Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Voting Guide for November 2012: Part 3


Part three of this November's voting guide, now we tackle the ballot questions! Two Constitutional Amendments, one Tax! Unless I decide to wade into the Presidential race at some point later on, this will be the last of it. Please read on....

PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

- 1 - Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options.
House Resolution No. 1162
Act No. 762
Ga. L. 2012, p. 1364
"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?"

Yes. The state constitution already allows state-level establishment of special schools and adult education schools. A few years back, the state government tried to use this to establish some charter schools, at the request of some parents who were getting absolutely no cooperation from their local school boards. A judge ruled that since charter schools aren't spelled out in the clauses which give the state school-establishing authority, they aren't included. This amendment closes the gap, so to speak.

My philosophy on education is that the ultimate responsibility for each child falls on the parent. Schools exist for the help and support of parents in fulfilling this responsibility. If for any reason the schools fail to deliver, it falls back on the parents. (If the schools fail, and the parents fail, it's down to God and the student.) There are many reasons why schools may fail to deliver, and it seems to me that most relate to politics, red tape, and bureaucracy.

Opponents of this resolution say that it is all about "for-profit" educators trying to take money away from the public school system. But the public school can't handle all circumstances, that's why we have "for-profit" educators to begin with. My wife is a sort of "for profit" educator, she works at a franchise which teaches math and reading to kids whose learning curve is out-of-sync with the public school curriculum for some reason. "For profit" doesn't mean she is motivated exclusively by profit. She wouldn't do the work she does if she didn't love the kids, she doesn't get paid enough for that. "For profit" just means that the company has to deliver results that impress the parents in order to keep students enrolled, and they have to keep students enrolled to keep the doors open.

In the primary, I was worried about giving the state more authority to overrule local control. But that's no longer a worry for me, since I understand better where this change fits in existing Constitution clauses. The big thing, I think, is that all of these charter school initiatives do come ultimately from a source that is more local than even the school boards: The parents. Power to the parents. Yes on this amendment.

- 2 - Allows the state to save taxpayer funds through multi-year real estate rental agreements.
Senate Resolution No. 84
Act No. 761
Ga. L. 2012, p. 1363
"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide for a reduction in the state's operating costs by allowing the General Assembly to authorize certain state agencies to enter into multiyear rental agreements?"

Yes. On the surface, it makes sense. Let's say you can get a better deal for a five-year contract over five one-year contracts, take the five-year. But, we've got some rats in our state government, so I want to dig a little deeper if I can.

I haven't been able to find a whole lot of news about this amendment, one way or the other. There is one web site in support it which claims to be from "Taxpayers for Efficient Government". I can't find anything at all to say whether that's even a real grassroots group, or AstroTurf  There is a link there to an article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, but I can't read the whole article on the Chronicle's own web site without subscribing.

I've read the text of the bill, you can find it yourself in the link below if you are interested. It is a short, simple bill, and I don't see any weasel language jumping out at me. It does state that, even in multi-year rental contracts, there will be exit clauses.

Yes on this amendment for now. If you run across any specific information that might lead me to change my mind, please let me know.

http://savetaxdollars.org/News.html
http://www1.legis.ga.gov/legis/2011_12/versions/sr84_SR84_APP_6.htm

SPECIAL ELECTION

Shall a Special Sales and Use Tax For Educational Purposes of One Percent Continue To Be Levied, Imposed and Collected On All Sales and Uses in Fayette County

Yes. This is a big one. This is a tax we've been paying for at least the last 5 years. If Fayette County votes yes, the tax stays in place. No, the tax goes away. My "default" for approving taxes is generally on the no side. But that tends to be more on the imposition of new taxes, not keeping existing taxes as they are.

Pulling out my calculator now. This bill caps the tax revenue at $107 million. That's $21.4 million per year over 5 years. In looking at the School Board race, I saw that the school system has budgeted revenues of $163 million, and they're already facing a $14 million shortfall.

I'm going to vote yes on this. But we need to push for the new school board members to really bring the budget under control, as they have promised.

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