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Charter School Debate Comes to East Cobb

Monday night's forum at Lassiter High School features the Cobb legislative delegation chairman and the Cobb school superintendent.

Charter schools haven't been a hot-button issue in East Cobb in recent years.

But the area's role as an incubator of the concept in the county is being recalled as Cobb school officials speak out against a proposed Georgia constitutional amendment that would supersede local control of charter school applications.

The matter of HR 1162 that's on the Nov. 6 ballot is the subject of a forum Monday night at Lassiter High School.

With just eight days before the election, and as early voting expands this week in Cobb, the issue could galvanize local voters, especially with a presidential race at the top of the ballot.

State Rep. Ed Setzler, a North Cobb Republican and chairman of the Cobb legislative delegation, and Cobb School Superintendent Michael Hinojosa will speak at tonight's forum, which is co-sponsored by the Lassiter PTSA and the Mountain View Elementary School PTA.

The event begins at 7:30 p.m. and will take place in the Lassiter Theater. The school is located at 2601 Shallowford Road.

Setzler and most members of the GOP Caucus in the General Assembly support the amendment, which allow the creation of a committee to examine charter school applications. The seven-member panel would be appointed by the Governor, Lietuenant Governor and Speaker of the House.

But Cobb school officials and most PTA organizations have been adamantly opposed to the measure, pointing to the loss of local control.

The Marietta Daily Journal agreed with that rationale in an editorial published on Sunday.

Addison Elementary School in Northeast Cobb was the first charter school in Georgia in 1995, and Walton High School and Sedalia Park Elementary School in East Cobb also have become charters.

But all three schools became charters according to Cobb County School District auspices, under which school board reviews and votes to renew or decline charter renewals.

At a forum last week at Hillgrove High School, Setzler continued his advocacy for school choice, especially in lower-performing schools and school districts: “I think it’s an absolute moral imperative for us to give single moms and parents without means options for choice."

Like many pro-amendment forces, he asserted that local school districts often work against the interests of parents seeking better educational options for their children by preventing competition.

He was opposed by Cobb Board of Education member Alison Bartlett, who expressed concern at a school board meeting later in the week that HR 1162 would do more than deprive school districts of local control.

According to a report by WABE-FM, 70 percent of the estimated $2 million raised by Families for Better Public Schools, a pro-amendment group, has come from out of state. Among the contributors are Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton and a school choice group formed by Michelle Rhee, the former Washington, D.C. school superintendent.

The group last week mailed out glossy flyers entitled "Hope is in Your Hands," including a distribution in Cobb.

In impassioned remarks at Thursday's school board meeting, Bartlett said she supports charter schools says state authority to approve them would benefit for-profit corporations above all.

"This isn't about helping needy children, this is about taking money out of public schools," she said. "They are taking money out of the state of Georgia. Just follow the money. Do your homework."

"Ditto," said Hinojosa, who will be debating Setzler at Lassiter.

East Cobb representative Scott Sweeney, one of five Republicans on the seven-member school board -- Bartlett is a Democrat -- said he was concerned about three powerful politicians appointing the charter school committee members.

"It doesn't matter what side of the political aisle you are on," said Sweeney, who has served as the board chairman this year. "You have one political party trying to impose its will on an entire community."

Jim Beam October 29, 2012 at 10:54 PM
There's no deflection,Frank. The public school system you so steadfastly defend is broken and filled with corruption. Voting in a new board is nice but is an option once every 4 years. That's 4 years a child will go trapped in a dismal, failing public school while the parents wait to hopefully rid themselves of corrupt, do-nothing, status-quo-loving board members. Stop with the lie that you favor charter schools. You speak out against them at every single opportunity. If this amendment fails, there will be no more locally-approved charters. These loser-filled, crony-filled BOEs will start denying charters (as happened in Cobb at SAE) so they can shovel more money back into failing districts while demanding no accountability. Vote YES to keep the dream of a decent education alive for thousands of GA students trapped in dismal, failing public schools.
Frank October 30, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Steely Dan, you deflected when you changed the subject. I've not steadfastly defended school systems. There are plenty of bad examples to go around. In Cobb we have 5 charter schools. Each do well. Walton is recognized nationally. It may come as a surprise to you that many are pro charter, yet anti-Amendment 1. You may not like that it's possible to simultaneously hold those two opinions. Concerning SAE, the state also turned them down. Give the local board credit for concurring with state.
Jim Beam October 30, 2012 at 03:31 PM
The subject is GA public education. That subject isn't changed when one points out the corruption in numerous counties. Without Amendment 1's passage, children will continue to be trapped in these corrupt, disastrous county educational systems. Without amendment 1's passage, charter schools will die in GA. Corrupt local boards will deny new charters and existing ones, all so they can keep funneling taxpayer $$$ to themselves and the mediocre districts they rule over. Frank, it's telling that...throughout this entire discussion, you & the NO crowd never have a single idea of how to improve our educational system. So you are either looking at places like APS, Bibb, Dekalb, Clayton, etc and see no need to change....or you have no ideas to present. Either is acceptable - after all, you aren't a superintendent nor board member (to my knowledge) tasked with fixing it. But both are indicative of a stagnant mindset of the NO crowd that is either unwilling or uninterested in changing the educational opportunities of GA school children. Amendment 1 is the first of many steps in the right direction of improving the entirety of our state's education. Its passage will force local competition and accountability. The same way that the Cherokee Charter Academy's existence forced CCSD to create STEM academies, a YES vote will have a positive effect for all GA students and taxpayers. Vote YES.
Frank October 30, 2012 at 08:09 PM
The Bibb County commission has nothing to do with the school system yet your willing to combine the two for the convenience of your argument. According to the Georgia Department of Education; We now have 217 charter schools in Georgia – including 80 start-up charter schools, 30 conversion charter schools, and 107 charter system schools in our 14 charter systems. Additionally, 15 local charter schools or state chartered special schools were created for students who planned to attend the 16 former Commission schools (i.e. the schools affected by the GA Supreme Court decision). These schools do not have a death sentence as you suggest. Contrary to your suggestion, they are not scheduled to die if Amendment 1 fails. In your world of "never" absolutes here are just a few of the NO on Amendment 1 Crowds' Ideas to improve our educational system: 1.) Shut down the Federal Department of Education 2.) Get the paper monkey off teachers backs and let them teach rather than be required to push paper 3.) Reduce mandatory testing and stop teaching to the test 4.) Increase instructional time - reduce teachers time dealing with administrative functions 5.) Commit to leadership training combined with developing of high expectations 6.) Do away with social promotion 7.) Increase technical training opportunities With the exception of #1, the list appears like locally approved charter schools. No constitutional change is needed to get there. VOTE NO on Amendment 1.
Ed Uktr November 05, 2012 at 11:36 PM
The teachers’ unions, represented locally by the Georgia Association of Educators, are steadfastly against education reform and parental choice. If the charter-schools amendment passes, the union strategy of fielding phony “Republicans” in local school board elections in order to block new charter school approvals—will ultimately prove less fruitful. Rent the film WAITING FOR SUPERMAN to learn more. Then do a Google search on “NEA” and “donations” and you’ll see that the National Education Association, GAE’s parent union, is a cash-cow for Democrats and every liberal-left pressure group in the news. Vote “YES” on the charter-schools amendment !

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