Georgia is in the midst of an intense debate over a proposed charter
school amendment that will be on the ballot in November. Whatever your
position, you need to read my story.

The polls predict this amendment will pass with flying colors, thanks to a
misleading ballot question and a majority of funding from outside the state.
Charter groups with multi-faceted objectives are lining up to grab their
market share. If a state controlled charter school comes to your town, you
will have no recourse if there is a problem.

Why Local Control is Critical
The problems I encountered at Fulton Science Academy Charter School, in
Alpharetta, were not anticipated by our local and state board of education
or by educators across the country. Charter schools are new territory and
bring new problems, however politicians should never ignore or bully a
concerned parent into silence. Jan Jones, the author of the charter school
amendment, had not only the power, but also the knowledge needed to
create legislation that would protect our community, tax dollars and
students from known charter school problems. The Charter School
Amendment is weak and invites problems.

My son attended Fulton Science Academy charter school, for three years,
when I found out about problems that also led to my learning that the
school was being operated by followers of the influential and controversial
Turkish Imam, Fethullah Gulen.

Fulton Science Academy’s problems were serious and later validated, by
an external audit, commissioned by the local school board. My concerns
left me fearful to speak up because the Gulen movement is a powerful
international organization and because of the federal investigation into the
school. Details can be found in this article about Fulton Science Academy
in the New York Times, by Stephanie Saul. (
http://www.nytimes.
com/2012/06/06/us/audits-for-3- georgia-charter-schools-tied-to-gulen-
movement.html)

Turns out the Gulen movement was the least of my worries.

The real problem? Legislators with tunnel vision, hoping to open the
Georgia education frontier to more charter groups at any cost. My
legislators demonstrated that they will look the other way, as long as, a
school has high test scores. What is the impact if a school has received a
National Blue Ribbon Award, as did this particular charter school? Well, it is
untouchable.

Ultimately, the local school board held Fulton Science Academy
accountable and did not renew its charter. The local school board did the
right thing, which equaled political suicide. The politicians condemned the
local school board’s decision, continue to vilify the board in public and have
put legal pressure on the board to reverse their decision. My experience is
a critical example of why local control is necessary.

I understand that the landscape of education is changing and with that
rules and regulations need to be adapted. However, it is irresponsible of
the Governor and our legislators to lobby for a constitutional amendment
that does not stop the known problematic consequences of charter schools.

Gulen?
While detractors like to scream foul when the Gulen connection is pointed
out, this is no longer an issue debated in the national circles. Even our
local Istanbul Center has been forthcoming about its link to Gulen.

Legislators?
It is all public record. The most vocal supporters of Fulton Science
Academy have been Chip Rogers, John Albers and Jan Jones, even after
they knew about the issues I have described. The photos of our politicians
and school officials, the awards, the campaign contributions speak for
themselves. FSA supporters? The tide seems to have turned. The same
politicians seem to be backing off from supporting the school. So, much for
the blue ribbon.

If the politicians were being direct and the honest about Fulton Science
Academy, they would note that it was the Local School Board that was
diligent even when pressed with intense political and corporate pressure to
change their minds. The local school board demonstrated leadership.

Vote No
This is not a partisan issue. It is about keeping your voice on education in
your community.  If you vote no, charter schools will be continue to be
approved at the local and state level, we just won't be adding an additional
state politically appointed charter committee. Amending the constitution is
serious business. Don't vote for an Amendment to the Georgia Constitution
that contains weak legislation and does not address current problems we
face in our state.

Related:
Roadmap to HR1162: Fulton Science Academy, Amana Academy,
and a Legislative Agenda
Dana Teegardin North Fulton
mother says she found local control
was critical after finding problems
while her son attended Fulton
Science Academy.

Her website:
http://georgiacharterschooldisgrace.
com/
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The opinions expressed in this article reflect those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of EmpowerED Georgia.