Columbia Co. school leaders say charter amendment would be 'detrimental'

By: Sheli Muniz Email
By: Sheli Muniz Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012

EVANS, Ga. -- It's becoming a heated battle over a controversial amendment -- one that is not sitting well with local school leaders.

Richmond County officials spoke out against it Tuesday afternoon and Tuesday night, Columbia County school leaders say they're outraged over a law that could take power away from them when it comes to making decisions about your child's education.

At Tuesday night's school board meeting, they took a stand and a unanimous vote.

"I find myself very disappointed," said Board Member Mike Sleeper.

Every single member of the Columbia County Board of Education feels the same way about a proposed charter school amendment.

"We don't need someone from somewhere else telling us or dictating to us or mandating us something differently," said Superintendent Charles Nagle.

As it stands right now, local districts decide on new charter schools -- not the state -- so with House Resolution 1162, they could lose that power and funding.

"It's very difficult for me to face the teachers every day, face the parents and say 'we have to cut this', 'we have to cut that,' and 'I'm sorry that's all we're getting,'" said Board Chair Regina Buccafusco.

They fear this would be detrimental to a district already $13 million in the hole.

"We're having to raise class sizes, we're having to look at reducing school calendars just to meet the needs of our children," Nagle said.

Here's another hurdle: Two local delegates voted for it and members say only one had a "backbone" to vote against it.

"Their response is 'but the governor wants me to vote for this,' well as I see it, they are not representing the governor. They're supposed to represent our community to the governor," Buccafusco said.

So on Tuesday, these board members did what they felt was best for the community and voted unanimously on a resolution.

"Fingers crossed tomorrow or whenever it comes up again," Nagle said.

School leaders say they believe the House will take it up Wednesday. Last week, it fell by 10 votes.

Meanwhile, News 12 is still waiting for comments from the two representatives who voted for the amendment.

Some proponents of the amendment say this would mean smaller class sizes and more flexibility, but local leaders say they, too, had smaller class sizes until the state cut more funding.

Columbia County representatives say they have already had a number of districts ask for their resolution to take to their boards.

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