By Dr. Tony Roberts
During the campaign to pass the Charter Amendment, there were predictions of doomsday for public education from all over the state if the Charter Amendment passed.
Four months later, I have not seen any signs of the sky falling for district-operated schools. During the campaign, the Superintendent of Richmond County schools told board, teachers, and staff that the day after the amendment passed their budget would be reduced by $10 million dollars. All over the State, leaders of bands, arts and music teachers were all being told that the passage of the Amendment meant that their budgets would be reduced to zero and they would be out of their jobs. Closer to home, the Superintendent of Gwinnett Schools reacted to the Charter amendment passage by saying: the amendment “is not in the best interest of students and public education in this state.” He went on to call the State of Georgia the “opponent” of public education.
A recent report in the AJC, however, reports “Class sizes wouldn’t increase, and unpaid furlough days for teachers and staff would become a thing of the past under a nearly $1.3 billion budget being proposed for Gwinnett County Public Schools. The state’s largest school district also would hire about 85 teachers and nearly double the size of its school security force under the budget proposal being unveiled this week by CEO and superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks.”
Charter schools, on the other hand, are being endangered now with a reduction in the funding promised in HB797. An unexpected move for the DOE to withhold a 5 mil share from funding will stifle the growth of high-quality charter schools and put severe strains on existing ones. Funding under HB797 requires State-approved charter schools to be funded at a level averaging the lowest 5 percent of public schools in Georgia. Now, with the deduction by a 5 mil share, State-approved charter schools will be funded at a level lower than any other public school in the state of Georgia.
The people of Georgia have spoken: they want, no, they demand, high-quality charter schools throughout the State. But unless this devastating reduction is addressed soon, the promise given to the citizens of Georgia will go unfulfilled. For the children, the sky of hope will fall.
We must not let this happen.