The charter school amendment is an important education reform for Georgia. In our state today, the overall high school graduation rate hovers in the mid-60 percent range and in our Atlanta Public Schools district it is a shockingly low 52 percent. This is morally and economically unacceptable.
As the chairman of the House Study Committee on Charter School Governance, I discovered wide differences in how charter school applications were handled by different local school systems. Some were treated fairly. Some were summarily dismissed. Some were starved to death. This proposed amendment merely guarantees parents and students a check-and-balance appeal process for those whose needs are being otherwise ignored by their local systems. Over 30 states have this process and Georgia students deserve this protection as well.
It should be emphasized, however, that this is only one tool in the reform toolbox. Much more needs to be done including tougher curriculum standards in preschool, closely tracking students’ reading progress in the critical first three grades, recognizing and rewarding good teachers and weeding out poor ones, strengthening our technical school programs for kids uninterested in college, giving teachers greater say so in school governance and demanding that local systems spend more money in the classrooms and less in the central office.
The bottom line is we need to have an educational system that is flexible and can adapt to the needs of our students in the 21st century. The charter school amendment is one important tool to accomplish this.
District 54 State Representative and Buckhead resident