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Charter School Advocate will Vote No

The Charter School Amendment contains weak legislation and does not address the current problems we have in charter schools in our state.

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.

Vote No
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.

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.

Thomas Hart October 30, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Fulton Science Academy was a locally approved charter. It is an example of Local Control. How are the legislators and the governor to blame? Your example only strengthens the argument for a YES vote on Amendment 1. When the State Charter School Commission was active it had a proven record of closing underperforming charter schools and holding them accountable.
Dana Teegardin October 30, 2012 at 01:41 PM
As you know, the state did approve Fulton Science Academy. It is a 3-way contract between the charter school, the county and the state. To your point let’s address the State Commission and solve one of the many problems that the Charter School Amendment does not address. If this amendment passes (or does not), Georgia must require the Governor, the legislature and the state commission: -never approve a Gulen affiliated charter school. -never accept campaign funds from Gulen affiliated charter groups, including the Istanbul Center -return 2012 campaign donations from FSA/Gulen affiliated administrators, board members, contractors, realtors -never accept trips to Turkey affiliated with the Gulen movement, typically associated with the Istanbul center. This may solve the Gulen affiliated issues today. Tomorrow, the charter group will adapt and there will be new problems. (If you hear the North Fulton Delegation laughing in the distance...it is because they know the problems with Gulen affiliated charter schools is nothing compared to the groups that will be moving into Georgia if this amendment passes.)
J Bart October 30, 2012 at 05:35 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?
Viola Davis RN BSN October 31, 2012 at 09:15 PM
I will join you with the "No" vote.
A Parent November 06, 2012 at 01:00 PM
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. Gulen is just an argument that they used to be against successful charter schools such FSA. http://so-calledgulencharterschools.blogspot.com/ http://gulenschools.org/ http://fethullahgulenhizmetmovement.blogspot.com/ http://gulen4universalpeace.blogspot.com/

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