October 15-- Retired educators in Toombs County are urging voters to reject an amendment to the Georgia constitution allowing the state to establish charter schools.
Shelly Smith of Vidalia is the former director of the Regional Education Service Agency which provides expertise and support to 20 counties in southeast Georgia.
She worked in public education for 41 years and says voters need to know for-profit companies stand to benefit most if the amendment is approved by voters in November.
"The charter schools that would be created are primarily for profit. The funding for the politicians who are pushing this as well as funding for the campaign is coming from outside the state, tens of thousands of dollars from out of state corporations that want to run for profit schools in Georgia. The issue that runs against the grain for me is that taxpayer money will be diverted from public schools to run those charter schools," she notes.
Smith believes its wrong for the state to create a for profit parallel school system while for years it has been shortchanging public schools.
"With the austerity cuts we've been having here in Georgia, school systems have been receiving only 50 to 60 percent of what they earn to fund public education. The charter schools would receive the same number of dollars per child that a local school system is due to receive but they would receive the entire amount and to make matters worse, it will come out of the local coffers," Smith says.
Smith believes charter schools are a good thing, but only if they are created and operated by local school boards accountable to local voters. She says they should not be run by five people appointed by politicians in Atlanta.