Charter school amendment is topic of discussion meeting

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By KATIE JUSTICE, kjusitce@clickthepaper.com

The value of public schools was one concept never questioned at last night’s meeting which discussed the proposed state constitutional amendment change on charter schools.

“I know that education is critical, 92 to 93 to 94 percent of children are going to be educated in public schools,” said State Rep. Brooks Coleman, chairman of the House Education Committee.

While the need for a quality public education was a consensus, the formation of a state commission to approve charter schools was highly debated at the meeting hosted at Northeast Church.

Coleman was one of five men answering questions about the proposed amendment, which reads “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?” as it appears on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Coleman, along with State Rep. Buzz Brookway, and Jackson County Republican Party chairman Kelley Gary spoke in support of the amendment.

Jackson County Superintendent Dr. John Green and Jackson County Board of Education member Michael Cronic spoke out against the amendment.

Money and control were the night’s biggest topics, with conversations revolving around school funding and state versus local control.

“Charter schools are public schools. The money going into them is going into public education,” said Coleman, when discussing the system for funding the schools.

According to Coleman, charter schools will be funded by the state. They will receive the same base amount per student as every other public school in the state. Then, instead of being supplemented by local school funding, the charter schools will receive additional money from the state so that their funding per child is equivalent the average of the five school systems with the lowest funding.

For Mitch Crump, who attended the meeting, the possibility of losing public school funding to state charter schools is the biggest issue.

“Where’s the money going to come from? You’ve already cut public schools down to the bone,” said Crump.

A desire for school control to remain at the local level was also of great importance to some.

“This is a lot less about charter schools and a lot more about whether you want decisions made at a local level,” said Green, who went on to discuss his fear of Georgia reverting to the days when it had more than 1,200 school systems.

“I encourage you to think about what those schools were like. It was a separate but unequal par in history,” said Green.