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Clayton State ed students hear case against charters

Photo by Jim Massara
Teacher Matt Jones of EmpowerED Georgia sees charter schools as a “fad fix.”

Photo by Jim Massara Teacher Matt Jones of EmpowerED Georgia sees charter schools as a “fad fix.”

— With a vote just months away that could allow Georgia to create new charter schools, Clayton State education students heard the case against them Tuesday night from a teacher already in the trenches.

“There are what I call fad fixes,” said Matt Jones, co-founder of EmpowerED Georgia. “To me, charter schools are one of those fad fixes.”

Jones, recently named Toombs County High School teacher of the year, spoke to several dozen students at Clayton State East after a screening of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman,” the first installment of a department film series.

“Inconvenient Truth” counters many of the arguments for charter schools made in the film “Waiting for Superman.” Released theatrically in 2010, the controversial — and commercially successful — “Superman” documentary has been a callling card for the charter-school movement ever since.

“’Waiting for Superman’ would have audiences believe that free-market competition, standardized tests, destroying teacher unions and the proliferation of charter schools are just what this country needs to create great public schools,” said Ruth Caillouet, chair of Clayton State’s teacher education department.

The department showed that film last year and showed the answer film this year to illustrate “how these so-called reforms are actually hurting public education,” Caillouet said.

Jones, who said he loves being a teacher and added he “wouldn’t change it for any job in the world,” said he takes charter schools as they’re promoted today with a grain of salt.

“This goes back to the single-issue groups,” Jones told the students. “Education is not going to be fixed with one issue. It’s a very complex issue, and there are a lot of areas that need reform. Any group out there that says you just need to do one thing, they’re lying to you.”

Jones argued that charters aren’t necessarily more flexible or innovative, that they do take money away from established public schools, and that in some ways they barely qualify as public schools.

The best thing, Jones said, would be to incorporate what was good about charters into existing public schools.

“They [charters] need to be used like they were originally promoted, and they need to enhance public education and increase student achievement,” Jones said. “That’s not what we’re seeing now.”