Charter school case is clash of titans. Who will fall?

In a clash of titans, seven school systems – Gwinnett, Bulloch, Candler, DeKalb, Griffin-Spalding, Henry and Atlanta – and the state of Georgia are awaiting the state high court ruling on the charter school case. The systems want the state’s sweeping 2008 charter school law deemed unconstitutional.

The AJC has a long piece updating the 2-year-old charter school case before the state Supreme Court for which a ruling is expected in the next 10 days.

The case features legal heavyweights, including Mike Bowers for Gwinnett schools and Thomas Cox for APS. The attorney general is arguing for the state, but has brought in powerhouse litigator Bruce Brown as well.

(Am I the only one who finds it odd that at the same time former AG Bowers is suing the state on behalf of Gwinnett schools, he is representing the state in the governor’s probe of APS cheating?)

(The high court has waited to the bitter end to release its ruling. I am not sure if that means the justices had a tough time coming to a ruling or just a lot going on.)

Here is my original post on the actual court hearing in October, where the pressure seemed to be on the state and its contention that its Charter Schools Commission was legal and met constitutional muster.

Before the General Assembly passed its charter school law, school boards had most of the power to veto or approve charter schools, but lawmakers felt that the school boards were turning down strong applicants to protect their own turf.  The new law not only created a commission that could approve charters, it could also redirect monies so that the schools receive local funding despite the opposition of the local board.

Here are the chief points of contention:

Does the state constitution give the state the right to create charter schools over the objection of local boards of education? The state is pinning its arguments on a broad definition of state-sponsored “special schools,” which are permitted in the Georgia constitution but have historically been limited to the state-run schools for the blind and deaf. The state is now arguing for a broader definition of “special.” State lawyers want the high court to accept the dictionary definition of special as “unique,” meaning the state can open virtually any sort of school it wants.

Any bets on the court’s ruling?

– From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

51 comments Add your comment

HStchr

March 21st, 2011
3:40 pm

The contention, which led to the lawsuit in the first place, was over the state’s right to overrule a local BOE and thus force the local system to put local funds into a school it previously denied. The problem is the money- if the state wants to approve a charter, then it should only have the right to commit state funds, not local system funds. That would solve the problem “right quick” as my Granny would say.

missy

March 21st, 2011
3:58 pm

If public schools were providing great education to our children, parents wouldn’t pull them out of those schools to place them in charter schools. Perhaps the focus should be on improving the education provided to the students, and less on trying to dissolve schools who provide that excellent education.

HStchr

March 21st, 2011
4:34 pm

missy- that’s the same comment so, so many have posted based on numbers you see and hear. Yes, the numbers look bad, but it’s not because the schools aren’t trying. If you were on the inside, you’d realize how hard we really are working. It’s not like we’re just sitting here while the kids run the show.

Ironically, the kids who are making the good grades and passing the tests are the ones whose parents want to pull them out. The test failure rate indicates two things: 1- kids don’t test well and 2- we have a percentage of our population that doesn’t want to learn. The sad fact is that the ones who need the specialized curriculum of a charter school will probably never get it- the kids who struggle to learn, who come from bad homes, who are economically disadvantaged, and those who just don’t want to be in school anyway.

Mel

March 21st, 2011
4:40 pm

HStcher – I don’t doubt that teachers are working hard. But you & I disagree about which children need the specialized curriculum. I feel that my high achieving children do need it. Our schools right now are so focused on making sure everyone does well that my gifted children aren’t being challenged. Why is it OK for me to settle for them making good grades when I know they aren’t learning to their potential? I place the blame solely on inclusion in this instance and a real lack of willingness to give work to kids on their ability level. Is it really so hard to get 4th or 5th grade work for my 3rd grader if she’s ready in that subject area?

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

March 21st, 2011
4:44 pm

Were local school systems to combine in defense of their public schools as institutions of learning, they would not need to combine to prevent funding for charter schools which aspire to be such institutions.

Particularly, why don’t local BOEs combine their legal muscle to defend their public schools against the disrespect and disruption which plague too many of them? Why don’t they combine with the GDOE and the GA AG to do something even more powerful to insure that our public schools are places where kids can learn?

How much of our state’s educational lag is a function of the disrespectful and disruptive behaviors frequently and intensely manifested in many of our schools?

Ed

March 21st, 2011
4:58 pm

HSTchr: “The sad fact is that the ones who need the specialized curriculum of a charter school will probably never get it- the kids who struggle to learn, who come from bad homes, who are economically disadvantaged,” Don’t paint all charters with the same broad brush please. I can think of one set up specifically for the tempest-tossed: http://icsgeorgia.org/

Robb

March 21st, 2011
5:02 pm

I think it’s wonderful when the local gov’t takes my money without my consent just because I live on land (where else am I supposed to live?). Then, I think it’s even more wonderful when my property taxes are sunk into local schools filled with illegals, gangs, and teenie boppers who look like they just strolled in off Peachtree Street. Then, I think it’s even more wonderful when charter schools open up shop as an option, and the monopoly, I mean local school board, hires lawyers and sues the option in order to maintain their control. How dare we, as the people who pay for these schools and school boards to begin with, have an option!

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

March 21st, 2011
5:32 pm

HStchr,

Keep up your hard work. Believe that many of your students are benefiting from your efforts and your example.

irisheyes

March 21st, 2011
6:06 pm

@Robb, don’t like it? Change the GA constitution. Until then, deal with it. Your tax dollars also pay for roads you probably don’t use and police to protect you from all the day guys and firefighters that don’t have to come to your house because you would never be stupid enough to have a house fire.

educated anon

March 21st, 2011
6:07 pm

@ Mel: if your child is identified as gifted then they do receive additional services. The same goes for low achieving students–they reveive most of the help. The students who are not receiving the education that they deserve are the “average” students.Less than 20% of students are identified “gifted” and less than that are identified Special Education. Majority of our systems money is spent on gifted and special education but yet the majority of our students are average. You do the math…

Mel

March 21st, 2011
6:27 pm

@educated anon: the services my child receives through the gifted program are next to useless. It’s just more busy work. I’d buy your argument if we could overhaul the program.

Concerned Parent

March 21st, 2011
6:44 pm

You all make valid points and I commend you for your posts. As a parent who lives in a school district that has fewer teachers who care and more teachers and administration whos only focus is about the educational budget and whethere there salary is going to be cut or not, I am deeply concerned. A new charter school has been created in my area with my childer being accepted and is set to open this fall. The only problem is now that the school is waiting on this case before they proceed with opening the doors and moving forward with hiring staff. I feel that the charter school is a blessing for us as it no only gives us an alternative but also requires more parental involvement. I think sometimes that too can play a major role in whether or not a child will perform better in school or not. Some parents, (not all), just know their kids go to school, and that’s all they are concerned about. I know parents’ schedules are difficult sometime but one or two days out of a week with a child to help them with homework won’t help either.

TheTruth

March 21st, 2011
7:05 pm

Tbere are a number of benefits to having charter schools. For one, they have the ability to be creative with their curriculum. They can require parental involvement. They can limit the number of students allowed in the school. They can also send the problems back to their home school.

The issue with public school has less to do with lousy teachers and more to do with lousy administrators and school boards. At my school we have no say in what is being taught. The scripted reading program is mandatory. Since parental involvement is almost non-existent, we don’t have to worry about parents complaining that the program isn’t working. But…take a cell phone and see what happens. The schedule created by the administration isn’t done to benefit children, it was created to fit in the scripted lessons (which if I didn’t already say, doesn’t work). Discipline is pretty much non-existent. Students talk back, cut class and fight without being reprimanded. The opening of a new charter school caused us to lose many of our “brightest”. We’re left with those that could care less. The sad part is this is elementary school.

I’m happy these parents had a CHOICE and used it. Their kids wanted to learn. I hope that the Charter Schools win this lawsuit.

Oh, I teach in APS. But I bet many could already figure that one out!

HStchr

March 21st, 2011
7:10 pm

@Ed- therein lies the problem- ONE. I’d love to see schools be able to specialize in all kinds of things, but spending my day with the disadvantaged tends to taint my view a bit, I must admit. I see very few options for them coming out of the push for charter schools and vouchers. I also worry about what will happen to them when they’re all that’s left in the “public” schools.

@ Mel- you’re absolutely right. One intended, but not clearly stated point of my earlier post was that your kids will, in the long run, get closer to what they deserve because you are involved and advocating for them. You’re right- your child deserves better and should get it. I’m not sure that can’t be done in the current structure if enough people demand it.

fultonschoolsparent

March 21st, 2011
7:21 pm

Given the failure rate of Charter Schools, why should we be allowing our tax dollars to be put into them at all? This is just another way for our political crooks to get their hands on tax dollars by offering gullible parents the latest “education du jour”. Parents love to think that they’re getting higher test scores and quality with these PR frauds, but that has not been proven. In 5-10 years, they’ll all have gone bust and taken our tax dollars with them, leaving the local public schools in a true mess.

HStchr

March 21st, 2011
7:34 pm

fultonschoolparent: very well said. Charter schools, by their very design, are not accountable to anyone but those who sponsor them. Just like a private school, they can close their doors and will if there’s not enough profit. When you consider that there are actually corporations now that run many of them, they are a profit-driven business. What happens when state and local funds have been used and the company decides to pull the plug? Like you, I see it as throwing good money after bad in many cases. We need to learn from the few that do succeed and empower our local school systems to be more innovative and try new designs.

Laurie

March 21st, 2011
7:50 pm

“if your child is identified as gifted then they do receive additional services”

Even setting aside the quality of challenge classes, what about the quantity? I don’t know what it’s like at all schools, but at ours, that was about 2 hours per week, out of 35.

Robb

March 21st, 2011
8:21 pm

All good advice from Dr. Craig. A man who can’t even spell “ensure.” There’s public schools for you!!
@irisheyes…You’re feisty! I like that!

Wilma

March 21st, 2011
8:37 pm

There is certainly a lot of effort and noise from many who seem a lot more interested in preventing charter schools than in correcting the problems with the public schools that made the charters popular. God forbid that parents have choices for where their child might learn best!
The monolithic central staff heavy, one size fits most, public school model has failed many of our children. It’s past time to look for new models that have the confidence of the parents and the nimbleness to be successful.

GNGS

March 21st, 2011
8:46 pm

The idea of an impartial judicial system is a delusion. Judges are just politicians with a black robe, especially in states like Georgia, where judges are elected. Since Republicans control every branch of Georgia government, it is a foregone conclusion that the elected Republican judges will rubber stamp the law that the Republican legislature voted for and the Republican governor signed.

HStchr

March 21st, 2011
8:48 pm

Wilma- the problem lies in the ones voters like you and I elected. They are the ones who decided on this design for school and mandate your aptly named “one size fits most” education. The first step, and perhaps the most critical, is to quit electing those who promise to “fix” education and elect those who have specific, workable ideas. Until enough of the current bureaucrats/good old boys are moved out, we won’t see the kinds of changes we need. Many teachers and administrators try, every day, to do what’s best for the kids in their schools, but the constant mandates and legislative BS we have to deal with ties our hands. Charter schools are a nice carrot to dangle, but the very politicians who tout their effectiveness do so because their hands are in the corporate sponsors’ pockets, and the end result won’t, in the long run, be any better. We have to unify and demand, starting at the state level, to empower local communities to demand and require the changes we want to see. Trust me, ask the teachers and admininstrators at your local school, and those who aren’t afraid of the BOE or super will agree with you about what needs to change! Unfortunately, we teachers, the ones who deal with all this day in and day out are the LAST ones ever asked for an opinion by those deciding how we should do the job- and many good ones are getting tired of fighting for what’s right.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

March 21st, 2011
8:56 pm

Robb,

Nothing personal…but both “insure” and “ensure” are considered correct spellings of the word.

SmartDawg

March 21st, 2011
9:17 pm

We all know that traditional public schools have many challenges to address. However, charter school data in Georgia and nationwide show that this innovation isn’t a panacea for all problems. I would expect these schools to outperform traditional schools because they are handpicked by parents who are highly involved in their children’s education, but they usually don’t. How can we take money from traditional schools when they are grossly underfunded and give those funds to charters that often produce mediocre results?

How many of these charters are actually run by for-profit management companies who sign management agreements with the non-profit board who supposedly runs the school? I’ll bet that many Georgia charters have much higher administrative costs than the traditional public schools in the same district. I’m all for capitalism, but I expect meaningul results for my money.

Active in Cherokee

March 21st, 2011
10:36 pm

@Fultonschoolsparent – I agree with the basis of your statements.

My problem with the charter schools is not the option (which I believe is good thing), it is the allocation of state and local funds without the same accountability of public schools. Charter schools are not subjected to the same testing (thank goodness) as public schools and do not have to follow the ’state standards’ as strictly as public schools. While I believe this is a good thing, public schools lose funding if they don’t meet certain ‘adequate yearly progress’, much of which comes from test scores and attendance, or if they cannot provide evidence of the state standards being taguth (think EOCT). Even if chater schools were held to the same standards, they surely would not have the issues of meeting all of the subcategories including special education, low-socioeconomic, and race (as the people running them choose their students by application). If charter schools are to become a real option, they should be held to the same standards as public schools in order to get state funding and the state should have no say in the local allocations of money. Funding issues aside, many of the charter schools have wonderful approaches to education and I’m interested to see what good will come from them 10-15 years down the road.

FBT

March 22nd, 2011
12:22 am

@ Active In Cherokee- My children are enrolled in a charter school and take the CRCT, 5th Grade Writing Test, etc. I believe the school is actually expected to perform at a higher level than the traditional school. If the charter is only expected to do the same or worse than the local public school, why would a charter ever be approved? That being said, not all charter schools meet their preformance goals.

lulu

March 22nd, 2011
12:53 am

As a citizen, I firmly believe that we should put all available money and energy into making our neighborhood public schools the absolute best places they can be, and that charter schools take not only those things, but also often the best and brightest schools, dragging down the average performance at regular public schools. I interpret “special” with regards to education the way the schools systems are hoping the courts will.

As a parent, however, I’m zoned for one of the worst elementary schools in one of the worst school systems in a state that traditionally ranks among the lowest in the nation in education, and I’m hoping and praying and crossing my fingers and toes that my kid gets into a decent charter school.

I’d like to always put the community ahead of the individual, but when that individual is my child and the groups tasked with improving the community in this case (ahem, APS school board) can’t even remotely govern themselves, it’s much more difficult to make that call.

Larry Major

March 22nd, 2011
1:41 am

There are six types of charter schools in Georgia and they are all public schools that have the same state tests, curriculum and public reporting required of all public schools. As public schools, all charter schools get the same state QBE funding as any other public school.

The most common type of independent charter school (started and administered by other than the local BOE) is what the DOE calls a “startup charter school.” These are schools whose petition was approved by the local BOE. They get the same local funding as local system schools and will in no way be affected by this lawsuit. It’s important to note that there are over 30 such charter schools and all but a handful were approved by the plaintiff school systems, so this lawsuit is obviously not about shutting down charter schools.

There were only two schools named in the lawsuit because there were only two Commission schools in existence. This year, six more Commission schools opened, so of the over 100 charter schools currently operating, only eight were approved by the Commission.

Private School Guy

March 22nd, 2011
6:45 am

I would not be disturbed by this if the leaders of the school districts involved were paying for this court action out of their own pockets. Why am I and other taxpayers paying for this battle? No one asked the people footing the bill. Remember this on election day.

Another view

March 22nd, 2011
8:48 am

I’d say @irisheyes put it as succinctly as need be. Bravo. The constitution in Georgia, as it does in most states, puts the responsibility for education at the local level even though funding is redistributed by the state around the state (Gwinnett taxpayers cough up for A LOT of the education in Taliaferro, for example). In other words, the state already takes away moneys from some systems to pay for the education of kids in other systems. Under a construct of “the greatest good for the greatest number,” that’s inescapable. The constitution is pretty clear, however; it’s the local system’s business to educate kids. However, if the court rules that the state has the right to take any money from local jurisdictions any old way it pleases, that’ll open an interesting avenue for “liberal” redistribution. As imperfect as the process is, ignoring the constitution is not the way to fix it.
AND, @Private School, don’t forget it was the state that started this, and YOU’RE paying for their folly too. If you’re shortsighted enough to let your kids fall behind in a private school, that’s your constitutional right. Not everybody can afford to live in Gwinnett, and few other systems are that good. But if we’re going to steal money from me (my taxes) to pay for your unregulated and unaccountable private school folly, at least let’s do it democratically.

catlady

March 22nd, 2011
8:53 am

I have an increased interest in the charter school movement. Anyone point me to some good resources for starting the charter school application process? I know we have folks on this forum with much experience.

catlady

March 22nd, 2011
8:58 am

Another view: Actually, Gwinnett County School System RECEIVES Fair Share money! About 15 million last year, I believe. It came, in part, from my little, poor, rural, 72% free lunch county! WHY? Because the bankers and tax assessors artificially inflated property values far in excess of anything imaginable, and now the taxpayers of this county are paying every which way for that greed. And will be for another year or two, as I understand.

Michael Moore

March 22nd, 2011
9:19 am

If the court finds in favor of the Charter Commission we will have a voucher system in everything but name. What would prevent any gated community from opening a charter school approved by this commission and using local monies so that developers could develop anywhere without the the problem of the school district impeding development? What would prevent a group from the same church who currently have a private school but parents list their kids as home schooled from opening their own charter using local tax payer money? the ruling could give a whole new meaning to separate but no where near equal.

Warrior Woman

March 22nd, 2011
10:50 am

@Mel – You are SO right about the low quality of gifted services! More busy work at the same level does not meet the needs of gifted students, but unfortunately that’s what many are getting. And don’t even get me started on the schools that are cutting Advanced Content classes to devote more resources to ESL. For a population that is supposedly mandated to get special services, gifted seems an easy target. And unfortunately, the “high average” students that don’t meet the gifted criteria are being underserved even more.

A Conservative Voice

March 22nd, 2011
10:58 am

@Maureen – (Am I the only one who finds it odd that at the same time former AG Bowers is suing the state on behalf of Gwinnett schools, he is representing the state in the governor’s probe of APS cheating?)

Looks like that is indeed the case…… :)

Larry Major

March 22nd, 2011
11:00 am

@Private School Guy

This lawsuit was filed when the Commission deducted $850,000 from Gwinnett and gave it to Ivy Prep. This was $302,000 more than it would have cost us to educate these kids had they attended GCPS.

Think about what this means for the future. That’s $302,000 we are losing each year, every year for only 216 kids. According to the AJC article, there will be 15,000 kids in Commission schools next year. Imagine the financial devastation over 10 years at this rate.

Worse, the Commission can raise this amount as much as they want any time they want and we can’t do a thing about it. This Commission is appointed, so we can’t vote them out of office and there is no oversight, approval or grievance procedure regardless of how much of our money they take away.

Our money was already spent by the Commission before we paid a penny to lawyers. Gwinnett DID offer to drop the lawsuit if the Commission stopped taking too much of our money, but they refused. This lawsuit was the only option.

catlady

March 22nd, 2011
11:09 am

Larry, how did the commission come up with the figure? There has to be some reason behind that particular number. Was it local and state money, or what, that differs between what Gwinnett figured and what the commission awarded?

catlady

March 22nd, 2011
11:18 am

How many potential charters have been turned down by the Commission?

Shar

March 22nd, 2011
11:31 am

I recently had an opportunity to visit my sister in Los Angeles, and while I was there I went to an astonishing performance at my niece’s charter school, Renaissance Arts Academy (renarts.org). With the LA Unified School District even more dysfunctional than APS and private schools both incredibly expensive and overcrowded, parents are starting charters at a significant rate to try to create acceptable public education choices.

RenArts operates out of an old shoe store – one of the 50’s variety, not the large warehouses. They teach about 600 kids, 6-12, in a tiny space without a gym, cafeteria, field, bus service ,office space, library or just about anything else we think of as basic to schools. Their charter calls for extended day and relief from the English curriculum propagated by the district, although their kids have to take the same tests. They also require every student to learn an instrument and their success in this area has attracted support from the LA Philharmonic and resulted in a partnership with LA’s version of Julliard. They use the extended day (kids leave 4 days a week at 5:30) to rotate music practice and supervised homework, so kids get independent study with academic support rather than relying on parental assistance which may or may not be available. They also require Latin, study classics of world literature in place of the standard curriculum, and every kid has a year-long project that culminates in a presentation in the spring.

The results have been extraordinary, in awards, in college acceptance, in scholarships, in graduation rate. That success, of course, has threatened the LA Unified’s overall failure, as the school takes kids on a lottery basis and does not have entrance requirements – not even English speaking. They have actively avoided moving out of their ridiculous space or expanding in any way, as a higher level of visibility will inevitably lead to the school board destroying the school rather than having their own excuses exposed.

Bottom line – charters can be very good, and more of them can and should challenge the hegemony of existing school boards while adding fresh ideas that can be experimented with and adopted. They do take money and power away from local districts, which to me is all to the good, and they can be very threatening if their experiments succeed. A smorgasbord of options does draw those parents who are willing to sort through in order to find the program that will best support their child, and some of those programs (religious-based, culture-centric, single gender, etc) may well offend the taxpayers who have to fund them. There is absolutely a danger of students being left behind if their parents are not involved in their education – but that occurs anyway.

A Commission that weeds out those schools that are obviously more interested in indoctrination than education, that imposes standards and sees that diverse curricula deliver to them, that ensures (and, fyi, “ensure” and “insure” have different connotations – check Merriam Webster) public access fairly and oversees appropriate hiring, administration and spending is absolutely essential to break the local district monopoly that has delivered a few good schools and far too many failures. Until such time as the local district can effectively educate the students entrusted to it, they do not deserve the monopolies that have come from convenience.

I’m very hopeful that the Court will rule in favor of the Commission.

atlschoolmom

March 22nd, 2011
11:55 am

fultonschoolparent and HStchr, it seems that you have both been misinformed. A charter school not only answers to their board, but they must answer to their school district and the state. Charters are up for review every 5 years at which point they must prove themselves to the state in order for their charter to be renewed. Charter schools are NOT private schools. They are public schools of choice. As with other schools, not all charter schools are creating academic success. Some are creating the exact same test score results as other schools in their district, but others have shown vast improvements in student achievement. Here in the Atlanta Public School district charter schools have helped children of all socioeconomic backgrounds achieve at their highest levels. Charter schools allow parents to become more involved and influence change within their school without the bureaucratic red tape. This is something that the traditional public school has been missing for a long time. It has been proven time and time again that all children do not learn the same way. Unfortunately the rules and regulations of traditional public schools is a one size fits all approach. This is not the fault of the teachers who do their best to work within the confines of the system. The system is broken. Instead of fighting to prevent charter schools from opening perhaps we should start to look at what they are doing right. Why are the same students who were failing in a traditional school now excelling at a charter school? The community at large needs to be proactive instead of reactive.

P92

March 22nd, 2011
1:56 pm

@catlady

The Commission only approved 10 of 35 applicants in its first year, and 7 of 23 applicants in its 2nd year. It is doing a very good job of approving only high-quality petitions thus far. It now has to hold those schools accountable to the terms in their charter contracts…..we’ll all how to see how that progress goes as the Commission moves forward.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

March 22nd, 2011
6:11 pm

Shar: “I recently had an opportunity to visit my sister in Los Angeles, and while I was there I went to an astonishing performance at my niece’s charter school, Renaissance Arts Academy (renarts.org). ”

Sounds like a very good school….

On the other hand, LA Charters apparently have their problems as well….

“Last year, administrators and teachers at the six schools south of downtown Los Angeles were caught cheating: using the actual test questions to prepare students for the state exams by which schools are measured.

Nonetheless, on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Board of Education is scheduled to act on a staff recommendation to reauthorize Crescendo’s charter, giving the organization another five years to operate.”

From: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-crescendo-20110228,0,4037826.story

There are good Charters and poor Charters, just as there are good and poor public schools. Creating for profit schools that lack oversight and accountability tends to encourage an atmosphere ripe for corruption.

I find it very odd that people will demand “accountability” in public school through standardized testing, then turn around and suggest that the ability to “opt out” of such accountability standards by Charter schools is what makes them better able to meet the needs of their students.

New teacher

March 22nd, 2011
8:02 pm

Charters don’t get to “opt out” of accountability rule. They are held to the same standards as traditional public schools, perhaps even more so. If they don’t produce the results they promise, they get shut down. Because charters operate outside some of the red tapes, they have more discretion when it comes to hiring/firing decisions and implementing curriculum and operating decisions. Someone will have to let me know how charters are for-profit school, so that I can open one myself and make money.

Look folks, charters are not the silver bullets that some people make them out to be. Some are excellent, some are mediocre, and some are utter crap. Personally, their existence does not bother me; in fact, I view them more as learning labs. They are a great way to see what works on a smaller scale to see if we can scale it up. They are not competition to traditional schools. Great charters should continue on, lesser ones need to be closed quickly.

However everyone else feels about charters, let’s not resort to making up facts for argument’s sake.

New teacher

March 22nd, 2011
8:03 pm

*rules *tape, Edit button, please?

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

March 22nd, 2011
9:06 pm

New Teacher,

Did you actually read the article at the posted link?

“If they don’t produce the results they promise, they get shut down. ”

No, apparently they don’t.

And try goggling “for profit Charter schools.” You might find it enlightening.

New teacher

March 22nd, 2011
10:35 pm

@I hate what it is becoming:

Done and done on both accounts. First, the article. APS on its worse day doesn’t compare to LAUSD on its best, corruption-wise. Unfortunately, LAUSD is the poster child for what happen to education when corrupt idiots take over. The schools go under, and the devil dressed in sheep’s clothing comes as a “savior”. The article you linked to describes this situation perfectly. However, it does not dispute the fact that here in Georgia, if charters don’t produce the result they promise, they get shut down. It has happened already. Look that up on the DOE website.

As to the Google search, I don’t doubt the fact that for-profit organizations get into the charter starting business. I truly wonder how it is working out for them profit-wise and achievement-wise. From the search results, not great on both fronts, so I doubt these organizations will last long in an area that does not have a majority of corrupt idiots.

What is your real problem with charters in Georgia? I can understand if it’s about how the Commission was created and its governance, because it is indeed a problem right now. What I don’t understand is your argument that charters are unaccountable, because they are held accountable. What needs to be fixed is how we choose who decides the charters that get to open, close, etc. It shouldn’t be just local BOEs. For example of why that’s a bad idea, see DeKalb and Gwinnett. In DeKalb, there’s too many charters started by friends of friends of BOE members with little regard to academics and in Gwinnett, you get super-selective charter approval to the point where good ideas are rejected for nonsensical reason. On the other hand, a Commission that allocates money needs some public accountability, and right now, there is none.

New teacher

March 22nd, 2011
10:39 pm

*worst, again where’s the edit button?

New teacher

March 22nd, 2011
10:41 pm

*refute, not dispute, fatigue is setting in….

Charter Schools are PUBLIC schools

March 22nd, 2011
11:04 pm

Wow, I picked the wrong day to read this blog late in the day. I know a lot of readers here don’t like charters, and that is OK. However, you should at least base your dislike on facts rather than misconceptions.

I apologize for my “copious” reply (as one person described my earlier posts on another blog topic), but there is just too much to address in this particular blog.

Let me preface my responses to various posters with the following two comments:

1)I don’t think charters are “the” answer” but I do think they are part of the “answer”.
2)There is still a lot of misinformation being posted on this blog about charters. Please read the Georgia Department of Education FAQ on Charter schools for more info on what charter schools are and how they are operated as I think it will correct a lot of misconceptions or inaccuracies:
http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/pea_charter.aspx?PageReq=CIIAPCharterFAQS

@HStchr
7:10 PM
“I see very few options for [disadvantaged students] coming out of the push for charter schools and vouchers.”

Actually, charters give parents of these disadvantaged students exactly that option. If enough parents decide they want that kind of school, they can get together and write a charter explicitly for the disadvantages that their child faces. However, I can’t think of an existing charter that does this. Most specialized schools like this seem to be private where I live.

Now with that said, writing a charter and getting it approved is a very tough and time-consuming task. It isn’t easy, but it would certainly be impossible without the ability to champion a charter school.

@fultonschoolsparent
7:21 pm
“Given the failure rate of Charter Schools, why should we be allowing our tax dollars to be put into them at all?”

Wow, care to back up your statement with some actually examples? I know one or two charters have not been renewed in the past few years, but the vast majority have been granted charter renewals. Your statement is absolutely false unless you can back it up with a long list of actual schools that have failed to have their charters renewed.

@HStchr
7:34 PM
“Charter schools, by their very design, are not accountable to anyone but those who sponsor them.”

The local Board of Education (for non-state sponsored schools – which is the vast majority of Georgia charter schools) and the State Board of Education both oversee all public charter schools just like any other public school. Are you suggesting public charter schools need more accountability than traditional public schools?

@HStchr
7:34 PM
“ Just like a private school, they can close their doors and will if there’s not enough profit. When you consider that there are actually corporations now that run many of them, they are a profit-driven business.”

The governing board of the charter school runs the school not the management company hired by the governing board to oversee day-to-day operations of the school. I will argue that most are not even operated by corporations especially when you take into account conversion charters (e.g. all public schools in Sandy Springs).

So I think most are not “profit-driven”, and for those that are “managed” by corporations (which are all start-up charters I believe), they must be run as non-profit organizations (if they are start-up charters). In recent memory, one charter school that initially employed a management corporation decided to end that management contract because they felt like they could run the school just as well at a lesser cost than the management fee being paid to the company. I can’t remember the name of that school though to be honest.

@HStchr
7:34 PM
“What happens when state and local funds have been used and the company decides to pull the plug? Like you, I see it as throwing good money after bad in many cases.”

I don’t mean to sound offensive or condescending, but you should really learn more about how public charters schools are run as I think you are making some assumptions that are simply incorrect. Please check out the FAQ at the top of my post.

To repeat, the governing board of the charter school runs the school not the management company. These management companies oversee day-to-day operations of the school. If the management company decides to break its contract with the charter school then the company will not continue to receive funds and probably will have to pay some money back to the school based on the management contract that was signed. The governing board would have to either take over the day-to-day operations or contract with a new management company.

Some management companies do write charters and submit them for approval, and those usually have company representatives on the schools governing board, but parents must also be a part of the governing board. If the charter authorizers (local and state boards of education) are doing their jobs during the approval process, they should be inspecting the make-up of the board (it is spelled out in the charter) to insure that the management company in this type of charter application does not have a majority on the school’s governing board.

Some local schools systems also write their own charters by the way.

Most charters I am familiar with are approved for five-years and then that charter must be renewed by the local and state boards of education. As such, I don’t know of a single charter school that did not continue to function through the initial approval period (there may be some, but I just don’t know of any). If the school is not fulfilling the charter when it is up for renewal, either the local and state board of education (or both) can choose not to renew the charter, the school is dissolved and all assets become property of the charter authorizers (the board of education). The renewal takes place early enough in the year so that current students know that they will be at their locally zoned school for the next year (or they can apply to other charters in their school district).

@HStchr
7:34 PM
“We need to learn from the few that do succeed and empower our local school systems to be more innovative and try new designs.”

I will suggest that “success” of a charter is whether it is renewed or not, and the vast majority of charters have been renewed, so I think your claim that “few” have succeeded is incorrect.

Also, charter schools are “innovative” and “new designs” that already empower our local schools systems. It’s up to the local school systems to use that tool effectively. To date, I think very few school systems are doing so effectively. If a charter school isn’t innovative and presenting a new design, the charter authorizers should not approve or renew the charter, and I don’t think the authorizers are doing that job as well as they should.

@Active in Cherokee
10:36 pm
“Charter schools are not subjected to the same testing (thank goodness) as public schools and do not have to follow the ’state standards’ as strictly as public schools.”
This is not correct. From the FAQ I linked to at the top of my post:

What is a charter school in Georgia?
A charter school is a public school that operates according to the terms of a charter, or contract, that has been approved by a local board of education and the State Board of Education. The charter school may request waivers from provisions of Title 20 of Georgia state law and any state or local rule, regulation, policy, or procedure relating to schools in the school district. In exchange for this flexibility, the charter school is bound by contract to be held accountable for meeting the performance-based objectives specified in the charter.

What is the difference between a charter school and a traditional public school?
A traditional public school is organized according to federal laws, state school laws, State Board of Education rules, and local board of education policies. A charter school is organized according to federal laws, applicable state school laws and SBOE rules that cannot be waived, and the terms of the charter contract.

Larry Major

March 23rd, 2011
2:24 am

@catlady

The numbers I mentioned were the “Charter Commission Local Revenue” amounts. This is supposed to how much local tax money the host school systems would spend on a Commission School student, had that student attended a host system school. The Commission calculates this amount and deducts it from the QBE funding earned by kids enrolled in the host school system to capture the local funding theoretically saved by the host system.

There is a law that requires school systems to give proportional local funding to startup charter schools based on QBE earnings. For example, if a school system operates on 40 percent state funds and 60 percent local funds, a charter school with $400,000 in state QBE funding will receive $600,000 in local funding regardless of how many students are involved. This is to account for any enhanced funded (SPED) students in the charter school. (This is basically how any system funds its own schools since a kid that earns twice as much state funding will require twice as much local funding.) This is the method GCPS used to determine the local funding cost for Ivy Prep students had they attended GCPS, and is the legally required amount for any other charter school.

The reason for the difference is that the Commission used a system wide student average to determine this amount. These 216 Ivy Prep students could be all Standard Ed or all in a 5X SPED funding category and the Commission will use the exact same dollar amount for local funding. In this case, Ivy Prep received far too much in local funding because they were funded as if they had far more SPED students than what were actually enrolled.

Private School Guy

March 23rd, 2011
6:32 am

@ another view. You’re reading too much into a name. I have no kids, the moniker refers to earning my education in private schools. I have worked in both public and private schools. Perhaps I should change my name to “Better Perspective”