Georgia Needs School Choice – AFP Letter To State Representatives

February 10, 2012

February 8, 2012
Dear Representative –

I am writing on behalf of over 40,000 AFP Georgia members to urge your support of House Resolution 1162, one of our strongest AFP Score Card issues in 2012 and the best option for addressing our current need for more school choice in Georgia. This resolution allows the voters of Georgia to approve an amendment that gives parents more options where they can choose the school that best fits their individual child’s needs by creating a stronger environment for charter and other alternative education options to flourish. It re-asserts greater accountability for local school boards by creating a way for choice and competition in education where the money follows the child. When schools compete, kids win. House Resolution 1162 is the ultimate argument for local control because there is no one more local than the parent of a child in determining their educational needs. Each child is different and one size public education does not fit all.

A recent non-partisan state-wide survey of likely voters commissioned by AFP Foundation reveals that Georgians overwhelming support (70.5%) parents as the final arbiter of where their child goes to school and that money should follow the child to the school of the parents choosing. The same percentage (70.5%) say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports more School Choice for parents.

Opponents of HR 1162 make the following false claims:

Fiction: HR 1162 is not about charter schools because it gives up local control and expands the reach of government in education by allowing political appointees to override the decisions of local school boards.
Fact: Parents are the ultimate local control – A parent knows better what their child needs than any government bureaucrat! HR 1162 embraces ultimate local control over educational bureaucracy, namely, the parent of an individual child, because there is no greater local control than a parent. HR 1162 simply puts the constitutional framework in place so that the General Assembly can consider options. Yet, even before the State Supreme Court overturned the Charter School Commission last year in a controversial 4-3 decision, the Commission was reviewable by the State Board, so there was direct oversight under the prior law.

Fiction: HR 1162 makes taxation without representation constitutional by enabling the General Assembly to re-direct tax funds to any type of special school over the objections of local boards and local taxpayers.
Fact: HR 1162 breaks up the current education monopoly that is taxation without representation – Special schools must still meet the criterion set for all other public schools under the Georgia Code. Currently, boards of education bureaucracies have exclusive authority to authorize or deny any application, regardless of the public benefit and desire to have more choice in education. HR 1162 re-establishes the historical shared authority between the State and the local school board and does not give a monopoly power of taxation without representation to runaway boards.

Fiction: The ballot measure misleads voters by mischaracterizing the current state of Georgia law where it implies that a state role is needed because locally approved charter schools are not currently constitutional.
Fact: HR 1162 creates shared responsibility and educational accountability – The ballot measure does not say that locally approved charter schools are not constitutional, only that the approval process be shared by the state and the local board so as to avoid a monopoly and the consequent historical limits of choice in education that have reduced Georgia to a 65% high school graduation rate and a 47th worst ranking nationwide in k-12 public education.

Outside legislation (HR 1335) that has been proposed by the status quo education bureaucracy does not address the issue of the need for shared authority if historically beneficial choice in education is to expand and flourish long-term. It creates ambiguity in the constitutional basis and status of existing state-sponsored charter schools and it opens a Pandora’s Box wherein local boards who have historically prolonged a vote on individual charter applications can continue indefinitely in this manner. It creates a problem for state-wide virtual and charter schools pulling from several districts where one district approves and another denies. It is a smoking gun for litigation because of its restrictive emphasis where any action taken by the state can be challenged.

In summary, AFP Georgia urges you to support HR 1162 as a positive option to enhance educational freedom and justice for all students in Georgia by providing an environment that encourages vibrant choice and competition in education that will prepare our future workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Respetfully Yours,

Virginia Galloway
State Director
Americans For Prosperity Georgia

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