December 9, 2019

Letter to the Editor: A message from PAGE president Tim Mullen

Dear Editor,

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) supports public education, charter schools (public and private) and all those involved in educating children of Georgia.

This fall, an important vote is to occur November 6th that will impact the future of education in Georgia. On the ballot in the general election is a proposed amendment to the Georgia Constitution that, if it passes, will make things significantly worse for school children and teachers in Georgia.

The proposed Constitutional Amendment will ask Georgia citizens to vote yes or no to a deceitfully worded amendment that sounds like it would be good for public education but the words are grossly misleading. I ask you to be a part of a state-wide effort to defeat this amendment.

The wording of the Charter School Amendment asks:

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

Sounds good to the uninformed but what it is asking in reality:

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to create a state charter school commission, independent of local school boards to approve charter school applications and disperse    funds directly, without local approval, to those approved schools, and then establish an oversight agency to monitor the state charter schools?”

I want you to know that there is already a process of approving and funding public charter schools throughout Georgia. There are more than 200 charter schools already approved and operating in Georgia, with many more applications currently being evaluated by LOCAL school boards across the state.

If approved, the amendment would set up a new commission of politically appointed members at the STATE level whose task will be to review and approve charter applications AND disperse funding at the state level – with no local control of funding.

It will pull money from the education budget that would have gone to local school districts state-wide with locally elected school board members allocating tax money. The short version of the amendment:

–    A seven member commission of politically appointed individuals will have the power to approve charter schools at the state level, bypassing locally elected school boards. Non-elected, politically appointees would then dispense money. Locally elected school board members should be the only people allowed to approve and dispense tax money for education.

–    A new agency will be created to approve, manage, and monitor the STATE CHARTER schools, at a time when Gov. Deal is asking all state agencies to cut another 3 – 5% from their budgets.

–    Schools will get less funds, making worse the budget cuts over the last 10 years. Students will attend larger classes than now when money is diverted to the state approved and funded charter schools.

–    Education is a local issue, not state.

A question I often hear is “What am I allowed to do?” When we became teachers and public employees, we did not give up our rights as citizens to voice and act on our concerns regarding elections, policy issues, and prospective legislation.

When we are not at school, outside of school hours, we can do anything that anyone can do. However, be careful not to use any school equipment (computers, copiers, etc) at any time. We also cannot tell people how to vote during school times.

We CAN inform others at any time, presenting facts about an issue to educate from which the others can use to decide how they want to vote.

We must all educate ourselves, our family members, friends and neighbors about to this proposed amendment, so that everyone is making an informed decision this November. Pass the word to as many friends, neighbors, relatives, and educators everywhere.

There are many organizations in Georgia that each have a role/concern for education in Georgia that have come together to form an unprecedented coalition to inform voters about this Constitutional amendment. The coalition is Vote Smart Georgia.

The website is www.votesmartgeorgia.com. I ask you to become a part of this grassroots effort to educate voters and defeat the “Charter School Amendment.” The proponents attempting to get the “Charter School Amendment” approved are well funded. There are large contributions being made to influence people’s vote.

Large sums of money are coming from out of state sources, which concerns me. Why would they be donating to a proposed constitutional amendment in Georgia unless they are going to benefit somehow (open private charter schools approved by the non-elected commission)?

Please consider doing the following:

1.     Go to www.votesmartgeorgia.com and look at the coalition members that are a part of this grassroots effort. PAGE, GAE, GSSB, GSBA, GPTA, GAEL, GMEA, GREA, SEF.

2.      Go to the facts “Myths/Facts” and “Facts” tabs to educate yourself.

3.     “Like” the website to your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media with a comment from you to your network encouraging them to check out the website and spread the word to their networks.

4.     Register and sign up for the newsletter.

5.     Contribute. The proponents are collecting millions from special interests that want this amendment to pass. The coalition needs funds to counter some of their advertising. $25, $50, $100, or more will be appreciated.

6.     Talk up what this amendment is really about at ball games, church, at parties, and visiting friends. This needs to be a grassroots, state-wide effort.

7.     Search “John Barge facts charter school amendment” for detailed facts about what this amendment will mean to public schools. Our own Georgia State School Superintendent is against this amendment and has been giving an abundance of facts to explain his opposition to the amendment. SHARE his information!

8.    Share this letter with your friends, families, and networks so they can become informed and involved.

We must work together to spread the word.  If this constitutional amendment passes, the only way to repeal it later is another constitutional amendment, which would be very hard with our current political climate.

Please inform your friends, colleagues, family, and anyone that cares about public education in Georgia.

Tim Mullen, PhD

PAGE President

7th Grade Science Teacher

Comments

  1. Mart Hyatt says

    Please vote NO on this. I am almost ready to retire, but I do have a child in school and this will bankrupt public schools of Ga.

  2. Unfortunately we need this ammendment because there is no way Heard County BOE would allow a charter school here. What they should do is quit retiring school busses with little over 100K miles. This savings alone would fund two charter schools. Fully 3/4 of my annual property tax goes to the Heard County School System and my kids don’t even go to school here. What we really need is cross county vouchers where our tax dollars follow our kids. Now that would be education reform!

    • Tim Holtzclaw says

      Dear Sir:
      I must agree with Mr. Mart Hyatt, we do not need another governor appointed agency in control of billions of our local tax dollars. There is already a process that allows charter schools and an appeal process if the request is denied. As for the school bus issue, until recently the state provided school bus replacement money on a 10 year rotation regardless of mileage. However if you chose not to retire the bus, you did not get any money to replace it. Unfortunately this money along with other large amounts of state funding has disappeared in the last few years. There is some good news, we don’t purchase new buses with property tax dollars. We buy new buses with S.P.L.O.S.T funds so none of your property tax dollars go towards the purchase of new buses. You are correct when you say over half of the tax dollars go to the school system. This is because we don’t enjoy the same revenue stream as the county or cities do. (L.O.S.T.). If your kids went to school here maybe you would have a different opinion of our school system. Of course if you lived in a neighboring county you could expect to pay 25-30 percent more in school taxes which would give Gov. Deal more money to give to his hand- picked 5 member board so they could decide who needs or gets charter schools. I am going to forward Russ a copy of a letter from the president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers with their opposition to this legislation.

      Tim Holtzclaw
      Heard County Board of Education
      District #4

      • My kids did go to school here but we found that the elite received preferential treatment and the riff-raff consumed the majority of the remaining resources. This did not leave much for the struggling C student. Additionally, bullying was extensive with very little recourse for the victim. That is the short and sweet of why we choose to PAY to send ours to a school where the environment is more conducive to learning and everyone is treated fairly.

        Please share with us the amount of money provided by the State as a percentage of the cost of new replacement. Is this only available at year ten or is it still an option at fifteen years. A new bus is a new bus regardless of when it’s purchased.

        SPLOST and LOST are like brothers. SPLOST is to the school system as LOST is to the local governments. As such, the BOE has its own fat pot of cash to blow that is separate from property tax revenue, just as the county and cities do.

        We will be voting for options that are currently denied us.

      • I forgot to ask but if it’s not my tax money that funds SPLOST then whose is it? Just because Georgia Power provides most of these dollars does not make it Ok to waste this resource.

        By all meanes forward that letter and Russ please post it. Regardless, the Georgia Federation of Teachers is essentially a lobbying organization (just like PAGE) whose main goal is to secure and now maintain benefits for its members. It doesn’t take genius to see why they would be opposed to the citizens having a choice.

  3. Tim Holtzclaw says

    Dear Sir:
    I was not aware that we categorized our students into “elite”,”riff-raff”, or even “struggling C” students. I am very sorry if your child was bullied in any form, way, or fashion. Georgia law prohibits this as does our local student behavior code. ( see BOE policy JCDA). The state has phased out the categorical grant program in pupil transportation over the last couple of years. I did go back to fiscal year 2000 and here is what the O.C.G.A said: “ There are only two sources of funds available to local school systems for student transportation, State funds and local funds. Local systems have not earned any additional school bus allotments since 1998, although the number of students in Georgia has increased dramatically. Currently the buses funded by the state are receiving operational funds at 77 percent of calculated earnings and received replacement funds at 83 percent of calculated earnings. Systems are currently on a ten year replacement cycle for conventional diesel powered buses, a rule which is mandated by the State Board of Education. Systems can keep such vehicles past the ten year mark, but the state stops replacement funds after that time”. I asked our system accountant to give me the numbers for buses purchased and amount of replacement monies for the years 2000 and 2005. In 2010 the grants were phased out. In 2000 we purchased 3 new buses at a cost of $150,545.00 and received $105,948.00 in replacement funds.(not counting the amount we got for the buses at auction). This is about 70 percent for this year. In 2005 we only bought one bus for $55,655.00 and got $69,679.00 for this bus. If I remember this was a bus equipped with a wheel chair lift. We always try to piggy back our purchases with another system to get the best price possible. I think you can see why we participated in the grant program! While SPLOST and LOST seem similar, they are in fact very different. LOST funds, (which we don’t get) can be used for salaries, O&M , or whatever you choose. SPLOST funds on the other hand MUST be used for what they have been approved for. The Heard County Board of Education’s “fat pot of cash” you say we have to blow is invested in a new middle school, a new elementary school, a new high school, new buildings at Centralhatchee and Ephesus, along with stadium renovations, and many other facility upgrades county wide. We do still live in America and you have a right to take your child to any private school you choose. I do not support amendment 1 because I don’t believe the state should be able to come to Heard County and say, “we think you need a charter school here but you have no local control, but we are going to take money away from your local system to operate this school . like it or not”. I hope this answers your bus questions. Also, this is my opinion on the charter school issue and I thank God I can still express it.
    Tim Holtzclaw
    Heard County BOE
    District #4

  4. Thanks for the numbers. After learning the level of reimbursement, I concur that this has been the best use of our funds in this category. However, if the State is phasing out the monies allocated for the reimbursement of school transportation there will be a time when we can no longer afford to retire buses at 10 years with barely 100,000 miles. The engine and drivetrain for these diesel vehicles are designed for 300,000.

    As for the categorizing of our students, that is my opinion and thank God I can express it. Don’t be too offended though, there are elite and riff-raff in every school system (as well as society). I’m just saying that some students coast and others consume much more than their fair share of resources and the Heard County School System could do a better job managing this disparity.

    While bullying is against State law and local board policy, it still happens on a daily basis and we could do a better job here as well.

    We will have to agree to disagree on the amendment but my ultimate wish would be for my property tax dollars, earmarked for education, to follow my children wherever I chose to send them to school.

  5. Tim Holtzclaw says

    You are welcome, I agree we will have to make the buses and everything last longer. There is no question we would have not retired a perfectly good bus unless we could get a brand new one for very little money. Our maintenance staff does a great job keeping the buses in good running condition. I realize that when kids are involved there is going to be all sorts of stuff going on. All we can do is try to keep it from happening and when it does, deal with it like we should. I think we all can improve and strive to be the best we can. I have to ask you to believe that the board and school system employees are looking after tax dollars and the students of Heard County as best as we can in some very difficult times. Always feel free to contact me with ideas, concerns, and issues as you feel necessary, and oh yea: a little prayer won’t hurt either. 🙂

    Tim Holtzclaw

    Heard Co. BOE Dist. #4

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