Speakers at an education forum on Tuesday night at the DoubleTree Hotel in Roswell suggested that a healthy system of charter schools would improve the quality of all Georgia schools through competition.
“Maybe 10 percent [of students] will attend a public charter school outside of a home [districted] school,” said State Rep. Jan Jones, Speaker Pro-Tempore. “What it does is it makes all schools better, because there is an option. I mean McDonald’s is better because there is Burger King. Coca-Cola is better because there is a Pepsi.”
Jones, R-Milton, cited statistics to show the system needs change. Twenty percent of Georgia high schools have a graduation rate below 50 percent, she said.
The panel of speakers - composed of Jones, State Sen. Chip Rogers, State Sen. John Albers and education advocate Tony Roberts - suggested failure in education is detrimental to society. They explained how those who do not graduate from high school are far more likely to commit crimes and require public assistance.
Change in education and charter schools, specifically, are a heated topic now because a state Constitutional amendment, drafted by Jones and passed by the state senate, is on the November ballot. Charter school advocates need the amendment because in May 2011 the Georgia Supreme Court issued a decision saying only local boards of education controlled the right to create public schools. And, locally, after charter revocation by the Fulton County Schools Board of Education, 's state charter application got a recommendation for denial from the Ga. Department of Education, in a last chance attempt at keeping its doors open next fall.
During the forum Tuesday night, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation showed a 35-minute film about education in Georgia, before the panel discussion. The movie “Making the Grade in Georgia, Educational freedom and Justice for All,” pointed to some of the current system’s failings and suggested charter schools improve all schools.
The panel said charter schools give choices and empower parents.
“I’ll side with parents every time,” Rogers said. “I have never had a parent come up to me and say, I want my child to have no other opportunities, no other choices.”
The film also pointed to the use of technology as an innovative way to educate students. It showed a success story of a student who attended Georgia Cyber Academy, the publicly funded online school.
Organizers of the Tuesday event said three Fulton Schools board members were invited but couldn’t come. There were no opponents of charter schools and school choice at the microphone.
Virginia Galloway, the state director of Americans for Prosperity Foundation, said the group has 50,000 members in Georgia and two million nationwide. About 60 people attended the forum, Tuesday night.
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