Mike Klein Online

Joe Martin: Supreme Court Should Overturn Charter Schools Funding Law

Joe Martin, Democratic Party candidate for state schools superintendent, said Thursday the state Supreme Court should partially overturn a law that created the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, which operates inside the state Department of Education.

“I’d like to see the Supreme Court invalidate the financing mechanism that’s in the law.  But I’d like to see the Supreme Court affirm the concept of the alternate provider.  We can have both,” Martin said during an interview after his appearance at a Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce candidates luncheon.

This month the Supreme Court heard arguments for and against a 2008 law that created the state charter schools commission and authorized a now controversial funding formula.   Seven school systems asked the Supreme Court to declare that the commission and the funding formula are unconstitutional.

“We’ve gummed it up by telling school systems that if the state starts a charter school the way it has to do it, it has to take money away from other systems,” Martin said.  “That’s such a distraction.  I advised attorneys for the plaintiffs, don’t argue governance issues (and) don’t argue the monopoly but get the financing straightened out. That’s where I’m coming from.”

Martin was the only candidate to attend Thursday’s Metro Atlanta Chamber forum.  Republican John Barge accepted the invitation but he withdrew this week.  With no other candidates on the podium, moderator Bill Nigut turned the event into a 45-minute conversation with about 75 guests.

The state Department of Education claims a high school graduation rate that is nearly 80%.  But Martin told the audience 30-to-40% of incoming high school freshmen do not graduate with their class.  Then one-in-four who enroll in the university system require remedial courses just to catch up.

“We need to create an education culture in Georgia.  What we have now is not good enough.  I will say it was never good enough,” Martin said, “but it’s certainly not in this economy with the workforce needs that we have and the needs that our students have.  If you are unskilled right now you simply don’t have a chance.”

Martin said he would consistently advocate on behalf of outstanding teachers but he would also support “exit points” along a career ladder for those who under perform.  “You create expectations up the ladder,” Martin said. “As you demonstrate performance, you move up the ladder.  If you don’t demonstrate performance, you step down.”

Nigut interjected, “And you believe you can get teachers to buy into that?”

“I know I can,” Martin said, “because we’ve talked about it.  What teachers are concerned about now is some sort of evaluation system that is so draconian, that is so regimented, that (is what) really scares them.  That means they are receptive to something that does make sense.”

Martin said he does not support education vouchers that take money out of public schools, but Martin also conceded he would uphold voucher law if the General Assembly enacted such a plan.  Martin said the state needs to do a better job with its Georgia Virtual School.  “I know a lot of systems around the state don’t offer one single AP course.  The Virtual School ought to be the way to accomplish that.”

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

October 21, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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