While I realize that most regular readers of this blog are already in agreement with me that Amendment 1 is bad for Georgia, I feel like I need to get out some thoughts as to why we need to vote against this dangerous constitutional amendment.
Frankly, I believe there are plenty of reasons to vote no, and absolutely zero reasons to vote yes. I will try to address each of them, however I welcome constructive and intelligent comments as to any points that I may have missed.
Amendment 1 gravely misleads Georgia voters textually, and in and of itself uses lies and deceit to try to get votes.
The text of Amendment 1, as you will see it on your ballot, is:
Provides for improving student achievement and pa rental involvement through more public charter school options.
So, basically, the text itself demeans anyone who dare vote against it as someone who is against smarter kids and more involved parents, not to mention that such a voter must be against charter schools per se. But the facts are far less clear. As I will explain below, this Amendment does not do what it says it will do, but is rather using empty platitudes to convince the uneducated voter to vote for it. Such tactics are dangerous. With this logic, the text of an amendment banning abortion would say “Provides for healthier, happier babies by ensuring birth.” It’s just not true.
Amendment 1 is a thinly-veiled attempt for out of state companies to profit off of Georgia students, without any regard to how well-educated they are.
I guess now is a good a time as ever to talk about what Amendment 1 actually does, as well as how the system exists right now.
So here’s how a charter school (basically) is made. The proponents of the individual charter school apply to the local school board. That local school board deliberates, and then determines whether or not to grant the charter. Pretty simple, right?
Well, what this amendment would do is allow a second tier. Instead of only applying to the local, elected school board, the proponents can apply to a newly-created state board. This state board will consist of political appointees, named by the Governor and Speaker of the House. Whatever decision they make with regard to a charter will be binding on the local school board.
So here’s the basic problem, or set of problems.
- The people in charge of making decisions about new charter schools will no longer be accountable to us. Right now, we have a system in which we can keep our local elected officials honest. If our school board denies a good charter school or accepts a bad one, we can use the power of our votes to replace those people. With this amendment, we will have a system in which decisions will be made by a bunch of politically-appointed bureaucrats. If they make a bad decision, we can’t do anything about it. Nothing. Which brings me to my next point.
- Whatever decisions a bunch of statewide bureaucrats make are binding on our local school boards. That includes your tax dollars. Nowadays, our local school board members can look at a bunch of things that they know a heck of a lot about– their budget, the performance of students in their district, and the needs of the area– and make an educated decision. Maybe a charter school is being denied because it is prohibitively expensive? Well, the state board will be able to compel a new school being built with your tax dollars and you will have nothing to say about it. At least with the decision being made at the local level, you have someone that you can hold accountable. Not any more.
Follow the money, and the support.
In this post-Citizens United world (love it or hate it), it is beneficial to see who is lobbying in favor and against political candidates and constitutional amendments. Here, it is particularly illustrative to “follow the money.”
Think about those folks that are coming out against Amendment 1. State Schools Superintendent Dr. John Barge, a Republican. All of the Georgia Teachers’ groups. The Georgia PTA. The Georgia School Superintendents’ Association. What’s the pattern? Parents, teachers, and administrators– the experts when it comes to your child’s education.
If you look at those that are pouring money into the pro-Amendment 1 coffers, you will see a bunch of corporate out of state interests. ALEC, the Walton family, for-profit schools and their financiers, and the like. So why is this important?
These people are effectively seeing their donations toward the pro-Amendment 1 activities as a business investment. They stand to make a ton of money if this Amendment is approved. Even though charter schools are public schools in the literal sense, there is a serious difference. Public schools are effectively non-profit. Whatever is not used in the operation of the school goes back into the school board coffers, and can be used for more educational opportunities. Charter schools are for-profit. Those that run it see it as a business, not a school. Let me be clear, if I ran a for-profit enterprise of any sort, I would be concerned about my bottom line, so I cannot fault operators for thinking this way. But the fact is that they do, and if five years down the line, a charter school is not bringing in the dollars, they can just shut the doors and cut their losses.
So, basically, this all means that those that are advocating on behalf of this amendment aren’t doing it because of some love of education, or some philanthropic want to improve our communities. This is all about the dollar bill, and for that, we should be concerned.
In the end, this issue is not about being for or against charter schools in general. It is far more complex than Amendment 1’s proponents are trying to make it out to be.
People need to be educated about this issue, and should not go into the voting booth thinking that a vote against Amendment 1 in any way equates to a vote against charter schools. People like me, opponents of Amendment 1, are on both sides of the aisle, and many of us (myself included) are not opposed to charter schools. So don’t let anyone mischaracterize us to you.
I am a member of No on November 6. I suggest you head over there as well, as they post some good stories about this issue.