Several weeks ago I emailed Rep. Jan Jones, co-sponsor of HR 1162, to ask her for her thoughts on education reform, why HR 1162 was needed and how the amendment would implement those needed reforms. I received a lengthy reply back for which I am grateful. The 4-page "Q & A" on HR 1162 and HB 797 is attached as a PDF. This is not new information, but worth a re-look since the big vote is right around the corner.
Since this is a blog and I'm supposed to brief, I will draw your attention to the second paragraph in which Rep. Jones states, "If challenged in court, the decision calls into question whether state government has any meaningful role in public education, except, perhaps, for putting a check in the mail." She is referring to the Georgia Supreme Courts decision in May 2011 which ruled that the previous Charter School Commission was unconstitutional.
Rep. Jones is implying that the state may have no authority if this endless litigation continues – that would be kind of like taxation without representation (see next sentence in attachment) not for the actual taxpayer, I don't think, but for the General Assembly. That's why we need to vote for HR 1162. Wow – did we always have to consult our attorneys before voting on a simple amendment??
So how does this statement rate on truthfulness? Here's what I could find about the states current constitutional authority;
State Board of Education - the constitutional authority which defines education policy for the public K-12 education agencies. There are currently 146 State Education Rules (see GaDOE website) on the books. Sounds like a lot of authority to me.
General Assembly - last I knew they wrote and passed our laws. They also have the authority to determine the AMOUNT of the check they put in the mail to local school systems. Sadly, despite the fact that the state funding amount is supposed to be determined by the QBE formula, the General Assembly has decided to short their lawful mandate by $5 billion since 2003 (also on the GaDOE website – see Dr. Barge's fact sheet).
So...was the constitutional authority of the state in its entirety put into jeopardy by the Supreme Court's decision? I don't think so and will hereby give Rep. Jones statement a HIGH DRAMA reading on truthfulness. Not appropriate to call someone I don't really know a liar!
In addition, Rep. Jones answered my question - how will HR 1162/HB 797 address the areas of education reform you feel are important? The answer; "Public charter schools are one tool to help address the different preferences and needs of families and students all across Georgia...Many reforms, including merit pay, utilizing online technology and offering more educational options help address challenges in public education that cannot be solved through more-of-the-same." So there you have it.
Rep. Jones statement is 100% consistent with the language in HB 797 - lines 21 and 22; State charter schools do not supplant public schools operated by local boards of education but provide options to enhance public educational opportunities (my bold). This amendment and the enabling legislation doesn't even pretend to address failing schools or at-risk students.
The photo shown is of my son with the first and short lived Fulton County Honor Band when he was in 5th grade. In March 2010, Fulton County cut the elementary band program to help fill the gap in a looming $120 million deficit. Isn't elementary school band an enhancement that would benefit thousands of public school kids? Shouldn't the General Assembly be working with the local school boards to ensure that ALL Georgia students have enhanced educational opportunites?
Reason # 3 to Vote "NO" on Hr 1162 - the state (and here I really mean the General Assembly - Dr. Barge has made it pretty clear that he is not in favor of this amendment) has not lived up to it's current constitutional mandate, don't let them expand it!
As a parent, I am appalled by certain legislators portrayal of themselves as some sort of squad of white knights coming to rescue public education from the "educrats." In my opinion, everyone who voted for HR 1162 is part of "the problem" which they refuse to clearly define as evidenced by the nebulous language in HB 797. I find their rhetoric and constant deflection of responsibility despicable.
Want to connect with a grassroots organization which is NOT a front for the Walton Family Foundation? Check out EmpowerEDga, http://empoweredga.org/ – it's free to join and full of useful facts and information.