The Troup County branch of the NAACP hosted a candidates’ forum Monday at the William Griggs Recreation Center. Attending were local candidates for state house District 128, Couny Commission districts 2 and 3, Board of Education District 1 and sheriff:
School board candidates Monday tackled the differences of charter and public schools and repercussions of a ballot issue on charter schools.
Asked whether public schools should be brought up to a higher standard to be comparable to charter schools, incumbent school board member Allen Simpson said all schools should be held to a certain standard. Charter schools operate by different rules and regulations and don’t have to meet some of the same standards as public schools, but he noted that charter schools also face review every three to four years and can have their charter revoked if they fail to meet certain criteria.
Challenger Deborah Albright-Santiago agreed that charter and public schools should be held to the same standards. Charter schools have to write a contract of what their goals are in order to meet state approval, and common core curriculum will help place the same standards on all charter and public schools.
Asked whether charter school performance is different than public schools, Simpson said any difference in a charter school lies in the goal of a particular school’s charter. Each charter school has to lay out what it will do.
Santiago said she doesn’t think there is a real difference, citing research that in the 2010-2011 school year that 70 percent of charter schools met adequate yearly progress compared to 67 percent of public schools, but that the results were flipped the previous year. She said there needs to be more qualitative and quantitative research available on charter schools’ performance to make a better determination.
Asked if there is a problem between the current setup between charter and public schools and why communities need both, Santiago said if charter school legislation is pushed, it could mean $400 million from public schools going to charter schools. Also, some charter schools are established by management companies that write the charters and use them as a way to get money back from the state.
With charter schools, there is local control with a group of parents in control of the school, but with public schools, it’s taxpayers who have a say, she added. Also, having a more specialized approach, which is starting to become part of public school curriculum as well, over a one-size-fits-all policy, is preferable for students, Santiago said.
Simpson agreed, saying all children are different and an innovative school that can fit the needs of a community may sometimes be necessary. Non-traditional students could be helped by charter schools tuned to their needs.
He said he is against the proposed amendment on the ballot in November on charter schools, which would give the state control over local board control on determining whether to setup charter schools. He said the question is not about allowing charter schools or not, but whether the decision will lie with the state or Troup County.
Santiago also said she is against the ballot measure, which she said is poorly worded and would give the state more control over a local issue.