Posted: Monday, September 24th 2012 at 6:14pm
Hall School Board members release statement on charter school issue
By B.J. Williams Editor
GAINESVILLE - Saying they don't think it's their place to tell residents how to vote, members of the Hall County School Board stopped short of issuing a resolution opposing a state charter school amendment at a Monday afternoon meeting.
Board Vice Chairman Craig Herrington read from a written statement during the citizen input portion of the school board meeting.
"The wording of the amendment itself is a bit misleading. This is not about voting yes or no on establishing charter schools," he read. "This amendment would allow for a State of Georgia politically appointed commission who could place schools in our local community with no local control. This would also potentially allow the state to divert money from Georgia public schools to create a for-profit state charter school system."
In the statement, board members noted that the state of Georgia already has some 100 charter schools with more coming online. Board members said that indicates the framework for creation of charter schools is already in place and a state amendment is not needed.
Following the meeting, Herrington said the biggest issue for him and other board members is what he called the unknown.
"This [the state amendment] would drastically change the look of schools in the state of Georgia,so we have some concerns with that," said Herrington. "Again, we don't want to tell people how to vote. We want them to go out and find out the truth and read the legislation and ask questions just as we do."
Herrington encouraged residents to talk with lawmakers in advance of the November 6 election.
Other school boards in the area have voted on resolutions opposing the state charter school amendment; both Forsyth and White counties passed resolutions last week.
*The following is the prepared statement of the Hall County School Board as delivered during the public comment portion of Monday night's board meeting:
As members of the Hall County Board of Education, we believe we have consistently demonstrated our commitment to providing as many educational choices and opportunities as possible for the students of this great county. One example of these choices can be found as we look to our charter schools. Hall County has the largest percentage of its students enrolled in Charter schools than any county in the State of Georgia.Currently Hall County has 12 Charter schools. So, our support of charter schools is extremely strong.
On November 6th you will be asked to vote on an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Georgia. The amendment reads, “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow local or state approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
Although it is not our duty to tell our citizens how to vote, we do have concerns about the proposed amendment.
Georgia’s public schools have experienced $4.4 billion in state funding cuts. According to State school Superintendent, John Barge, this new commission could conservatively cost the state an additional $430 million over the next five years. We have to ask the question, “Is it wise to begin this when great schools that are already in place are severely underfunded?” It is estimated that the State commission alone will cost a minimum of $1 million per year to operate.
Our entire nation has been affected by well intended but ill advised over reaching legislation by the federal government. Would not this amendment allow the state of Georgia to be guilty of the same? Are we not better off having accountability at the local level?
We understand that there are other areas in the state that are not as fortunate as those in the Hall County area in terms of school choice. Therefore, there are those who would make the argument that this will help other areas of the state. However, Georgia has well over 100 charter schools and many more coming online. We already have a reasonable and rational way to develop charter schools and offer more and more choices for our students. We also have leaders who are accountable to local parents rather than state appointees. For all of the afore mentioned reasons, we, as members of the Hall County Board of Education have substantial concerns about this proposed amendment. We highly encourage all voters to educate themselves on this matter that could have a grave impact on the students in our state. We urge our citizens to consider this issue and vote your conscience on November 6th.Most importantly, we encourage you to VOTE!
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