School choice gone bad? DA solicits community snitches

An outraged friend just sent me this e-mail: “Have you seen this? Sending parents to JAIL? This is freedom?”

What she is talking about is the Houston County’s DA’s aggressive effort to sniff out families illegally sending their kids to Houston County schools or to a school they are not assigned to within the county — meaning the higher performing school across town rather than the lower-performing one across the street.

My response is that it’s illegal now in Georgia to fraudulently enroll your child to a school if you don’t live in the district.

And there doesn’t seem to be any appetite in Georgia to eliminate property taxes as the main source of school funding so it will remain illegal. Nor do families in neighborhoods with great schools want families from other neighborhoods — even within the same district — crowding into their schools.

Around the state, we have some places taxing themselves to the hilt for their schools while others are keeping taxes artificially low. Yes, there are differences in tax digests, but there are also differences in political will.

And at the local level, families argue that they paid a lot more for their house so their kids could go to School A rather than School B. Why, they ask, should families who did not sacrifice and buy in their pricier neighborhood get to go to “their” school?

What do you think?  Here is what Houston County’s DA has on its Web site: Is this big brother? And assault on school choice? Or an indictment of our current system of school funding?

Or, is it all three?

Schools: If you have any information on someone who is attending a Houston County public school who either resides out of Houston County or out of their zone, please give us as much information as possible. Your contact information is not required; but, we will contact you if you desire. You may call 478.218.4264 and leave a message or use our form below. All information provided is confidential.

56 comments Add your comment

jim d

September 3rd, 2009
11:20 am

CHOICE IS THE SOLUTION!!

momtoAlex&Max

September 3rd, 2009
11:33 am

I’m all for it.

V for Vendetta

September 3rd, 2009
11:40 am

I have two perspective on this matter, both from the angle of individual rights:

First and foremost, I agree with jim d. This would not be an issue if school choice were implemented. I have yet to understand why all of America becomes apoplectic whenever Obamacare is mentioned, but no one seems to give a damn about our failing socialized education system.

Secondly, even when operating in a socialistic system, personal responsibility should remain the impetus for action. Though the law itself is controversial, it is clearly stated and necessary in regards to the way the current system is structured. If it is illegal to do something, doing that thing should result in appropriate sanctions being levied on the transgressor. Many of the students who cross district lines are horrible kids who have been removed from their own schools for various reasons (those who aren’t miraculously do not pop up on the administrations radar). They are discipline problems and academic problems–no small issue when AYP is considered.

As a parent, I would make it my sole goal in life to secure a good education for my children if I lived within a lackluster school system’s district. If it required moving, I would do so. If it required me working two or three jobs to afford the move, I would do so. If it required me working a job I hated, I would do so. The reason is simple: My children are my greatest value, and their educations are one of their greatest values. Based on many of these people’s actions, I doubt the same holds true for them.

Again, I don’t agree with the system, but it is what it is. By providing for my children in such a way, I have assumed all of the responsibility for their transition. The burden does not fall on others.

However, just to be clear, the only TRUE solution is to privatize the system.

Cere

September 3rd, 2009
11:51 am

It’s the strangest thing in DeKalb. We have horrible, old, crumbling buildings in the north end of the county, but the students in these buildings by and large test at higher levels than the students in the brand new gleaming buildings in South DeKalb. So, guess what parents in South DeKalb do? They get transfers to the schools up north. They are certain that their child will get a better education this way. So these poor kids spend an hour traveling each way (often rising at 5 am to do so). Lakeside HS alone has hundreds of these transfers, as does Chamblee and Dunwoody.

While as jim d says, Choice may be the solution – that does not excuse school systems from the responsibility of improving the schools these parents and students are fleeing.

Zeke

September 3rd, 2009
11:59 am

If we give people choice, they will all choose the same school. That school will become overcrowded and start having the same problems as the school they didn’t choose. Plus, you already have choices. Homeschooling is one choice. Private schools are another. Moving is yet another. You might not like the choices offered to you, but they are still choices.

Zeke

September 3rd, 2009
12:02 pm

Hey V, you think that privatizing is the answer? You must not have ever worked in private schools. Many of them are where incompetent public school teachers go when they get fired. They usually pay less than public schools, and you are sure to get what you pay for.

V for Vendetta

September 3rd, 2009
12:24 pm

Zeke, I’m sure many private school teachers will no doubt disagree. I know many of them myself, and I have yet to meet one who is as you describe. I would contest that those of us in the public schools might be a bit more “battle hardened,” but that’s about it. I apologize if you were molested by nuns or something, but please don’t make such spurious generalizations without any form of concrete evidence.

jim d

September 3rd, 2009
12:57 pm

Zeke,

Frid I dont have the time today to educate another misguided soul on the plus side of school choice. There is a ton of information available on line though if you’d care to research it.

maureen's accountability metric

September 3rd, 2009
1:03 pm

There cannot be well over 800 posts on that WalMart slap the baby entry can there?

There must be an error. Surely that entry stopped right at 666 posts.

Zeke

September 3rd, 2009
1:19 pm

V…I have worked in several private schools, and I assure you I am not making spurious generalizations. The quality of education in some private schools is fantastic, just as it is in some public schools.

Jim…you mean there is stuff on the Internet that proves your point? OMG that is awesome!!! Forgive me for knowing all about school choice as I have worked in the field of education (public and private) for almost 30 years.

oldtimer

September 3rd, 2009
1:46 pm

Choice of any school in the county is the answer. Parents ought to be free to choose. Competition would make us all better

HB

September 3rd, 2009
1:48 pm

Zeke has a point. Especially in rural areas, there is often more competition for public teaching positions that have much higher pay and benefits than most of the small private schools, and rural private school teachers who are certified often eagerly await and opening in the public system.

Jim d, for school choice, how would you propose that be set up? Using Houston Co. as an example, are you saying that families within Houston should be allowed to choose whichever school they want with in the system, or are you saying that districts should be dissolved into maybe a statewide system that would pool taxes and allow families in Peach County to choose Houston schools (who I suspect are the families the D.A. is really going after since they aren’t paying taxes that go toward the schools and they can’t vote for him)?

DeKalb Conservative

September 3rd, 2009
1:58 pm

I believe strongly in choice. This is a “potential” excellent example of good parental involvement. I have one caveat with this, once you decide to go w/ a different school, the burden of transportation to and from school falls onto the parent. With the parent making that type of sacrifice daily, it is fairly logical to assume the child will be held to a high standard to perform.

Zeke

September 3rd, 2009
2:18 pm

So I’ll ask the question. What if everyone wants their kids to go to the same school? How do you handle the overcrowding issue? Build portable classrooms? Build onto the existing structures? This stuff costs money, people. You’ll also have to add more staff, most likely by bringing in teachers from the very schools you didn’t want your kids to go to in the first place, since those schools will now be smaller and require less staff. Gotta think this stuff through.

Cere

September 3rd, 2009
3:24 pm

“Choice of any school in the county is the answer. Parents ought to be free to choose. Competition would make us all better.”

The flip side (at least as is happening in DeKalb) – is that the administration simply washes their hands of the issue – the squeaky wheels transfer and the remaining aren’t squeaky – so the status quo is effective. HOWEVER — if some real, true, effective repercussions came into play for a superintendent and principals who could not improve neighborhood schools – then we just might see some improvement in those under-performing schools and the “competition” would begin.

Cere

September 3rd, 2009
3:28 pm

Oh – DeKalb Conservative – you must not be aware of the transportation scam. If you transfer from a NCLB “failing” school that is Title 1 (which most of ours are in DeKalb) – then you get mileage reimbursement from the federal government to the tune of $.585 per mile. Do the math – if you have a 15-20 mile commute each way – that reimbursement can add up to about $450 per month. I actually heard about two brothers who transferred from Lithonia to Dunwoody and yes, the family collected about $900 a month in mileage reimbursement.. But guess what? Many of these students ride Marta! A student pass is about $50/month. Nice profit!

Cere

September 3rd, 2009
3:32 pm

And Zeke – you are exactly right. When a school has to take on 200-300 extra students with only a couple of weeks warning at most – the principal really has to scramble to staff up. This usually results in math classes with 45 students until another teacher can be found – and now, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel – trying to find a teacher in August/September. The good ones are fully employed. So what you end up with is not the cream of the crop. Add to that, the students who live in the attendance zone are now forced to attend half of their classes in a trailer – in and out all day long – with crowded hallways, etc. – well, you can begin to see the house of cards.

But – again, on the flip side – the schools that everyone left have smaller classes, lots of space, plenty of lockers, not line for lunch, etc…You’d think they would improve, right? That’s a whole ‘nother blog topic.

jim d

September 3rd, 2009
4:08 pm

Check out Michigan Choice schools—rural areas are doing just fine with it—actually better than some of the urban areas such as detroit

georgia parent

September 3rd, 2009
4:14 pm

School choice is the only way to go! HOwever, the law is the law. If it is illegal to jump county lines then the law needs to be enforced. What bothers me a lot of times is the unnecessary Truancy complaints that are filed when children who are sick are legitimately out of school and have proof of the illness and/or condition. There have been those cases too Maureen.

jim d

September 3rd, 2009
4:24 pm

Zeke,

30 years in education—-Wow I’m unimpressed.

i always have doubts about those that claim to “know it all” about anything — my expierence has been that they don’t know their a$$ fro a hole in the ground.

I’ve been in the same trade for 43 yeras and still learn something new every day–would never claim to know all about it as that is a pompus statement that can come back to bite one in the arse. Yet this is a statement we hear regularly from some teachers. Makes one wonder just how smart they really are!

jim d

September 3rd, 2009
4:25 pm

and the blog gremlin strikes again

jim d

September 3rd, 2009
4:28 pm

Georgia parent,

yep the law is the law—so i guess we should be raising hell about BOE’s meeting for public business behind closed doors. Whatta think—any support out there for that???

Zeke

September 3rd, 2009
4:36 pm

Jim, I do learn new things every day. I’ve even learned that it makes you look weak when you start insulting people who disagree with you. Besides, I never claimed to know everything, I just draw on my experience as go from there. Knowing “all about” something was my informal way of saying that I have accumulated a lot of direct knowledge from actual experience, not that I “know it all” as no one knows everything about the issue.

I have been involved with efforts involving school choice in other states, and the results have been lukewarm at best. Looking at one implementation is not the way to go about it. The Michigan effort has had its share of problems as well. It just depends on how you want to look at it.

Zeke

September 3rd, 2009
4:38 pm

If a school board has illegal private meetings they should absolutely be taken to task for that.

jim d

September 3rd, 2009
4:44 pm

Zeke,

Who hurled any insults? here i thought we were having a civil discussion.

Cere

September 3rd, 2009
4:45 pm

The charter school experiments are not proving too successful either. That is, unless they are able to pick and choose their students and send the under-performers somewhere else. Viola! Improvement!

jim d

September 3rd, 2009
4:50 pm

Zeke,

No grand jury in Gwinnett will press it–nor will the DA and the states AG has gone so far as to say the meetings violated Ga. Sunshine laws but has relinguished his duties as described in law to enforce these statutes. Furthermore, we have no state courts here that will follow the law and enforce them as they have been charged under law to do. And the damn fools that live in the county continue to re-elct this bunch of goons.

Tony

September 3rd, 2009
5:30 pm

If we are to implement school choice as some of you wish for us to do, how do you guys propose that these schools of choice control admittance to their schools in order to protect the integrity of its academic programs? Do the schools with high demand get to also choose through some form of selection criteria who will be admitted? Should these schools of choice have enrollment caps? Who gets priority admission? Who pays for the additional classrooms that must be added to the school?

And to Mareen, property taxes are an excellent and stable revenue source for communities to be able to fund schools and other services they want to provide. They choose to live there for the benefits and agree to the taxation that supports the lifestyle.

It is impossible to make everyone equal. It’s time for some of you folks to google Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonegut.

jim d

September 3rd, 2009
5:57 pm

Tony,

all of the issues of implementation you bring to the table have already been addressed in a book by david harmer “School choice” Why you need it —-How to get it

flipper

September 3rd, 2009
7:06 pm

We have a huge problem with families who don’t live in our district using “grandma’s” address to get into our schools. I just helped turn one in the other day as a matter of fact.

food for thought

September 3rd, 2009
7:38 pm

http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,1607,7-140-6530_30334-106922–,00.html

The above link is for the Michigan DOE’s info page on their school choice program. Districts can opt in or out of it, and Tony, it does address enrollment standards for non-residents. I, for one, might feel better about the QBE money if it came back to my district to help fund non-resident students, and taken from their QBE funding – I’m not a voucher proponent, but I would definitely like to see QBE funding “follow the child.” As an opt-in, you really think Walton or Chattahoochee are going to do that?

Two well-researched trends that make me wonder if implementing choice for all would be worth it:

1. Parents will generally give their schools an “A” but rate public school education overall as a “D” or “F” – they recently surveyed this again, and STILL found the same trend.

2. Students of parents who enter a lottery for a choice school generally do better even when they DON’T get their choice! It says something to motivation and parent involvement.

Food for thought….

V for Vendetta

September 3rd, 2009
8:01 pm

Tony,

Of course they get to choose; it would be a private (i.e., capitalistic) system. They could admit whomever they wanted, and they could reject those who didn’t meet their standards. School choice will positively NOT work at the local level; it must be a national movement, one that abolishes all forms of tax related to education and puts that money back in the pocket of the consumer. Some schools would remain elite and expensive, some would provide a similar level of resources to what we have now and cost about the same, and some schools would be cheaper than the refunded money but lacking in the latest and greatest technology. Admissions standards would reflect the school’s academic/monetary goals. The choice of which institution to attend and how much to spend out of pocket would fall on the individual.

Imagine that.

Lee

September 3rd, 2009
8:01 pm

Let me get this straight:

A taxpaying citizen of this country that tries to escape the cesspool in one district can get locked up,

but the same officials implement a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to the thousands of illegal aliens who are in this country ILLEGALLY, who drain the very resources that this taxpaying AMERICAN citizen has paid for, and who forces the schools to hire ESOL teachers.

What a screwed up mess….

Rural Education

September 3rd, 2009
8:31 pm

Our county has or used to have “open” enrollment. You could attend any school in the county if there was room and you were responsible for transportation. The problem is the best schools never have any space. No principal is going to stuff students in his school and compromise the programs already in place. School choice can only really happen in urban systems.

Ramos Luciano

September 3rd, 2009
8:52 pm

Where is Turd tonight??? He has nor commented in on this school issue ainda? My three filhas go to Chamblee HS. I am from Brasil & I like Turd Ferguson.

Cere

September 3rd, 2009
9:05 pm

If I had been personally handed the $8500 per year that DeKalb spends on students every year, for my children, I know for a fact that I could have shopped around and bought them each a much better education privately. And I wouldn’t have needed so much Tylenol (for myself).

food for thought

September 3rd, 2009
10:07 pm

Lee – I absolutely see you point in the dichotomy of the two, but seriously, one is mainly a local issue and the other is Federal. All the ESOL laws are Federally mandated – local schools have to comply (or face drawn out and costly legal battles). Chances are that the ESOL students, legal or not, are at least living in district. The other is probably driven more by the communities of taxpayers demanding that their taxpayer dollars on spent on their kids.

I’m not saying it’s not screwed up – I’m saying it’s not really the “same” people to blame.

food for thought…

ScienceTeacher671

September 3rd, 2009
10:21 pm

V, the problem with your privatization plan is the majority of consumers with children don’t pay enough in school taxes to afford even inexpensive private schools, much less schools equivalent to the current system.

Tony

September 3rd, 2009
10:39 pm

Georgia’s attempt at school choice this year did not allow schools to establish any criteria for accepting transfer requests. We were not allowed to use discipline records, attendance records or academic records. The only ones given choices were parents. I’m very disappointed with you guys if you think that is the fairest way to run schools.

ScienceTeacher671

September 4th, 2009
6:09 am

Lee has a great point about different types of “immigrants” to school districts.

jim d, do citizens attend the metro-area board meetings with the illegal private sessions? Down south, the boards are basically meeting in private session whether they call it that or not, because citizens don’t attend the meetings.

V for Vendetta

September 4th, 2009
7:58 am

ScienceTeacher671, you’re absolutely right; they are the moochers whose existence is funded by the producers. I couldn’t care less about them. Heaven forbid they actually have to exchange value for value and EARN something.

jim d

September 4th, 2009
8:20 am

st671,

I’m afarid I fail to see the connection. It matters not if anyone attempts to attend.

The point is that if a member of the media or any other citizen is denied the right to attend a meeting that by law is required to be open, the law has been broken. When we surrender to politicans our rights they will continue to take more and when we tolerate politicans violating the law we may as well not have laws.

Open government is essential to our democratic process. Something I am not prepared to surrender. Are you?

mom3

September 4th, 2009
9:02 am

Zeke,

Teachers fired from public schools are teaching at private schools?!?!? I didn’t think it was possible to get fired from public schools. Unless you commit a crime.

jim d

September 4th, 2009
10:11 am

jim d – I like the way you think, What’s the point of running a school system for the stake holders if it can’t be transparent. I think all meetings should be taped and put on their website at the very least and no meetings behind closed doors.

Devesation

September 4th, 2009
12:46 pm

Wow this is so funny watching you grown ups argue over this…so so funny im just sitting in class “computer Programming” just watching your convo’s on “schools choice gone bad?”…what makes this so so so…funny is V for Vendatta and Jim B’s Beginning Comments…

Devesation

September 4th, 2009
12:47 pm

Even extra funny when Zeke started talking, you all will never let the Future adults talk..like myself, you all would probably be mad..since I said this is so funny.

catlady

September 4th, 2009
4:53 pm

Well, most of us at my school would rather have 100 immigrant kids than 75 “local” (ie poor, white) kids any time. They all pay property taxes, through rent or directly. However, our immigrant kids are much more likely to be hardworking and well-behaved. This might not be true in your area. Somehow our small, rural area may be getting the cream of the crop in illegal immigrants.

IF all school systems were required to tax at the same rate, we might have something to talk about. My system taxes 4 mils or more below those in Fulton or Dekalb. Coupled with lower valuations, we’d get quite a bargain if we went to other, higher-taxing, higher valued counties.

“Choice” is fine if there is room and if parents provide the transportation. IF. Likely there is NOT room and the parents who are able to provide transportation are not your run of the mill parents.

ScienceTeacher671

September 4th, 2009
8:27 pm

V, the majority of the “producers” in Georgia don’t pay enough in state and property taxes in a year to pay the tuition for one student at a public school – and while a goodly percentage of those taxes goes to fund schools, over half goes for other government functions.

ScienceTeacher671

September 4th, 2009
8:30 pm

jim d, I agree that government meetings ought to be totally transparent. My point is that if people were really concerned about what went on in those meetings, they would attend. When no one attends the meetings, and the press, for whatever reason, doesn’t report half of what went on, the meetings MIGHT AS WELL be held behind closed doors even if they are not.

It also isn’t good to give the elected officials the idea that they are the only ones concerned with what goes on in the meetings…because at some point, they’ll begin to believe it.

Concerned Aunt

September 5th, 2009
7:01 am

To all who think that the school system is right for making a child stay in the county zones, To that I have two observations, I have a nephew with a 4.0 gpa and just relocated here from another state, He is living in the Morrow/Clayton county school system and his grades are falling , he is no longer interested in participitaing in school activities such as football. This kid is very intelligent and is falling in the cracks because he is stuck in a school system that is unbelivable. If the child is doing well in their own county then leave them there but if its a system such as the one in clayton county and you have a future prodigy failing to fit in with the thugs and gang bangers then by all means there should be an acception.