Let me begin by sharing that my background in the military taught me to analyze issues with facts, not emotions. After 20 years in the military, I believe I have gotten this down pretty well. So I will share with you the facts as I see them.
First, John Barge, the Republican state school superintendent, has presented the best set of facts for you to consider. His press release of his opposition to the amendment and the supporting facts are public documents and available for you to read. (See Mr. Barge’s press release on the Georgia Department of Education website, dated Aug. 14, 2012.) I believe the best reason for most to accept Mr. Barge’s facts are two-fold: one, neither Gov. Deal nor the proponents for the amendment dispute Mr. Barge’s facts. They criticize him for flip-flopping on the issue, but PolitiFact did some homework and determined Mr. Barge did not flip-flop on the issue. So look at Mr. Barge’s facts, not his conclusion, and make up your own mind.
Others who are involved with this debate are expressing opinions. Herb Garrett, an opponent of the amendment, says the amendment, if passed, would create a dual public school system. No one is arguing with this. He goes on to suggest that the commission charter schools would be funded at a rate almost twice what traditional schools receive.
The governor’s office says, “Not so fast.” They say local schools get local tax dollars to combine with state money to run schools and that commission charter schools should be treated the same. In fact, a new state law that was approved last spring allows state-approved charter schools to receive funding that is about 85 percent of what traditional schools receive. Who is right?
My view is that both sides are being truthful. Commission charter schools will receive about twice as much state funding than local schools; but commission charter schools don’t receive any local dollars. So when total funding is considered, the 85 percent number is reasonable. The real question is, with all things being equal, should the state provide more funding to one type of school than another? You decide.
For me, four things are clear. One, I learned a long time ago to keep it simple. In this situation, we should have one public school system, not two. Two, money does not grow on trees. The state is under-funding the current public school system, and I don’t see how it can fund two. Three, I know about unintended consequences. I don’t believe anyone knows what the results will be if a new system of public schools is created. And four, this amendment is not about charter schools. We have charter schools now, and regardless of the vote, we will have more after Nov. 6. This is about local control versus state control.
Bottom line, I am voting no on Nov. 6. I hope you do, too.
CURTIS JONES, ED.D.
Griffin-Spalding County Schools