I am a strong supporter of public schools. Except for my college years, they have been a big part of my life. From my vantage point as a student, educator, mother and now as a grandmother, I am amazed by everything accomplished with our children.
Though it is widely debated, I am concerned that charter schools being funded with public funds will erode our existing system of public education. If the amendment passes, the money to fund them may well be taken away from our public schools.
There is a bad taste in my mouth because I have not seen anything guaranteeing me that charter schools would not get more dollars per student than the public schools do.
It makes me wonder, if the amendment passes, will our public schools become the proverbial red-headed stepchild of our state legislators when the money is doled out?
Four of my six grandchildren are in public schools. Two are home schooled. The choices their parents have made about their children’s education are working well for all of them.
When Joel and Anne made the decision to home school their children, they were well aware that both of the children could attend the public schools the taxpayers have provided for them.
They were well aware, too, that the costs of home schooling — and yes there are many — would come out of their pockets.
I often think of something Richard Rusk said his father, Cherokee Country native son and United States Secretary of State Dean Rusk told his children.
When the Rusk family moved to Washington, D.C., they attended public schools. Dean Rusk told his children, “Going to public schools is going to school with America.”
Something else that gnaws at me is this. Could this be the first step in another system of segregation of our schools? But this time it would not be separating blacks and whites.
It would be using public money to divide the haves from the have-nots. Maybe yes, maybe no. If so, it is a grave mistake.
I believe in local control and less government. I believe the closer to home decisions are made the better those decisions are. I also believe that our government is too big. We should be downsizing not adding on.
As I understand it, this amendment allows charter schools to bypass local Boards of Education and the State Board of Education. Charter schools would be under an appointed state charter school commission. That would be costly and is unnecessary.
We already have a local Board of Education and a State Board of Education. You and I elected our local board. We have charged them with ensuring that every child in Cherokee County is provided an appropriate education.
If you or I are not pleased with a decision made by the Cherokee Board of Education, we can appeal to the State Board of Education. Then, if we still are not satisfied, we can take it to court for a judge to make a decision.
And, not to be forgotten, is that when the majority of the public does not agree with the actions of the BOE, we know how to vote them out of office and elect others who will follow the wishes of those they represent. With a specially appointed state commission, we have no recourse regarding their decision.
Some people tell us the charter school amendment will give parents choices about the kind of school our children can attend.
In Georgia we have public schools, private schools, church schools, charter schools and home schools. We have all of them here in Cherokee. Parents already have choices. But the rub is, if the amendment passes, you and I will be paying for students to go to charter schools. Parents of students in private schools, church schools and home schools will continue to pay for the choice they have made.
Usually, I do not complain about the money I pay in taxes. This time is different. We are being asked to pay for something we already are paying — educational opportunities for all of Georgia’s children.
Paying for something twice is not something I want to do.
Now if anyone is fuming because of my comment about red-headed stepchildren, please remember that is just an expression. I have a beautiful, red-headed grandchild named Laney and would welcome a red-headed stepchild, too.
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.