A civil discourse: Choice, charters and money

I received this e-mail from a reader named Nate and thought it was provocative on the issues of choice and charters. I am posting Nate’s original note to me, my response and his follow-up. (Pour a cup of coffee as this is long.) He gave me clearance to put it all up here for our discussion.

After reading an Op-Ed piece that you posted in a recent paper titled “School boards: Charter school law violates constitution” I thought to myself… It would be good if an organization like the GA Public Policy Foundation or some similar unbiased organization could publish a paper that details in something akin to layman’s terms, how education funding works within the context of Charter Schools, and other choice legislation in GA.  They could highlight a few scenarios:

How Is Education Funding for Traditional Pubic schools affected when..

1.  A “regular ed” student previously enrolled in a traditional public school attends a charter school

2.  A “regular ed” student previously enrolled in a private school attends a charter school

3.  A “special ed” student previously enrolled in a traditional public school attends a charter school

4.  A “special ed” student previously enrolled in a private school attends a charter school

5.  A home schooled student previously attends a charter school

6.  A mild-case (i.e., student deemed to require less than $10K to be educated in trad setting) special needs student elects the Special needs voucher

7.  A severe case (i.e., student deemed to require more than $25K to be educated in trad setting)  special needs student elects the Special needs voucher

8.  As a state we max out on the tax scholarship amount which I believe is $50 million.

There could be other scenarios worth highlighting but these are just a few that immediately come to mind.

Personally, I would love to know the answer to these questions, however, if I had to guess the answer to many may start with “it depends….”.  That said, surely some answers could be devised based on a set of ideally unbiased assumptions.  Ultimately, $$$ (ie. control of it) is what a lot of the debate is about.  Would you, by chance, know the answer to any of these questions?  Alternatively do you know of any documents, websites, or otherwise that you can point me to to find out.

Personally I am a supporter of school choice. That said, I do think that it’s still worthy of debate by informed parties.  However, it just seems that in GA, at least based on what I hear and read, that the debate is quite primitive.  When we talk about how charters, the tax scholarship, or the special needs voucher (for example) impact public schools, why is the debate not quantifying the amount and then qualifying exactly how that impacts traditional public schools, if at all.  It seems a bit trivial to hear leaders, and particularly larger ones that have 9 digit revenues complaining about how any of GA’s choice initiatives are undermining public education especially since such a tiny fraction of students are taking advantage of them.

I recall hearing a senior education official in a Cobb County presentation mention a number that I am pretty certain was far north of $50K as the amt required to educate a single special needs child with severe disability.  To be fair it was not a presentation that discussed anything pertaining to choice, it was just a generic presentation about the state of Special Education in the county base on what I recall.  Nevertheless, I immediately thought to myself that if the parent of that child opted for a special needs voucher, wouldn’t several tens of thousands of dollars be saved since the special needs voucher doesn’t come close to matching that dollar amount???  I am not implying that the quality of services would be better or worse as that would be best left up to the parent to determine, but based purely on dollars and cents why not promote more vouchers, for example.

I just wish that someone who is sensible and that has an audience could really try to frame the debate about school choice in GA around facts that are devoid of the fear mongering, rhetoric, and continual regurgitation of shallow points that are raised by both advocates and proponents alike. I want to believe that we truly have leaders in GA that understand the complexities of the issues and that perhaps by the time that it makes it to the general public for consumption that the points are deliberately watered down a bit; however, of late, I have begun to doubt that assumption.  Personally, I just want the unbiased facts.

Also, last night while doing some casual Internet searching I also came across a somewhat dated (2005) policy paper that talks about how School Choice Can Help States reduce Education Costs.  I have not finished it yet, but it does seem like it would be a timely read for state leaders as they prepare to grapple with the state budget.  If you are interested, you can view it at http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa551.pdf.

I suppose the point of my letter to you is somewhat of a vent about the lack of quality debate that is occurring in the mainstream around school choice.  On the other hand, it is also a request to ask if you could reach out to contacts you may have to try to pull together an article that you could publish that takes an initial stab at a higher quality debate around the issues.  At the end of the day, while much of this “debate is going on, we still have student in GA that need to be educated at a much higher level than they currently are if they are to have a good chance of being able to compete with their global counterparts in any areas that require an ability to be able to think critically, solve problems and innovate.

And this was my response with Nate’s follow-up responses in italic:

On the individual scenarios that you post, I think the issue is that traditional public schools contend that there is an impact and  al oss when students leave for charter schools that go well beyond the per pupil costs.

In theory, any child who leaves a traditional school – whether reg ed or special ed – for a charter is only taking his/her per pupil allotment with them. But the systems argue that the impact is far larger as there are fixed costs to running a school whether there are 230 kids or 200. So, if 30 kids leave for the new charter down the road, the traditional public school still has heating and electrical costs etc. that remain the same despite the loss of those 30 kids. I have no doubt that a surge in charters would mean less operating money for traditional schools. The question is whether that ought to matter.

I agree 110% with your point about whether it should matter.  I would add to your sentence and say.. should it matter if your main focus is to insure that the child is an optimal learning environment that works for the individual child.  Furthermore, as is the case with an underperforming charter school, a traditional public school should also be forced to “close” as well. We are well past the point of more reform that could take years to implement and reap benefits from because meanwhile the students that are subjected to poor instruction are left further and further behind as time progresses.

To me, the bigger issue is who controls the decision-making. Everyone points to big systems like Gwinnett that should easily be able to accommodate a few charter schools, but there are small systems in Georgia that have put into place strong reform models.

If the local school board has a plan in place, how far should the state go to make the system accept charter schools that divert from those plans? Those small systems have less money on hand, so divvying it up with even two charter schools could create a funding strain.

I suppose that is why some of the smaller systems have opted to convert to charter systems.  Again, I agree as well that the bigger issue is who controls the decision-making.  Ultimately, I think that it should be the parent. My point about needing to have a more quantifiable/quantifiable debate is highlighted even more by the small school system scenario you raised.  If there is in fact a point of diminishing return for ALL students as a result of fiscal concerns then perhaps that’s the debate that needs to take place.  I have never seen any one size fits all reform efforts that work in all cases and charters are no different.  Perhaps, some metrics for determining this “point of diminishing return” particularly for smaller systems needs to be determined.  In some cases it legitimately may not make sense to have even a single charter.  In that case, the taxpayers in that particular district could lobby the board to convert to a charter system as a way to provide the innovation they are looking for in their school(s).    As a side note I still can not figure out why every Supt in the state (even those responsible for the larger school districts)  wasn’t/isn’t chomping at the bit to convert to being a charter system.  It seems to me that it would serves two key purposes — 1. More autonomy that should theoretically make it easier for them to be successful, and 2. Position them to better compete with charters and private schools.  Perhaps there is a fundamental issue I am missing there but that’s another one that I can not figure out.

A good place to review the research on choice is Columbia University’s National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education. Taken as a whole, I think it would be fair to say that the research suggests that the move to charters and choice has not proven yet to change education outcomes.

Thanks for the Columbia info; I will definitely take a look at their research.
Every charter that is approved has hundreds of “claims” for lack of a better term  that essentially serve as the terms that the school are bound to meet.  Is it possible that the reason that the research may show educational outcomes of charters to be mixed is due to insufficient accountability on the part of the charter authorizing body (i.e., the LEA Board, Charter Commission, Local university in some states, etc..)?  I am of the school of thought that better oversight of charters (on an annual and not just at the charter renewal milestone) would in fact lead to them performing at a higher level than their public school counterparts.  After all, aside from a unique curricular theme or focus, you are not likley to see a charter approved that has achievement targets that at a minimum are equivalent to area traditional public schools.  I would tend to believe that the majority of charters, after about their 3rd yr of Operation are shooting for academic achievement targets that intend to exceed that of their peer traditional public schools.

I fear that we spend a lot of time debating choice when the real solution is teacher quality and how we educate teachers.

Again, Amen to that!  Unfortunately the problems that plague public education are so broad and complex and what’s worse is that many extend beyond the “system” (i.e, poor parenting, economic downturn, job loss); that we cannot afford to only focus on one singular issue, because in the process we may be doing irreparable damage to generations of kids.  While we work on arguably the most important issue of improving teacher quality (pehaps with a little performance based pay, but that is a different topic altogether), we have to provide alternatives, even if not permanent, to as many students as possible to seek out the best educational environment possible until we can provide better prepared teachers for them.  I recall reading a piece of research years ago that stated that if a child is exposed to two consecutive years of poor teaching that you will start to see full grade levels of negative academic achievement show up with the student.  Assuming that to be accurate, I think we have a long way to go on the issue of teacher quality.

138 comments Add your comment

Interesting quote

December 29th, 2009
4:12 pm

***I recall reading a piece of research years ago that stated that if a child is exposed to two consecutive years of poor teaching that you will start to see full grade levels of negative academic achievement show up with the student. Assuming that to be accurate, I think we have a long way to go on the issue of teacher quality.***

Why is it we never, ever, read about research that shows the effect of students being exposed to chronically disruptive classmates, and the effect they have on learning when they aren’t removed from the regular classroom environment?

Maybe that would require an honest discussion that our society lacks the will to tackle.

And when it comes to lacking the will to tackle, how many reforms would truly be needed if we as a society were willing to place the primary responsibility for learning on the student? You know, like what’s going to happen in the real world when they grow up.

Interesting quote

December 29th, 2009
4:51 pm

***Unfortunately the problems that plague public education are so broad and complex***

Ever notice how suddenly not so broad and complex teaching and learning become when chronically disruptive students are not allowed to destroy the integrity of the learning environment?

Home school and private schools seem to notice, as they often get superior results at a fraction of the costs.

Is it really that the problems are that broad and complex, or is it that the education bureaucracy needs them to be defined as broad and complex, to justify the continued existence of a broad and complex bureaucracy?

Joel

December 29th, 2009
5:56 pm

No, no, no, you folks don’t understand the root cause of the problems in the least! Here are the facts : The Georgia legislature is always careful not to spend much on education is because they know if the general population ever becomes well read, too many will develop the ability to figure out what really goes on under the gold dome and an angry mob with pitchforks and torches will chase the legislators all the way to the Alabama border.

Fulton County Observer

December 29th, 2009
6:34 pm

It is my sincere belief that each school system cares about the money more than anything else, and parental options for school of choice will never get the support needed here in Georgia. This is one of the reasons Georgia schools are so far behind the rest of the country.
There are currently 39 states that have entities separate from the State Boards of Education, allowing for fair and equitable decision making on behalf of state and federal laws. This is could very well be the reason Governor Perdue established the Georgia Charter Schools Commission as “a state-level, independent charter school authorizing entity. The commission has the power to approve or deny petitions for commission charter schools and renew, non-renew, or terminate commission charter school petitions in accordance with Georgia law”. And yet, the Georgia Department of Education along with many school districts are more concerned with denying full funding to charter schools that will play an important role in serving the educational needs of Georgia’s students.
Instead, they prefer to continually make mistakes that have been detrimental in improving student achievement, putting students first, and making a difference. For example, in reviewing what the GA DOE had to say in answer to the failure of such an unprecedented number of 6th and 7th graders on the Social Studies portion of the CRCT as well as the 8th grade Math, the “excuses”/answers given are inexcusable. The Qs & As are based upon some serious “if and then” analysis created to cover up the despondent results of the CRCT.

Many parents are still not satisfied as to why the 8th grade Math wasn’t thrown out other than the perhaps the bureaucratic educators had much to lose regarding their reputations and were more concerned with being embarrassed after the curriculum received such high accolades prior to the actual testing. In the end, everyone and everything else was to blame instead of those sitting in the “big offices”. See http://public.doe.k12.ga.us/pea_communications.aspx?ViewMode=1&RctPressView=Enewsletter&obj=1634.

And what about HB 251? Just about every school superintendent in the state as well as the school boards, immediately put into place policies to make it difficult for parents to send their children to schools that were more academically sound than the schools that their children were attending. School of choice is not an option here in Georgia, regardless of what is best for academic achievement for students.

GA Teacher

December 29th, 2009
9:19 pm

School systems are very political machines that control huge sums of money. You can dictate curriculum, furloughs, tests, transportation, etc. and the districts will grin and bear it. Mess with the money and they will declare war. Money is power… I would love for a charter to open in my county. The current system is outright ineffective. There are far too many chronically disruptive children who cannot be held accountable for their actions (if the district expels them, then they lose money…the common theme here). Also, the pay scale for teachers is crazy. I see people with Bachelor’s degrees and 5 years experience doing a bang up job for 40 grand a year and people with Specialists and Doctorates with 20 years doing a pitiful job for nearly twice that. That would not fly outside of government jobs. I went and received a higher degree…learned little, but received a great pay raise. Go figure.

GA Teacher

December 29th, 2009
9:25 pm

Just to clarify my earlier post, my Master’s degree was in education. That was a complete joke and I made all As. I studied harder in High School. I know I will get creamed for this, but here it is: schools of education are basically cash cows for colleges and need to be eradicated for secondary teachers. Secondary teachers should major in their subject and minor in education. I teach science and there are many science teachers who learned their content field in schools of education and not from science professors. Not all, but many. I know, content knowledge does not make a good teacher, but it is impossible to be a good teacher without content knowledge.

uberVU - social comments

December 30th, 2009
12:07 am

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by TrumpNetFlorida: “Choice, charters and money” http://tinyurl.com/ycswwdk…

Public school mom

December 30th, 2009
12:26 am

Thank you GA Teacher for your honesty. Some of the worst teachers my children have experienced all had PhDs in “Education Leadership” and the best secondary teachers had degrees in substantive fields of mathematics or science.

If I were a teacher, I’d probably get a masters or PhD in education to get the pay raise so I don’t blame teachers for getting these. I blame Kathy Cox for implementing a system of pay increases for these types of degrees.

But back to topic. I have yet to see a Georgia Charter school that is truly “innovative” or dramatically different from the local public schools.

One question I have always wondered about- Do Charter schools (that qualify) receive Title I funds?

MS Maniac

December 30th, 2009
7:44 am

Kathy Cox is not responsible for the salary schedules that are based on years of experience and advanced degrees. This system of compensation has been in place long before Kathy Cox became Supt. I believe that choice should be allowed within school districts. If a parent in the northern part of a county wants to drive their child to the fair south western part of the district to attend that school, more power to them. As a public school educator, I would welcome the opportunity to be able to use the competitive aspect to push teachers and students to achieve and get better at our stated goal of preparing kids for high school and beyond. The danger of charters is minimal. It is about funding models. Perhaps, Governor Purdue needs to push his funding model changes more and not so much the Charter commission. In addition, charter schools have much more sway and impact in states where teacher’s unions play a role in contracts. In those states, the charter school gives the teachers and adminstration flexibility around the collective bargaining agreements. In Georgia, the DOE is willing to grant to waiver requests that are well substantiated to traditional schools around class size, instructional time, course titles, and the like that there is little incentive for traditional schools to push charters if they are savvy enough to know what to reform and how to do it. The problems lie in the fact that traditional schools, administrators, and districts are not reform minded.

Lynn

December 30th, 2009
7:58 am

Public School Mom,

Yes, if eligible, the schools can apply to be Title 1 schools.

Have you visited Path Academy, International Community School, Central Education Center, Fulton Science Academy or any of the KIPPs (just to name a few)? In GA, many start up charters are outperforming traditional public schools, even when they have challenging populations. For example, DeKalb Path Academy consistently has some of the highest test scores of any middle school in DeKalb despite that fact that it is over 80 percent free and reduced lunch.

What most charter schools seem to do better than traditional public schools is provide students with the opportunity for effective remediation. By requiring longer and more days of schools and a longer overall calendar, nationally, charter schools have proven that the calendar does matter, just not in the way the debate has been held in Cobb. Of course, the research has shown that the increasing the hours and days in schools benefits poor, at risk children the most.

Charters hire and pay teachers what they are worth (and what they can afford). So, a masters and 10 years experience person teaching kindergarten probably won’t earn more than a new teacher who is a physics teacher. It is the way it should be — years of experience should matter, but filling a real need and being great at your job should earn you more as well.

Thinking outside the box (and acting outside the box) is very difficult for school systems, especially large ones. Most school systems struggle mightily with moving away from the whole one size fits most paradigm.

[...] Fla. — Cousteau to join proposed charter advisory group (Marco Island Sun Times) Ga. — A civil discourse: Choice, charters and money (Atlanta Journal Constitution) Mass. — Legislature pushes education overhaul (Boston Globe) Mass. [...]

Ray

December 30th, 2009
9:32 am

Research supports smaller classrooms, no matter what the format (Charter, traditional).

Want real change? Build schools, hire teachers.

All other debate is just a smoke screen to make us feel good without having to ante-up.

Reality2

December 30th, 2009
9:41 am

Ray,

You can always build school – it only takes money. However, hiring good teachers isn’ that easy. Just look at our schools today – they are full of “not-so-good” teachers because they can’t find good ones (or in some cases because they can’t get rid of them).

An easy way to make the local school board to approve more charter schools is if each charter school will bring more money to the system (beyond running that particular school) from the state. As long as you have the same amount of money that has to be divided up by yet another school, the system will not likely to support it. But, if they bring more money, they will be begging people to start charters.

Uncle Commode

December 30th, 2009
9:53 am

Enter your comments here

Uncle Commode

December 30th, 2009
10:00 am

These school adminstration nimrods – women – are more concerned with the cost of a box of Honeycomb at their local Kroger than they are about teaching. Just a misguided group of gossiping hippos!

Maureen Downey

December 30th, 2009
10:08 am

Uncle, Not sure why you are singling out women. There are plenty of male administrators. Aren’t most of the district superintendents men? Maureen

Nate

December 30th, 2009
10:37 am

Lynn,

“Thinking outside the box (and acting outside the box) is very difficult for school systems, especially large ones. Most school systems struggle mightily with moving away from the whole one size fits most paradigms.”

I agree with you on that point. Perhaps the answer in the larger districts is for them to truly decentralize management within their districts. In other words, most large districts have Area Superintendents that are responsible for enough schools that in and of themselves rival the size of some smaller districts. Perhaps it makes sense to truly empower those Assoc Superintendents with an ability to run their “zones” like mini school districts. It is not uncommon for these smaller “zones” to have student demographics that are significantly different from the demographics of students in other parts of the larger school district. So clearly in cases like that, a one size fits all does not make sense when looking at the district as a whole. However, if you break them into zones then perhaps the traditional systems can come a bit closer to meeting the needs of the diverse set of students that they serve. Also, in order for something like this to work, it would need to be more than just evident on an org chart. It would have to be sold to parents such that they know that their area Supt is their first point of contact for “system” level issues. And when parents go to their Assoc Supt, that individual truly has authority and autonomy to make decisions and run their “zone” with a level of autonomy that allows them to be effective in meeting the unique needs of the area they are responsible for. These Assoc Supt should also conduct area Board meetings in the specific area that they serve so that the constituents in that area can attend and hear about and discuss issues that specifically pertain to their area. Afterall, it is not uncommon for these Assoc Supt, to leave large districts like Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton to take on jobs as Superintendents of smaller school districts, so clearly, in some cases they are capable of governing like a Superintendent. Most people have no clues what Assoc Supts do and wonder why they are paid as much money as they make, so this would give them an opportunity to be more visible to the people they are supposed to serve, and it gives them an opportunity to prove why they are deserving of the salaries that they receive.

ScienceTeacher671

December 30th, 2009
11:15 am

I’m not convinced that choice per se is the answer. Do the states with the highest achievement allow school choice, and is this considered a factor in their success?

I agree that “one size fits all” rarely does, and especially where education is concerned. Stategies that are effective for wealthy suburban districts where most of the parents are college graduates and professionals probably will be less so in poor districts where most of the parents are high school dropouts, and vice-versa.

Also, some charters such as KIPP schools are touted as being quite effective with poor at-risk students, but only students whose parents are concerned and willing to fulfil KIPP’s parent contracts are allowed admission.

I’m a bit surprised that no one has picked up on the differences in funding costs between “regular” students, mildly disabled students, and severely disabled students. We tend to focus on the average per-student expenditures and forget that the average includes all three types of students, and that less than the average is generally being spent on “regular” students.

ScienceTeacher671

December 30th, 2009
11:18 am

Maureen! Is there any information about how the state board set the Math I and II cut scores last week, and are we going to discuss that?

Also could you check the filters? Thanks!

Shannon, M.Div.

December 30th, 2009
11:23 am

GA Teacher, I would agree that secondary teachers need to major in their subject matter and minor in education; however, I would emphasize that they do need to minor in education. Knowing a subject does not necessarily mean that one can teach it, although it is prior (prior meaning that you cannot teach what you do not know). Further, secondary teachers should be explicitly trained in teaching their type of content; literature teachers should have much different goals than math teachers, and courses can be structured accordingly.

I hate to say this, but the story of public education being broken is, IMO, a useless canard. What’s broken is the inability of folks to raise children. There’s too much neglect and outright abuse combined with a lack of lovingly holding children to standards.

When I was a kid, I didn’t learn to read in school. My mom taught me to read long before I entered a classroom. School reinforced and expanded on what I was doing at home–what I *had* been doing since I was younger than a toddler. My parents didn’t do my homework for me, but they talked to me about it. They asked me questions. I asked them questions. We were also grounded in a community of faith, which offered additional support to our family and helped my parents instill the values I still hold today. My parents weren’t saints, but they did work to put my needs first.

Our schools have two basic problems, neither of which can be solved in the schools. First, parents are disengaged from their children. Second, there are too many people disconnected from their communities. Moral values are difficult to teach outside of a community, particularly since so many moral values deal with how we are to treat other people. Attendance in communities of faith, however, is way down… and too many supposed communities of faith simply reinforce the desires of congregants to view themselves as morally superior to others, who are different and therefore worthy of condemnation. That isn’t faith.

Look, if parents aren’t involved with their children except to scream at them, and if families aren’t engaged in their larger communities to reinforce appropriate values, no school on the planet is going to successfully produce creative and intelligent members of society unless they practically take the kids away from their parents and give them new parents who actually care about their well-being. I’m not saying I have the solution here in this box, but so much focus on the schools is a red herring from the actual problem. The real problem, as many have said before me, is in the homes and not the schools.

jim d

December 30th, 2009
11:45 am

Mo can you set me free over on ——School boards: Charter school law violates constitution

PsychMom

December 30th, 2009
11:59 am

Thanks, Nate and Maureen. Very interesting discourse.

I’ve seen what happens when there is an exodus from a failing public school into an “as yet unknown” charter or charters. The public school ends up laying off or transferring staff to another school. One school that did not have critical mass was shut down. This was GOOD! (Except that many of the teachers from that school were put at other schools and they were such disenfranchised and miserable teachers, that they were just spreading their illness to another school with other children.) I also saw charters that did not do a good job either- and parents pulled their kids out. I think that parents (and kids)- as consumers- have a lot of power when there is actual choice.

SF

December 30th, 2009
12:14 pm

Nate: Here are the answers to your questions:
l. A ‘regular ed’ or any other kind of ed student enrolled in a traditional public school who attends a charter makes NO change in the state funding to the school district. There is, of course, an impact on the school from which the student enrolls. The school has anticipated this student’s attendance, has staffed it with teachers, one of which is expected to teach the student, signed a contract with those teachers, and then the student doesn’t appear. So the state funding which included that student’s part of the teacher salaries remains unavailable to the sending school, a negative impact. This same negative impact occurs when students enroll in another traditional school without notifying the previous school prior to the school district signing contracts with its teachers, now required by law by April 15 of the prior spring.

2. A ‘regular ed’ student previously entrolled in a private school attends a charter school. The state funding for that student goes to the district which must send it to the charter school. There is no impact on any traditional school because it didn’t know of the student’s existence. This is true of any private school student or any home school student who comes into the public school system, and charter schools are public schools.

3. A ’special ed’ student previously enrolled in a traditional public school attends a charter school. Same answer as #1. However, since ’special ed’ students are fewer in number, the hit to the traditional public school is more drastic. If several of these higher-costs-to-education students leave, it may require some type of reduction in force during the school year, which is emotionally upsetting to the remaining students some of which are quite fragile.

4. A ’special ed’ student previously enrolled in a private school attends a charter school. Same answer as #2. Charter schools, however, are less likely because of their generally smaller enrollment base to have special ed teachers on staff. Enrollments of these students may require hiring of a teacher which must be done with their current state allotment. Special ed teachers, particularly, are in very short supply. Any year’s education appropriation is done with the student counts from the previous year. This makes any kind of mobility a challenge for managing a school and a school district.

5. An at home schooled student previously attends a charter school. I think this means a former home school student. See answer to #2.

6. A mild case (i.e. student deemed to require less than $10K to be educated in trad setting) special needs student elects the Special needs voucher. While the costs of the students education may be $10K, the state money that follows the student is less than that, probably about half, and it varies depending on the school system from which the student transfers. The parents must give up their rights to a special education, which gets the receiving school off the hook for those costs. The traditional school must do the special need identification before the special needs voucher can be claimed, which is a long and extensive process. The traditional school, and school district, loses the money for that child’s component of the teacher costs, which had been assumed to be coming to the district/school, so that local taxes must continue to cover those costs of a teacher under contract. Also, the private school receiving the student may be a religious school, incorporating religion into their school day. This means your tax money and mine are paying for a particular religious education which seems to be prohibitied by the state constitution. Further, the receiving school does not have to teach the curriculum, administer state required tests, report their expenditures for these students to the state, or in any way be accountable for the state funds they receive.

7. A severe case (i.e. student deemed to require more than $25K to be educated in trad setting) special needs student elects the special needs voucher. Same answer as #6, just that the financial impact is greater on the traditional school. BTW, students are classified as special ed because of their disability, not by how much it costs. The federal law required a ‘free and appropriate’ education, FAPE, to the student by the public schools receiving public funds.

8. As a state we max out the tax scholarship amount which I believe is $50 million. The $50 million does not apply to special education vouchers, but to donations to school scholarship organizations. The practice of the state appropriation is to include all education dollars in the amount they want to appropriate for schools. So $50 million [or any other amount] allowed for school scholarship donations is $50 million [or any other amount] NOT provided to public schools. It could come out of any line item in the budget. Again, the school scholarships awarded are to private schools which do not have to teach the state curriculum, do not have to hire certified teachers, and may imbed religion into the school day. Also they do not have to test the students on the state tests and do not have to report how they spend state dollars or school scholarship dollars which were allowed to reduce a tax liability of the donor. No accountability for tax funds received. What other state appropriations do the tax payers allow absolutely no accountability for how it was spent and what the results of those expenditures produced? Are public school upset at the two tiered governance imposed for the expenditure of state money? You betcha’.

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Maureen Downey

December 30th, 2009
12:20 pm

SF, Thanks for that detailed and clear response. It was very helpful to see it spelled out so neatly.
Maureen

Joel

December 30th, 2009
12:31 pm

No matter what the “statistical data” purports to show, the U.S. has fallen well behind most of the civilized world in education. If the situation is ever to improve, the destructive insanity of “social engineering” MUST be done away with. A few years ago, I met a beautiful and charming young lady from Eastern Europe and was quite shocked at her superb capabilities in all areas of academics – her grasp of English is wonderful (better than mine). I asked which country she was from. When she told me, she asked, “do you know where it is?”. I replied, “yes, I certainly do”. Of all the Americans she had met, I was the ONLY one who had been able to explain where her country is located. When others said they had no clue where her country is, she would reply, “you know very well it’s in the heart of Africa!”. To hide their ignorance, they would nod in agreement and say, “oh, that’s right”. I asked about her level of education and she informed me she was a high school graduate…I patiently waited to hear which universities she had attended and what degrees she had earned, but she had never stepped foot in a university. At about the same time, my sister’s “nearly perfect and absolutely brilliant” eldest son had been selected to receive a Rhodes Scholarship, so I arranged for an unbiased duel of academic skills to take place (both parties are approximately the same age). The young lady’s vastly superior capabilities left my nephew very red faced, teary eyed, and embarrassed. My nephew is now a professor at Saint Hugh’s College at Oxford University. The young lady, “Joana” (almost thirty years my junior), is now my wife and a practicing attorney in Europe and she has earned multiple advanced degrees from Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania (where her great grandfather, Hermann Oberth, “The Father of Rocketry”, earned a doctorate). Not knowing much about my wife’s family before meeting them, I was proud to discover her father is a general surgeon and her mother is a family practitioner – the family places a high value on education. “Joana” has no intention of returning to this country (”America is no longer a decent place to live or raise children” – I concur). My “brilliant” nephew must be awfully busy with his professorship, when my wife and I stop by his flat to visit, we’re informed he’s not available – surely he has recovered from his embarrassment by now…In most Eastern European countries, students are offered a choice. They can either be quiet and studious in class and endeavor to become highly competent in academics, or go out and try to find a job. Those who are disruptive are expelled on the second offense – no exceptions and no chance of ever returning. Once a student is expelled, his education has gone as far as it ever will. In Eastern Europe, do they offer free breakfast and lunch for the “disadvantaged”? NOPE! Free tuition and books past grade five in public schools? NOPE! “Welfare”, “food stamps”, and “Section 8 housing”? No way – find a job! Many countries in Eastern Europe are also in the process of doing away with “socialized medicine”, they have discovered it is simply unworkable. Those people survived and defeated Marxism/socialism/communism and they’re determined to move forward, not backward! In the meantime, America, blinded by “political correctness”, has lost her way. My grandmother, who was born in the 1870’s, received the majority of her education from “The Original Blue Back Speller”, written by Noah Webster. Grandmother understood the master plan for success in life – “Root hog, or die poor!”. In other words, “get off your whiny behind and make something of yourself, or starve!”. Once the school systems of Georgia finally embrace that simple concept, all the so called “complicated problems” will suddenly vanish.

ricardus

December 30th, 2009
12:33 pm

All the above commentary is wasted. All choice comes from God to each individual. It doesn’t come from governments, courts or school boards. If you can remember that one truth then you have a start on being able to judge constitutionality.

The Librarian

December 30th, 2009
12:35 pm

Ga Teacher, you are right on regarding the schools of education. My undergrad degree is in history, not the hardest of majors, but still more difficult than T4 certification, which I obtained several years after my undergrad degree, or my masters in education. I believe that there are just too many schools of education and many of them will take anyone who applies. I know people who have received degrees in education who cannot construct a coherent sentence. As for those with specialist and doctoral degrees, I think that if the degrees come from respectable schools such as the state’s research universities, the degree holders should receive some extra compensation. Unfortunately, many of those degrees come of a roll with a donation of $15-20,000. Our legislature has tried to restrict these by refusing to accept degrees from certain schools, but then more schools just seem to pop up. I am from a small district. At one time, we have 5-6 people with Ed.D.’s from UGA and Georgia State and may 15-20 with specialist degrees from those schools, West Georgia and North Georgia. Most of those folks have now retired and we are left with folks with degrees from Nova, Phoenix and LMU, and these are our leaders. Yikes!!

Shannon, M.Div., I agree with you that this is not a school problem. It is a societal problem. The fact that many of my colleagues take shortcuts to obtain advanced degrees is just an example of what is happening in the larger community. Most of these people are decent folks who want better for themselves and their children, they’re just not willing to sacrifice for it. We, as individuals and as a society, are no longer willing to wait for something better. And, we want it given to us; we do not want to earn it.

Now, if all the people who think public schools are such disasters and who think they know how to fix them would just put their money where their mouths are and get involved (become the great teachers that you expect for your children), maybe we would get the schools that we all want.

Maureen Downey

December 30th, 2009
12:44 pm

Librarian and Ga. Teacher,
About four years ago, I had a long conversation with Kathy Cox about the surge in teachers getting “educational leadership” degrees – it had become the No.1 master’s degree in the state – even though they had no aspirations to administrative posts and were simply getting a degree for the salary bump that comes with it. While she acknowledged the problem, Cox was not in a rush to change it: Here is what I wrote at the time:

State School Superintendent Kathy Cox, a former teacher herself, is aware of both the proliferation and weaknesses of leadership degrees. “These programs are clearly not giving teachers or aspiring leaders or even current leaders the tools that they need to succeed in the classrooms of today, ” she says. “They are not learning about data analysis, they are not learning about accountability and standards or standardized testing or being instructional leaders.”

However, Cox is not willing to halt the pay raises for the degrees.

“These leadership programs have proliferated because, quite frankly, we haven’t been able to give teachers any other ways to get raises, ” she says. “Until we have a viable alternative, we can’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

My understanding is that this is now being looked at but not sure what action, if any, has been taken.
Maureen

Joel

December 30th, 2009
12:49 pm

Georgia’s schools are a COMPLETE DISASTER and every last one of the tired old excuses presented by career “educators” and career politicians have worn very thin! Don’t even bother to try and explain how your school is “just wonderful”, but “misunderstood”, those lies no longer fly!

Carolyn

December 30th, 2009
12:56 pm

I think that there is a broad concern that the charter school movement in Georgia is moving towards privatization. For profit management companies are using public tax payer dollars for the profits of their companies. Many of the services they provide costs millions of dollars to the tax payer. The governing boards are controlled by the management companies and communities have little input into the school operations, curriculum and budget. Another concern is the move for exclusive high income country clubs to start charter schools. The nature of this move is scarey and undermines the decisions of Brown versus Board of Education. Georgia should open its eyes to what is really going on with School Choice. Out for the vouchers In for privatization…Scarey…..

Joel

December 30th, 2009
1:04 pm

Teachers knew the approximate pay level of their chosen profession before they entered the field! Either you folks can teach effectively at your present salary level, or you are incompetent at any pay grade! Increased pay does not equate to increased performance! EVERYONE IS SICK OF HEARING ABOUT YOUR “LOW PAY”! “Waaaaaaaa, I could do a better job if I had more money! Waaaaa, waaaaaa, waaaaaa! GIMEEE, GIMEEE, GIMEEE! I deserve MORE! It’s not FAIR!”….TEACHERS NEED TO JUST GET OVER IT or FIND A NEW CAREER!

Joel

December 30th, 2009
1:07 pm

That’s another thing folks are SICK of hearing! “Brown vs. Board of Education” should not factor into every sentence school boards utter!

Uncle Commode

December 30th, 2009
1:11 pm

Maureen…fair enough!

Reprise…

These school adminstration nimrods – women and men – are more concerned with the cost of a box of Honeycomb at their local Kroger than they are about teaching. Just a misguided group of gossiping hippos!

Uncle Commode

December 30th, 2009
1:12 pm

Joel

December 30th, 2009
1:07 pm

They are so inept and stupid that their only mantra is B vs B.

Uncle Commode

December 30th, 2009
1:14 pm

My son went thru school under the IEP guidelines etc. I was present at every meeting and had to bascially bully some of those teachers into doing their jobs. Yes…just bully the hell out of them and force them to perform to the standards set forth via IEP.

Inept, lazy and stupid…

Carolyn

December 30th, 2009
1:40 pm

There are many teachers that are exceptionally talented and committed to quality education. As with any profession, there are those that do not perform their jobs effectively. Referring to teachers as “inept, lazy, and stupid” is generalized and not informed. And yes, Brown versus Board of Education is one of the most monumental pieces of legislation that has accomplished the goal of desegregating schools throughout our nation. It is sad that people do not respect this decision and many people continue to believe in policies that discriminate against groups in our diverse nation. Many of us seek to move forward and create greater educational and economic growth for all. Is this not what this discussion is all about?

Carolyn

December 30th, 2009
1:45 pm

Maureen, I just read your post about the Leadership degrees. I think it depends on the quality of the educational leadership program you are referring to. Many of the online programs I have personally observed do not offer the type of rigor that onsite programs offer. I attended a program that had courses that were up to date, informative, hands on, and quite prepared to offer the kind of content necessary for qualified leadership. I have several friends that have attended programs in some of the top universities in the country. Their experiences are similar. I think that your comment may be the result of so many of the online programs that do not offer the type of experiential training and hands on classes that are necessary for leadership training.

Unspoken truths

December 30th, 2009
1:47 pm

I wonder in those other countries that are running circles around us educationally, if the primary focus is blaming teachers for lack of perceived quality or is the primary focus holding the students responsible for their performance?

And for those who still insist on riding the blame the teacher bandwagon, why is it when teachers from these countries that are running circles around come to this country, they don’t talk about the lack of quality teachers here, they talk about the lack of value many students and their parents place on education?

Unspoken truths.

Carolyn

December 30th, 2009
1:56 pm

There are many schools and teachers throughout Georgia that are committed to quality education. Educators prepare for many years for their professions and should be respected and commended for their hard work and dedication. Like any profession, there are some that are not effective in the implementation of their jobs. That is with all professions, all types of businesses. It is important that parents be informed and proactive in their child’s education to ensure that their child is well educated. In reference to Brown versus Board of Education, it was a monumental piece of legislation to ensure integration of all schools. Like PL 142, it has moved our nation forward. We will continue to advocate equality in education for all regardless of race, religion, handicap, sex, or national original.

Nate

December 30th, 2009
2:19 pm

SF– thank you very much for the detailed responses. I do have a few follow-up questions if you have a moment to respond. I noticed that your responses were within the context of state funding. I am sure that it varies by school district, but do you know how local funding is impacted under the various scenarios? In the very large districts what % of their funding on avg is state vs. local? I would assume that in the smaller districts, particularly those in rural areas that they may have more dependency on the state funds thus impact may be greater there. If my questions are too general in nature, feel free to use specific examples of schools and/or districts that you have knowledge of.

I suppose that the spirit of what I am trying to understand is the scale of the loss of funds that we are talking about. I think that it’s fair to say that most are not eager to hear about schools “losing” money, although as many posters have implied, in some cases some schools need to lose their funds; and be forced to shut down altogether. Furthermore, along those lines, if we look a bit deeper at the traditional public schools that students who enter charters come from, would it be fair to say that a majority of them are from schools that were failing; or at a minimum not providing the level of education that is satisfactory to the parents of those students who opted for the charter? If so, and we assume that the parents in those cases are informed and know what is best for their child, should we even care that there is a negative impact to the school that they left? I realize the obvious response to this is what about the students that are left behind at the school… the other side of that argument is what about the kids who opted to leave who were previously not being adequately served to begin with. I do not htink that there is any remedy that works 100% for 100% of the students.

All of this said, is anyone out there aware of a traditional public school that was a good place of learning –not phenomenal or tops in the state, just good– that was/has been materially impacted financially due to the children in that school leaving to exercise choice(i.e., to attend a charter, private, or to be home schooled)? By material impact, I am meaning that the school had to go through staff reduction, for example. I realize this may be difficult to answer, but perhaps there is some administrator reading these posts that can speak to this.

Thanks all!

Joel

December 30th, 2009
2:35 pm

Everyone needs to understand the following information, it is extremely important. The “Communist Manifesto” has ten “planks” : “10. Free education for all children in public schools….” Public schools need to be abolished, they are the problem. Fifty five years ago, it was anticipated that “Brown vs. Board of Education” would increase the level of education available to certain groups, but it has seriously decreased accomplishment levels across the board. Being “politically correct” is a form of mental illness that begs to be abolished. Those of you who scream “RACISM” every time you don’t get your way are childishly delusional and “stuck in the 60’s”. If any of you, especially those such as “Carolyn”, have not read “The Ant and the Grasshopper”, I suggest you do so at this very instant. My First Amendment rights include the right to speak my mind, even if you strongly disagree with what I say…. The South African version of “The Ant and the Grasshopper” (readily adaptable to reflect current insane conditions in the U.S.A.)
The first part is the same as the original, but because it happens in South Africa there are a few complications…

“The starving, shivering offspring of the grasshopper demand to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while right next door they are living in terrible conditions, without food or proper clothing. A TV crew shows up and broadcasts footage of the poor grasshoppers, contrasting this footage with the ant, snug in his comfortable home with a pantry full of food. The public is stunned.
How can it be, in this beautiful field, that the poor grasshoppers are allowed to suffer so while the ant lives in the lap of luxury.
In the blink of an eye, SAGU (South African Grasshopper Union) is formed. They charge the ant with “species bias”, and claim that the grasshoppers are victims of 30 Million years of green oppression. The stage a protest in front of the ant’s house and trash the street. The TV crew interviews them, and they state that if all their demands are not met, they will be forced into a life of crime. Just for practice they loot the TV crew’s luggage and Hijack their van.
The TRC (Take and Redistribute Commission) justifies their behaviour by saying that this is a legacy of the ant’s discrimination and oppression of the grasshoppers. They demand that the ant apologies to the grasshopper for what they have done, and that he make amends for all the other ants in history that have done the same thing to the grasshoppers. PAGAD (People against Grasshopper Abuse and Distress) state that they are starting a holy war against the ants.
The president appears on the 8 o clock news, and says he will do everything for the grasshoppers that have been denied the prosperity they deserve by those who have benefited unfairly during the summer. The government drafts the EEGAD (Economic Equity for Greens and Disadvantaged) act retrospective to the beginning of the summer. The ant is fined for failing to employ a proportionate number of green insects, and, having nothing left to pay his taxes, his home is confiscated by the government for redistribution.
The story ends as we see a grasshopper finishing off the last of the ants food while the government house he is in (which happens to be the ants old house) crumbles around him because he does not know how to maintain it.
Showing on the TV (which he and a couple of friends stole from another ant) the president is standing before a group of wildly singing and dancing grasshoppers announcing that the new era of “equality” has dawned on the field.
The ant, meanwhile, is not allowed to work, because he has historically benefited from the field. In his place, ten grasshoppers have been appointed to harvest the grass for the winter, but the grasshoppers only work 2 hours a day and steal half of what they actually harvest.
When winter comes again and not enough food has been harvested they strike and demand an 150% increase in their wages so that they can buy food, which now has to be imported because the grasshoppers are not productive enough to produce enough food locally.
The ant packs his things, and immigrates to another field where he starts a highly successful food company, and becomes a millionaire by selling food to the field where he came from.” This fable clearly explains what “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)”, was REALLY all about.

Maureen Downey

December 30th, 2009
2:39 pm

Carolyn, I attended a conference a few years ago in which a four-year study of the nation’s 1,206 colleges and schools of education was released. The study said the leadership programs at those schools ranged from inadequate to appalling. Led by Arthur E. Levine, then the president of Teachers College, Columbia University, the study found high enrollments, weak instruction, watered-down programs and unskilled instructors. Levine described the programs as “awarding the equivalent of Green Stamps, which can be traded in for raises and promotions to teachers who have no intention of becoming administrators.” He said many of them had no actual classroom or school component. So, there were no real experiences of leadership.
I think we ought to rethink bonuses for degrees in general, but especially degrees that don’t relate to a person’s job.
Maureen

Joel

December 30th, 2009
2:39 pm

Carolyn – If you truly believe “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)” has improved education for any group, please check yourself into a mental hospital right away.

Unspoken truths

December 30th, 2009
2:45 pm

How are so many private schools and so many homeschools often able to run circles around public schools, often at a fraction of the cost, and often without the benefit of copious amounts of educational pedagogy?

Could it be that it’s because they, unlike many in the public schools, are willing to put the primary responsibility for learning on the student?

Unspoken truths.

Joel

December 30th, 2009
2:53 pm

Unspoken truths – You are 100% correct. Government schools engender a mentality of “entitlement”, which must, along with the public schools, be abolished.

Maureen Downey

December 30th, 2009
2:54 pm

Unspoken truths,
We don’t know how homeschoolers are doing academically. Take a look at this FAQ from one of the leaders in research on homeschooling, Rob Kunzman: http://www.indiana.edu/~homeeduc/FAQ.html

Here is Dr. Kunzman’s answer to the question of homeschoolers and academic performance

Q: How does homeschoolers’ academic performance compare with other students?

As I explain in the second of my Three Key Points About Homeschooling, evidence regarding this question is frequently mischaracterized by homeschooling advocates. The bottom line is, we can’t draw any conclusions about the academic performance of the “average homeschoooler,” because none of the studies drew from a random sample representing homeschoolers nationwide.

Kerry N.

December 30th, 2009
2:54 pm

Please forgive the off topic post but I’m hoping for some advice. After taking a few college courses over the past 15 years, I’m finally a full time student. I’m 36 yrs old and am thinking of becoming a teacher. Because of my lowered immune system, I have decided on middle school and because of my background and hobbies, I have determined computer teacher. I thought I had seen that as a degree option at UGA but cannot seem to find it, again.
Questions:
1) Does the computer teacher also teach other courses?
2) Is it required the other courses be science?
3) Is there a way to volunteer as a teacher’s assistant one day a week?
4) What advice or direction would you offer?

Thank you for your asssitance!

Joel

December 30th, 2009
3:02 pm

In my mind, it’s always been a complete mystery why someone with a useless degree in a trivial subject is considered “qualified” to teach. Years ago, I actually met a government school “teacher”, whose sole degree was in “African Architecture”. He couldn’t understand why teaching was the only field open to him. The shock hasn’t worn off yet.

Unspoken truths

December 30th, 2009
3:14 pm

I can’t reference any hard and fast data, only the common sense that says that homeschool and private school works, and works effectively for many, because people in general don’t make those kind of sacrifices for something that the government would otherwise provide, and for something they are still paying taxes for.

It’s amazing how simple it really can be for those who don’t have the benefit of thousands of hours of educational pedagogy, if they are only willing, like so many in the public schools aren’t, to hold the student primarily responsible for the student’s work.

For those who insist on riding the blame the teacher bandwagon above all else, look to other countries who are running circles around us.

If it’s always about the teacher’s performance, and never about the student’s performance like those on the blame the teacher bandwagon want to claim, why is it, when those teachers come to America, they don’t talk about the poor discipline and work habits of many American teachers, but instead talk about the poor discipline and work habits of many American students?

Unspoken truths, not spoken under the guise of being exceedingly polite.

Joel

December 30th, 2009
3:16 pm

Maureen Downey – You and the rest of the government employed “teachers” know exactly how home schoolers are doing academically, you’re simply living in denial because you know how poorly public school children are doing in comparison and you also know the day of government schools will soon come to an abrupt end due to open competition from private schools and home schoolers. Don’t give us that, “The bottom line is, we can’t draw any conclusions about the academic performance of the “average homeschoooler,” because none of the studies drew from a random sample representing homeschoolers nationwide.” DENIAL, DENIAL, DENIAL. Everyone seems to understand the reality except public school teachers, all of whom pretend they don’t have the facts and also fear for their “careers”.