“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
Yes or no
The Liberty County Board of Education took a stand Tuesday, effectively aligning the board against an education amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The message relating to the controversial amendment was buried within the resolution: “The Liberty County Board of Education opposed the state’s establishment of a separate system of state-authorized public charter schools that are funded through a funding formula that unilaterally takes critically needed funds from local public-school districts and redirects them to the state-controlled charter schools.”
If adopted, the amendment would clarify the authority of the state to establish statewide education policy and restate the authority of the General Assembly to create special schools, according to the nonpartisan political-education center Project Vote Smart.
Board of Education Chairwoman Lily Baker said elected officials have limited freedom to speak about the matter, similar to how government representatives and employees were not supposed to opine on this summer’s T-SPLOST referendum.
In previous meetings, the board members have alluded to their opposition on the grounds that the amendment would allow the General Assembly to trump local boards of education.
Allowing the state to create charter schools also would reduce the amount of state education funds that can be distributed to local school systems, opponents say.
Liberty County Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer said the Georgia School Boards Association provided a draft of the resolution.
In August, Scherer provided the Courier with a message from Georgia School Superintendents Association Executive Director Herbert Garrett.
In the email, Garrett compared the state’s funding, as mandated by House Bill 797, for a fifth-grade student. The state would provide $2,101 for one student in a local public-school system, but would spend $6,992 to send the same student to a charter school.
“The figures are clear: The state will send to state special charter schools 3.3 times more state dollars per child than they are sending to local systems,” Garrett wrote.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce has voiced its support for the amendment, citing it as restoration of “an alternative route for approving and sustaining quality charter schools.”
A chamber statement said that without clarification provided in the amendment, other affected areas include state’s ability to license and discipline teachers, a school’s ability to enter into contracts and reforms such as school-board governance in the wake of accreditation and cheating scandals.
State Superintendent Dr. John Barge announced his opposition to the amendment in an Aug. 14 news release.
“Until all of our public school students are in school for a full 180-day school year, until essential services like student transportation and student support can return to effective levels, and until teachers regain jobs with full pay for a full school year, we should not redirect one more dollar away from Georgia’s local school districts — much less an additional $430 million in state funds, which is what it would cost to add seven new state charter schools per year over the next five years (the annual average of the Charter Commission that would be revived if the amendment passes),” Barge said.
In other business Tuesday, the Liberty BoE also:
• adopted a resolution in opposition to sequestration
• approved requests for the middle schools to continue Emerging Leaders Clubs
• approved a contract amendment with Raymond Engineering for roof engineering services at Bradwell Institute and Button Gwinnett Elementary, which both need assessments after sustaining hail damage
• approved a $500 lease for space on the Liberty County communications tower; the space will support the transportation department’s transition to digital radios for buses.