Coweta rejects charter school: Vote destroys “American freedom to choose.”

The Coweta school board voted 6-1 today to deny the charter petition because of problems with the school’s facility, lack of transportation services and inadequate staff serving students with special needs.

You can read the county’s reasons here. Clearly, the system has found reasons to be concerned, including this issue: An analysis of this data clearly reflects that students in the Coweta County School System outperformed students in Coweta Charter Academy. Furthermore, Coweta Charter Academy did not meet its performance goal as agreed upon by Coweta Charter Academy, the Georgia Charter Schools Commission and the State Board of Education.

In a few minutes, the Cherokee school board will vote on the application of Cherokee Charter Academy, another Charter Schools USA partner school.

What makes these two charter schools different than most others in the state is that they are seeking to operate in counties with very high academic achievement. I understand that there are parents in Cherokee and Coweta who want to send their kids to these schools because they see them as a better fit, but they can’t cite failing schools as their reason. And that changes the debate, at least to me.

Both Coweta and Cherokee are among the 16 charter schools stranded by a state Supreme Court decision that the state cannot override local boards of education and establish local charter schools through its own commission.

The state commission had approved eight schools last year and eight new ones for this year; those schools can apply to the state Board of Education for consideration next week but they won’t collect any local taxes to operate, which, in most cases, is about half their funding.

Following its rejection today by the Coweta Board of Education, the Coweta Charter School issued the following statement:

Today is a sad and very disappointing day. The Coweta Board of Education has stolen education choice away from the people of Coweta. Instead of attempting to help students succeed, it has put money and power ahead of students and families. In Coweta Charter Academy’s inaugural year, CRCT test scores were very impressive. Our first graders were 100 percent proficient, second graders 97 percent and third graders 92 percent on their reading scores; 99 percent, 97 percent and 67 percent respectively in Math.

In third grade, 33 percent of the students are on free or reduced lunch and 25 percent of the students taking the test are special education students. All of this was accomplished in a rented church facility that housed 175 students.  Imagine the impact we could have had in a new facility serving a larger population.

Demand was high for the school. There were 571 applications for the new expanded facility. By denying Coweta Charter Academy, a high-performing charter school, this board has not only destroyed our American freedom to choose, but has damaged the local economy even further. This decision eliminates 42 new positions that would have served the new school, sends 28 existing teachers and staff to the unemployment line, and causes serious negative economic impacts from the many supporting local services that would be needed to support the new school. Construction jobs, revenues from fresh food suppliers, utilities, printing and office supply retailers, advertising, bus gasoline, maintenance and repair; all have been eliminated as a result of this decision. That doesn’t even take into consideration the economic impact on restaurants and lodging associated with the building of the new school and frequent out-of-town visits.

Coweta has taken a huge step back and the students of our community will suffer. We can only hope that taxpayers will allow their rage to turn to a productive end that forces future legislation to be put into place that abolishes the ability of a competitor being the only authorizing authority for schools. Taxpayers should have the right to determine where their taxes go. The monopoly created by the current legislation makes it nearly impossible for competition that would raise the bar on education and allow our children to compete better in the future.

–From Maureen Downey for the AJC Get Schooled blog

73 comments Add your comment

Pink

June 24th, 2011
6:30 pm

“this board has not only destroyed our American freedom to choose, but has damaged the local economy even further. …” Ha Ha Ha Stuff and nonsense. How can they expect anyone to take them serious with stuff and nonsense like that?

CharterStarter

June 24th, 2011
6:54 pm

This was expected. Coweta is notoriously unfriendly to charters that they don’t start themselves. CCA’s results spoke for themselves.

Kah

June 24th, 2011
6:57 pm

Parents need to get a voucher bill through for regular education and let the parents have control of their child’s education and their tax dollars. If not, more affordable private schools are needed. It is time out for all of the fighting over funding. This is the real reason for all of the denials of charter applications.

Lynn43

June 24th, 2011
6:58 pm

Maureen, I would like to see a real story about the “untruths” and misrepresentation of facts behind this company. Do some research on how these “for profit” companies are stealing taxpayer monies. I am not opposed to charter schools, but I am opposed to those who take our tax money for schools and stick it in their pockets.

d

June 24th, 2011
7:07 pm

First, what happened that the pass rate for math dropped to 67% for the third grade? Also, Maureen, how do they have CRCT scores for 1st and 2nd grade? I thought those tests were not administered this year due to budget cuts? Something seems fishy here to me.

Finally, @Kah, I don’t, as a taxpayer, want some board of appointed people (who are there for political reasons mostly) overruling my ELECTED board of education. I don’t live in Coweta, but I did vote against Dr. McClure here in Gwinnett because of his vote on Ivy Prep. That being said, I had to support Gwinnett in the lawsuit against the charter board because if that board approves schools inappropriately, who can I, as a taxpayer, complain to? The charter board doesn’t answer to me, and in any form of representative government, the decision makers need to answer to the electorate.

Maureen Downey

June 24th, 2011
7:19 pm

@Lynn43, I was talking to a charter school funder this week and she said that she has concerns with the growing for-profit market in charters — a market that had come to Atlanta in force with the creation of the Charter Schools Commission and the promise of local funding.
But the fact is that some of those for-profit companies are doing well with their schools. Others are not, and are squeezing their “franchisees” for more money.
So, it is a complex picture, but one that I agree deserves more media attention.
Maureen

That's goofy

June 24th, 2011
7:24 pm

lesson charter schools should learn: be different.

vouchers are coming.

catlady

June 24th, 2011
8:32 pm

I am in favor of the local attempt to get a charter because it is totally locally-led, with no company involved; it’s just a group of concerned parents and educators unhappy with the way the schools are going in our area, and wanting something better for their kids. (Btw, there are 3 private schools in the county, accounting for about 60 kids, k-12, so there is really no alternative available). I DON”T ike the idea of turning over education to some for-profit company, either.

d, I believe it said those scores were from the “maiden year” so that must have been at least last year(09-10) on that Coweta school.

Lynn43

June 24th, 2011
8:50 pm

Catlady, Those scores are the ones just released by the State Department of Education a few days ago.

justbrowsing

June 24th, 2011
8:53 pm

Too many charters and public education will collapse- it will end up in a worse state than it is in now. People really have not stopped to consider the rammifications of vouchers. It is important that we look at ways to make what we already have work. Charters have terrible staff attrition rates parents- far worse then the average public school.

FBT

June 24th, 2011
9:31 pm

The number of parents applying for the charter school should have sent a strong message to the school board. However, I certainly understand the board’s reluctance to approve and fund a school performing below the community’s traditional schools.

Maureen- Do you know if the student body at the charter was similar to the other public schools in Coweta?

Dunwoody Mom

June 24th, 2011
9:33 pm

The CRCT was not given for 1st and 2nd Grade this school year. Wasn’t this the first year for Coweta Charter? So, exactly what data are they referring to for 1st and 2nd Grade.

CowetaCharterDad

June 24th, 2011
9:34 pm

To answer your question about the third grade CRCT test scores, the class had a whopping 12 students, started 4 weeks late due to all the logistical issues with the lawsuit, had a teacher get fired and is comprised of several students with learning disabilities. Not to make excuses, but for 12 kids one low test can pull the average down. NOW LETS TALK about the EMO in this school that is FOR PROFIT. What is wrong with running the school like a business. They fired a teacher for poor performance. When’s the last time that happened in the public school systems. Whats wrong with a for profit company doing business. If the deliver the product and cover expenses who cares. I don’t see anyone beating that drum against the text book publishers, food service vendors, building maintenance supply companies, fuel companies, office supply companies and even the photographers that take our kids pictures twice a year. Come on people. Lets talk about the real issues – control and money. How many people do you know who home school and send their kids to private schools? What we are seeing and trying to do is give the parents in this state a choice in education. Let the money you pay in property taxes follow where you want to send your kid to school. Nov 2012 is coming and the final decision will be made. Hopefully all you parents will wake up

FBT

June 24th, 2011
9:43 pm

Any individual or company involved in education is doing so “for profit” and to think otherwise is naive. Even those who work for nonprofits receive a pay check, thus profiting. Teachers, principals, school board members, janitors, curriculum suppliers, yoyo school assemblies, uniform companies, etc. all profit.

Lumping all “for profit” school management companies in the same basket is not fair. Some are good, some are okay, and some should not be in business. High quality for profit organization can provide expertise many well meaning parents and frustrated teachers do not possess.

The key to a great school, traditional or charter, is competent oversight by a strong board.

JAT

June 24th, 2011
9:45 pm

Thank you Dr. P. and Board for placing the best interests of the majority of Cherokee County students above a few who’s parents are unhappy. We appreciate your leadership and commitment to our outstanding public schools!

FBT

June 24th, 2011
9:47 pm

@Coweta Charter Dad- We are certainly on the same page. There is nothing better than having the ability to dismiss an underperforming teacher midyear because you are not bound to a year long contract.

Have you considered the other charter in Coweta?

FBT

June 24th, 2011
9:57 pm

@JAT- Sometimes really great schools do not work for every student for any number of reasons. Our tax dollars are collected to educate the children in our community. I want each child in my community to receive the best education for that child. There should be little additional cost to a community to educate a child in a traditional school or in a charter. The pot from which the schools all feed may have a few more children asking for their share, but these children were already eligible for a public education.
It’s not about children, it’s about control and power for the adults.

CowetaCharterDad

June 24th, 2011
10:06 pm

News Flash: State DOE will be taking the vote on Tuesday and Coweta Charter Academy will get state special charter status. That means we don’t get local revenue from taxes we pay. It does not mean that we will compromise the education and the delivery of that education to our students. If its good enough for the state but not the local district maybe there were other factors involved..hmmmm

FBT

June 24th, 2011
10:22 pm

@CowetaCharterDad- Good luck with the vote and funding.

Tell the truth

June 24th, 2011
10:31 pm

It appears to me that the charter fans could not get their way with the local school boards and so they tried to circumvent the law and were rejected by the SC. The ultimate goal in my opinion is to allow for all the good little charter fans to be able to pay for their child to get a private school education as subsidized with funding from the local school boards; with the additional goal of gaining tax deductions and or credits for their tuition payments. Similar to the Hope scholarship which was designed to benefit the needs based poor student in state colleges if he made his grades; but now has been perverted to help the good little Republicans pay for their kids college tuition both in Ga and out of state. Quite a far cry from where the program began

amazed

June 24th, 2011
10:37 pm

I have never seen the criteria for approving a charter discussed. Most of the Coweta reasoning was pure nonsense. They simply didn’t want to approve the charter and were justifying it. Having the teachers be an employee of a Florida company is no different than many small businesses that have PEOs. All of their employees may technically be Administaff employees.

The only legitimate concerns were with the lease and the test scores. And their analysis of the test scores had the depth of the 1/3 of 3rd graders who failed the math test. I would expect a more in-depth analysis if this was a serious review instead of a justification of something they had already decided.

So what criteria should a BOE use? I don’t think they are considering the kids. Even DCSS gave out one year charters to avoid the disruption that would be entailed from shutting down the charters that had already been approved.

mcc

June 24th, 2011
11:04 pm

Charter Dad – I pay property taxes but I don’t have children. Why should my hard-earned money go into the pockets of a “for-profit” corporation? I can’t “choose” not to do business with them because I am forced to pay taxes. Don’t forget that there are plenty of us without children paying for your child’s education. I don’t mind paying taxes, but my tax money SHOULD not end up in some CEO or corporate shareholder’s pocket. Reminds me of the bail-outs….

For-profit education is shady, period.

CowetaCharterDad

June 24th, 2011
11:41 pm

Here’s how school funding works….You pay property taxes to your local county and those funds go into the general county fund. The school board decides how much money it wants (not needs) each year and takes a vote. For the Coweta 2011-2012 year it will be $240M ($165M in local, state and fed and the balance in what they call Title money – money for special needs areas, etc). The budget is voted on before June 30 prior to the start of the school year and parts of the budget are based on how many students are in classrooms the prior year. After the BOE votes, the money is transfered from the county general fund into the BOE fund. The BOE decides what they want, how much they want and get it everytime, because there is no one to keep them accountable. If the BOE can’t get the money they want they increase your property taxes. The BOE also gets your money when you approve the E-SPLOST. In the $240M budget, that ESPLOST money is not included – its in addition to. The Coweta School System has 22,000 students. It cost as much to send a kid to a public school system than it does a private school. As far as For-Profit Education being shady, would you say that about UGA, West Georgia, or GA Tech?

HAHAHA

June 24th, 2011
11:50 pm

@mcc…I think you need to do some research on how much of your “tax payer” money goes to “for profit” corporations…too bad we don’t have this much uproar over other other things our taxes pay for – how about that TARP!!!….rather see my $$ educate than go towards idiots running these companies…
http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/national/200904_CREDITCRISIS/recipients.html

CowetaCharterDad

June 24th, 2011
11:51 pm

Just to clarify…just because you pay property taxes does not mean it goes directly to the school system. The basic idea behind school choice is to allow parents who do choose different options the ability to let their tax dollars follow their decisions. Too many people in this country pay taxes that go to directly benefit and support other people, this is one way to put my tax dollars to work for me.

june37@charter.net

June 24th, 2011
11:53 pm

Why do they need a budget for Fresh Food- (Paragraph #3 ) -especially since no lunch or food is served to these special children? I say Special –because 2 of my grandchildren attend these schools! Their a more highly paid baby-sitters,is all! I wonder if they are learning “Anything”

CowetaCharterDad

June 25th, 2011
12:01 am

We all need to get involved and get educated. Do you want to get fired up? Check this out…Check out the georgia open records website. In 4 minutes, I found out that there are 38 people in the local school district that had an annual salary in 2010 in excess of $100,000. There is even a kindergarten teacher making $80,217. That teacher is one of the highest paid teachers in the system. 90% of the school system’s budget is salary.

[...] 3: Coweta rejected a charter application from Coweta Charter Academy. Coweta Schools said the charter school didn’t [...]

HAHAHA

June 25th, 2011
12:10 am

I should have been a kindergarten teacher! A 2 year education at Georgia Perimeter College and I could be living the dream working for the coweta school system!! Never mind the billions in wasted tax payer money for acorn, amtrack, GE, and other TARP leeches

Ronin

June 25th, 2011
12:13 am

Why would anyone be shocked that the applications are being denied. The BOE doesn’t want to share funding. As far as the school “losing” funding. That’s nonsense. If the child does not attend the school, the school never needs the money to begin with.
Also, when the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 against the Charter Commission, three members of the court dissented. So it came down to one vote and I seriously doubt that the issue of political wrangling was not involved.

Tell the truth

June 25th, 2011
12:16 am

You pay your taxes and the county BOE determines how to spend the money- it does not belong to you anymore. If you want to pay for your kids to go to private schools then go for it. But pay for it yourself. The over-riding goal of this new “school choice right” is to dismantle the public school systems. Of course then the wealthy and middle class will pay their tuition to private schools and get a tax deduction or credit for it. The poor- not so much. But then the Republicans never do anything to take care of the poor or the working man do they?

Tell the truth

June 25th, 2011
12:18 am

HAHAHA I don’t think you could even qualify to be a kindergarten teacher with your swell demeanor.

Publicola

June 25th, 2011
12:23 am

“I am not opposed to charter schools, but I am opposed to those who take our tax money for schools and stick it in their pockets.”

I love these people who say “I’m for charter schools, but….” then they oppose every charter application put forward except those put forward by the local school system which offer no real options for students who are under-served.

Georgia is at the bottom of the heap when it comes to education so why does the idea of offering opportunity to those who need it scare so many people? We need to quit messing around while students who need help continue to fall behind.

science teacher

June 25th, 2011
12:28 am

I am all for allowing parents to take THEIR tax money with them. Now, let’s see… I pay 1300 dollars in property taxes a year. Part of that goes for my police and fire protection, part of it goes for roads and other infrastructure. Ok. That means that maybe a third goes to education. That would be 425 dollars toward what ever education I choose for my child.

Meaning, I don’t mind parents taking the PART of their taxes that goes toward education and using it somewhere else for their child. However, for those who don’t have children, or businesses and what all, that money stays with the public schools. However, that is not what voucher proponents want. No. They want their share of my taxes too. That is where it becomes not cool.

You should remember that you really don’t contribute THAT much to your child’s education through your direct tax bill. You are drawing a lot of dollars from other people. Since they help pay, they help say.

HAHAHA

June 25th, 2011
12:29 am

Tell the truth – keep living and voting the same way…it’s done wonders so far. Something has to change my friend, this may not be the perfect solution but at least people are realizing that the status quo is not working for education or any other public solutions in this country….and you are right, I am not qualified, I’m over-qualified

Publicola

June 25th, 2011
12:30 am

@Tell the truth

The charter school movement is very bi-partisan. Take a look at the speakers at the charter school conference this past week in Atlanta. Bill Clinton, Cory Booker and a host of other Democrats were there.

By the way, charter schools help the very people you say Republicans don’t care about.

Keeping poor students trapped in lousy schools as you desire helps them right?

English teacher

June 25th, 2011
12:52 am

Thank you science teacher. I knew I wasn’t the only one who had done the math on the “it’s my tax money argument”. In the average county, a parent would have to pay property taxes on over $500,000 of property per child per year to pay for his/her children’s education. The majority of local property taxes are paid by businesses and corporations in most counties.

Jennifer

June 25th, 2011
1:06 am

Frankly, I don’t want to hear about this “for profit” piety. It must be okay to have a “for profit” alternative disciplinary schools like Ombudsman. (at last count 39 in Georgia)

Those for profit schools are embraced by MANY districts and only provide 3 hours of self-directed computer based education each day – oh those are all the black and hispanic kids. I guess it is ok to profit off them, right ?

teacher pay

June 25th, 2011
7:43 am

at least coweta charter dad is being honest: his biggest concern is teacher salary. the for-profit management company will pay teachers less in order to ensure profit for shareholders. yeah, this certainly is an improvement…

CharterStarter

June 25th, 2011
7:43 am

Cherokee also denied, but in a split vote (4-3). This “asking McDonald’s to approve a Burger King” will only work when charter/choice friendly members are elected to boards of education. Watch closely.

FBT

June 25th, 2011
8:12 am

@science teacher- Your limited perspective is showing. Many property owners do pay enough in the school funding portion of property taxes to give their children a private school education. Anyone patronizing any business is indirectly paying property taxes.

FBT

June 25th, 2011
8:14 am

@teacher pay- Many would argue the method used to compensate teachers is broken and innovative compensation models are welcomed.

Dunwoody Mom

June 25th, 2011
8:15 am

Watching the news last evening – there were many Coweta parents against this Charter. One woman, in specific, indicated that she was against it because of corporate backing , i.e., for-profit company. Let me ask a serious question, what happens if that “for-profit” company loses money on this school? Does it back out leaving all of this children stranded with no money at all? Do they cut teacher salaries so low that they cannot recruit qualified teachers? I’m with Coweta on this one – too many risks involved.

Ronin

June 25th, 2011
8:36 am

@Charter Starter, that’s a pretty good analogy. A prior poster had made the comment that Coweta Charter Dad was concerned only with the rate of teacher pay, as 38 employees in the Coweta system were making in excess of 100k per year. However, I don’t believe that was his point.

The point was, the people in the education system, are for the most part, well paid. They are in the “business” of educating children. The Charter concept is outside the direct control of the local BOE, If the Charter produces results better than the standard BOE school, that’s a direct threat to “their business model.” So, in that respect, through the eyes of the local BOE, competition is not a good thing.

Further, the notion that “for profit” schools being a bad thing, that’s just silly, nonsensical thinking.
Nobody at the government school system works for free, not the teachers, the principals or the janitors. So that pretty much quashes the argument that a greedy CEO and the shareholders are steeling tax money. Any company that supplies goods or services to the local schools, does so for a profit to themselves, their employees and if publicly traded their stockholders.

Given the below national average test scores of Georgia schools, you would think that the Charter option would be met with open arms. However, that has not been the case.

Was judicial activism involved in the Supreme Court decision, the public will probably never know.
However, there was a clear split of the court, and the dissenters, in my opinion, made a more compelling argument to support their facts.

Given that the legislative branch created the Charter School Commission, they will most likely find a solution to the immediate problem.

CharterStarter, Too

June 25th, 2011
8:57 am

Education in general, even public education, is highly profit driven, as Ronin and others mentioned. Everybody profits – teachers, leaders, certainly school boards, book companies, food vendors, etc., etc.

Charters often choose managment organizations because they have experience, central staff that can address student needs like SPED or organizational functions like payroll. Sometimes charter school boards choose them because they can bring a facility to the table – something the charter school boards can’t get for themselves because there is no funding and lenders tend to shy from new ventures, like it is with any other organization wishing to borrow.

The key with management companies is the contract. If the charter school boards negotiate an arms-length, fair contract with reasonable and appropriate fees and have proper oversight of the management organization as far as academic achievement and fiscal management, not only can the schools spend funds more efficiently, but there is greater accountability for performance. Management companies not watching the bottom line won’t get paid. And EMOs that don’t ensure kids perform can be fired.

Management companies can be very good for education – they can decrease the bureaucracy and increase the efficiency. As I understand it, nationwide, EMOs are sometimes being hired to take over failing school districts.

I guess my point here is to not throw the baby out with the bath water. School Boards have every right to ask hard questions about management organization relationships with charter schools seeking authorization. But that doesn’t mean that every EMO isn’t worth a shot, especially if they have a track record of strong student performance and good fiscal management.

Educator2

June 25th, 2011
9:03 am

@HAHAHA…To be a certified Kindergarten Teacher, you would need a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and pass the state certification tests. In addition, to receive a salary of $80,000, you would most likely have to have worked close to 20 years and have a Doctorate Degree. Now tell me what professions pay less with these types of degrees and years of service? Teachers do not get paid high salaries. This is public service profession that is underpaid.

Middle School Teacher

June 25th, 2011
9:18 am

This is a victory for American education. As an experienced teacher in the public school arena, I am sick and tired of all the rhetoric against our public school system. I am 100% sure that those who attack the system and its teachers have never stepped into a school during teacher planning and staff development time. A vast majority of non-teachers have absolutely no idea just how devoted most teachers are to their profession and to their end result: the STUDENTS. In my opinion the charter school philosophy opend up many doors to abuse of the system of education. There are serious factors that always must be met by school systems within the bounds of state guidelines. The charter school opens the door to abuse of students. There is no oversight into the funding, the class size, the teacher qualification and re-qualification, the continually needed staff development, etc. I think the district where the charter school is placed MUST have oversight into the inner workings of the school to ensure that an equitable amount of public funding makes it to the direct support of the student. Without this oversight, the charter school system is open game for misuse.

Congratulations to Coweta School System for standing up for your students and their families.

CharterStarter, Too

June 25th, 2011
9:45 am

MIddle School Teacher, I have 13 years in a public school setting, so I DO know and understand. And…I’ve started and run a charter school – with a district that provides academic and fiscal oversight and is a PARTNER with our charter. It does not have to be a “You vs. Us” thing. It really doesn’t. Districts serve many students very happily, and so do charters. Why not provide an option for every child’s needs? And for that matter – for every teacher’s?

Ronin

June 25th, 2011
9:53 am

Okay, @educator2, you have made an excellent point. However, have also proven my point as to the system is broken and needs replacing. If a teacher wants to obtain a Ph.D, that’s fine. However, higher compensation should only be paid when certain criteria are met. A Ph.D is not required or needed to teach kindergarten students and it should make no difference in the payment of the teacher.
This is one of the long standing compensation issues that is ingrained into the current education mind set. Further, longevity or seniority compensation does little to raise academic performance, rather, it simply creates a pecking order of: I’ve been here the longest, I’m ENTITLED to more money. Until you break this type of mindset little progress will be made.

@middle school teacher, I see the passion in your statement. However, with all due respect, I have to completely disagree with pretty much everything you mentioned, as it was an emotional statement, not based on logic.
If you had your way, we would continue to support the current education system. The state of GA is at or near the bottom of national test scoring. Not acceptable. Also, given that you profit from your work, which is fine, you have a biased point of view. That’s not an attack, it’s simply stating a fact. Also, Charter schools are also public schools, just not always under the direct control of a local BOE.

I don’t have a child in a Charter School and started neutral on the issue. However, the majority of the posts I’ve read supporting the Charter option are more compelling than the eliminate the Charter group.

Oh, in most cases, the school system is the largest single employer of people in each county.

Teacher Reader

June 25th, 2011
9:53 am

@ Science Teacher

It’s not just local taxes that one pays that goes towards an education. If you pay federal tax dollars part of those go towards education as well.

Our public school systems are failing our children and until we have competition for them to improve, they have no reason to improve. Money is misspent in most public schools. I am all for choice, true choice, and for-profit schools, as long as they give a good product.