Spelman, Morehouse, Clark Atlanta students rally for charter schools amendment

Atlanta University Center students marched Friday to the state Capitol to show support for the charter school amendment on Tuesday’s ballot.

Under current Georgia law, charter school applicants must first apply to the local school board. If the application is rejected, they can appeal to the state Board of Education, which may overrule local officials. Amendment One, if passed, would create a third route for approval, an appointed state commission.

About 75 supporters of Amendment One, including students from Spelman and Morehouse, convened at the Capitol..

The march’s organizer, Spelman senior Alana Moore, a 21-year-old education major, said she began emailing people about the rally in September and was “amazed” at the turnout.

Moore, who attended public school in California, said the rally was for those who want to “take a stand for equal education opportunities.”

“I have a passion in my heart for kids’ success and watching them fail in certain systems, in certain public schools, is really disheartening. I support charter schools as a public school option … for low-income students that is tuition free [and] has high accountability, flexibility and autonomy. I definitely support choice,” she said.

Recent radio ads have called Tuesday’s ballot issue on charter schools an effort to recreate an educational system that separates black and white students.

Several of the 60-second spots featured civil rights icon the Rev. Joseph Lowery. “Don’t let them resegregate our schools,” the 91-year-old minister warns listeners. Lowery traveled with former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, another civil rights leader, over the weekend to push for rejection of the proposed amendment.

State Reps. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Cobb) and Rahn Mayo (D-DeKalb) joined the students Friday at the Capitol.

Morgan said she was “standing in support” of future teachers attending historically black colleges.

“I get upset when I see less than 50 percent of black males are graduating from high school,” said Morgan. Charter schools would help foster “a culture of no excuses,” she said.

Mayo said he attended the rally to “encourage the next generation of leaders to get involved in the fight to improve education in the state of Georgia.”

“We rank near the bottom in the U.S. in education,” said Mayo, adding he believes “education is the great equalizer.”

Mayo said the black community has “great resistance to change … but the status quo has not been effective over the last 40 years.”

“We need to move forward and address the problem of dismal graduation rates among African-American students and high incarceration rates,” Mayo said. “Charter schools are not the cure-all, not a panacea or magic bullet, but they are a step in the right direction to give children more options, to give them access to more [educational] quality that they otherwise would not have.”

The lawmaker said the public school system “has been ineffective in many cases at preparing children for their future.” He predicted narrow passage Tuesday of Amendment One.

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