PTA ejects man at anti-charter amendment summit
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
October 11, 2012 02:21 AM | 4776 views | 11 11 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ACWORTH — One parent was asked to leave after distributing pro-amendment brochures at Tuesday night’s summit held by Georgia PTA to urge voters to say no to the proposed charter amendment.

Early voting begins Monday on the issue, which is on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

About 15 attendees turned out to the event in Clark Creek STEM Academy’s cafeteria, including a man who got up and passed out pro-charter literature to the audience about an hour into the meeting.

According to the literature, the man was the father of two students — one at Cherokee Charter Academy and one in a Cherokee County School District school.

However, he did not identify himself and there was no contact information given in the flyer.

The man, who wore a Sequoyah High School polo, was asked to leave by members of Clark Creek PTA after he stood up and attempted to distribute the fliers.

Prior to the disruption and the man’s removal, the meeting went smoothly with audience members hearing answers to their questions from panelists.

The panelists included Lisa-Marie Haygood, Georgia PTA membership chair; Sally Fitzgerald, Georgia PTA educational policy consultant; and Ron Fowler, a representative from the Atlanta Federation of Teachers, the metro arm of the Georgia Federation of Teachers that has also come out against the amendment.

All questions to the panelists were written by audience members on index cards and read by Susan Hayes, 13th district director for Georgia PTA.

Fitzgerald began the evening by explaining Georgia PTA has never opposed charter schools. She said the issue at hand is the upcoming vote for a constitutional amendment that would create an appointed agency to approve and fund charter schools after they are initially denied by local school boards.

Fitzgerald called the question on the ballot “misleading.” As it will appear on the ballot, the question reads: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”

“The state and the local school boards can already approve charter schools,” Fitzgerald said. “Charter schools are being approved by 181 entities: 180 school districts and one state board of education.”

Fitzgerald said the preamble is even more misleading because it suggests the amendment “provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement.”

“The legislation does not require either,” Fitzgerald said. “No parent of an enrolled student is guaranteed a role on the governing board. In a traditional school, there is a local school council—seven people, and four of those people have to be parents of an enrolled students and the chair has to be a parent.”

Haygood, who has a student at Dean Rusk Middle School and Sequoyah High School, said she fears the amendment will pass because she sees the fight against its passage as a “David and Goliath battle” between charter proponents and public school system supporters.

She said she likes parental choice in education, but personally opposes the amendment because it would take away local control in government and would fund students disproportionately, with charter school students getting over two and a half times the state funding of traditional students.

“The fact is 94, almost 95 percent, of students in Georgia are educated through the public school system,” Haygood said. “One of the things that concerned me most and made me very passionate about this amendment is what we call enabling legislation… (House Bill 797) and the language in the preamble don’t actually represent what the legislation says.”

House Bill 797, the enabling legislation for the constitutional amendment, was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal at Cherokee Charter Academy in May.

Fowler, a former national representative for 12 years with the American Federation of Teachers, said his concern is that the amendment is not just about having more opportunities to open charter schools but about how the schools would be governed.

“There’s a bigger piece,” Fowler said. “There’s a lot of money involved in this thing…there’s a lot of money here, folks, and it’s our taxpayer dollars. So don’t be fooled, the public schools are going to be affected by this thing. There’s only so much money.”

Fowler compared the state’s budget to household budgeting and how money must be taken from somewhere when a crisis—a charter school closing—might occur.

“If you get a flat tire, the money’s got to come from somewhere,” Fowler said. “There’s not a pot of gold coming from somewhere, it’s going to be carved out of (the education budget.)”

Some notable people in attendance were Donna Kosicki, Georgia PTA president; Debbie Rabjohn, second vice-president of Georgia PTA; and Kyla Cromer, Cherokee County Council of PTAs advocacy chair, who ran for the newly redrawn District 1 school board seat this year.

Cromer’s opponent and winner of the seat, Kelly Marlow, was also in attendance. Marlow, who has no opponent in the general election, has two children who attend Cherokee Charter Academy.

Marlow did not want to make a comment for this story.

Cromer rounded out the meeting by requesting parents who may be interested to contact her about standing in front of the county’s 44 polling places with “Vote No on Amendment 1” signs.

Rabjohn, who helped organize the event, said she was saddened by the low turnout but said many countywide PTA members have been getting out their message through word-of-mouth and email blasts.

“I think a lot of them already know how they’re voting,” Rabjohn said. “It’s hard to compete with sports and homework.”
Comments
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Ms.Fair
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October 19, 2012
Oh -- 2 more things!!

1) Adding 7 Non-Paid folks to review petitions initially denied by local school districts does not sound like adding power. One was right in saying "it is about control" -- but the control-freaks are in the local school board.

2) I hear Cherokee County BoE is trying to either a) force people from moving out of county or b) asking those that move to Cobb to have their tax dollars stay with Cherokee County. It's similar to how CCSD is stating that having people move into a charter school is not fair.
Ms.Fair
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October 19, 2012
Not a Union? - Ron Fowler, the Assistant to the President of the Georgia Federation of Teachers has clearly said "Yes ! Teachers do have a Union." Though teachers like to think they don't since membership into the GFoT isn't mandatory.

And what's this "local control being taken away" ?? What's more local than giving parents and teachers full control of the school.

Don't bend the truth -- the ONLY state involvement is in the approval process. If a charter petition is approved, local groups OWN IT !!

READ the House Bills and the Charter requirements !! Don't believe what your GFoT Union and Local Administration is trying to brainwash you with.
Stop it
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October 12, 2012
Why does Cobb County approve Charters while Cherokee does not. Why are there so many teachers who are bullies in Cherokee? I find it so amusing that the "informational" meetings are really a plot by the teachers to get their wayh.What is wrong with trying to have more options for parents when our local board refuses to vote yes to Charter Schools? By the time the school board gets a clue, my children will out of the system. Living in Cherokee is embarrassing. (and no, I can't move)
Kay H
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October 11, 2012
Down With Unions appears clueless -- once and for all, there are no teacher unions in Georgia and I (as a long-time teacher) can assure you that teachers are not interested in teacher unions. We are much more interested in trying to provide the best possible education for the students and we work tirelessly to do so.

Amendment #1 is about growing state government, taking money away from our local public schools and likely raising our taxes to pay for another state commission that is not even needed. Vote NO!!!!
No.more.hypocrites
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October 11, 2012
Voting yes is like voting for Obama. This is liberal movement at its finest. Constitutional Conservatives vote NO! Save Georgia by saving our schools and get rid of the punks trying to destroy the future of our country! Vote NO! Start by recalling crooks that fooled people with flip flopping on T-splost. This amendment IS T-splost for charter schools that take millions of dollars away from taxpayers and our children. Say NO to Obama. Say NO to crooks and cronies in our Capitol. Vote NO on Amendment 1.
UGA Gal
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October 11, 2012
I was at the meeting and it did not appear to me that the man was "thrown out." It appeared he was leaving and passed out brochures on his way out. I must have missed all the disruption.

Anyway, as a parent, I am definitely concerned about the funding aspect to this constitutional amendment. There is only so much money to go around for education. This amendment seems to be more about money and control than it is the good of our students in Georgia. That is very disheartening.

Hey,hey,hey goodbye
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October 11, 2012
This is most definitely a governance and funding issue and not an education issue, no doubt about it. Charters can and are being approved and funded through the channels already in place. This is, clear and simple, about taking the power away from the local communities and consolidating yet more of it at the Gold Dome. It is, clear and simple, about starving the funding source of education for 94% of Georgia's children so a select few vendors and politicians can feed at the taxpayer's expense, while leaving the majority of our children in the cold. It's a power and money grab, folks. Don't be fooled by the outright lies and emotional rhetoric. Vote NO. Vote NO. Vote NO.
JessieBarn
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October 11, 2012
PTAs are permitted to advocate for an issue.

No laws were broken so I think No More Unions! calling for the arrest of the PTA President is a BOLD! statement.

This is not about charter schools, parental rights or non-existent unions. It is about creating a larger government

and using more taxpayer money to fund the new organization.

VOTE NO! on November 6th.
No it's not!
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October 11, 2012
Did Down With Unions! attend this event?

I did and I did not come away with this as a teacher union issue...it is an issue of government control.
Down With Unions!
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October 11, 2012
So the "YES to 1162" advocate gets thrown out but some union-boss-wannabe member of the Georgia branch of the American Federation of Teachers - a TEACHER UNION btw - gets to spew his liberal, pro-union,pro-Obama, anti-parental choice garbage at a facility that MY tax dollars is helping to fund?

I'd say that the PTA should be ashamed of themselves...but hypocrites have no shame. This PTA should be immediately disbanded and their president arrested for thumbing their noses at the law. And it's interesting to finally see the $$$ that's behind the "NO" movement - it's UNION MONEY.

Clearly, a YES vote to 1162 == a NO vote to Teacher Unions.

Vote 'NO' to TEACHER UNIONS IN GA. YES to 1162!

PS: The proceeding message was NOT paid for by public tax $$$.

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