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Letter: Charter School Amendment Would Raise Taxes, Inequality

Bartow County resident Paul Nally opposes a proposal to restore the state's power to approve charter schools and their funding. Georgia voters are set to decide on the constitutional amendment.

Georgia voters are set Nov. 6 to decide a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to approve local charter schools and their funding. Bartow resident Paul Nally says the move would hike state taxes and inequality among students.

Dear Editor,

Consider that question concerning the "special schools" provision of the proposed constitutional amendment appearing on the November ballot.

Of particular interest to the taxpaying citizens, both the younger who pay county school taxes and the elder who, here to now, have been exempt from that tax, is the meaning of section 3 of HR 1162 which provides:

The state is authorized to expend state funds for the support and maintenance of special schools in such amount and manner as may be provided by law; ...

What this means is simply that state taxes will have to be raised to pay for the "special schools" AND local taxes WILL NOT go down. PLUS, those elderly who are now exempt will have to pay increased state income taxes to pay for education. 

Yep, you guessed it. Your legislators finally figured a way to get into your pocket, and for you younger folks, TWICE, local taxes and increased state taxes! That happens because the Average Daily Attendance, upon which funding for a school is determined, by law, will not go down. That is due to the kids going to the special schools still being counted as attending their old school.

But of greater concern, is the fact that this new "special school / charter school" will not be attended by all the students in a school district, just a few; and their education exposure will be considerably better than the average school kids left behind. Do we now support leaving children behind?

That realization brings to my memory a US Supreme Court case and the implications of its holding. In Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 494-495 (1954) we read:

We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.

If "separate but equal" is inherently unequal, and violates due process and equal protection, how much more offensive to these Constitutional concepts would "separate AND unequal" be?

The answer? Make every school attain the level of a “charter school”. Dumbing down the level of educational excellence, lowering the bar so to speak, should now be viewed as the idiocy of the indolent. “Consider the ant, thou sluggard; observer her ways and be wise!”

Of course, that could get in the way of Official Education’s attempt to educate our children to the maximum level of their acceptable ignorance.

Paul Nally

Rydal, GA

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Careshia October 05, 2012 at 09:37 PM
This sounds great. But with traditional schools cutting music and art to once every other week and generally narrowing the definition of education to exclude exposure to arts, foreign language and other areas that make our provide a well rounded education to our children, what do you propose parents do? Settling for a minimalist education is not the answer. Charter Shools seem to provide alternatives to families who would like to educate their children in a more wholistic fashion without paying $20,000 per year.
MP October 05, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Paul, You make a leap - a large leap to say that taxes will have to be raised. First, these charters would NOT come from K-12 education, as the law prohibits it. Second, is it JUST POSSIBLE, the legislature, in appropriating funds for the general fund (NOT the K-12 budget), just might move money around? Our state budget is BILLIONS of dollars, so this is not even a blip in those figures. We SHOULDN'T be talking about a lot of money from the general fund because local schools should be authorizing fairly and the state should only have to authorize where districts are unfair.
MP October 05, 2012 at 11:11 PM
And, by the way, this isn't a "separate" system. This is public education. Every single one of our school districts in Georgia - all 180 of them, run a very different system. In point of fact, for efficiency sake, given the number of systems we have under 5000 students, we waste a TON of money on central administration for these small districts. In a Senate subcommittee hearing a few months back, someone asked why the rural districts couldn't be consolidated...and the response (from the rural districts) was that the districts are all so different and have so many unique local contexts. So there you go....right from the horse's mouth. We don't even have 1 current system - we have 180 separate systems. So what is one more?
Paul Nally October 07, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Careshia, There are two answers. Parents and Parents. Parents see to the additional education needs of their child at home AND Parents see to the quality of the local school system. I realize that might seem a bit simplistic, but if you think about it, you soon come to the realization that both are the ultimate responsibility of the parent. If you don’t want to be bothered … don’t have kids. But then, we, as a generation, weren’t taught, either at school or at home, to apply the Socratic process to our biological urges, were we?
Paul Nally October 07, 2012 at 05:08 PM
MP, I’ll agree that a ton of money is wasted, but about this “great leap” I’ve made, answer this query. What government authorized program has ever been initiated without a tax (or user fee) being imposed or another raised? Our original Constitutions made education the sole perview of the State, but politics being what it is, that changed. So, now, we live with the diversity of 180 different opinions. There is something to be said for centralization at the State leval, but being offensive to the Constitution and increasing taxes that is not necessary ain't the way!
MP October 07, 2012 at 08:59 PM
@ Paul, LOTS of agencies are state authorized and don't raise taxes (the charter Commission would not be a "program"). Here are a few... The State Board of Education The Professional Standards Commission The Board of Regents The Charter Commission is self sustaining, as the schools actually have to pay up to 3% for it to run. The added costs are not borne by tax payers. And by the way, Georgia has had 10 different Constitutions throughout its history, and none of them had either the state or the district as sole providers of public education. Roles for both have been delineated to both for various purposes - they have always SHARED responsibility for educating students. I am not saying all of public education needs to be housed at the state - I'm fine with districts in general. What I am saying is 2 things: 1) We don't need 180 districts. We could probably consolidate some of the smaller ones and have closer to 100 districts and save a lot of board and central administrative funds for all of the districts. 2) Given we have 180 different districts, the Commission schools isn't actually a parallel system - it's just one more administrative body. And by the way, we currently have 18,000 state charter school students. Only 20 districts in this state oversee more students.
MP October 07, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Ooh! Should have proofread better before submitting. Pardon the errors.
Paul Nally October 08, 2012 at 11:42 AM
MP, don’t sweat the proofing – I mess up a bunch of times. ALL expenses of government agencies, and any commission established by an act of the legislature are an example of “trickle down cost”. All of these expenses are ultimately born by the customer, in this case, the taxpayer. Yes, even the Board of Regents. HB 1162, sec. 3 states specifically that these shools, their buildings, furnishings, staff, and all other expenses of support shall be born by “state funds”. Since the state only has money which it takes from the people, taxes either go up by imposition of another tax or they cut pork and entitlements or some other essential service. That fact about the schools paying a 3%; where do they get the money? From the same state funds, of course. So , now we have the legislature playing a shell game of taking from the taxpayer, paying out of one pocket, taking 3% back in the other pocket, then paying it out again from the hip pocket.
Paul Nally October 08, 2012 at 11:42 AM
But the “greater concern” of which I spoke is the prime reason for opposition, and I wish you could understand the concept that “separate AND unequal” is an anathema upon our Constitutions. I can concur with the concept of Districts. But I would also support doing away with local boards and the Districts being administered by a Superintendent, appointed and answerable, both civilly and criminally, to the State Department of Education. Yes, it is past time for a change. These little “Harper Valley fiefdoms”, full of educated fools and corrupt System Attorneys must go, but this is not the way.
Kim Wigington October 08, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Paul, Where did you get your information. Everything I have found on the GA DOE website, and everything I know from working with the state for school funding contradicts all your points. Kim
Kim Wigington October 08, 2012 at 08:56 PM
http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/Frequently-Asked-Questions-for-New-Petitioners.aspx The new ammendment is actually in the school board's favor. Here's why Charter Schools work much like a voucher program. If a local school board approves it, the charter school gets state and local funds. If the local school board does not approve the charter school and the state does, then the local school board gets to keep all the local funds and does not have to use it to educate the students who attend the charter school. More money+Less students=more spent per student. The state approved charter school only gets the amount of money the state has designated for the specific students who attend the charter school. None of the local or federal money goes to the state approved charter school. The local school board gets to keep it. Automatically the amount of money spent per pupil increases for the local school board. The state approved charter school would have to operate on just the state funding which is determined by FTE counts in the public schools. Taxes would not be raised. Charter school funds would just be lowered. Charter schools ARE public schools. By law they cannot pick and choose which students to accept. They have to either have a lottery or take students first come first served much like pre-k spots are filled. They cannot charge tuition or pick and choose students. More choice is always good.
MP October 09, 2012 at 03:57 AM
@ Paul - will you help me to understand what "unequal" means in your view? Our charters represent the demographics of their communities and they are achieving higher. Can you not see that they are actually closing the gap that has widened and widened over the years? This amendment will not hurt districts other than making them MORE accountable to the public, as the charter groups wanting to open a school would now have a greater chance of having a fair review locally OR an alternative place to go to open a charter. AND parents would have another choice IF their districts were unresponsive.
Paul Nally October 09, 2012 at 10:43 AM
Kim, This opinion came from reading HB 1162, Brown v. Board of Education, and my life-long acquired understanding of corporate, political, and governmental governance, extrapolating from that evidence the best logically structured understanding of that which is, or reasonably would be, of which my mind is capable. Forthcoming events cast long shadows into the past; for those who can see and understand them, you need not be a prophet to reasonably know the future; and all I’ve been given is the syntax of the House Bill with which to start this journey of understanding (ill informed though it may be).
Paul Nally October 09, 2012 at 12:05 PM
MP, The Cartersville School System in ’59-’63 had, as I recall, a three-tiered high school educational objective structure which, I think, worked very well and prepared us kids for whatever future we wanted to pursue, even to the point of teaching the University of Florida freshman courses in Logic during the senior year in addition to classes in Latin, music, and art in the college preparatory classes. All the kids attending that school were “exposed” to all these levels of instruction, and the instructors, whether or not they took a particular class. Cartersville did not build separate school buildings for the instruction of students whose parents wanted them to be nothing more than menial laborers and those who wanted their kids to be doctors and lawyers. It was not necessary. AND, if you will think about it for a moment, you will come to understand that structured classroom work is NOT the only influence in a learning environment. Social interaction and exposure to the varied levels of the “caste system” in this County is a learning tool as well, whether a child comes from the “social or political elite” or from the meanest estate in the County.
Paul Nally October 09, 2012 at 12:05 PM
I perceive that you are imagining that every child will have the same opportunity to be exposed to an institution of higher learning. That just simply is not the case, and the House Bill does not make provision for such. Nor does it make provision for the transportation of children whose parents simply can’t afford to transport their kids. My understanding of this Bill, as it is written, is that it will intentionally establish a separate building, instructors, etc., which will be focused on skills and knowledge consistent with “higher learning” and, by its very language, acknowledges that not all children will have, or be entitled to, access to it. Since its aims and objectives are “different” than the “ordinary school” then it is, by definition, unequal, not to mention an additional burden on taxpayers.
Paul Nally October 09, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Why go to all the trouble and expense of this scheme when it would be simpler for the PTAs to immediately start determining that which is an absolutely mandatory level of education to which any child should be exposed in a public education system, then force the BOEs to implement it? This is not a case of segregation based on race, it is segregation base on economic circumstance. Both are equally wrong and offensive to the Constitutions. It may not be apparent in its language, but it will appear in its implementation.
Paul Nally October 09, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Kim, According to your reasoning, kids leave one school to go to the other school leaving fewer kids at the old school with no decrease in funding to the old school. Where is the research to support the reasoning that “throwing more money at a child creates a better educated child”? Then you say, “Charter school funds would just be lowered.” Does that mean that the State would be “dumbing down” these kids? I cannot agree that “More choice is always good.” I would argue, in this circumstance, that maximum quality is the only good choice. Under the present system of “local control”, the multitude of choices of parents is restricted to the degree of the quality of their school’s academic standards, even if that means temporarily eliminating sports programs. “Failing school systems” are reflections of the failure of the parents who have made the “local control choice” of failure ... nothing less, and that is their prerogative and their responsibility under our Constitutions. There is really no need to “reinvent the wheel”. Private and religious schools aren’t reinvented wheels; they just took a damaged wheel, became wheelwrights, and made it better.

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