Georgia is in the midst of an intense debate over a proposed charter school amendment that will be on the ballot in November. Whatever your position, you need to read my story.
The polls predict this amendment will pass with flying colors, thanks to a misleading ballot question and a majority of funding from outside the state. If this amendment passes, politics and corporations will shape our schools. Charter groups with multi-faceted objectives are lining up to grab their market share. If a state-controlled charter school comes to your town, you will have no recourse if there is a problem.
Why Local Control is Critical
The problems I encountered at Fulton Science Academy Charter School, in Alpharetta, were not anticipated by our local and state board of education or by educators across the country. Charter schools are new territory and bring new challenges.
The Charter School Amendment is weak. It does not address the current problems we have in our state and it invites new problems.
My son attended Fulton Science Academy charter school, for three years, when I found out about problems that also led to my learning that the school was being operated by followers of the influential and controversial Turkish Imam, Fethullah Gulen.
Fulton Science Academy’s problems were serious and later validated by an external audit that was commissioned by the local school board. My concerns left me fearful to speak up because the Gulen movement is a powerful international organization and because of the federal investigation into the school. Details can be found in this article about Fulton Science Academy in the New York Times, by Stephanie Saul. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/us/audits-for-3- georgia-charter-schools-tied-to-gulen-movement.html)
Turns out the Gulen movement was the least of my worries.
The real problem? Legislators with tunnel vision, hoping to open the Georgia education frontier to more charter groups at any cost. My legislators demonstrated that they will look the other way, as long as a school has high test scores.
Local School Board Takes Action
Ultimately, the local school board held Fulton Science Academy accountable and did not renew its charter. The local school board did the right thing even after politicians pressed for the board to reverse their decision. My experience is a critical example of why local control is necessary. The local school board took action and politicians would not help.
I understand that the landscape of education is changing and with that rules and regulations need to be adapted. However, it is irresponsible of the Governor and our legislators to lobby for a constitutional amendment that does not stop the known problematic consequences of charter schools.
This is not a partisan issue. It is about keeping your voice on education in your community. If you vote no, charter schools will be continue to be approved at the local and state level, we just won't be adding an additional state politically appointed charter committee. Amending the constitution is serious business. Don't vote for an Amendment to the Georgia Constitution that contains weak legislation and does not address current problems we face in our state.
Details, including the letter I sent to the North Fulton Delegation can be found at: