The director of an after-school program in Macon has been named to the Georgia Charter Schools Commission.
Tony Lowden is one of seven people statewide named to the commission, which has the power to approve charter school applications without the approval from local school boards.
The state Board of Education appointed the commission members Thursday after recommendations from Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, according to a news release.
Lowden, who was appointed by Deal, will serve a one-year term on the commission.
Im very, very humbled by it that the governor would choose me, Lowden said Friday.
In November, 58 percent of Georgia voters approved an amendment to the states Constitution, authorizing the commission. The commission was originally established in 2008. Three years later, though, it was disbanded after the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.
Supporters of the 2012 amendment said it would ultimately give families more education options, while opponents said it would funnel money away from already underfunded public schools.
Lowdens support for more flexibility to start charter schools is based on his experience overseeing Stone Academy, an after-school program at Macons Booker T. Washington Community Center that works with at-risk students.
In that role, Lowden works with students who come to the center who cannot read and get trapped in poor school systems, said Lowden, who is also a youth minister at Lundy Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.
Those students then end up falling into a cycle of poverty that continues generation after generation, he said. Having few education options affects students across the state, he said, whether they live in urban or rural areas.
He said he also supported a local effort to start a charter school in Bibb County in recent years.
The nomination is rewarding for Lowden, especially after criticism from some quarters that the charter commission would establish a system that could segregate black students in subpar schools.
However, thats already happening, Lowden said, with many students ending up in alternative school -- and then prison.
We are segregating them by not giving them a good education, he said. Education should be available for all children in our state.
Lowden considers education part of the next civil rights movement, and he hopes that being part of the commission will play a role in that effort.
Education is very important to me, he said. Its the thing that will liberate our children.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.