This is such a complex issue, it boggles the mind. There are so many layers to the issue, so many stories, we have to wonder how do we find out what's really and truly TRUE?
It seems like whenever people suggest changes to "the way things have always been", there will be those who emphatically resist. Change is hard: it invariably means work and stretching out of a well-established comfort zone. Change can mean a paradigm shift and usually a "dethroning" of someone who doesn't want to give up his/her seat. Change is scary: what will happen? Better the devil we know than the devil we don't, right?
And so, when change comes, it usually comes despite great opposition. Galileo was excommunicated for his suggestion that the Earth is not the center of the Universe. Dr. Martin Luther King lost his life working to bring his vision of the equality of all people to reality. How many people fought for women's right to vote or go to college? Change is hard but it means growth and life.
So what are those who are striving to change Georgia's education system trying to achieve? I've heard rumors of really nefarious plans (some approaching the absurd – no one is going to open Taliban training camps in Georgia, okay?) Why are they trying to change the status quo? If Amendment One is passed, what do we Georgians stand to gain? What do we stand to lose?
Okay, let's look at the status quo. How is Georgia's education system doing? Is a change even warranted? Depending on the source, Georgia places around 47th or 48th in national ranking of K-12 education. Our graduation rate is shameful! – somewhere around 65% – and that's in FIVE years, not four. Maybe it's time to take an honest look at ourselves and acknowlege that things really aren't so great. Maybe it's time to fight for our kids' futures. No one would ever deliberately cripple them or put them in harm's way. But, by protecting the status quo, are we doing just that? After all, isn't this issue about our kids and their best interest?
There ARE some very good traditional public schools here in Georgia. There ARE some amazing, passionate teachers. But, unfortunately, there are many bad schools and lousy teachers. This is a state vote – you are speaking for what happens in all of Georgia – and I know there are many parents who are desperate for options for their children.
I recently got into a conversation with a friend of mine about this issue. Not understanding all of what is going on, he's nervous to vote for the amendment thinking a "no" vote means things stay the same as they are today. This is not true. If Amendment 1 is not passed, the state cannot approve charter schools any more – period. Any current state charter schools have to close thier doors. They lie dead at the feet of the school boards who deny them. There is NO way for a charter school to pass if a local school board denies it. Period.
We are so lucky that this county does a mostly good job– but that is not true for every county in Georgia – nor does it mean every child is getting what he/she needs to do well. If your child is in a great school and has great teachers, you have no reason to change a thing. A "yes" vote does not mean you have to – but it does mean someone else gets a choice. It means that you believe that parents who do not have a situation that best serves their child(ren) should be able to find other options.