Freedom, Competition, and Education

It seems that Georgia wants to improve its educational system, but those wedded to the status quo like the way things are and are trying to block the improvement.

Under current law, local school boards have veto authority over whether charter schools could be licensed in their districts.  That’s like letting existing neighborhood grocery stores decide whether or not a new grocer could set up business in their neighborhood.  Predictably, the school boards routinely rejected charter school applications.  In response, the state created the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, and that body began approving charter schools over the local boards’ objections.  The state’s Supreme Court ruled that illegal, and in turn, the state legislature now is debating an amendment to the state’s Constitution that would allow the state to create its own K-12 system, parallel to the local systems, and using the same pool of Georgia taxpayer funds that the public school systems use.  This will be, essentially, the GCSC process written into the state’s constitution, if the amendment gets through the legislature and onto the November ballot, and then is voted up by the Georgia voters.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators objects to this.  Tim Callahan, PAGE’s Director of PR, Membership & Publications, had this to say:

The Georgia Constitution says local boards control where local dollars go, so if a charter school only gets state approval and not local approval, no way can they receive local funds.  They can only receive state funds.  The people who are putting this constitutional amendment on the ballot are trying to do that in our Senate right now—are really trying to do a run-around the Supreme Court ruling.

Let me see if I understand this argument: a constitutional amendment, which by its nature addresses the state Supreme Court’s concerns, is a run-around of the State Supreme Court.  Have I about got his argument surrounded?  How, exactly, does this represent a run-around?

State Congressman Ed Lindsey (R, ATL) offers this response:

Charter schools are part of an overall tool in the tool box for education reform.  It, along with the myriad of other programs, is extremely important in terms of giving parents and students a greater choice in what is the best education for a particular child, and it encourages education achievement and success along the way.  It creates innovation.

It’s come down to this, as Lindsey also points out:

In the education reform battle, often times things boil down to a turf battle, and that’s what we have here.  We have some local school systems that are worried that by virtue of having state charter schools that some of their turf is getting interfered.  But it’s about the children and the choice.  It’s a control issue, and it always has been.

Competition is an excellent means of improving the quality of the children’s education.  One effect of competition is a more efficient allocation of taxpayer money, because if schools aren’t producing quality students, they don’t need to continue collecting that money.  Certainly, it’s in our interest nationally, and in Georgia’s interest and in the interest of the local communities, to have an education system that produces well-educated students capable of critical reasoning, but that interest mandates no particular structure to the system.  Competition will spur the necessary improvements—with a beneficial side effect of that improved funds allocation.  What is there to fear?

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