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Charter-school amendment more about ‘how’ than ‘what’

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POSTED: October 24, 2012 10:00 a.m.

Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, majority whip in the Georgia House of Representatives, said he finds himself bordering between “amused and disturbed” by opponents of the charter-school amendment, which is set for a vote Nov. 6. Specifically, he doesn’t like the assertion that the state school board retains the power to overrule on appeal a local school board’s decision to deny a charter school after the Supreme Court’s ruling on the subject in May 2011.

He said he would appreciate my “correcting” my previous comments on that point. I got that information from the state department of education, which Lindsey obviously doesn’t consider the highest and best source of information.

Lindsey and others have seized on Justice David Nahmias’ dissent that although the state board of education’s ability to approve charter schools wasn’t at issue in the case, it would be unconstitutional given the majority opinion. To proponents, we are just one lawsuit away from there being no way to provide public-school options outside of local school boards.

Opponents disagree strongly with Lindsey. The department of education gave me this statement after my discussion with the majority whip: “The state board of education can still hear appeals. The proponents are basing their argument on a potential lawsuit, not what is the current environment.”

One source told me this week his lawyers said Lindsey is just plain wrong. Another source told me that Lindsey is “confused” by the language in Nahmias’ opinion regarding state-chartered special schools, which are charter schools that were denied by a local school board and then approved by the state board of education. There were three of them before the Supreme Court decision. Today there are 15, with 10 new applications pending.

Let’s leave the opponents and proponents to argue over what the Supreme Court said and look at how the amendment is being sold to the public. Can you spell “disingenuous,” boys and girls?

I asked Lindsey why Gov. Nathan Deal and his trusty sidekick, E. Beaver, could go all out in support of the amendment, courtesy of our hard-earned tax dollars, but school boards and the like could not.

He said he did not want to get diverted from the merits of the issue to what he considered a “sideshow issue,” and declared, “I leave that to the attorney general, for whom I have a great deal of respect, to play traffic cop.”

I think that most of you reading this column don’t consider muzzling one side of a debate in a democracy a “sideshow issue.” It is a fundamental issue.

Maybe Attorney General Sam Olens will tell us how the charter-school association can use school time to put together a piece in support of the amendment when opponents cannot. A charter-school teacher who wishes to remain anonymous wrote me to say she is tired of being badgered at work to support the amendment and finds attorney Glenn Delk’s lawsuit to stifle opponents a hypocrisy. The employee said the attorney general needs a “serious wake-up call” on this kind of double-standard. I agree. Olens’ silence has been surprising and disappointing. Does he have a dog in this fight?

And there is this: When you go to vote, you will see language on the ballot “explaining” the amendment. It says: “Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter-school options.” Says who? Not the opponents. Is this amendment so bad, proponents have to trick voters into passing it?

And this: The committee campaigning for the passage of the amendment is being funded almost totally from out of state, including an Arkansas Walmart heiress and charter-school management companies.

This amendment is not about charter schools. We have charter schools in Georgia and more to come. It is about turning over the creation of charter schools to an unelected state commission appointed by politicians while taking control from local school boards in the community. Remember that if you don’t approve of a local decision, you can get rid of the local school-board member. Try that with a state-appointed commission.

I like Rep. Edward Lindsey. He is an honorable man, but no matter how one interprets the Supreme Court decision, I cannot support an amendment with deliberately deceitful language being funded by out-of-state interests attempting to take away local community control and in an environment that allows free speech to only one side of the debate. Frankly, I am surprised he can.

You can reach Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139.

 

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