Charter school fans respond to Gwinnett court challenge

Here is some reaction from charter school advocates to the lawsuit filed by Gwinnett County challenging a new state law that allows charter schools to bypass local boards of education and seek approval – and local tax dollars -  from a state commission. (So far,  the commission has approved two schools, including an all-girl school in Gwinnett, Ivy Prep.  See recent post below on charters/vouchers for more details about this issue.)

–“We are sorry to hear that a school district with an annual budget of over $2 billion dollars would file a suit against the State to prevent it from fulfilling its financial responsibility to providing a quality education for a diverse group of 300 young girls, many of whom are eligible for free and reduced price lunch,” said Georgia Charter Schools Association Chief Executive Officer Tony Roberts. “Their parents have made the choice that these girls are better served in a charter school.”

–“The Gwinnett County School Board elected to sue the state over legislation that gave a few students the chance to attend a small public school of their choice,” says State Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton), the House Majority Whip who sponsored the new law.  “Now it is time for Gwinnett citizens to elect a new board, one that actually puts students first and egos second. The Gwinnett Board earlier denied approval and local funding to the school.  When Ivy Prep opened its doors anyway with half funding, its students scored among the highest achievement marks in Georgia. Shame on the Gwinnett County School Board. Our state constitution compels Georgia to fund all public school students adequately, not preferentially and unfairly according to Gwinnett’s rules.”

–“I am a law abiding, tax-paying citizen in Gwinnett County, and it is very disturbing to me that Gwinnett County Public Schools would sue one of its public schools over tax dollars for public education,” said Veda Bills, mother of a seventh grader at Ivy Prep.

120 comments Add your comment

Reality 2

September 14th, 2009
5:22 pm

If the state wants to approve a charter school, then they should run it using its own budget. Don’t force a local system to pay for it. If the state want the local system to function as a “flow through” of the money from the state, then they should pay the local system fees to do so. However, the state has no business dictating whether or not a charter school must be supported by the local money.

Courtney

September 14th, 2009
5:45 pm

Why should Gwinnett tax payers be forced to support something we have no say over? This is the state robbing the county pure and simple.

Dunwoody Mom

September 14th, 2009
6:20 pm

I believe this same issue arose in the state of Florida. Courts ruled that the state had no control over local school systems and their charter commission was dissolved.

Cere

September 14th, 2009
6:32 pm

Ivy Prep?! A direct passage to the Ivy League I guess… how nice!

Jennifer

September 14th, 2009
6:44 pm

If the Gwinnett taxpayers read the Ivy Prep charter that was twice denied by the Gwinnett County School board, examine closely the inane reasons for both denials, read charter school law, and then, even with all of those obstacles take a moment to review the academic success of the school — every single one of those board members will be gone in their next election cycle. I will stand by my comments – the board members, in my opinion as one who followed this very closely, were derelict in their duties and obligations to the public.
Had the board members had an ounce of backbone, this system would not be green with envy for a small school to come in and outperform GCPS public schools on half of the school budget. Instead, we could have all been proud of the innovation and avoided this ego driven lawsuit.

Wake up counties that are thinking of joining the lawsuit – be independent -research the initial petitions and internal obstacles GCPS created for charter schools and then you decide if GCPS deserves to be supported by your joining ranks. My guess is your district never would have stood for it.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens

September 14th, 2009
7:15 pm

Is Gwinnett County Schools suing a bunch of 6th and 7th grade public school girls over the question of whether they should be funded at the same level as all other children in the district? I have said it before and I will say it again, God made the idiot for practice, and then he made the school board.

Maureen Downey

September 14th, 2009
7:25 pm

Mr. Clemens,
With that twist on the quote, I am not sure if school boards or Congress should be more insulted.
Maureen

GA dad

September 14th, 2009
8:00 pm

I see three people who have commented about how the state should not be allowed to determine how Gwinnett spends it educational dollars? How much of the $2 billion or so for Gwinnett schools is from the local taxpayers, how much is state money, and how much is federal?

Larry

September 14th, 2009
8:01 pm

Yeah well, “boo-hoo I want money” just isn’t a good legal argument.

Maybe we need literate legislators who CAN READ OUR CONSTITUTION before they dash off a law to gather a few votes – eh, Jan??? While you’re at it, explain how taking power away from local elected officials and putting it into the hands of a state level appointed board amounts to smaller government.

Now I feel better.

A copy of the actual complaint filed with the court (thanks M) is available at:
http://www.cpoga.org/PDF/complaint.pdf

ScienceTeacher671

September 14th, 2009
8:07 pm

Jan is correct in saying “Our state constitution compels Georgia to fund all public school students adequately”…but it also says that local school boards control the schools.

Larry

September 14th, 2009
8:11 pm

GA dad,
For the current budget, 52.1% is local money, 42.3% is state and 5.6% is federal.

Keep in mind, the state follows a strict funding formula to determine who gets how much.

Thank you - jim d

September 14th, 2009
9:55 pm

On September 14th, 2009 7:36 am.

Vouchers & charters: Is it really the children’s money or yours?Vouchers & charters: Is it really the children’s money or yours?

jim d commented:

“Unless I’m mistaken (and I’m not) what the state has said is not that they demand local $$ be spent to support the charters. What they have said is that the state controls state $$ and will withhold state $$ from the system in the amount of funding they provide the system equal to the amount of local funding the county is refusing to share with the charter schools and provide those funds directly to the charter schools. So what we are talking about is actually state funding not local funding.”

Touche’

high school teacher

September 14th, 2009
10:12 pm

If charter schools receive state funding, then they should have to play by the same rules as everyone else. Public schools would have much higher test scores if we public school teachers didn’t have to play the AYP game.

Maureen's accountability metric

September 14th, 2009
10:37 pm

From Megan Matteucci, in a story on ajc.com:

“He remained in a vegetative state for 14 years before dieing, police said.”

Is “dieing” the new dying at the AJC? For the second time in a week, an AJC reporter has misspelled dying as “dieing”. Nobody’s perfect, but that’s not a typo; that’s an “I don’t know”.

How embarrassing for the AJC.

Elaine

September 14th, 2009
11:00 pm

This is the whole point of a “charter school.” It gets to step outside the regular governance of the local board and operates under its approved charter. By the very nature of the charter school setup, it receives the local money (or state money through local district). The district approves the charter and then funds the school by the per-pupil formula. This isn’t new. This is how all charter schools operate. If Gwinnett didn’t want the school, they shouldn’t have approved the charter. Now that it’s approved they have to follow through. This is why I no longer live in Gwinnett County.

Jennifer

September 14th, 2009
11:08 pm

Larry,
Thank you for a copy of the actual complaint. It is quite revealing. No mention of the author for the title IX legislation specifically sharing with GCPS the intent of the revised legislation as it pertained to same sex schools -and the opinion was favorable to the Ivy Prep model. Irreparable damage to GCPS students, you have to give me a break. If the 300 girls were in GCPS, the funds would be spent on them under GCPS anyway – where is the damage ? Unless of course, the funds that the local taxpayer provides do not really get spent on the student.They are just getting the same money they would get if in one of the failing schools they came from. Also, null and void of the Ivy Prep charter ? I thought they cared about education which is obviously occurring at a higher rate in some cases than in GCPS schools. No this is a vanity lawsuit – and it is being done on the backs of our students, not in the name of our students. I do hope someone at the AJC tracks the costs of the suit and shares it with the public. The public should know just how much the GCPS board cares about spending tax payer dollars in the courtroom versus in the classroom.

Donald F. Valtman

September 14th, 2009
11:33 pm

First, common sense says the primary factor determining public school budgets is the number of enrolled students. Therefore, how does reducing a 156,000 K-12 student enrollment by a couple hundred students make a row-of-beans difference in a $2+ Billion GCPSS budget?
The nexus of this issue seems to be POWER, i.e., WHO controls the local tax money GCPSS receives — rather than the more logical concern of which school provides the best K-12 education for a STUDENT!
Trusting that Larry’s funding figures for the current GCPSS budget are accurate, how is it that the federal government, who provides the LOWEST amount of funds (5.6%), have the ability to MANDATE unfunded requirements on GCPSS? (think NCLB)
Regardless of how this came about, the State similarly will prevail based on Georgia’s Constitution — specifically Article VIII, Sections V & VI, paras 1 & 1(b) respectively. And this is as it should be if our state politicians truly believe that constituent paid tax money should follow the STUDENT and PARENTS should chose the public school that provides the best K-12 education to their CHILDREN!

Larry

September 15th, 2009
3:49 am

Elaine, the elected board in Gwinnett didn’t approve the charter, they rejected it. Ivy Prep’s charter was approved by an appointed state level board.

The “local funds” issue is on page nine of the complaint. During the 2008-2009 school year, Ivy Prep received only QBE funding. Funding for the 2009-2010 school year included the “proportional share of local revenue,” which *should* come from state funds. What the state actually did was deduct this additional amount directly from GCPS’ QBE funding.

Effectively, this diverts local tax money (the only other source of funding) to any charter school administered by the appointed state board.

Some of you should read this complaint more carefully. This situation isn’t unique to Gwinnett; every school system in Georgia is in the same boat. If you don’t like the way your BoE operates, you can vote them out of office.

If you don’t like what an appointed state board does with you local tax revenue, exactly what are you going to do?

jim d

September 15th, 2009
5:29 am

Courtney,

“Why should Gwinnett tax payers be forced to support something we have no say over?”

We were actually given two opportunities to have a say in this school. Unfortunately a few narrow minded–bigoted, power hungry, egomaniacs opted not to approve the charter since it wasn’t their idea–thus removing any chance of having a say. If you must blame someone, I’d suggest starting with the five elected BOE members that were acting in anything but the best interest of the children.

Perhaps it is time we taxpayers woke up and unelect these self centered politicans. 2010 is just around the corner

alice

September 15th, 2009
7:02 am

High School Teacher

Charter Schools have to meet AYP and if they don’t they will lose their charter. Not only that, but some charter schools have met AYP but not their stated goals and their charter has been revoked.

Charters have far more accountability than your everyday GA public school.

Gwinnett Schools are among the least innovative when it comes to choice in the state. No surprise that Wilbanks is afraid of a little competition.

Fact checker

September 15th, 2009
7:03 am

High School Teacher complained “If charter schools receive state funding, then they should have to play by the same rules as everyone else. Public schools would have much higher test scores if we public school teachers didn’t have to play the AYP game.”

Clearly, High School Teacher isn’t very well informed about how charter schools operate. Charter schools ARE required to play the same AYP game as traditional public schools, only for much higher stakes. A charter school that fails to educate its students will lose its charter and be shut down. When was the last time a traditional public school closed it doors for failing to educate children?

Go to the Dept. of Education’s web site and take a look at the CRCT scores for Ivy Prep, the charter school at the center of this law suit. The school was one of the top performing middle schools in the state.

jim d

September 15th, 2009
7:25 am

Larry, Larry, Larry,

Your definition of “LOCAL TAX DOLLARS” is sorely lacking. I find it a real stretch, even for you, to consider state funding as local money. I fear you have been drinking the Alvin-Aid too long, sounds like spin right out of his book.

jim d

September 15th, 2009
7:36 am

thanks fact checker,

you are 100% on the money–the biggest problem facing charter schools is public ignorance about how they operate and and the stringent requirements they must meet just to maintain the charter.

Folks, these are PUBLIC SCHOOLS that are required to exceed all expectations of a state run public school.

Jennifer

September 15th, 2009
7:55 am

Larry,

I love all these people who stick their head in the sand and say vote the board members out. And what, our kids should receive a lackluster education and no choice in their public education because our system has long neglected improving some of our worst individual schools ? In fact, if you look at the trends you will see that GCPS started cleaning up their act in the community that Ivy Prep serves right around the time they knew that a petition was being planned.

Realistically, you are talking about an election process that at best would have taken from 2007-2010 to get a voting majority elected. Do you realize that all of these students would have lost their entire middle school years to the “vote them out” mentality ?

Strategically cycling our Stepford board members is going to be a long process, especially in Gwinnett with the heavy political hands at work within the school system. Don’t forget, this school system has become the largest employer in Gwinnett (which is saying something), has a 2B dollar budget and can make a whole lot of friends, most of whom benefit financially and politically from keeping the status quo in place.

Fact checker

September 15th, 2009
8:21 am

Courtney complained “Why should Gwinnett tax payers be forced to support something we have no say over?” Actually, the local community does have a say over the charter school. If they didn’t want the school and didn’t think it was offer something they couldn’t get at their traditional public school, then they would not enroll their children. The fact that the school is fully enrolled and maintains a waiting list tells me that the community supports the school, regardless of the Board of Education’s position on the matter.

[...] Republic) Calif. — Charter Schools Association Announces New Leadership Team (Reuters) Ga. — Charter school fans respond to Gwinnett court challenge (Atlanta Constitution Journal) La. — Rebuilding the Music in New Orleans (FOX) La. — Group [...]

Larry

September 15th, 2009
9:17 am

Jim, let’s say you have me under a court order, which requires me to repay $100 I owe you. I am now under a legal mandate to pay you $100 by a certain day.

On that day, I call you and offer to meet you at Hooters, so you can get your money.

When you arrive, I don’t hand you five twenty dollar bills, only four. I explain that I had no money for lunch and used the other 20 I legally owed you to pay for it. Let’s stipulate that you weren’t thrilled with this idea.

Strictly speaking, you didn’t pay for my lunch, I did. But because I paid for it with money that was legally yours, *effectively*, you really did involuntarily buy me lunch.

This is what the state did to GCPS by underpaying the legally required QBE amount and spending it elsewhere.

You may not see it this way and if you don’t, can I borrow $100 and pay you back next week?

jim d

September 15th, 2009
9:49 am

LOL LARRY,

Get Alvin to meet us at Hooters and I’ll buy both of you lunch—no questions asked!!

RightOnGCPS

September 15th, 2009
9:51 am

My child attends Gwinnett’s approved charter school and I would prefer that the money goes to those students. IVY Prep has kids attending from other areas, which have really good charter schools. Dekalb and Fulton counties have charter schools.

Thank you.

Gwinnett Parent

Maureen's accountability metric

September 15th, 2009
9:53 am

Seven blog topics in one day? Kanye West and topless Playboy models? Is it me, or is this pandering to the lowest common denominator in a desperate attempt to maintain some sort of relevance?

jim d

September 15th, 2009
9:59 am

Larry,

look at it from this point of view—–CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE PUBLIC SCHOOL.

That being said–the county is required to fund them as if they are ANY OTHER PUBLIC SCHOOL. something Alvin and the chipmunks refuse to do. Leaving the state no alternative but to assure the school is properly funded according to law.

personally I’m betting Alvin is looking to negotiate to reduce the funding going to charters without the expense of a long drawn court battle. In other words my friend, He’s bluffing by gambling tax dollars that really should be spent in classrooms. This is the arrogant attitude that has long past suggested he be replaced along with every BOE member.

jim d

September 15th, 2009
10:09 am

Hey, know what Larry?

Just accured to me that since alvin has obviously had people reading the state constitution that now might be an excellent time for Mr. Thubert Baker to have another chat with him re: open meetings.

Whatta think? should we write a few letters to the A/G suggesting same?

Button Gwinnett

September 15th, 2009
10:11 am

Hasn’t anyone told you that Alvin Wilbanks and his five (yes, just five for nearly a million people) board members are above the Georgia law? Perhaps District Attorney Danny Porter will investigate the school system also, not just the land deals ($37 mil) of the commission.

The Gwinnett system is becoming heavily populated by minorities, but with only five board members, the school board will remain “white bread” for at least another decade, causing more racial and ethnic stress. Gwinnett is not so “Great” anymore. Just still arrogant.

jim d

September 15th, 2009
10:15 am

Porter has already proven he has no balls when it comes to the school system.

Maureen Downey

September 15th, 2009
10:28 am

I would second Jim’s concern about open meetings violations. As I have said here before, the willingness of government to circumvent open records and open meetings laws is shocking. Having written dozens of ranting editorials on this, I have to tell you it’s not an issue that engages most people. Only a handful of well-informed citizens understand or care about the consequences of closed dealings by public bodies. (Until they notice the cranes in their yards because the county commission has overruled the zoning board and approved a shopping center next door.)
Please keep up the pressure.

Larry

September 15th, 2009
10:43 am

Charter schools WERE getting identical funding until the Georgia Charter School Commission happened. The way they’re doing it now, the state could charter 45 schools in Gwinnett and they would be the only schools receiving QBE funding. It’s fatally flawed.

I wouldn’t mention lunch or anything else to Alvin for a few days. He recently found out I was going to publicly support something he did and I’m not sure he’s able to breathe outside the paper bag yet.

Putting a bug in Baker’s ear is an interesting thought, since I expect he’s not too thrilled with GCPS about now. This could be almost as much fun as watching your wife and your girlfriend meet for the fist time.

jim d

September 15th, 2009
10:46 am

Thanks Mo,

here’s some suggested reading for anyone interested.

http://www.gfaf.org/resources/sunshine_laws.pdf

As for the Gwinnett BOE’s flagerant disregard i point you to 50-14-3 (4) please note the word “future” which would not include the actual vote on aquisition, which the BOE continues to do despite the fact that the BOC discontinued this practice when this all came to light a few years ago.

Jennifer

September 15th, 2009
11:01 am

RightOnGCPS,

Aren’t you just a tad bit concerned that GCPS is doing this so they don’tt have to fund your “district approved” charter school to the same level that the state is saying should be going to a charter ? As evidenced by the $$ amount per student difference complaint ?

And I wouldn’t complain too much if this is the Math and Science school because I would imagine that between the business community and the Gwinnett Public Schools Foundation $$$ you are getting some additional support to make up any difference. Now if you are New Life Academy….I wonder if you are getting the same contribution from the business community and the Public Schools Foundation $$$ ?
That would be interesting.

jim d

September 15th, 2009
11:04 am

Larry—you are killing me today.

“Charter schools WERE getting identical funding until the Georgia Charter School Commission happened.”

then why is new life operating on less per student than other GCPS’s? No my friend funding is less than equitable!

X-Ivyparent

September 15th, 2009
11:23 am

My daughter used to attend Ivy Prep Academy. I think the real topic is why other charter schools have done well without extra money and why Ivy Prep was on TV so much always asking for money. I was on the inside and I know exactly why. The are not handling the funds correctly. Here are some examples.
1. All of the children have Macbooks. P.S. The were not all donated.
2. Instead of finding a used building to use, they rent 2 brand new buildings and one of the buildings is not being used. The rent on that building itself is aroud $20,000.
These are just some of the missmanagement of funds that happens at Ivy Prep.

Just something that needs to be checked!

jim d

September 15th, 2009
11:28 am

xivy,

finally some legitamate concerns. Thanks

Dr. John Trotter

September 15th, 2009
11:38 am

Maureen: School systems flagrantly violate the law all the time. Thugs, gangstas. They want children and teachers to abide by the law. Good. But, the school systems (under the non-leadership of the character-challenged superintendents) violate the law at will.

X-Ivyparent

September 15th, 2009
11:40 am

Nina Gilbert tells the children and will tell you “We are not a GCPS. This is a school of choice, and if you don’t like it here you may leave. She also told the children, ” Do you want to go to a school where this is fighting, gangs, and teachers that don’t teach?” It is so funny that she wants GCPS’ money now as much as she put them down. I think the charter board seen something that we didn’t see and that is why they made there decision. When I left, the GCPS that I sent my daughter to welcomed her with open arms. Over half of the children that started in Ivy Prep left before the end of the year and most of them went into GCPS. GCPS didn’t receive a dollar for any of the children because it was already given, at the beginning of the year,to IVY PREP! If anything Ivy owes GCPS money from last year!

Ex-Ivy Prep Parent

September 15th, 2009
12:11 pm

The interesting thing is that no one from Ivy Prep mentions the fact that approximatly 20% of the children were pulled from the school in January and Feb of 2009. If Ivy Prep says that they are doing such great strides in education, why would people pull their children out. The fact of the matter is that our children take the CRCT. My child exceeded the CRCT before Ivy and continues after Ivy. Ivy wants to say they do so much better than the rest of Georgia. They do if you compare apples to oranges. Ivy Prep has no special needs student at their school. The rest of the schools they are comparing themselves to have Special Education scores in their number, so it is hard to say they do anything better if the circumstances are not the same. They delay SST’s for many months to basically discourage people from using the SST process. Maybe if they were on the same playing field with the rest of GA, you would see different number. They mismanage money. That is evidenced by the building they are paying too much for. The Mac notebooks is just flash to get people to come to the school. A big waste of money.

Once upon a time Ivy Parent

September 15th, 2009
12:25 pm

First of all, Check Gwinnett county records and tally up how many students returned back to Gwinnett County in 2008 and 2009. It was not because it was the first year. Parents who could not be overpowered and brainwashed about the Gwinnett system took their loved ones home to Gwinnett before the school year ended and many during the 4th quarter. Those who were brainwashed stayed. Some Parents did wake up from the spell and did not return this fall.

When we talk about out passing your peers, there has to be a dot with lines drawn. Where are the lines. What you see on the media does not represent the trut. My daughter spent more time acting and performing for the visitors and the cameras that were always rolling. Please compare apples to apples not apples to oranges. You cannot sweep dirt under the carpet and don’t expect that eventually it will need cleaning. Gwinnett has to stand for something. Someone just cannot decide to move into your home and now you are responsible for paying their bills without your approval. The school spends foolishly. A little common sense is necessary here. Ivy Prep is a school of choice and Ivy Prep made the choice, not Gwinnett. Nina Gilbert made many choices to spend foolishly. Ivy Prep was careless with their money and is constantly trying to impress the public by over spending and then goes on TV crying for money

Maureen Downey

September 15th, 2009
12:36 pm

Does anyone know the turnover rate at Ivy Prep? I met last year ago with the national head of the KIPP schools. There had been similar criticism of the turnover rate at one of the KIPP schools in San Francisco. However, the KIPP CEO said the exit rate had slowed down over time.
There is probably some adjustment to a new charter school and some parents who find it’s not a good fit.
However, I think the financial issues at all start-up charters are critical to watch because most charters fall apart due to the money aspect, not the academics.
Maureen

Once upon a time Ivy Parent

September 15th, 2009
1:03 pm

Maureen you are correct, many of the issues was not the academics because my daughter was able to handle the workload with no problem. What you read on paper and saw on TV is not what was delivered. More will unfold in time Maureen. Great Marketing though.

RightOnGCPS

September 15th, 2009
1:04 pm

Jennifer

September 15th, 2009
11:01 am
RightOnGCPS,

Aren’t you just a tad bit concerned that GCPS is doing this so they don’tt have to fund your “district approved” charter school to the same level that the state is saying should be going to a charter ? As evidenced by the $$ amount per student difference complaint ?

Jennifer, to answer your questions – no, I’m not concerned because GCPS is fully vested in making this program work and yes, I am referring to GSMST. I would like to see additional programs that are put together like this model for other areas including: ARTS, Communication, Nursing, etc….

I don’t believe this has to be administered at the state level, but I believe the state should put a little fire under districts that are slow to produce charter schools.

I don’t believe charter schools are necessary at elementary school levels, but I think each district should have a couple of charter schools for middle school and highschool. I believe that in elementary school that kids should be taught basic (reading, math, science, social studies, language arts, etc.) and by 6th grade they should have a choice that is geared toward a career. I’m not proposing that we do away with higher level math, english, science or history; but the additional requirements should be geared toward a career by the time children reach highschool.

Maureen's accountability metric

September 15th, 2009
1:06 pm

Maureen if you are so concerned about violations of state law that you ask a poster to “keep up the pressure” why aren’t you keeping up the pressure on Crawford Lewis to answer questions about the flagrant violation of having a grievance hearing illegally shut down? Shut down, notably, right before that teacher was about to document cheating ongoing in DeKalb.

Isn’t ongoing cheating just as important an issue as open meetings? If so, why aren’t you keeping up the pressure on Lewis and the allegations, allegations that involve no less than a state senator violating the law?

Are you that afraid to give credibility to one of the AJC’s political opponents, if it turns out that person is absolutely in the right when it comes to DeKalb schools, at the highest levels, turning a blind eye to a teacher’s rights, just to suppress evidence of cheating?

RightOnGCPS

September 15th, 2009
1:17 pm

It’s not the AJC’s responsibility to keep up the pressure regarding cheating at the schools, I would say it’s the community and parents of that school district. The AJC is there to lend a loud voice to the teachers, parents and community about the cheating.

If enough parents show up on a continous basis to voice concerns, I think your voice will be heard LOUD and CLEAR.