Dr. Otis S. Johnson Letter to the Editor

Dr. Otis S. Johnson
Dr. Otis S. Johnson

Citizens of Georgia are being asked to vote on Nov. 6 for or against an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia that would expand the power of state government over local education and lead to a dual school system. The wording of the amendment is misleading. The ballot question asks you:

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state and local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”

The ordinary citizen of our state would ask, what is wrong with giving state and local governments the power to approve charter schools? The answer is state and local governments already have the power to grant charters to local communities. If that is the truth, why are we being asked to vote on an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia?

Know the facts before you vote. This amendment is not about charter schools or choice. It is about who chooses and approves applications for charter schools. Parents already have choices – magnet, public, private, home and charter. This amendment is not needed. There is already an appeals process to the State Board of Education for local groups whose charter applications are denied at the local level. Georgia has more than 200 charter schools. More are in the pipeline. So, what is wrong with the current system? The overriding issues are about accountability, your tax dollars, and expansion of state government.

Simply put, this is an unprecedented power grab to take more control away from locally elected school boards. Local elected school boards have been rigorous in their evaluation of proposals for charters in their school districts and diligent in their evaluation of the performance of charter schools that are approved. There is already a process in place where the backers of a proposed charter school can appeal to the State Board of Education if a local board of education denies their application.

This amendment would undo a process that is already working and replace it with a state appointed “commission” that will have the power to create a dual system of schools. Although they will use your tax dollars for funding of schools they approve, they are not elected; if you don’t like what they do, you can’t vote them out. Unchecked power will be in the hands of this politically appointed “commission” to decide how and where schools operate all over the state of Georgia. This is a huge intrusion of state government into local decision making. This power grab is being proposed by a state legislature that champions state’s rights and local control. Why is this happening?

There are strong forces in the state supporting this amendment. They are working to siphon off your tax dollars from local public schools to for-profit private companies that would manage all these new schools approved by this unelected commission. This is a disguised move to help build a dual school system in our state: one controlled by locally elected board members held accountable by local voters and the other a private system funded with your tax dollars and controlled by a politically appointed commission in Atlanta.

Voters recently said no to a penny sales tax to fund transportation because of distrust of government. If you distrusted elected officials to do the right thing to build and improve roads, why would you trust a non-elected commission with unchecked authority over schools?

As the old adage goes, follow the money. The supporters of this amendment are spending millions of dollars to convince you to vote yes. They call themselves Families for Better Schools or Parents for School Choice. Don’t be deceived. Several out-of Georgia political action committees are behind this push. Who is going to benefit if this amendment passes? Will it be our children or just private corporations who operate charter schools? Visit www.votesmartgeorgia.com to understand who’s funding this push, who the real “families are and the real issues. Please do your homework before you vote on Amendment 1 on November 6.


Otis S. Johnson

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