Myth: Charters Will Expand Choice and Create Competition
Fact: Passage of the charter amendment does not guarantee that charters would be added to areas that have chronically underperforming schools.
In this economic climate with over a billion being cut to education each year and with teacher furloughs/layoffs, shortened school calendars, and increased class sizes, it does not make fiscal sense to allow the creation of state charters in areas with performing schools. Are additional educational options really needed in areas with high-performing schools? If the amendment is really about improving education, why isn’t charter authorization being targeted in areas with chronically underperforming schools?
In EmpowerED Georgia's Charter Schools Blueprint, we advocate that charters authorized by the State Department of Education be focused in areas with chronically underperforming schools. The proposed charter amendment does not include such a focused creation of charters. If, as charter school advocates claim, choice creates competition and competition drives a school’s performance, why is choice not being offered in areas with chronically underperforming schools? Why are charter schools avoiding serving these areas, and why are they avoiding serving the most challenging children (and the ones they claim would benefit the most from their services)?
Fact: True competition can only exist if the same system of rules and regulations are in place for all participating parties.
Comparing charters and traditional public schools is like comparing apples and oranges. Charters can kick out students, whereas traditional public schools must educate every child that enters their doors. Charters can mandate parental involvement and acceptable student behavior, whereas traditional public schools have no such authority. Charters can screen students, whereas traditional public schools are committed to educating every child.
Conclusion The amendment is not a referendum about charter schools or even school choice. The real story is that the State is undermining our traditional public schools (as well as our local charter schools) through the severe cuts in financial support and by increasing red tape (expanded testing, Common Core, merit pay, etc.). Changes are needed (see: Charter Schools Blueprint), but they must be positive, constructive changes and not gimmicks. The proposed charter amendment is not a choice between expanding charter schools and protecting local control or even between increasing options and preserving the status quo. It is about whether we should go down a new road until we have given the schools we have a chance to succeed. That answer is a resounding “No.”