JEFF MEADORS: Funding private interests with public dollars

In case there is a second vote on HR 1162, keep monitoring the resolution and its funding partner House Bill 797. In its third iteration, when it failed to pass the House, there is nothing to prohibit the General Assembly from creating an HB 881-styled scheme which deducted allotments from local schools. This cat has many lives and assumes a new appearance in each.

The quest to access local taxpayer dollars resulting in taxation without representation just won't end. In simple terms, local taxpayers will end up with a higher bill as local systems work to make up for dollars taken from them by the state if HR 1162 makes it to the fall ballot and passes.

A state commission, which HR 1162 would create, would use local taxpayer funds for statewide virtual charter schools or brick and mortar state charters outside of local systems.

Local school boards across the state of Georgia have approved and currently govern more than 120 locally approved charters, from local start up charters like Newton College and Career Academy and Rockdale Career Academy to conversion charters.

Advocates of HR 1162 would have the public believe that state-sponsored charter schools managed by for-profit and nonprofit companies increase student achievement. Not true, but they do increase the burden on local taxpayers.

State governed charters have not proven to be much different than traditional schools and perform on average no better. The largest study done, the CREDO study from Stanford in 2009, found that 37 percent of charter school students performed significantly below their traditional school counterparts; 46 percent performed about the same, and 17 percent exceeded the performance of their traditional school counterparts by a significant margin. The study showed that charters in Georgia showed gains that varied little from traditional schools.

Vendors and special interest groups proposing state governance of local students would have the public believe that local school boards obstruct their petitions. False again. Denying a petition is not the sign of being obstructionist. The state board has denied petitions and so did the commission. This is yet another political tactic to pass HR 1162.

A "Yes" vote on HR 1162 means more cuts for local general funds as local tax dollars leave the local system and are transferred to a state agency. A decrease in local funds translates into an increase in the number of teacher furlough days, further reductions to system contributions to employee benefits, shortened school calendars and privatization of non-teaching positions.

HR 1162 is not about school choice. There is choice within local systems approved by local boards. HR 1162 is about funding private interests with public dollars. This amendment would make local control meaningless. No matter how disenchanted you may or may not be with local governance, you'll be standing under a brick wall if you transfer dollars and power to the state. They will never share the same interest in local communities as locally elected officials.

Our students and teachers cannot afford HR 1162. In plain terms this is privatization on the public dole. I am convinced that it's true what they say about alligators; they really do eat their young.

Jeff Meadors is vice chairman of the Newton County Board of Education and may be reached at jeffrey.meadors@gmail.com


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