Charter Schools Will Raise State's Academic Standing

An editorial by Christian Coomer

THE PASSAGE of the Charter School Amendment and the restoration of the state’s authority to establish charter schools will raise the level of Georgia’s academic standing, provide real local control over families’ educational choices, improve Georgia’s economic prospects, and restore the balance of power between the three branches of government. 

Much has been said and written about the Charter School Amendment and sometimes it’s a challenge to separate fact from fiction. This column is intended to deliver some basic logic and facts for anyone trying to make an informed decision about how to vote on the Charter School Amendment.

Georgia is made up of 159 counties, each of which has at least one public school system. Many, like Floyd and Bartow counties, have more than one public school system. As divergent and independent as our myriad systems of education are, they all make up “Georgia” schools. No matter how good individual systems may be, the weight of our statewide education failures drags down the reputations and limits the opportunities of the best and brightest students graduating from Georgia schools. 

Schools in our communities are among the best in the state and the likelihood that parents in our systems will be clamoring for public school alternatives is pretty slim. 

PASSING the Charter School Amendment is about giving parents and children in failing systems an opportunity for success in education when that opportunity has been denied by the politicians and lobbyists who have a choke-hold on the purse strings of those systems. When the children and parents in those systems are able to demonstrate the success of school choice, there is a natural progression toward improvement in schools across the community—not just in the charter schools. The improvement is felt in the aggregate as Georgia’s reputation and ranking improve in measurable areas of achievement. By voting “Yes” parents of Floyd and Bartow County students will not only be giving educational choice to students in those failing systems, they will be improving the opportunities for their own.

Conservatives have long touted the benefits of local control in all manner of government undertakings. Suddenly, some liberals have taken on the mantra of “local control” to argue that the Charter School Amendment somehow usurps local control in favor of central planning. In reality, school choice is about educational control at the most local level — he family. The Charter School Amendment seeks to break the log jam of lobbyists and politicians who have entrenched themselves between children and their full educational potential, allowing families to regulate the stream of educational development for their own children. That is real local control. 

WHEN industry determines where to invest in new development, one of the most important factors considered, perhaps the most important factor, is the state’s education system. In order to make Georgia more attractive to industry, education has to improve. As indicated above, school choice makes for better education and better results. As Georgia’s schools improve their standing, so does Georgia’s competitive edge in attracting economic development.

Our founders understood that by separating and balancing the powers of government into three branches the inevitable encroachment of government power over individual liberty would be substantially slowed. When one branch of government exercises unauthorized authority over another, the separate powers become unbalanced and individual liberties are the collateral damage. Every intrusion by one branch must be answered with a restoration of the balance to prevent the complete erosion of liberty. 

The Charter School Amendment became necessary because unwarranted judicial activism was used to curtail the will of the people as demonstrated by their elected representatives in the General Assembly and the Executive branch. The only way to restore the balance and return liberty to the people is to thwart the judicial power grab. The Charter School Amendment is the means for forcing the judicial branch back into its appropriate role as a separate and balanced branch of the government. In this way, the Charter School Amendment protects individual liberty and restores the balance of power between the branches.

THERE ARE some basic truths about what the Charter School Amendment and its implementing legislation would and would not do. Those politicians and lobbyists who stand to lose significant power over taxpayers have filled the debate with misinformation and unsupported innuendo. The five basic truths set out below should clarify some of the false information.

  • 1. Charter schools are public schools. Like every public school, they are free and open to all students in their respective attendance areas.
  • 2. Locals run the schools. The proposed charter school commission would have the ability to authorize and hold charter schools accountable but would not run the schools. By joining 33 other states that already have this authority, we would stand with them in ensuring that high quality charter schools are approved.
  • 3. Charters provide real accountability. Charters exist for the express purposes of increasing student achievement and parental involvement. The goal is to improve public education. Charters not meeting their performance goals are closed.
  • 4. Public charter schools benefit all public school students. There have been at least 19 studies on the impact of school choice on students in traditional public schools. Not one found negative consequences for traditional public school students; many saw academic gains—a rising tide lifts all boats.
  • 5. Local dollars are not used to fund public school charters. Local dollars will not be used to fund state approved charter schools, and HR 1162 explicitly prohibits a direct deduction of state funds to local school systems. 

It is time to give Georgia’s students and their parents public school options. Vote yes on the Charter School Amendment in November. 

Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, represents portions of Floyd and Bartow counties in the Georgia General Assembly. Readers may contact him at ccoomer@coomerlaw.com

Dana Teegardin October 14, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Please do your homework before voting on this Amendment. I know from experience that local control of charter schools is critical. Put in the hands of a political committee, parents and the community don't stand a chance. I speak from experience and as a charter school advocate that had a terrible experience at a charter school in Alpharetta. The local school board made the tough decisions and listened to the community. The politicians looked the other way and my legislator, charter amendment author, did not include rules in this legislation to prevent the same problems from happening in your community. Win or lose. You should read my story. The charter school governing board doesn't always work which puts your tax dollars and kids in jeopardy. www.georgiacharterschooldisgrace.com
Frank October 16, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Dear Rep. Coomer: Let's use Pataula Charter Academy (PCA) located in Edison, GA as an example which illustrates a very important aspect of Charter Schools and their contribution to segregation. According to the Georgia Department of Education website, Pataula Charter Academy's enrollment of white students is 75%, yet the white demographic in Edison is approximately 32%. Transportation, or lack thereof, largely determines a student's ability to attend, or not attend a charter school. If you can afford to transport your child to the school, there is an increased likelihood you might choose the charter school option. For many, transportation is unaffordable. It shows more clearly in the following example. PCA is located in Calhoun County, GA. 92% of Calhoun County students are Eligible for Free/Reduced Meals. Yet, at Pataula Charter Academy just 54% are Eligible for Free/Reduced Meals. Hmmm.... Guess which group considers transportation more affordable! Coincidence???? Doubtful ! There are numerous similar examples throughout the state - a charter school example that illustrates how charter schools can emulate private schools at public cost.
Frank October 16, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Another thing to echo "Charter Amendments" comments: CREDO study, Stanford University revealed 17% of charter schools narrowly bested their counterparts. 37% were worse, 46% showed no statistical difference in their academic performance. Let's get back to Calhoun County School District and the Pataula Charter Academy (PCA). Total combined enrollment is roughly 850 students. About 235 of those attend PCA. State Avg. Quality Basic Education (QBE) for K12 students is: $4,290. Approx. 27% of the Calhoun County School District's QBE funding will instead go to PCA (i.e. roughly $1.0 million of $3.7 million). Fixed operating costs for the Calhoun County School District will thus cost more per student thereby placing an additional burden on families who can least afford the increase. Oh... here's the real kick in the pants... didn't yet mention that the state is also going to fund PCA at a higher rate per student at $6,392. That's 1.5 times the rate that the state will fund a student in the Calhoun County School District. So... more funding for those who can afford to transport themselves, less for those who don't along with being saddled with greater fixed expenses. A district's reaction time to this financial nightmare needs to be considered. Surprise - Guess what, we hear the state just approved a state charter school - you have less than 6 months to figure out how to cope with a 30% budget cut! Toodles!
Frank October 16, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Can't leave this one off the table.... It's quite a stretch to suggest that the passage of Amendment 1 will "...restore the balance of power between the three branches of government." Does the esteemed Rep. really believe this? Don't recall school boards being part of the "three branches of government." Legislative - General Assembly - Senators & Representatives Judicial - State Supreme Court and other State Courts Executive - Governor We already have our liberty... more laws reduce some aspect of that liberty. Rather than restoring the balance of power, Amendment 1 grants more power to the State than it deserves.


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