If flexibility works for charter schools, why not for all schools?

The cries of protest grow louder as two more school districts join Gwinnett in suing the  state for taking money away from their “traditional” public schools to fund charter schools in the districts.

As we talked about here earlier, those charter schools are public schools and serve children from the community. However, the charters are being approved over the heads of the local school boards.

Believing that the local boards were treating charter school applicants as unwashed and unwelcome kin, the state created a commission that could override the objections of local boards and not only approve charters, but, with a bureaucratic  sleight of hand, also ensure those schools received local dollars.

I think there is a valid constitutional argument over whether the state law undermines the role of local boards of education. Court cases in other states have gone both ways.  I have no idea what our courts will do, but the case will be interesting.

According to the AJC news story, a lawsuit is expected to be filed this week in Fulton County Superior Court on behalf of Bulloch  and Candler systems charging that the state is illegally sharing money meant for Bulloch and Candler with an outlaw charter school.

The Bulloch-Candler suit targets  Statesboro’s Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts & Technology, a middle and high school of 123 students.

Under the state’s funding formula, CCAT receives $367,464 from money carved out of the Bulloch Schools. Approximately $1,567 in state funds is being withheld from Candler County to pay for its sole student at the CCAT.

“It’s not run by our board … it’s not controlled by our board as the state constitution says it shall be,” said Bulloch Schools Superintendent Lewis Holloway in the AJC story.  “Over 10 years we are going to lose $ 4 million — that is a significant amount of money to not go to our students. The constitution says that you can’t spend local revenue on non-public school items without our voters voting on it.’’

Unlike Gwinnett’s lawsuit, the Bulloch-Candler lawsuit moves to freeze the funds in an interest bearing account during litigation in case the court decides the money is rightfully theirs.

If the courts rule for the districts, the pace of new charters in the state will likely slacken as the evaporation of local funds is a serious obstacle. And as we have noted earlier, it’s financing problems that often doom charters, not the academic side of the equation.

I still have to ask the state DOE and the state board: If the flexibility of charters is the secret to their success, why not throw out the rule books – watch where they fall because they are now thick enough to take out a city block — and extend greater freedom to all schools?

19 comments Add your comment

Dr. John Trotter

September 29th, 2009
10:33 am

Maureen: You are exactly right! I have been saying this for years. Free up the schools! Free up the teachers! Let them be creative! Everyone — school districts and teachers — are suffering are suffocating under the stupid and ineffective rules that are nearly the size of the IRS Code!

Dr. John Trotter

September 29th, 2009
10:34 am

“are suffering [and] suffocating…” You know, I should re-read my posts the get the typos out, eh? LOL!

Old School

September 29th, 2009
10:47 am

Give me back the old QCCs and let me teach! PLEASE! The QCCs worked very well as a guideline for this vocational veteran. Add to that the input from my Advisory Committee to keep me and my program current on their needs and the trends & technology in industry and it was very successful. I could tailor the various areas in my program to meet the needs and interests of each student and better prepare them for work or post-secondary training.

Just because a teaching method is “research based” doesn’t mean ALL teachers must teach that way. Give us some latitude and freedom to seize the teachable moments. Hold us accountable but let us TEACH!


September 29th, 2009
10:50 am

10:33- how do you purpose selling your idea of ‘no accountability’ to the voter?


September 29th, 2009
11:00 am

It is all about money, power, and control…not about what is best for the kids-never has it been that! Wouldn’t you just love to know how much of our tax dollars are diverted to pay for these law suits? Figure that out and then tell me how any of it benefits the kids.


September 29th, 2009
11:11 am

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but to the best of my knowledge local school systems do have this option.

LEA start-up charter schools, conversion charter schools and Charter Systems all appear to operate under the same standards as a private start-up charter school.

Maureen Downey

September 29th, 2009
11:29 am

Larry, You are right about the Charter Systems Act, which allows entire systems to convert to charter status, as has Decatur, Marietta, Gainesville and Warren County. And Gwinnett has taken advantage of the the flexibility contract created by the state.
There are, though, lots of hoops to each of these, but they are routes to greater freedom, as you note.


September 29th, 2009
11:45 am

It’s ironinc how Gwinnett does not welcome charter schools but yet they were the first district to enter into the IE2 contract with the state, which essentially gives them some of the same flexibilities as charter schools. I guess everyone, including the State Board of Education and Kathy Cox, missed that. Interesting how people are now outraged because of the lawsuit when they should have been outraged at the contract. Also interesting is how quickly Gwinnett put the contract to a vote, without fully engaging the public, and again, the great SBOE said nothing. If we want change then we need to demand that they set limits on the amount of time the SBOE members can serve, some of them have been there since the 80’s…there is no change taking place if the board membership has not changed in two decades.


September 29th, 2009
11:59 am

Gwinnett does welcome charter schools, and they have approved a few. They don’t approve of one charter school, because it is an all-girls school.

jim d

September 29th, 2009
2:49 pm

So Larry,


Look back into your crystal ball my friend.

Here’s a trivia question for you.

its a two parter.

a) how many charter applications have been filed with the GCBOE?


b) how many of them that were not the school system have been approved by the GCBOE?


September 29th, 2009
3:08 pm

This IS supposed to be multiple choice, you know.

a) 3
b) 0

What do I win?

jim d

September 29th, 2009
4:11 pm

well you get to buy me a cold beverage

Cobb County

September 29th, 2009
4:36 pm

We have to realize that it’s not a one size fits all society. We need different approaches to reach different groups. I didn’t realize the PTA was against charter schools until reading this article, http://www.edreform.com/Resources/Editorials/?Not_Your_Moms_PTA&year=2001

I’ll have to think twice about supporting them in the future. It’s time to realize we different options.


September 29th, 2009
6:08 pm

Old School: and not all “research based” claims actually hold up to scrutiny. For example, when Reading First (since discredited after FOB made billions from taxpayers) talked about things being research based, the research did not even try to see if the approved methods worked on specific subgroups, such as poor kids, gifted kids, or ESOL kids. I asked to see the research on certain methods and ESOL kids (I could not believe the methods were recommended for them) and was told “there is no research on this method and ESOL kids specifically.” Humm. I think we could put the “research based” sticker on dog doo and some systems would snap it up and mandate its use!


September 29th, 2009
6:09 pm

Are kids assigned randomly to charter schools, or do they self-select? I am pretty sure they self-select, which would of course grossly skew the results they get.

Old School

September 29th, 2009
8:29 pm

catlady, are you as Max(Thompson)-ed out on this stuff as I am? I wonder what would happen to achievement if the technology were removed from the classrooms? I trotted out a filmstrip projector and some old filmstrips and completely captivated all of my students with that unusual gadget. Many were late to their next classes because they wanted more.

Too bad the bulb burned out.

[...] report slight growth thanks to enrollment gain at charter schools (The Suncoast News) Ga. — If flexibility works for charter schools, why not for all schools? (Atlanta Constitution Journal) Mass. — Charter school reaps fruits of the harvest (South Coast [...]


September 30th, 2009
9:51 pm

[...] looked more like a lake after Monday's flooding rains. Lovett, 5-0 and ranked No. … If flexibility works for charter schools, why not for all schools?According to the AJC news story, a lawsuit is expected to be filed this week in Fulton County [...]


September 30th, 2009
9:52 pm

Larry M: New Life Academy of Excellence, this is not a system charter school and was approved by GCPS. You need to update your statistics. The county is not totally opposed to the concept it seems.