By Alisa Hug
Parents and students across the country need to know what is at stake in Georgia this Election Day. As a parent, a leadership member of a national organization representing thousands of families who support access to public school options, and a proud Georgia resident, the outcome of the vote on charter school Amendment One is what keeps me up at night.
Our nation is making great strides to give parents more school choice and both presidential candidates support more public charter schools. But, it is at the state level where the battle for access to public school options is being waged. And the outcome of these state-by-state battles will determine of just how far we as a nation can go in building lasting education reform.
In Georgia, a state that has often been a leader in the public charter school movement, we are facing a severe and lasting setback to all of the progress our state has made. On November 6, Georgia voters will have the option to vote “Yes” for Constitutional Amendment One, allowing the state more authority to create and oversee charter schools. It will also establish a commission to hear appeals when charter school applications are denied by school boards and superintendents. Even in a state like Georgia where the promise and success of public charter schools is supported by many, there are still areas where opponents are fighting to maintain the status quo and the power and paychecks that come with it.
The choice seems clear, and even in such a politically divided time in our country, legislators on both sides of the aisle have come out in support of the amendment. Their leadership is backed by thousands of parents and families. However, being on the side of students sometimes isn’t enough to overcome entrenched and well-funded opposition. When local school districts are willing to abuse taxpayer dollars and public resources to wage a campaign against Amendment One, the curtain is raised on just how far they are willing to go in this fight. We are encouraged that the state attorney general has called on the state superintendent to halt this abuse of public funds, but the issue is now before the courts with time quickly passing.
Student interests should not come second to bureaucrats, and shouldn’t be dependent on court arguments. Our members have been fighting to make their voice heard at state capitols across the country and we have had significant success on behalf of students. We understand that the local school down the street can meet the needs of many students, but they don’t meet the needs of all students. With various public charter school options available – from brick and mortar schools to online schools, to blended learning options, we have the tools to meet the individualized learning needs of all students. Let’s not fail them.
The passionate fight to pass Amendment One will have implications beyond Georgia and the future of our state’s education future. In 2013, families across the country are going to face similar legislative battles and similar opposition tactics. By voting “Yes” in support of Amendment One, Georgia voters can support students in our state and show students and parents across the country their voice can have an impact and students can come first.
Alisa Hug serves as the Director of the Board of PublicSchoolOptions.org, a national alliance of parents that supports parents’ rights to access the best public school options for their children. She lives in Roswell, Georgia and is the mother of two children.