Mike and Leslie McPherson, both former educators in both the private and public sectors, spoke to the Carrollton Golden K Kiwanis Club Wednesday morning, arguing in favor of the amendment. The amendment — if approved by voters — will give the state Legislature the right to establish charter schools, autonomous public schools that provide alternative modes of learning.
The exact wording of the amendment question to be on the Nov. 6 ballot is: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon request of local communities?”
According to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, the amendment will allow a local community to appeal to the state if its charter school application is denied by the school board.
“A lot of people say it’s all about local control — that if we pass this amendment, we’ll lose local control,” Mike McPherson said. “But independent charter schools are run by parents and community organizations. What can be more local than that? There are none better to run our local schools than our parents.”
Mike McPherson, who has 39 years of teaching and coaching experience, spoke to the club on the difference between independent and dependent charter schools, using an apple and an orange as props.
Dependent charter schools, he said, are set up and approved by the school district. The College and Career Academy in the Carroll County Schools system is a dependent charter school, he said.
Independent charter schools are the types of schools the amendment will allow, he said. These schools are not tied to local school districts and are operated by parents.
“Your school board leaders will tell you, ‘We believe in fruit,’ but they’re not telling you if they believe in apples or oranges,” he said. “They aren’t telling a lie, but they aren’t telling the full truth either. They’re obfuscating the truth and giving you only half the story.”
Leslie McPherson, a former teacher’s aide and substitute teacher in private and public schools, said she and her husband have reputable opinions because they do not have any vested interest in the issue, beyond the national interest in improving education.
“We’re not here because we’re attached to any system or union,” she said. “We’ll all gain something from the passing of this amendment, but personally we have nothing to gain. Our children are grown. The only vested interest we have is the same as any other citizen.”
Leslie McPherson listed several local, statewide and national statistics concerning educational results.
“We’ve gotten pretty much nowhere in the last four decades,” she said. “And yet we’ve tripled our spending per student. We’ve gotten a lot of promises and programs, but the results speak for themselves.”
Both McPhersons said they were not speaking in favor of charter schools to “bash” local school systems.
“We have fabulous public schools and wonderful teachers who care about their students,” Leslie said. “It’s just that our systems are in great need of assistance.”
The charter schools amendment was proposed earlier this year when the General Assembly voted to allow citizens to decide whether the state can authorize state charter schools originating local communities.
In 2008, the General Assembly created an appeals process and funding mechanism for charter schools through a state commission. School systems in Georgia sued, and in a 4-3 decision, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that local boards of education have “exclusive” authority over K-12 public education in Georgia.
If approved, all charter school applications will have to originate at the local level and go through the local school board. The state will only be involved if members of the community believe the local school board unfairly denied the application. Nothing in the amendment allows the state to initiate he creation of charter schools, the McPhersons said.
Leslie McPherson said the problem of education is not a partisan problem, but one all Americans share.
“This is not a Republican, Democrat, libertarian, Green party problem,” she said. “This is an American problem, and I know we can turn this around.”