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Improving Education Is Truly a Bi-Partisan Issue

Joint op-ed in support of the Charter School issue by Jan Jones, Speaker Pro Tem of the Georgia House of Representatives, and Alisha Thomas Morgan, a Democratic member of the House.

Between now and November, hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising will be spent telling us all the differences between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

They will disagree on nearly every issue, but one area where they have found common ground is the need for more public charter schools. We feel the same way in the Georgia House of Representatives.

While there are many issues that our constituents expect us to draw a hard line in the sand and oppose much of what the opposition party supports, education reform is frankly too important to let our differences in political parties get in the way.

As the Republican Speaker Pro Tem and a leading Democratic voice on education, we are together asking voters to support the charter school amendment on the November ballot. The amendment does something very simple but very profound – it will allow the state to create a commission to hear appeals when charter applications are denied by some school boards and superintendents.

Some school systems in Georgia have embraced the charter concept, while others have been more obstinate. Many are unfortunately worried more about who has the authority and power in education decision-making rather than what is best for our kids.

True local control should begin with giving parents the option to make more decisions and to get more involved in their children’s education. Charter schools are public schools that are free from many of the onerous mandates that schools are under these days.

They may separate boys and girls into different classes or schools, or have a more specific curriculum focus on science or math. They may be a virtual school with no building. These types of options are not right for every student, but for some they offer the kind of opportunity that can literally be life-changing.

Some school systems are going to tell you that public charter schools take money away from other public schools, but that’s just simply not the case. Any school approved by the state charter commission will operate with no local contribution – only state funds will be available. Those local dollars are kept by the school systems and used as they see fit, actually increasing the amount of money per student enrolled they have to spend.

We’ve tried the “one size fits all” approach to education for decades, and we’ve had too many students fall through the cracks. Let’s increase the educational options for parents, students and teachers by voting “Yes” for public charters on Nov. 6.

Jan Jones is Speaker Pro Tem of the Georgia House of Representatives and Alisha Thomas Morgan is a Democratic member of the Georgia House.

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