Why PTA Supports Charter Schools But Opposes Amendment 1
by Karen Hallacy on 11/5/2012


PTA Supports Public Charter Schools

But Opposes Amendment 1

 

PTA supports public school choice and recognizes that public charter schools are an important component in providing a variety of education opportunities in our state. PTA supports multiple choices for education, including charter schools, provided the creation of the charter schools doesn’t adversely affect existing public education. Unfortunately, Amendment 1 isn’t about school choice or charter school or student achievement. It is about money and power and it will adversely affect public education.  PTA strongly opposes Amendment 1 and urges a NO vote on Nov. 6.
 
PTA has major concerns about the negative impact Amendment 1 will have on Georgia’s 1.67 million public school students.  This amendment will create a favored class of student who will receive more state funds based solely on the school the student attends, not on the student’s needs. Students who attend a state commissioned charter school will receive more funds from the state than the same student would receive attending a traditional public school, a conversion charter school or a locally authorized charter school. That’s not equitable.
 
These state commission charter schools will result in reduced funding for local public schools.  Public schools have already experienced over $6 billion in austerity cuts since 2003 that have resulted in larger classes, teacher furloughs, program eliminations and fewer days spent in the classroom. None of those cuts help student achievement. According to State School Superintendent, Dr. John Barge, over $430 million will be needed to fund these new state authorized charter schools over the next five years. That’s assuming the commission only authorizes seven a year, but it has a financial incentive to approve as many as possible since it keeps 3% on each one approved. Given Georgia’s difficult economic times and the fact that the state budget will not provide increased funding for education (in fact most areas of the budget will be cut by an additional 3%), that $430 million will likely come from existing education funds used now to support local public schools. The state commission charter schools will receive their funding from money diverted from local public schools which will negatively impact those local schools. The local school systems may need to raise property taxes to offset the state funding cuts.
 
Study after study has shown that parent involvement leads to student achievement. Nothing in Amendment 1 supports parent involvement, contrary to what the Preamble states. Parents in locally authorized charter schools and in traditional public schools must have representation on the governance board of the school but in the state commission charter schools parents aren’t guaranteed a voice at the table. The bill’s author did not include a requirement for parents of enrolled students to be assured a voice on the governing board, even after being asked. PTA is a strong proponent of parent involvement.
 
Further, the bill does not require that state charter school board members sign the ethics code required of local school board members, nor take any of the training required. This suggests that the state charter school operators are not required to be fiduciaries of our children’s education. Commission members are appointed not elected and accountable to no one, so there appears to be a lack of accountability all the way around.
 
PTA's focus has been and will continue to be what is best for every child. We cannot support this constitutional amendment which will create an inequity in funding, siphon funds from local public schools where over 94% of the students in Georgia receive their education and deny parents meaningful engagement.

We urge everyone to Vote NO on Nov. 6.

 

Below is the article 10 Things You Should Know About Amendment 1 that provides additional information.
 
 

10 Things You Should Know about Amendment 1 for Charter Schools

 

The ballot initiative on the November ballot reads: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow local or state approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities”. The language is misleading. There is already both local and state authority to create charter schools. This amendment is solely to create a third authorizer, a politically appointed State Charter School Commission not accountable to taxpayers or voters. Here are some additional facts you should know:

1.   The amendment has nothing to do with charter schools authorized by local boards of education, conversion charter schools or charter systems. Local Boards of Education can already authorize charter schools and will continue to be able to do so regardless of whether this amendment passes.
 
2.   The State Board of Education can also already authorize charter schools. It serves as a place where those denied locally can appeal. This won’t change regardless of whether the amendment passes.    
 
3.   This amendment will create an appointed commission which will cost a minimum of $1 million a year to operate. For every school it authorizes, the Commission can keep up to 3% of the school’s operating budget.
 
4.     Students who attend state commission authorized charter schools will earn more funding from the state than students who attend local public schools (including traditional, locally authorized charter schools and schools in a charter system). According to the Governor’s office, traditional students are funded at an average of $4,290 while state authorized charter students are funded at an average of $5,230 (for a virtual school), or $6,392 if they attend a brick and mortar school.
 
5.     Public education has experienced over $6 billion dollars in funding cuts since 2003. According to State School Superintendent John Barge, authorizing schools through this new commission will conservatively cost the state an additional $430 million over the next five years.Those funding cuts have resulted in 121 of 180 Georgia school systems shortening their school year to meet budget constraints. The cuts have also resulted in teacher and staff reductions, teacher furloughs, increased class sizes and program cuts.
 
6.     Individuals who are employed by a state commission charter school as teachers do not have to be certified to teach.  These individuals are often selected because they are cheaper to employ.
 
7.     This amendment is not needed as there are already over 110 charter schools authorized and operating in Georgia and more in the pipeline for approval.
 
8.     According to the GA Department of Education data, charter schools do no better than traditional public schools and sometimes perform worse. In 2010-11, 73% of traditional public schools made AYP; 70% of charter schools made AYP. See Charter School Report at www.gadoe.org Students of similar demographics do no better at charter schools than those in the traditional school and often don’t perform as well.
 
9.     State commission authorized schools do not require any parent involvement and they do not guarantee that parents will even be part of their governance, unlike locally authorized charter schools. Also, commission charter governing boards are not required to adhere to the ethics code or accreditation requirements that local boards of education are.
 

10.    According to campaign disclosure reports, funding for the campaign supporting passage of this constitutional amendment is coming almost exclusively from out of state donors primarily for-profit education management organizations that stand to benefit from the passage of this amendment. The funding opposing this amendment is coming 100% from within Georgia.