BOE Passes Resolution Opposing Charter Amendment

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“We’re certainly not against charter schools; we believe in charter schools. What we are against is more bureaucracy,”

The Fannin County Board of Education signed a resolution last week during its regular meeting in support of public education. The move is a response to the charter school referendum on the upcoming November ballot, which Superintendent Mark Henson has publically opposed. According to the legislation (HR 1162), the referendum will ask voters if they would approve an amendment to the state constitution which would allow the state the authority to approve charter schools when otherwise rejected by local school boards.

Henson and BOE Chairwoman Sandra Mercier say they oppose the amendment not because they are against charter schools, but because they want to preserve local control.

“This amendment is not about charter schools,”

Henson said at an earlier meeting,

“it’s about local control.”

During the October meeting, Henson reiterated he was not against charter schools. In fact, he said, he has been a board member for a charter school for six years.

“My problem with charter schools and the charter school amendment,”

he said,

“is that it will create a commission that will by-pass local control.”

He went on to say the commission will create parallel school systems (by granting more charters), even though the state cannot adequately fund the schools it has now.

“They say the funding won’t come from Fannin County,” Henson said, “(but) past history tells us there’ll be more austerity reductions…There’s not enough money to go around; the (money) pie can’t be split anymore ways.”

In an earlier talk the superintendent highlighted that Fannin is a donor district or county. This means Fannin County gives a certain percentage of collected revenue to the state (via millage) and the state redistributes this money to other, poorer school systems.

Continuing, he pointed out the state already underfunds Fannin County and likely other school systems through out the state.

“This previous year,”

he said,

“we were under-funded $2.1 million in our QBE funding…we got into this new fiscal year with another budget cut of at least $2.1 million.”

He also mentioned the rising cost of healthcare (federally forced by Obamacare), where the district is mandated to pay the employees and the employers’ portion of health insurance.

“We have had to lay off teachers; we had to furlough administrators; we have asked for larger class sizes and we are still deficit spending,”

he said.

Before asking for a motion for approval of the resolution, Mercier underscored the superintendent’s arguments against the charter school amendment referendum. Mercier also mentioned she thought the wording of the referendum is misleading.

“If you’re against it, it’s like you’re against God and apple pie,”

she said, referring to the phrasing of the referendum. The referendum reads as follows:

Provided for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter options. Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?

Another North Georgia District recently joined Fannin in signing a similar resolution. Clark County Board of Education also signed a resolution against the charter amendment last week. And, previously, State Superintendent Dr. John Barge stated he too is against the amendment.

“We’re certainly not against charter schools; we believe in charter schools. What we are against is more bureaucracy,”

Fannin Board Chairwoman Mercier said about the resolution. The board approved the resolution unanimously.

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