If a charter-school bill passes in Montgomery, we can expect taxpayer-funded charter schools in Decatur and Morgan County.
State Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, on Monday complained about an automated phone call that indicated a charter-school bill she supports would allow charters in Morgan County school districts.
The bill would give an appointed state board authority to approve charters in any school district with a single “persistently low-performing school.”
Neither Decatur City Schools nor Morgan County have a persistently low-performing school this year, but the list changes every year. Both had at least one such school in 2010, and both could have one next year.
So Collins’ claim that the bill would not bring charter schools to Morgan County school districts is no more accurate than the automated call’s claim that it would. We will not know until scores are in.
If Somerville Road Elementary School is labeled a low-performing school next year — quite possible because of a scoring system that penalizes schools with high percentages of physically and mentally disabled students — charter schools could recruit students from anywhere in Decatur. A charter elementary school could recruit students from Julian Harris or Walter Jackson elementary schools. Or a charter middle school could market itself to Oak Park, or a K-12 charter could seek students in Burningtree subdivision. An Internet-based charter school could seek Brookhaven Middle School students.
While a not-for-profit corporation must start the charter school, it can enter a contract giving full management and instructional responsibility to one of the many for-profit companies that are lobbying Collins and other legislators. The charter can supplement its budget with gifts and loans from for-profit companies.
Every student a charter school attracts would reduce Decatur City Schools funding because all tax money attributable to the student would go to the charter. Unlike the public school with which it competes, the charter could issue bonds. It could spend unlimited amounts of money on marketing. It could recruit students from anywhere in the district.
Collins should take a more careful look at the bill she supports and reacquaint herself with the views of her constituents.
Charter schools could benefit the state. Some states have passed charter-school laws that improve educational options without destroying public schools in the process.
This bill, though, is an attack on all public schools — including those in Decatur and Morgan County.
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