Georgia faces a choice in November when they vote on a referendum on charter schools. The question on the ballot will ask, “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
Adam Emerson writing for the Fordham Institute demonstrates that he is missing the macro view of this issue.
Next month, Georgia voters will head to the polls to decide whether their state can establish an independent commission to authorize and oversee some of its charter schools. Such a panel once existed in the Peach State and authorized sixteen schools before the state Supreme Court voted 4-3 to dissolve it on grounds that it was “palpably unconstitutional.” The original commission had authorized charters over the objections of local school boards, which brought the suit against the state and which remain the most fervent opponents of the current referendum. (Districts, of course, would compete with the schools operating under the commission’s direction.)
Unfortunately, the press and interest groups are largely on the school boards’ side, bemoaning the potential loss of “local control” and the prospect that the state would authorize schools unanswerable to local communities. According to a pre-election poll, however, at least half of Georgia’s voters appear to feel differently. Not surprising, considering that twenty years of charter schooling have highlighted the dysfunction of Georgia-style “local control” and the extent to which school boards and superintendents will go to preserve their near-monopolies.
The macro view is this, and it is a position that the Fordham Institute has largely abandoned, education policy is best determined locally. If the electorate of a particular school board is not happy with the way a said school board is handling charters or any other matter they can vote them out. Not so with an unelected commission. This isn’t a referendum on charter schools. It is a referendum on local control.