Both public schools and private schools are making valuable contributions to Georgia’s children. Most of us, as educators, totally respect both public and private schools. We need the range of opportunities that these schools provide to our children.
I’ve been employed by both public and private schools. As the president of a private boarding school, I understood and appreciated the importance of the school to the students who needed it. As a private school, we provided unique opportunities to our students.
The recent controversy about whether public funds should be used to provide education services to charter schools that are not administered by local school boards is a hot topic. At a time when we have inadequate funding for public schools, the answer should be simple: Use public money for public schools, and use private money for private educational efforts.
Public schools provide educational opportunities to a full range of students — from slow learners to fast learners, from special-education students to gifted students, from rich students to poor students, from highly motivated students to less-motivated students. There currently are charter schools that are managed by public-school boards, and this effort is successful and will continue. A proposed amendment would launch a new type of charter school that would be approved at the state level rather than by local school boards.
Private schools can choose which students they’ll allow into their schools. Generally, private schools tout solid academic results because they choose to enroll higher-achieving students. Private schools prosper because they educate students whose parents can afford private-school tuition. Companies, businesses and private individuals provide funding to support private schools. We commend those who are able to make such contributions.
There needs to be a clear understanding that public tax dollars will be used to fund public schools. Yes, let’s continue to have private schools as an option. They do an excellent job. However, we cannot take money from public schools to support the efforts of charter schools that are not managed by local public-school boards.
When I was a private-school educator, I had a simple philosophy. I didn’t want public funding for my school because I didn’t want public-fund providers to tell me how to run my school. If public funds go into charter schools, the time will come when that money comes with certain expectations for enrollment, testing, making state reports, teaching certain courses and numerous other requirements.
Let’s keep both private and public schools, but let’s fund private schools with private funding sources and from the parents who choose to put money into those schools. Let’s use the public tax dollars to adequately fund our public schools, which are open to all students.
Bottom line: Vote no on Amendment 1 in November. The wording as shown on the ballot is inaccurate and does not reflect the real intent of the amendment to use taxpayer money to operate a new set of charter schools that are not managed by local school boards. Our current funding of public schools is inadequate, and tax dollars are needed for our public schools.
Shumake is a former teacher, school counselor, principal, superintendent, deputy state school superintendent, boarding-school president, college professor and minister. He previously was employed by schools in Fulton, Dekalb, Rockdale, Greene and Oconee counties, Jefferson City schools, the University of Georgia, Piedmount College, Gainesville State College and Perimeter College.