Charter School Advocate and Mom Will Vote No.
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, Representative 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 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 New York Times article, Audits for 3 Georgia Charter Schools Tied to Gulen Movement, by Stephanie Saul: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/us/audits-for-3-georgia-charter-schools-tied-to-gulen-movement.html?_r=0
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.
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 www.georgiacharterschooldisgrace.com.