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APS Supt. to lawmakers: Stop taking money from our schools

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen has a message for state lawmakers: stop taking money away from Atlanta Public Schools.
Dr. Meria Carstarphan told reporters at her quarterly roundtable with the press that she can’t fix the school system it the state keeps passing laws that drain resources.

ATLANTA -- Atlanta's school superintendent has a message for state lawmakers: stop taking money away from Atlanta Public Schools.

Dr. Meria Carstarphan told reporters at her quarterly journalists' round table that she can't fix the school system if the state keeps passing laws that drain resources.

"Stop taking any more money from Atlanta Public Schools," said Carstaphen.

In July of 2014, Carstaphen was hired to fill a tall order, which included repairing a school system broken by a cheating scandal, growing drop-out rate and failing schools.

"I was told, 'We want you to come here to fix Atlanta public schools,'" she said. "It is such a hard job. I cannot turn it around if every time I look left or right, there's a big distraction or another barrier or another ginormous drain from the district."

She is referring to a couple of bills expected during this legislative session that could reduce the amount of money from taxes coming into the district.

One from State Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Buckhead) would exempt many seniors from paying Atlanta Public Schools taxes.

"It was like $30 or $50 million -- if both of those things happen, we might as well go home," Carstarphen said. "You're trying to do it next school year, oh no then. No. I can't have it. It will break us worse than we already are."

She is also concerned about any school choice money that could mean slashing the APS budget.

"If you want to do private school work or funding in other ways, that's fine, but you have to find a different source. You can't take it away from the kids who need it the most," said Carstarphen.

Ironically, Gov.Nathan Deal helped kick-off a celebration of National School Choice Week began in Liberty Plaza at the state Capitol as Carstarphen's news conference ended.

Hundreds of people, many of them children listened to speakers, including celebrity supporters Ludacris and Keisha Knight Pulliam, who praised the need for school choice as an alternative to poorly-performing neighborhood schools.

PHOTOS: Georgia School Choice Rally at the State Capitol

"When you have schools that have a historical track record for not performing to the expectation or the respective district or the state, parents deserve the right through school choice options to decide what school best fits the needs of their child," said Artesius Miller, Founder of Utopian Academy in Clayton County, a start-up charter school hailed by the governor of an example of a good school choice option.

To be clear, Supt. Carstarphen, is not against charter schools.

The entire APS district is in the process of becoming a charter system, but that will happen within the existing public school framework.

Carstarphen feels strongly that the district can't have money taken away and still improve its schools in an effort to attract parent who want to choose neighborhood schools as an option.

School choice proponents look at the issue differently.

"They (charter schools) don't take money away from the traditional schools," Miller said. "There are shared resources within between the districts."


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