For-profit charter schools have dominated the education debate this legislative session and it’s interesting to discover why.
Some charter schools have achieved amazing success. But many charter schools have failed to outperform public schools on a number of criteria, including graduation rates, according to the Georgia Department of Education’s February report.
Over the last several years, our state government has cut more than $1 billion from the state budget in money that is sent to local school boards for K-12 education. So, why are Georgia politicians suddenly asking for more control over local education decisions?
It’s simple. Follow the money.
As for-profit entities, the charter schools are backed by companies and individuals with deep pockets. (Read: Academica: Florida’s richest charter school management firm).
Like with any business, Academica and other charter companies are looking to make money. In education, the way they increase revenue is through increased access to school markets and providing an “alternative” to the public schools already in place.
The Georgia Constitution now gives local school boards the power to create charter schools in their community. More than 150 charter schools have been created by local school boards, predominantly in the metro Atlanta area. But once a local school board turned down Academica, one of the richest charter schools in the nation, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, a Cherokee County Republican, decided it was time for action.
Sen. Rogers is one of the key legislators pushing for a Constitutional change that will allow the state to approve a for-profit school after a local school board denies a charter. As Dick Yarborough cleverly pointed out in his Macon Telegraph article, “none of the Cherokee County legislators .. have their children in Cherokee’s public schools.”
Here’s the reality check:
In Georgia, 95 percent of the schoolchildren attend public schools. If for-profit charter schools are performing no better than traditional public schools, then legislators need to put politics and party aside and choose what’s best for Georgia’s children. Local control over local issues is a sound policy for Georgia schools.
Sen. Rogers has shown that profit for the charter schools is his first priority instead of the education of the children he represents. If he wants to prove this isn’t true, he’ll start fighting to replace the $1 billion he’s taken away from local schools.