those children trapped in failing schools. Please give them a chance to succeed, and in the process help teachers do what they do best … inspire our children to reach beyond their imaginations.
Louis DeBroux is a Taylorsville resident, married, with eight children. He is chairman of the Bartow County Republican Party. He owns Gatekeeper data backup and recovery. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.