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The Case for Charter School Choice

Why voters statewide should vote for House Resolution 1162 — a constitutional amendment to allow a state-commissioned board the ability to approve charter schools when local boards refuse.

Dear Editor:

I am writing as both a parent of students who attend a charter school and a teacher who works at one. The school I speak of is Pataula Charter Academy (PCA) located in Edison, Georgia. This is one of the controversial schools that was created by approval of a state commissioned board rather than the local school boards. Now we are in danger of having our doors closed unless an amendment to the constitution is approved in the November election stating that it is legal for a state commissioned board to approve charter schools when local boards refuse. 

I am urging everyone reading this to please vote yes to this amendment. PCA serves students in five counties. All five of the local school boards of the counties that we serve denied our application for approval when we asked to form a charter school, thus forcing us to go to the state commissioned board.

Prior to the creation of PCA, parents in our area had very few choices for their children’s education. One option was to send their children to sub-par public schools which were consistently on the needs improvement list due to the fact that they were not making adequate yearly progress as determined by the state. The other option was to send them to a private school which might not even be an option due to financial limitations or race.

PCA is a public school open to children of all races and economic status in five counties in our area. Since it is public, of course it is free. All of the parents who choose to send their children to PCA care about education and are actively involved in their children’s school life.

Perhaps the best thing about our school is that ALL children are made to feel loved, accepted, and proud. Many students at PCA have attended three or four schools prior to ending up here. They have not been successful anywhere else, and have previously hated school. Now, they love it! They came to our school very behind academically and with very low self-esteem. However, through nurturing, patience, and the fostering of a school culture based on tolerance,  these students are thriving. That is what touches my heart the most about PCA. 

Students come here from all walks of life. Children who have been bullied in their other schools now feel safe. Kids who have been the bullies in their others school have learned to be civil. This is due to the fact that our school focuses on school culture as much as academics. As a result, all students feel accepted.  Once you have a good culture, learning can take place. Perhaps this is why our test scores were so high last spring!

If the amendment to the constitution does not pass, then all of these children  will no longer have this school as an option.

Please hear me. This is not about money or anything else the opposition may want you to believe. This amendment is simply about these precious children.  Please come visit our school if you would like. I have been teaching for twenty years in four states, and I have never had the pleasure of working in an environment like this.

When you vote on Nov. 6, please vote with your heart. Vote yes for amendment one. You will be blessing our children!

Kathy Bantz,

Cuthbert, Georgia

Marcia Killingsworth October 16, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Frank, Pataula is an unusual school: it draws from five counties, and battled five school boards to get established, and finally had to go to the state. As for its lack of diversity, you skate the edge of calling it deliberate. It is not. Take into consideration the fact that 1) it's a young school, 2) it is a new kind of school that crosses county lines, 3) it takes a new and innovative concept of education. These three factors alone mean that it has encountered resistance to its different and fresh approach, and has also faced skepticism about whether it would survive. *Those* two factors might help you understand why not every parent in these five counties is clamoring to send their children there... yet. Building trust isn't a short-term process. But those who have taken the leap and embraced, and been embraced by, its methods are passionately devoted to the school. The student body will grow as the school matures. And as Pataula continues its outreach to under-served communities, I'm confident that its diversity will grow as well. Right now, it's just struggling for its survival so that the children who attend now won't be sent back to the damaged school systems they've fled.
Frank October 16, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Marcia: Yes, Pataula is unusual. There's already a pathway for schools like Pataula. "Special Schools." which can already be approved by the State Board of Education. Pataula was even highlighted in a Georgia Charter Schools Association press release where it stated: ------------ State Approves Charters for 11 Former Commission Schools ATLANTA – Eleven charter schools that had been approved by the now defunct Georgia Charter Schools Commission, were approved Tuesday by the Georgia Board of Education. By unanimous vote the full board voted to grant SPECIAL CHARTERED SCHOOL STATUS to Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology (Bulloch County), Cherokee Charter Academy (Cherokee), Coweta Charter Academy at Senoia (Coweta), Fulton Leadership Academy (Fulton), Georgia Connections Academy (Virtual), Heritage Preparatory Academy (Atlanta), Pataula Charter Academy (Baker, Calhoun, Clay, Early and Randolph) and Provost Academy ------------ Georgia already recognizes and it has the current legal authority to grant "Special Status." We don't need a Constitutional Amendment to address situations like Pataula. Amendment 1 supporters discount or omit from argument that this pathway exists. While you're at it, look at Baconton Community Charter School in Mitchell County. County demographic is 50% white. Baconton Community Charter School enrollment shows a student population that is 80% White. As stated in my earlier thread, there a plenty of examples.
Marcia Killingsworth October 17, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Am I wrong, or didn't the Supreme Court decision strike down the appeals process you cite, and declared all of those schools unconstitutional? That's why an amendment is required. That's my understanding, anyway.
Frank October 17, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Marcia: Sadly and unfortunately, you are wrong. Georgia has had and continues to have the authority to grant "Special School" status. Pataula operates currently under that "Special School" status. A May 2011 Supreme Court ruling concluded the Georgia Charter Schools Commission did not have the authority under the state’s constitution to establish LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS. You'll find numerous press releases touting Pataula's approval by the State Board of Education as a Special School in June 2011, along with several other schools affected by the May 2011 Georgia Supreme Court decision. Additionally, during August of 2011, Gov. Deal struck a deal to deliver special funding to these schools. Look it up. So, the State tried, its Court struck the try, the State did what it should have in the first place and can still do today, and then the State essentially provided rescue funding. The rescue "forward funded" these "Special Schools" unlike local schools which are funded in arrears by the state.
Marcia Killingsworth October 19, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Interesting, Frank. Thanks for that info. I'm still going to vote Yes because I've seen what a difference Pataula has made to its students, but this info is good to have.

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