Gwinnett education officials: Public schools have improved

Having been warned about lobbying against the charter school amendment on taxpayer time, Gwinnett school officials are trying a new tack: touting the success of the state’s public schools.

At a school board work session Thursday afternoon, they rolled out a series of maps showing states that have shown improvement on six major tests of students’ academic skills, including the SAT.

The last of the maps identified Georgia as the only state to have improved results on all six tests, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress exams in math, reading and science.

“We’re certainly not No. 1, but we are moving in the right direction,” said Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, adding that the credit goes to the teachers.

The test results show public schools in Georgia doing much better than some legislators have suggested in recent months, said school board member Robert McClure.

Wilbanks hinted that more positive news about public schools may be coming as educators across the state work against the charter school amendment, arguably the most closely watched issue on the ballot beyond the presidential race.

If approved by voters, the amendment would effectively override a Georgia Supreme Court ruling last year declaring unconstitutional a state commission with the power to approve charter schools over the objections of local school boards.

Supporters of the amendment say parents need education alternatives that are more innovative than traditional public schools and spark more parental involvement.

Opponents say the amendment could turn state and local governments, which have been partners in education, into competitors and put even more financial stress on local school systems.

This month, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens ordered all local school boards to cease any efforts to oppose the amendment that involves the use of official time or taxpayer funds. Many school boards, including Gwinnett’s, have passed resolutions, calling for the amendment’s defeat.

Gwinnett has been named in two lawsuits on the issue.