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Charter Advocate will Vote No

It is irresponsible of Gov. Nathan Deal and our legislators to lobby for a constitutional amendment that does not stop the known problematic consequences of charter schools.

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 little recourse if there is a problem.

Why Local Control is Critical
Proponents of the amendment declare that if a charter school is performing, it will remain open and if it is not performing, it will close. It's not that simple when a charter group is willing to break the rules.

The problems I encountered at Fulton Science Academy Charter School in Alpharetta could not have been anticipated by our local and state board of education or by educators across the country.

The proper charter school board protocol did not work because the group running the school was not transparent. I asked for help from the local school board and from my legislator, Jan Jones, who also crafted the charter school amendment. It was the local school board that took action.

It is irresponsible of Gov. Nathan Deal, Jan Jones and our legislators to lobby for a constitutional amendment that does not stop the known problematic consequences of charter schools.

Problem? My son attended the 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 Turkish imam, Fethullah Gulen.

Fulton Science Academy’s problems were serious and later validated, by an external audit, commissioned by the local school board. Details can be found in this article in The New York Times, Audits for 3 Georgia Charter Schools Tied to Gulen Movement.

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. The legislators were willing to ignore financial mismanagement and reported federal investigations.

Local School Board Takes Action
It was the local school board that 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.

Vote No
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 about Fulton Science Academy, including the letter I sent to the governor and legislators asking for help, can be found at Georgia Charter School Fiasco.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Thomas Hart October 30, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Fulton Science Academy was a locally approved charter. It is an example of Local Control. How are the legislators and the governor to blame? Your example only strengthens the argument for a YES vote on Amendment 1. When the State Charter School Commission was active it had a proven record of closing underperforming charter schools and holding them accountable.
A Parent October 30, 2012 at 07:11 AM
I think the purpose of the people who are labeling successful charter schools as Gulen Charter Schools is to defame Fethullah Gulen and successful charter schools. As it was mentioned on CBS's 60 Minutes that nationwide Newsweek Magazine listed some of those two successful charter schools as miracle schools of the nation. They're combining those schools as Gulen Charter Schools, because they're successful. Those people who are actually against good and goodness picking Fethullah Gulen's name as a person to mention with those successful charter schools. Whoever they are, they don't like Fethullah Gulen because of his teachings and positive contribution to humanity in 21st century. In the other hand Turkish oriented people are not the only people operating charter schools. Why are those people picking only charter schools operated by Turkish origin professionals? After reading all blogs written about Gulen Charter Schools Myth, in my opinion, those bloggers have a different political view so they don't like all Charter schools, not only FSA. Gulen is just an argument that they used to be against successful charter schools such FSA. http://so-calledgulencharterschools.blogspot.com/ http://gulenschools.org/ http://fethullahgulenhizmetmovement.blogspot.com/ http://gulen4universalpeace.blogspot.com/
Dana Teegardin October 30, 2012 at 01:38 PM
As you know, the state did approve Fulton Science Academy. It is a 3-way contract between the charter school, the county and the state. To your point let’s address the State Commission and solve one of the many problems that the Charter School Amendment does not address. If this amendment passes (or does not), Georgia must require the Governor, the legislature and the state commission: -never approve a Gulen affiliated charter school. -never accept campaign funds from Gulen affiliated charter groups, including the Istanbul Center -return 2012 campaign donations from FSA/Gulen affiliated administrators, board members, contractors, realtors -never accept trips to Turkey affiliated with the Gulen movement, typically associated with the Istanbul center. This may solve the Gulen affiliated issues today. Tomorrow, the charter group will adapt and there will be new problems. (If you hear the North Fulton Delegation laughing in the distance...it is because they know the problems with Gulen affiliated charter schools is nothing compared to the groups that will be moving into Georgia if this amendment passes.)
J Bart October 30, 2012 at 05:41 PM
We are talking about an amendment to our Constitution, a very serious undertaking. We should NEVER amend the GA Constitution unless there is a strong, limited and compelling reason to do so. We already have an effective method in place to approve charter schools. There are already 200 in GA. We do NOT need an amendment and a duplication of APPOINTED board members to form yet another level of crony appointments unaccountable to taxpayers. This amendment and its associated legislation, HB 797, do not put a cap on the number of taxpayer-funded charter schools approved each year. The legislation also does not base approval of charter schools based on NEED. These schools will NOT necessarily go to the most deserving communities. In fact, it is highly likely that new charter schools will go to richer communities where students can provide their own transportation. Currently charter schools do not provide buses and other transportation. Out-of-state and some foreign management companies are lining up in large numbers for a piece of our multi-billion dollar taxpayer-funded education money. Many of our legislators have received large campaign donations from the same companies. Do you think that might influence their decisions? How many of these schools will be approved each year? How much will our taxes increase to pay for them? There are too many unknowns. I am voting NO and I hope more of you will do the same.
MP October 30, 2012 at 06:15 PM
I'm sorry, but this particular charter school has NOTHING to do with this conversation. Nothing. This was a LOCALLY approved school. Find a new bone to chew on that is relevant.
Frank October 30, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Thomas: Even locally approved charters must be approved by the state board of education. It seems that Dana is stating that the system worked as it should and that the local board took the appropriate action, in her opinion. Her argument actually strengthens the position for a NO Vote on Amendment 1. The system we already have in place works. We do not need to modify the constitution to allow local approvals of charter schools, nor state approval of special schools.
Thomas Hart October 31, 2012 at 02:25 AM
In their May 16, 2011 decision, the Georgia Supreme Court declared public K-12 education the “exclusive control” of the local boards of education. This is a sea change from the historical structure of shared responsibility. Amendment 1 is the proper way to return this balance. Neither the state nor the local school boards should have absolute authority. Amendment 1 restores the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. The Commission had a proven record of rigorous review and effective accountability. As a single-purpose authorizer, the Georgia Charter Schools Commission would again provide rigorous authorization and quality oversight of public charter schools. What part of “exclusive” do you not understand? If Amendment 1 fails, our charter (Cherokee Charter Academy) will close. My children will loose the environment in which they have been thriving. Please don’t placate me with false promises. You should read the dissenting opinion. The judge lays out the truth. http://scogblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/gwinnett-county-v-cox-nahmias-dissent.pdf
Frank October 31, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Thomas: You're clouding the issues: While the "dissenting opinion" is interesting, it is not the law of the land. Legal precedent is established with the majority opinion. Cherokee Charter Academy (CCA) is currently approved as a Special State Charter School. After the State Board approved Cherokee Charter Academy it was reported in Patch with State School Superintendent John Barge as stating; “Today’s action by the State Board ensures that the students affected by the recent Supreme Court decision will still get to go to the school they originally chose,” he said. “We said from the beginning that we would offer flexibility so the Commission Schools could continue educating students next year and the board’s courageous vote today guarantees that.” According to its current budget, CCA anticipates $3,883 per student in QBE funding and $3,587 per student in Special State Charter School funding. You suggest that the school will close if the Amendment does not pass yet fail to mention that the Supreme Court ruling left alone the Special State Charter School matter. Nothing precludes the Cherokee Charter Academy and their management company Charter Schools USA from resubmitting their charter application to correct deficiencies identified by the Cherokee BOE and its Superintendent.
Thomas Hart November 01, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Frank, You offer no comfort. I will vote YES. Win or lose, the parental choice movement is not going away. People are frustrated with the mediocre vision, cheating scandals, and dysfunctional administrations. Amendment 1 is the most immediate opportunity to address these issues in a balanced and meaningful way. In the absence of Amendment 1 many parents and taxpayers would welcome more radical measures like vouchers and educational tax credits. Georgia has to find a better way. I prefer Amendment 1.

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