Letters to the Editor

‘Failing’ schools indeed

Voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2012 establishing the State Charter School Commission with authority to approve and fund state charter schools supervised by the Commission rather than by local boards of education. The most recent report by the Governor's Office of Student Achievement shows that schools operated by local boards of education had a 5.8% failure rate. Schools operated for three years by the commission had a failure rate of 25%. Draw your own conclusions.

Now our political leaders are asking Georgia voters to create the Opportunity School District managed by an OSD Superintendent, selected by and reporting to the Governor. This superintendent would select 20 schools per year labeled as “failing,” up to 100 schools, for an involuntary takeover for from five to ten years. The OSD Superintendent would determine if the school taken over would be, (1) operated by the OSD, (2) converted to a state charter school, (3) operated by the local board of education under strict supervision and veto power by the OSD, or (4) closed completely with students re-assigned to other schools.

The OSD superintendent would also determine if services would be purchased from for-profit educational service providers. The superintendent or charter governing board would make all decisions, including those regarding finances, personnel and curriculum. There would be no appeals.

Local boards of education could be required to make major modifications and renovations to facilities at local expense. Funding for opportunity schools would be with regular local, state and federal entitlements plus any special appropriations made by the legislature or received from private solicitations.

Vote No on Amendment 1. Then urge Georgia’s political leaders to redirect the $50 million in annual tax credits now used for scholarships to private schools not subject to the state grading system and never at risk of being labeled “failing.”

Robert A. Clay, Lee County Retired Educators, Leesburg, Ga.

Welcome event

Let peal the bells all across Columbus acknowledging the recent opening of the Black History Museum in our nation’s capital. I recommend that all churches pick a time and that it be publicized widely in the news media.

Such an event will be a dearly welcomed relief from the unfortunate pervasive negative daily news from all media. Such an event would serve as a prayer by all for all.

Jack Tidwell, Columbus

Moving forward

As a young professional in the area, I have a heart for healthy and sustainable growth in our community. This broad vision includes attracting and retaining talent.

One deterrent continually identified, from residents and visitors, is our inefficient property tax system. We place a huge "unwelcoming" tax on new home buyers. 75% of homeowners subsidize the 25% with higher and disproportionate property taxes for the first 14 years they own their homes. The freeze is essentially a Ponzi scheme that takes 14 years to reap the benefits!

For the past 30 years that we've had the property tax valuation freeze in place, we've been outpaced in growth by nearly all comparable cities, like Augusta, Athens and Rome, which do not have a freeze system in place (or a major highway running through).

Bottom line: We are placing a huge, unnecessary tax burden on new homeowners, and they are buying elsewhere because of it.

This situation cannot be ignored anymore; these indicators point to the crucial need to thaw the freeze (no one loses the freeze who has it) and sunset our current property tax system.

Columbusites, we need a fair market tax system that applies the same to everyone. We must make the choices today that encourage our growth and opportunity for years to come. We are in a time of rapid revitalization. We need to perpetuate the momentum by voting to thaw the freeze!

Jacy Jenkins, Columbus

Healthy, humane

It seems like there is always some special observance around the corner. There is even a World Day for Farmed Animals. It's observed fittingly on October 2 (Gandhi's birthday). It's intended to memorialize the tens of billions of animals abused and killed for food around the world.

My first instinct was to dismiss it. But I wanted to understand the impact of my diet and my food dollars on others.

Recent undercover investigations showed male baby chicks suffocated in plastic garbage bags or ground to death, laying hens crowded into small wire cages, injured pigs killed by slamming their heads against the concrete floor.

I have now embraced a plant-based diet — green and yellow veggies, legumes, fruits, nuts, and some grains. Occasionally, I indulge in nut-based cheese or ice cream. Although I was motivated by compassion for animals, I have since learned that my diet is also great for my health and for the health of our planet.

Dave Kephart, Columbus

Mea culpa

Hello! To the person on Carson Drive I almost ran over, I apologize profusely.

Bill Poovey, Columbus