Charter School Fair Weather Fans Abound

Posted: May 09, 2014 12:01 AM
Charter School Fair Weather Fans Abound

In the twenty-three years since Minnesota became the first state to adopt a charter school law, the legislative slog to expand educational freedom elsewhere has borne massive advancements for parents and students.

Often tedious and sometimes nasty, the success of this long fight has hinged on the willingness of stout legislators in state houses across the country to forge coalitions of the unlikely.

We've done that exceedingly well in Georgia and have much to celebrate as we mark National Charter Schools Week.

Now, that's not to say that we haven't suffered setbacks, like in 2011, when Georgia's high court ruled unconstitutional our then-state charter schools commission.

The decision left our state in the lurch; parents without choice; and students, especially those in underserved communities, without hope.

In the Georgia House of Representatives, where I served as Majority Whip, conservative Republicans strongly disagreed with the ruling because we understood that robust school choice is the cornerstone of a successful education system.

Rather than idly griping--of course, some on the periphery, including those against whom I'm running for congress now, did--we set about a legislative solution.

I co-authored legislation allowing for a ballot measure to amend the state's constitution to create a new single-purpose authorizer of charter schools, one unshackled from bureaucrats and judges. I then chaired Families for Better Public School, the organization that successfully led the campaign to approve the amendment.

What we learned was instructive not just for Georgia but for the entire country: expanding access to charter schools is good politics and better policy.

The charter school amendment found itself on the ballot concurrent with the last race for the White House. In Georgia, there was no question for whom the state would vote; in fact, analysts called it almost immediately.

And yet the majority by which Republican Mitt Romney won here was actually lesser than the majority that supported our charter schools commission amendment.

That charter schools pulled a 5-point margin win over Romney in deep red Georgia meant that even voters who supported President Barack Obama's reelection agreed with our school reform agenda.

Good politics, better policy: I recognized that from the outset even as others cowered.

Our children should not be trapped failing schools, bloated wards of the state, because of political inaction or indifference.

Washington's culture of excess has hastened the decline of America's educational system. It’s time to unshackle innovation in the classroom and realize that no two students are the same.

This nation's quality of education, much like the quality of our healthcare, is falling perilously behind. If elected, I’ll work tirelessly to repair both.

I'm running for Congress in Georgia's eleventh district because I want to advocate for good policy--sound conservative ideals that will measurably improve the lives of my neighbors--in Washington. Someone has to, and not just anyone can.

Trust in those who've done it locally to do it again in Washington, and be wary of bandwagon advocates who pay lip service to educational freedom once a year.

Here's to National Charters Schools Week every week.