Tifton Gazette

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March 15, 2014

BOE to move forward with charter system plans

TIFTON —

The Tift County Board of Education has approved to move forward with a plan to create a charter system.

At Tuesday night’s regular meeting, the board discussed and approved a motion for Superintendent Patrick Atwater to start the process. However, there are some citizens who may be confused about what becoming a charter system really means, since the local school system and systems across the state fought against a recent constitutional amendment concerning charter schools and their approval.

During an interview Thursday morning at the board office, Atwater and Stacey Beckham, Tift County Schools’ director of communications, sat down with The Gazette and explained the difference between a charter system and the charter school amendment. Also, Atwater said he sent out an e-mail to staff to help clear up the confusion.

He explained that the charter school amendment did pass, although defeated in most rural districts (including Tift), the amendment had the approval of most metro districts.

“The concern over this amendment was the loss of local elected authority to govern school districts,” he said in his e-mail. “Loss of governance and the inability to fund traditional public schools were the two major reasons for our opposition to the amendment.”

He said what people may be confused by is: “If we (the school system) were opposed to the charter amendment to the constitution, then why apply for charter system status?”

Atwater informed teachers in his e-mail that more details will be forthcoming over the next few months, but he gave them, as well as The Gazette, a simplified answer.

He said the state of Georgia passed a law in 2009-10 requiring all school districts to apply for one of several options no later than 2013. The options included IE2 (Investing in Educational Excellence, Gov. Sonny Perdue’s initiative), charter system, status quo or a system of charter schools. He told The Gazette that prior to the charter school amendment ever being discussed, they were already required by law to make a decision on which model they planned to operate as by the 2013 deadline. However, he said this mandated decision was postponed from 2013 to 2015 and was recently rumored to be abolished as a law.

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