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8 Myths About Charter Schools

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Empowered Georgia has identified 8 myths as reasons to oppose a charter school law that might go into effect in November. Is your state next in line to follow the chartered school path in Georgia at the expense of public schools–it’s parents, students, and teachers?

Georgia will decide on November 6 to change the constitution permitting an appointed Commission to create and fund charter schools throughout the state without local school approval. Two years ago, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in the case Gwinnett County School District v. Cox that only local schools have the authority to set up schools. As a retaliation, the Georgia legislature passed a law to reactivate the authority of the appointed Commission to create its own charter schools. However, in order for the law to take effect, the citizens of Georgia must approve the law.

As the Georgia Supreme court noted in its ruling in Gwinnett County School District v. Cox,

It is thus for this Court alone to decide whether legislation enacted by the General Assembly is inconsistent with the Constitution and where, as here, such an inconsistency has been determined to exist, it is irrelevant whether any rational basis exists for the legislation.

Further the Court recognized that the Commission to create charter schools is appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House, and are not accountable in any way either to the parents or the taxpayers. On the other hand, local school boards consist of members who live in their schools’ districts and are elected to their positions by the parents and taxpayers residing in the areas from which the students are drawn and the local schools taxes are raised.

When politicians talk about charter schools they always pull the choice card. In their words, charter schools give parents a choice in determining their child’s education. Even the National Parent Teacher Association has joined in with many politicians by arguing that giving entities (read Georgia Commission on Charter Schools) other than local school boards the right to approve charter schools and therefore supports the

But wait, charter schools run on a set of myths that when analyzed shows that public schools are a better choice for parents. But you’d never know that by listening to the Georgia Republican party.

Following is research conducted by Empowered Georgia, an organization of parents and educators, that identified 8 myths about charter schools. If you follow this link, you will find more details about the myths identified by Empowered Georgia. Here we’ve only identified the myth, and one fact that repudiates or questions charters.

Myths about Georgia’s Charter Amendment

  1. Myth: The State Does Not Have the Power to Approve Charter Schools That Were Denied by Local Boards Fact: The Georgia Department of Education currently has the authority to review and approve state charter applications.
  2. Myth: Charter Schools Are More Innovative and Flexible Fact: Charters are allowed to “kick out” students for behavior or academic reasons.
  3. Myth: State Charter Schools Will Not Take Funds Away from Traditional Public Schools Fact: If the proposed charter amendment passes, charter schools authorized by the Commission will be 100% funded by the state.
  4. Myth: Charter Schools Are Public Schools Fact: There are many elements of charter schools that make them appear more private than public.
  5. Myth: Charters Serve All Students Fact: Many charter schools use lotteries to avoid qualifying for AYP testing, making it difficult to compare their success to public schools.
  6. Myth: Charters Seek to Put the Interests of Families and Students First Fact: Proponents of the proposed charter amendment wave the banner of families and children, while advocating the interests of business interests over students’ interests.
  7. Myth: Charter Schools Increase Student Achievement Fact: Multiple Studies and Reports Call Into Question the Effectiveness of Charter Schools.
  8. Charters Will Expand Choice and Create Competition Fact: Passage of the charter amendment does not guarantee that charters would be added to areas that have chronically underperforming schools.

One of the consequences, if the charter amendment passes, is the loss of local control of some educational policies. If the amendment is approved, then the state commission will run a parallel school system that will take more than $400 million from the already stretched education budget in the state. Money and decision-making are at the heart of the charter school issue in Georgia, not the improvement of education or options for parents and students.

If the Georgia charter amendment is approved it will result in an increase in politics and influence peddling in the context of multimillion dollar opportunities by establishing charter schools in various counties in each state. Real estate investment firms will find a pot of gold here. Firms will come in to buy land and/or empty buildings (schools, factories) and then in turn lease them to for-profit charter school management companies, such as KIPP, Academica, or Charter Schools USA. Boston recently worked out a deal in the interests of corporate investors.

And finally, we’d add a comment made by the Georgia School Superintendent, John Barge, who changed his mind and now opposes the amendment. Here’s why:

that until all public school students are in school for 180 days, until essential services such as 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 direct one more dollar away from Georgia’s local school districts – much less an additional $430 million in state funds, the cost of adding seven new state charter schools per year over the next five years.

What do you think about the Georgia charter Amendment? Do you think citizens of Georgia should approve or reject the Amendment?

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Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a former high school science teacher and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University. While at Georgia State he was coordina...