Georgia PTA 'Cannot Support' Charter School Amendment
It "has major concerns with the ... impact it will have on Georgia’s 1.67 million public school students," according to a statement from the group.
Under pressure from its national organization to rescind its opposition to a controversial amendment that could restore the state's authority to approve and fund charter schools, the Georgia Parent Teacher Association reaffirmed its stance.
"We cannot support this constitutional amendment which will create an inequity in funding, siphon funds from local public schools where the great majority of the students in Georgia receive their education and deny parents meaningful engagement," the group said in a statement released late Friday. "Georgia PTA strongly opposes this constitutional amendment."
In July, the state chapter made its position clear: Vote no when you go to the polls in November.
While the Georgia PTA supports charter schools approved by local school boards, "we reject the state power grab from local communities in the education of their children, the financial inequities, and the overt attention being given to those who intend to profit from the education of children," Sally FitzGerald, the group's educational policy specialist, wrote in the July 1 position statement.
Since then, according to an article in Education Week, the National PTA has revised its policy on charter schools and extended its support to charters approved by all authorizing bodies—not just local school boards.
The national organization wanted its chapters to support the change. For the Georgia chapter, that meant taking a neutral stance in the debate over the state's proposed charter school amendment, according to Education Week.
The Georgia Charter Schools Association praised the policy shift last week, and group president Tony Roberts called on the "Georgia PTA to follow their national organization and end their opposition to the November vote on the charter amendment."
But in the new statement, the Georgia PTA said it "has major concerns with the proposed constitutional amendment and the impact it will have on Georgia’s 1.67 million public school students."
It's not clear what action the National PTA will take as a result of the Georgia chapter's stance. Spokesman James Martinez was not ready to make a statement on the group's behalf this afternoon.
Full Text of the Georgia Parent Teacher Association's Statement
August 31, 2012
Georgia PTA's Position on Public Charter Schools and the Constitutional Amendment
Like National PTA, Georgia PTA supports public school choice and recognizes that public charter schools are an important component in providing a variety of education opportunities in our state. Georgia PTA supports multiple choices for education, including charter schools, provided the creation of the charter schools doesn’t adversely affect existing public education.
National PTA’s recently revised position states that it supports public charters as long as they are ‘supported by specifically allocated public funds in amounts that do not exceed and do not divert funding from non-charter public schools’. Georgia PTA has major concerns with the proposed constitutional amendment and the impact it will have on Georgia’s 1.67 million public school students of Georgia. Georgia PTA believes this constitutional amendment will create a favored class of student who will receive more state funds based solely on the school a student attends, not on a student’s needs. Students who attend a state commissioned charter school will receive more funds from the state than the same student would earn attending a traditional public school, a conversion charter school or a locally authorized charter school.
These state authorized charter schools will also result in reduced funding for local public schools. Public schools have already experienced over $5 billion in austerity cuts that resulted in larger classes, teacher furloughs, program eliminations and fewer days spent in the classroom. According to State School Superintendent, Dr. John Barge, over $430 million will be needed to fund these new state authorized charter schools over the next five years. Given Georgia’s difficult economic times and the fact that the state budget will not provide increased funding for education (in fact most areas of the budget will be cut by an additional 3%), that $430 million will likely come from existing education funds used now to support education in local public schools. The state authorized commission charter schools will receive their funding from money diverted from local public schools which will negatively impact those local schools.
National PTA’s revised statement also says the public charter schools must have at least one parent on the charter school board, have meaningful parent engagement and shared decision making. This amendment omits parent involvement completely. Unlike local charter schools, there is no requirement for state authorized charter schools to include parents in any decision making process and when asked to have parent engagement included as a requirement, it was specifically denied.
Georgia PTA's focus has been and will continue to be what is best for every child. We cannot support this constitutional amendment which will create an inequity in funding, siphon funds from local public schools where the great majority of the students in Georgia receive their education and deny parents meaningful engagement. Georgia PTA strongly opposes this constitutional amendment.