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Schools a hot issue on ballot
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Dawson County School Superintendent Keith Porter is against the charter school amendment, which will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Every superintendent in the state is against this amendment, said Porter who was invited to speak last Thursday at the Democrats for Dawson meeting.

State School Superintendent John Barge, a Republican, has announced his opposition to the measuring, saying, I cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts . . . . Whats more, this constitutional amendment would direct taxpayer dollars into the pockets of out-of-state, for-profit school companies whose schools perform no better than traditional public schools and locally approved charter schools (and worse, in some cases), according to an article in the Aug. 14 edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The legislation clearly re-states that local funding may not be used, said House Rep. Amos Amerson, who represents District 9, which includes Dawson County.

Amerson added that without a constitutional amendment, many laws on the books that teachers and parents rely upon could be subject to successful litigation as pointed out in the Supreme Courts minority opinion, by the Attorney General and the legislatures education attorney. For example, each county could set its own pay schedule, or not.

The legislation also clearly forbids state funds from being deducted specifically from the respective school district in which a student lives, Amerson said. It spells out a funding formula utilizing only state funds, and it will be the same for all state charter students regardless of their geographical home.

Dawson County is a public charter school system which receives 35 percent in state funds. The rest is supported by local taxes, Porter noted.

The state has cut $4.4 billion from school budgets, Porter said. If it (the constitutional amendment) passes, the furloughs we have had will have to be permanent rather than temporary even when the economy comes back.

State Sen. Steve Gooch believes that we can do better for our children.

If were 47th or 48th out of 50, cant we do better? Moneys not going to fix the problem, he said. We cant wait for the recession to end to make education better. Increasing spending in public schools wont necessarily increase the quality of education. We have to find better methods.

Currently, members of the Dawson County Board of Education are elected by the voters.

Right now, you can run for a school board position even if you dont have a child in the school system, Gooch added.

If the amendment passes, parents would be elected to a governing school board which is overseen by the state.

How can anyone say they are losing control when they they are the ones on the board?, he asked.

Gooch added that the constitutional amendment is needed to help yank Georgia schools out of its consistently low national SAT ranking.

Georgia is among the nations three worst states. Only South Carolina and Maine have lower SAT scores. Georgias scores continue to fall despite changes to the curriculum. Georgia students in the Class of 2011 scored an average of 1,445 on the SAT, down eight points form 2010.

Superintendent Porter noted that he had 80 meetings before making his recommendation to oppose the amendment to the Dawson County Board of Education.

The amendment says it gives us a choice, but it doesnt, he said.

The amendment vote was authorized by the Georgia Legislature in response to the previous Charter Schools Commission being declared unconstitutional by a court ruling. In May 2011, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the states involvement in the establishment of public charter schools the Georgia Charter School Commisison was unconstitutional. Specifically, the court ruled that the commission was illegal because it approved and funded charter schools despite objection by local school boards.

A charter school campaign seeks to re-establish the state governments authority to set up local charter schools in Georgia. According to an article by Jim Galloway posted Sept. 15 on the Atlanta Journal Constitution website, theres a $2.7 million statewide campaign that will be divided into a $974,000 tax-free educational effort dubbed Brighter Georgia, controlled by the charter schools association, and a traditional get-out-the-vote campaign with a $1.8 million price tage called Families for Better Schools. The two organizations had raised a combined $988,000 as of Sept. 1, according to Galloway.