The Inside Story: Barbee labels public schools 'thug havens' in heated charter school debate

The Inside Story charter school debate
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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The charter school debate rages on, and things are getting ugly.

One side even calls some of our public schools "thug havens."

"A lot of parents don't have the money to send their kids to private school," said Republican Dave Barbee as he touted school choice and a new charter school amendment on our weekly radio segment on 96.3 KISS FM.

"This gives them an opportunity," Barbee said. "If they have a school that's a thug haven, at least they can go somewhere where they can get an education and not be destroyed with the discipline in the schools."

Laney High School Principal Dr. Tonia Mason took offense to Barbee's statements.

"Our parents are sending us the best and the brightest that they have," said Dr. Mason, who is also president of the Richmond County Association of Educators.

The association has come out against the amendment.

"It's not about me. It's not about the educators," Mason said. "It's about the children. They are entitled to a great education."

Mason says the bill will funnel $10 million from public schools to charter schools.

"That's a false statement," Barbee said. "We're not taking $10 million. All you're doing is transferring the funds [The money follows the students]."

"He's right," Mason said. "The money will follow the student. That means it's going to come out of the pot for funding of public education."

Mason says this could deal a death blow to an already cash-strapped public school system.

"We've cut days of instruction down from 180 days to 160; we've increased classroom sizes and teacher furloughs," Mason said.

Barbee says that is all the more reason to give parents more choices. In the end, voters will have the final say on the future of charter schools in Georgia.

The Richmond County Board of Education will hold a Parent/Community Forum regarding the charter school amendment on the November ballot on Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. in the Boardroom Auditorium. Georgia School Board Association President Valerie Wilson will be one of the speakers. The public is invited to attend.

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