Farmer hails Barge's charter schools stand
By REBECCA LEFTWICH
Coweta County Board of Education member Frank Farmer is urging voters to educate themselves about the Nov. 6 Georgia charter school amendment vote.
Farmer praised the anti-amendment stance of State Superintendent John Barge during board comments at the Coweta school board's Tuesday meeting, saying he was glad Barge "had the guts" to oppose legislation widely endorsed by his own Republican Party – which includes Gov. Nathan Deal, who has personally lobbied support for the measure.
“We’re here for one purpose, and that’s to provide what students need,” Farmer said. “Politics doesn’t come into play. That’s not true in Atlanta.”
Farmer asked that voters take a close look not only at Barge's objections, but also at the amendment's enabling legislation.
Barge objected to what he says would essentially be the establishment of a separate school system funded by state and local education dollars with little oversight by local school districts. Charter schools typically operate as publicly financed but privately operated schools.
The proposed amendment to Georgia's constitution would give the state authority to charter independent public schools – possibly overriding votes by boards of education in the districts in which the schools would be established. The similarly functioning Georgia Charter Schools Commission was struck down in 2011, ruled unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court in a 4-3 vote.
The court's opinion read: “No other constitutional provision authorizes any other governmental entity to compete with or duplicate the efforts of local boards of education in establishing and maintaining general K-12 schools. By providing for local boards of education to have exclusive control over general K-12 schools, our constitutions, past and present, have limited governmental authority over the public education of Georgia’s children to that level of government closest and most responsive to the taxpayers and parents of the children being educated.”
Barge has said the legislation would threaten local control and state funding of traditional public schools. Georgia's education funding formula has failed to make adjustments for factors like inflation and nationally mandated class size reduction, forcing local school systems to shoulder an ever-increasing financial burden.
The amendment's supporters have not said how the state will fund charter schools established under the new legislation, should it pass.
In other business Tuesday, Coweta school board members set mandatory whole board training for Oct. 9 from 3-6 p.m., Training will precede the board’s monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m.