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Charter School Advocate Will Vote No

The Charter School amendment contains weak legislation and does not address current problems we face in charter schools in our state.

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. Groups with multi-faceted objectives are lining up to grab their market share. If a state controlled charter school comes to town, you will have no recourse if there is a problem.

Why Local Control is Critical

The problems I encountered at Fulton Science Academy were not anticipated by our local and state board of education or by educators across the country. Charter schools are new territory and bring new problems, however politicians should never ignore or bully a concerned parent into silence. Jan Jones is the author of the charter school amendment, had not only the power, but also the knowledge needed to create legislation that would protect our community, tax dollars and students.

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 and controversial Turkish Imam, Fethullah Gulen.

Fulton Science Academy’s problems were serious and later validated, by an external audit, commissioned by the local school board. My concerns left me fearful to speak up because the Gulen movement is a powerful international organization and because of the federal investigation into the school. Details can be found in this article about Fulton Science Academy in the New York Times, by Stephanie Saul. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/us/audits-for-3-georgia-charter-schools-tied-to-gulen-movement.html)

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. What is the impact if a school has received a National Blue Ribbon Award, as did this particular charter school? Well, it is untouchable.

Ultimately, the local school board held Fulton Science Academy accountable and did not renew its charter. The local school board did the right thing, which equaled political suicide. The politicians condemned the local school board’s decision, continue to vilify the board in public and have put legal pressure on the board to reverse their decision.

I understand that the landscape of education is changing and with that rules and regulations need to be adapted. However, it is irresponsible of the Governor and our legislators to lobby for a constitutional amendment that does not stop the known problematic consequences of charter schools.

Gulen?

While detractors like to scream foul when the Gulen connection is pointed out, this is no longer an issue debated in the national circles. Even our local Istanbul Center has been forthcoming about its link to Gulen.

So, if you want to call me names, that is OK. Let me get you started, I am an over-educated, naive, dumb, unassertive mom who sat back for two years and watched a charter school hi-jack our tax dollars, mislead parents and break rules.

(Oh. For those of you who want to call me other names, let me remind you that my son went to FSA for three years, I respect the diverse population of teachers and kids. I sought out that diversity and I am incredulous that the FSA administrators I trusted were not (or maybe could not be) forthcoming about the Gulen affiliation.)

Legislators?

It is all public record. The most vocal supporters of Fulton Science Academy have been Chip Roger, John Albers and Jan Jones, even after they knew about the issues I have described. The photos, the awards, the campaign contributions speak for themselves.

FSA supporters: the wind has shifted and the same politicians that lobbied for the school now state that Fulton Science Academy is a problem created by the local school board. A problem charter school that would never have been approved by a state board. So, much for the blue ribbon. (And the fact that local charter contracts are signed by the school, local BOE and State BOE)

Vote No

This is not a partisan issue. It is about keeping a voice in your community. I am a Republican and Hillsdale College alum, I understand the Republican agenda and I will vote no on this amendment.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

J Bart October 30, 2012 at 05:39 PM
We are talking about an amendment to our Constitution, a very serious undertaking. We should NEVER amend the GA Constitution unless there is a strong, limited and compelling reason to do so. We already have an effective method in place to approve charter schools. There are already 200 in GA. We do NOT need an amendment and a duplication of APPOINTED board members to form yet another level of crony appointments unaccountable to taxpayers. This amendment and its associated legislation, HB 797, do not put a cap on the number of taxpayer-funded charter schools approved each year. The legislation also does not base approval of charter schools based on NEED. These schools will NOT necessarily go to the most deserving communities. In fact, it is highly likely that new charter schools will go to richer communities where students can provide their own transportation. Currently charter schools do not provide buses and other transportation. Out-of-state and some foreign management companies are lining up in large numbers for a piece of our multi-billion dollar taxpayer-funded education money. Many of our legislators have received large campaign donations from the same companies. Do you think that might influence their decisions? How many of these schools will be approved each year? How much will our taxes increase to pay for them? There are too many unknowns. I am voting NO and I hope more of you will do the same.
Thomas Hart October 31, 2012 at 02:29 AM
In their May 16, 2011 decision, the Georgia Supreme Court declared public K-12 education the “exclusive control” of the local boards of education. This is a sea change from the historical structure of shared responsibility. Amendment 1 is the proper way to return this balance. Neither the state nor the local school boards should have absolute authority. Amendment 1 restores the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. The Commission had a proven record of rigorous review and effective accountability. As a single-purpose authorizer, the Georgia Charter Schools Commission would again provide rigorous authorization and quality oversight of public charter schools. What part of “exclusive” do you not understand? If Amendment 1 fails, our charter (Cherokee Charter Academy) will close. My children will loose the environment in which they have been thriving. Please don’t placate me with false promises. You should read the dissenting opinion. The judge lays out the truth. http://scogblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/gwinnett-county-v-cox-nahmias-dissent.pdf
A Parent November 01, 2012 at 02:12 AM
I think the purpose of the people who are labeling successful charter schools as Gulen Charter Schools is to defame Fethullah Gulen and successful charter schools. As it was mentioned on CBS's 60 Minutes that nationwide Newsweek Magazine listed some of those two successful charter schools as miracle schools of the nation. They're combining those schools as Gulen Charter Schools, because they're successful. Those people who are actually against good and goodness picking Fethullah Gulen's name as a person to mention with those successful charter schools. Whoever they are, they don't like Fethullah Gulen because of his teachings and positive contribution to humanity in 21st century. In the other hand Turkish oriented people are not the only people operating charter schools. Why are those people picking only charter schools operated by Turkish origin professionals? After reading all blogs written about Gulen Charter Schools Myth, in my opinion, those bloggers have a different political view so they don't like all Charter schools, not only FSA. http://so-calledgulencharterschools.blogspot.com/ http://gulenschools.org/ http://fethullahgulenhizmetmovement.blogspot.com/ http://gulen4universalpeace.blogspot.com/
No More Bullies November 01, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Who specifically has said Cherokee Charter Academy will close? HB 797 leaves the higher state funding ratio intact even if the amendment fails. Charter Schools USA will likely leave Georgia if the amendment fails, but the governing board holds the charter and can hire another management company.
Thomas Hart November 02, 2012 at 01:05 AM
NMB, HB 797 is contingent on Amendment 1 passing... "Section 1 of this Act shall become effective on January 1, 2013, only if a Constitutional amendment expressly authorizing the General Assembly to create state charter schools as special schools is ratified at the November, 2012, general election." So, no funding. The majority decision gave "exclusive control" to local school boards to approve charter schools. The charter on which CCA is based was approved by the Georgia Charter School Commission. Due to the majority decision, the commission has no constitutional basis nor authority to authorize charter schools. I know it looks bad for good schools to close if Amendment 1 fails. You may even prefer that they wouldn't close. But without Amendment 1 this will be the outcome for CCA and the other commission charters. You have been posting a lot on this issue. I suspect you have more understanding than your comment indicates. I can't decide if you are being willfully ignorant or willfully deceptive. Either way the discussion is fruitful as it provides an opportunity for the facts to be made clear. Vote YES on Amendment 1.

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