Charter School Advocate and Mom will Vote No on Amendment 1

Charter school advocate and mom will vote no on amendment 1. Local charter school experience demonstrates the need for local control.

Charter School Advocate and Mom Will Vote No.
Georgia is in the midst of an intense debate over a proposed charter school amendment that will be on the ballot in November. Whatever your position, you need to read my story.

The polls predict this amendment will pass with flying colors, thanks to a misleading ballot question and a majority of funding from outside the state. If this amendment passes, politics and corporations will shape our schools. Charter groups with multi-faceted objectives are lining up to grab their market share. If a state-controlled charter school comes to your town, you will have little recourse if there is a problem.

Why Local Control is Critical
Proponents of the amendment declare that if a charter school is performing, it will remain open and if it is not performing, it will close. It's not that simple when a charter group is willing to break the rules.

The problems I encountered at Fulton Science Academy Charter School in Alpharetta could not have been anticipated by our local and state board of education or by educators across the country. The proper charter school board protocol did not work because the group running the school was not transparent. I asked for help from the local school board and from my legislator, Jan Jones, who also crafted the charter school amendment. It was the local school board that took action.

It is irresponsible of Gov. Nathan Deal, Jan Jones and our legislators to lobby for a constitutional amendment that does not stop the known problematic consequences of charter schools.

Problem? My son attended Fulton Science Academy charter school for three years when I found out about problems that also led to my learning that the school was being operated by followers of the influential Turkish imam, Fethullah Gulen.

Fulton Science Academy’s problems were serious and later validated, by an external audit, commissioned by the local school board. Details can be found in this New York Times article, Audits for 3 Georgia Charter Schools Tied to Gulen Movement, by Stephanie Saul: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/us/audits-for-3-georgia-charter-schools-tied-to-gulen-movement.html?_r=0

Turns out the Gulen movement was the least of my worries.

The real problem? Legislators with tunnel vision, hoping to open the Georgia education frontier to more charter groups at any cost. My legislators demonstrated that they will look the other way as long as a school has high test scores. The legislators were willing to ignore financial mismanagement and reported federal investigations.

Local School Board Takes Action
It was the local school board that held Fulton Science Academy accountable and did not renew its charter. The local school board did the right thing even after politicians pressed for the board to reverse their decision. My experience is a critical example of why local control is necessary. The local school board took action and politicians would not help.

Vote No
Amending the constitution is serious business. Don't vote for an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that contains weak legislation and does not address current problems we face in our state.

Details about Fulton Science Academy, including the letter I sent to the governor and legislators asking for help, can be found at www.georgiacharterschooldisgrace.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dana Teegardin October 27, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Fulton Science Academy's affiliation to Gulen schools is important because across the country this group is breaking the rules and wasting tax payer money. Charter schools are public schools it is ok to ask questions and insist that public charter schools are stable, transparent organizations that follow the rules. My son went to the school for 3 years, I knew and liked the teachers and administrators that were Turkish. What I didn't know was that tax payer money was being used to skirt the rules. Teachers in Philly at Gulen affiliates: EEOC, FBI, etc. http://articles.philly.com/2011-03-20/news/29148147_1_gulen-schools-gulen-followers-charter-schools Who is Fethullah Gulen? http://www.city-journal.org/2012/22_4_fethullah-gulen.htm To your point, my experience is with Fulton Science Academy and the Gulen movement. The schools sits in charter amendment author, Representative Jan Jones district. She knows about the problems at this school. And should have written legislation to stop the problems we know about. I have heard lots of stories from other charter schools that break rules. Examples I have heard, tampering with the open lottery system, turning away students with learning needs, falsifying student counts and lots more. I did not experience those problems first hand. The legislation certainly does not address the problems I listed above.
A Parent October 28, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Dear Dana, You need to make something really clear. FSA had been audited 10 times before the last blurry audit. Charter Schools are public schools so they have to be audited every year. You are just making accusation by saying "breaking the rules and wasting tax payer money". How come? If FSA was misusing tax money; why it was not identified during yearly audits (This is another serious accusation against those auditors anyway)? I think you should ask about this relationship to FSA's Principal. How come a public school (there is no solid evidence that shows this connection though) can be a part of a cult? Can not. You will tell me connection was proven in the audit. Right? Let me tell you exact same relationship: Let's say you purchased flight ticket from D**** airline company sometime in the past. And, sometime in the past, Fethullah Gulen purchased a flight ticket from same D**** airline company. Question: Are you a Fethullah Gulen follower? Is D**** a Gulen follower company? It seems Fethullah Gulen is a famous person in Turkey, even in US (look at the comments have been made of the article you have quoted). There are many people know him, love him, support him, cooperate with him for the future of this world even they are not Muslims. Are they all Gulen follower? Please don't be biased and don't make yourself have to believe in this Gulen Charter Schools Myth. Response: http://so-calledgulencharterschools.blogspot.com/2012/10/who-is-fethullah-gulen-response-to.html
Chris Murphy October 28, 2012 at 12:05 PM
She is not, "just making accusation": the school was denied public money.
Debbie Gathmann October 29, 2012 at 05:52 PM
To believe that charter schools that are locally controlled avoid politics and weird business practices is like believing in magic. All of it is political. Sometimes superintendents pander to certain groups/sometimes groups get what they want at the expense of other groups/many neighborhoods with influence have kept funding for magnets when less influential neighborhoods have not. It's all political--whether it is locally controlled or state controlled. These are government schools--did you believe they would be neutral and apolitical?
J Bart October 30, 2012 at 05:33 PM
We are talking about an amendment to our Constitution, a very serious undertaking. We should NEVER amend the Georgia Constitution unless there is a strong, limited and compelling reason to do so. We already have an effective method in place to approve charter schools. There are already 200 in GA. We do NOT need an amendment and a duplication of APPOINTED board members to form yet another level of crony appointments unaccountable to taxpayers. This amendment and its associated legislation, HB 797, do not put a cap on the number of taxpayer-funded charter schools approved each year. The legislation also does not base approval of charter schools based on NEED. These schools will NOT necessarily go to the most deserving communities. In fact, it is highly likely that new charter schools will go to richer communities where students can provide their own transportation. Currently, charter schools do not provide buses and other transportation. Out-of-state and some foreign management companies are lining up in large numbers for a piece of our multi-billion dollar taxpayer-funded education money. Many of our legislators have received large campaign donations from the same companies. Do you think that might influence their decisions? How many of these schools will be approved each year? How much will our taxes increase to pay for them?


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