School funding: If the state funds a cabin, can a local community use its own resources to build a mansion?

How should we fund our schools? A new commission is considering that complicated question.  (AP Images)

How should we fund our schools? A new commission is considering that complicated question. (AP Images)

I wrote a live blog out of the state Education Finance Study Commission meeting yesterday, but wanted to write a  second piece today that offered a bit more perspective.

The newly formed committee of educators, lawmakers and business leaders is supposed to produce initial recommendations for the Legislature in January, and others for the 2013 session.

The commission seems serious about reforming the education funding formula, although its first swipe targeted, as many members admitted, “the low-hanging fruit.” I find that reassuring since every other effort has failed, usually because the conclusion — schools need more money — was not politically viable.

The funding formula and the state law governing schools are outdated in many instances, including their lack of recognition of technology and its pivotal role in education today.

In fact, state School Superintendent John Barge held up a copy of the 374-page Title 20 in which he had placed flags on material that he said “was outdated, was language that was no longer applicable or relevant, things that could be helpful to change or helpful to eliminate and things that just do not apply any more.” There were dozens of flagged sections.

The commission is truly bipartisan, best illustrated by the invitation to Joe Martin, Barge’s Democratic opponent for school chief last year, to speak on how to best reform the formula. The commission allotted Martin an hour for his presentation, reflective of his expertise in school funding. Martin helped write the Quality Basic Education Act in the early 1980s. His inclusion was all the more extraordinary because Martin led a consortium of rural school districts that sued the state over how it funded schools.

I credit the open-mindedness of the commission to its co-chairs, legislators Brooks Coleman of Gwinnett and Fran Millar of DeKalb. Millar, in particular, is a frank guy who says what is on his mind. (See earlier blog on his “moron” comment at the meeting yesterday.)

The commission also has lots of smart people on it, including Kelly Henson, who heads the Professional Standards Commission and is a former school chief. It also has business leader Jim Bostic, who is an upfront guy with a lot to offer.

The commission has created subgroups to delve into individual areas, and those groups came back with some common-sense proposals after their first go-around, including ditching the 65 percent classroom spending rule, restoring school nurses and revamping capital outlay formulas that hurt smaller districts.

But the hard part is ahead: How should Georgia fund its schools at the building level? Can the money follow the child across district lines when we have some communities where the locals dig very deep to augment the money invested in education by the state?

What can the state do about districts that lack the political will to fund schools to a level required for adequacy, never mind excellence?

If, as Martin says, the state should pay for a foundational education for every child, what is that foundation?

What does it mean today to give a child an educational foundation?  Does it mean foreign language and advanced math? Does it mean art and music?

People complain that zip code now determines school quality, but shouldn’t a community be allowed to tax itself more if it wants better schools for its children?

Again, people hold Decatur out as an example of a school system that works, but a key component is that the property owners of Decatur pay far higher taxes than anyone else in the state to support their small schools and ambitious programs.

Should a district be allowed to look at the funding floor provided by the state and elevate it dramatically so that their students get much more than children a county or two over?

Should metro schools continue to outpace most of the schools in the state because their taxpayers can either afford to pay more toward education or are willing to pay more because they have a greater belief in the value of education?

In other words, if the state funds a cabin, can a local community use its own resources to build a mansion?

And within a single system, should a school blessed with  dedicated and financially able parents be allowed to add more teachers or programs because those parents are willing to pay for them out of their pockets?

These are questions being asked around the country, and I don’t have the answers as I can see both sides. I think it’s a mistake to discourage parents from giving to their schools, but I also have seen communities where one or two schools become the envy of the rest of the system because of  exceptional parental  support, creating a sense of two worlds within the same system. (This has been a problem in New York City, where parents wanted to pool their own money and hire more teachers to bring back classes cut by the district.)

Any ideas?

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

66 comments Add your comment

An answer

August 26th, 2011
10:27 am

The question was raised — should a school blessed with dedicated and financially able parents be allowed to add more teachers or programs because those parents are willing to pay for them out of their pockets?

The answer is of course.” Why is this even a question? What parents do with their own money is their own business. I’ve never heard anyone question this before so why is it an issue in this blog?

There is a mistake in this article as well. Decatur does not pay the highest taxes. Those living in the city of Atlanta and in Dekalb county pay the highest taxes.

Maureen Downey

August 26th, 2011
10:31 am

@An answer, Decatur and Atlanta are close, but DeKalb is not nearly as high as city of Decatur in its property taxes.


August 26th, 2011
10:46 am

These are excellent questions. I was fascinated by the Gates presentation as well. The idea that we change the way we think of local taxes in terms of revenue for our children vs. revenue for our local school system is particularly noteworthy. Part of me would like to see kids be able to go wherever they want just because I’d like to see if certain systems are truly better at educating, or if they just have the right mix of inputs making them appear successful. I’m not so certain a given county is actually any better than anyone else at actually educating, and it would be interesting to see if that holds up. If a failing system is “shut down” as the presenter suggested, would the surrounding school systems continue to be as successful? I’m not so sure.

An Answer

August 26th, 2011
10:51 am

Maureen, you’ve mistaken my meaning. I didn’t compare Atlanta to Decatur. I said those who live in the city of Atlanta AND in Dekalb county pay the highest taxes. There are several thousand unfortunate people who have to pay the high taxes of the city of Atlanta AND pay the taxes of Dekalb county. Those are the highest taxes, not Decatur. Check your facts.


August 26th, 2011
10:58 am

There’s also a lot of fraud, waste and mismanagement and these need to be addressed…..

Maureen Downey

August 26th, 2011
10:59 am

@An Answer, For five years, I owned a condo in the city of Atlanta in DeKalb County. I did pay high taxes, but think the rate is about the same as what I pay now in Decatur. I can check later when I am off deadline.


August 26th, 2011
11:00 am

Please explain how ‘including ditching the 65 percent classroom spending rule’ is a good thing (unless the percentage is being raised)? Shouldn’t the majority of the money go to the classrooms and kids instead of Central Office staff and their pet projects?


August 26th, 2011
11:01 am

A good start would be requiring all expenditures to be posted on line via on line check registers and p-card registers. I’m not sure how many of you realize that non-profit organizations are required to file very detailed tax returns (10 pages+) with numerous disclosures regarding expenditures and conflicts of interests and potential conflicts of interests. The school systems are exempt from these requirements even though they spend multiples of what most of these non-profits spend and the money they are spending are tax dollars (federal, state and local tax money) taken with the force of the gun by the government from the tax payer and the non-profits get their money voluntarily from their members… There’s something wrong with the picture…..

Ira in East Lake

August 26th, 2011
11:01 am

AA – I’m one of those you describe and I beg to differ.


August 26th, 2011
11:04 am

AA-Same as Ira. Decatur is much higher.

NW GA Math/Science Teacher

August 26th, 2011
11:06 am

A local small city school system here is far superior to the county system. Now, is this due to “having the right mix of inputs”? There is likely a large effect of community value placed on education. However, I think the larger effect comes from the school’s willingness to expel. Does Decatur allow folks from out of district? Do they enforce their rules and flush folks who don’t follow the rules? If so, I think it clouds the experimental variables quite a bit, but probably makes for quite a good school environment…

Dr NO aka Mr Sunshine

August 26th, 2011
11:07 am

“What can the state do about districts that lack the political will to fund schools to a level required for adequacy, never mind excellence?”

What exactly does that mean and who determines adequacy, excellence etc.

Sounding more like a financial pig in a poke.

Dr NO aka Mr Sunshine

August 26th, 2011
11:08 am

Lets begin with getting rid of Auto allowance or furnishing these “Drs” with autos.

Parent of 3

August 26th, 2011
11:12 am

Public education is nothing more than the perfect model of socialism. The results are a product that cannot perform! Simply updating school funding, and other policy, is nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The solution is to turn education over to the private sector (See Ron Clark Academy: a PRIVATE non-profit). We do not deny ourselves the finest cars, food and clothing; all produced by private businesses. Can you imagine how much a Ford would cost or how poor the quality would be if the government were in charge of manufacturing it? So, why do we deny our children the finest education? If you want to get serious about education reform in America, read Separating School & State: How To Liberate America’s Families by Sheldon Richman. Or, maybe as a society we are comfortable with a mediocre education system and simply want to “improve the funding formula” rather than having the courage to accept drastic reform that will enrich the lives of our children.

Maureen Downey

August 26th, 2011
11:12 am

@Huh, The problem was how to define classroom expenditures. Only two or three states ever passed this law, and we are the only one still with it. Barge noted that there was no improvement to academic achievement with this law. For instance, the law doesn’t count media specialists in its calculations or counselors.
If there was evidence that the 65 percent law worked, I would support it but there is none and it apparently was an accounting nightmare. I just don’t want systems burdened with unnecessary and fruitless paperwork.


August 26th, 2011
11:16 am

Are you comparing total tax bills with county operations included, or just the school portion?

Glad I can afford to send my children to Pvt School

August 26th, 2011
11:18 am

APS is the perfect example of spending per student does not work. All schools have too much worthless overhead.


August 26th, 2011
11:19 am

And in thinking through the mess in DCSS (& all the waste and ineptitude and worse) and Parent of 3 I agree… I believe in competition and I circle back around to vouchers… at this point in the game, I don’t think that a system based on vouchers could possibly be any worse than what is currently taking place (just take a look at all the systems — locally and nationally — involved in cheating scandals and the costs) and the outputs we are getting and take a look at what the private sector is producing. Sure, there’ll be fraud under a voucher system but it would take many more people cooperating to get to what we have now and maybe along the line we’d produce more educated citizens in the end because the money would be infused from the bottom up rather than how we have it now, which is top down funding with too much siphoning off (ala small 3rd world countries) with a very poor overall end product (with exceptions). The money being spent pubic vs. private isn’t that different.

Mid-South Philosopher

August 26th, 2011
11:22 am

The fundamental flaw in our public schools is that, while the “state” is constitutionally responsible for seeing to it that a system of “public education” is in place in Georgia, we blend into the mix this notion of “local contribution and local control.” This has had, has, and will forever have the effect of assuring that the programs in Georgia schools will be unequal and unfair. This problem WILL NOT be solved until such time as the “state” assumes full responsibility of providing a “truly” ADEQUATE program of education for all Georgia schools.

Unfortunately, in the political climate in which we live, that “ain’t a-gonna happen”!

So, why waste time and money with another Education Finance Study Commission?

It is a “comedy of idiocy.”

An Apology to Maureen

August 26th, 2011
11:24 am

I wrote a week or so back and commented that Atlanta’s black elite are seldom prosecuted for wrong doing and cited as one of my examples, mega preachers who prey on youth. You responded by giving specific examples of prominent blacks from the metro area who have in fact been prosecuted and incarcerated. Please except my apology, I stand corrected.

I see Eddie Long is finally getting his comeuppance. Maybe he’s not being prosecuted in court, but his so called character is certainly getting pilloried in the court of public awareness. For someone of Long’s ilk, this is far more excruciating than any jail cell.

He is a disgrace to himself, his family and flock.


August 26th, 2011
11:24 am

Maureen, I am wondering if An Answer thought that you were referring to Decatur as in South DeKalb as opposed to City of Decatur, which is a separate municipality.

No Artificial Flavors

August 26th, 2011
11:43 am

Maureen, my county school system is facing a potential local funding crisis that I believ could be easily resolved with common sense legislation. The BOE is nearly maxed out on their abiliy to raise the millage rate any further beyond the cap. In addition there is a contentious ESPLOST vote coming up soon. if it fails the burden for badly needed school construction would have to come from the general fund, however, with the millage cap in place this is impossible. This problem is further compounded by the fact that one mill of tax brings in far less than it once did.

We need a piece of legislation to come up in January at the General Assembly that at very least allows for the removal of a millage rate cap if the ESPLOST vote fails and also maybe a slight increase in the cap regardless. This puts the burden on local school boards to be accountable and I believe increases a greater degree of local control and responsiveness with regards to the massive state cutbacks to local school districts.

Have you. Heard of any such legislation being discussed in these committees?

No Artificial Flavors

August 26th, 2011
11:45 am

Sorry for the iPhone typos

Ranking Sum Bags

August 26th, 2011
11:47 am

@ Apology to Maureen

At least those boys that Long preyed upon received a settlement that will hopefully be placed in a trust or invested to make their lives a little better. Christ will have no mercy on Long!

BUT.. the thousands of children denied appropriate educational learning opportunities over the past 12 years, will in all likelyhood be condemned to a life of missed chances. Hall and her gang of thugs are slum bags of the lowest order.

An Answer

August 26th, 2011
11:48 am

No Cammi, I am not talking about South DeKalb. Those tax payers living in the CITY of Atlanta AND the COUNTY of Dekalb pay more taxes than the CITY of Decatur tax payers.

They are between a rock and a hard place. They pay the most but get the worst of the public schools.


August 26th, 2011
11:54 am

Good points! I have to wonder if it didn’t work because the districts and the DOE didn’t want it to work though :-)

Goes too far

August 26th, 2011
12:03 pm

This property tax calculator for DeKalb County has Decatur at 54.31 and City of Atlanta/DeKalb County at 50.09. Strangely, the tax rate from Lithonia at 52.85.

tar and feathers party

August 26th, 2011
12:06 pm

Spending more money on public education is not the answer, it just leads to higher paid teachers, not higher academic achievement. The students have to have a will to learn, the means are freely available in today’s high tech world. Education has become a big business, it is sucking more and more of our dollars down the drain. I suggest we spend less and demand more.

ex aps teacher

August 26th, 2011
12:10 pm

sorry folks..the Ron Clark Academy is a is not replicable.
Besides it is a middle school….we have no data on how students from the Ron Clark Academy do in the long term when they go to college.
Ron Clark has found a niche for himself…kudos to him for being able to do this at no cost to tax payers…however as a former teacher..his methods are not replicable..nor has it been proven to be a model for anyone else. Ron Clark’s model works in the small microcosm of his environment.


August 26th, 2011
12:11 pm

The correct question is, why was the compulsory school attendance law passed when it is in conflict with the Federal and State Constitutions? All education is religious, therefore it violates theSecond Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, LIBERTY (freedom of religion), or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The 13th Amendment: “Neither slavery nor INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”.

Since we ignored the Constitution, forced the children into INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE (do test prep and pass CRCT so teachers and state can earn Federal dollars), we now fund the operation with taxes. However, the Constitution demands that they be UNIFORM throughout the United States.

“Section. 8.The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”

So the answer is, if you want unconstitutional public school, funded by tax dollars, ALL SCHOOLS MUST BE EQUAL! The rich will have to HOME SCHOOL or support a PRIVATE SCHOOL. It is real clear!

Once Again

August 26th, 2011
12:21 pm

End the government school system. Replace it with a truly free market system of education – no government rules, restrictions, licensure requirements, manadatory attendence laws, minimum school days, etc. End all restructions on home schooling.

Allow the creativity and innovative skills of current teachers and the general public to address the needs of education as they have addressed the needs of every other industry and business segment they have been allowed to participate in.

America innovation and spirit is the greatest in the world. Why do we allow the top-down failure inherent in government bureaucratic systems to destroy the marketplace of educational services?

Clearly nothing is going to improve the current system. Money certainly isn’t the answer as the worst school system in the country – Washington D.C. also spends the most per pupil (over $12,000) !

Any “business” that can guarantee its funding though the mechanism of force and theft (basically how government gets all of its funding) will never be accountable to the people who pretend to be its customers. Parents and children are just being victimized, along with everyone else who is forced to pay for this failed system. People talk about changing the system, but nobody really wants to change the free ride their children get on the backs of society, and nobody really wants to take responsibility for the education of their children or the choices they make regarding it.

Freedom is a scary thing, but something that used to be valued and appreciated in this country. NO MORE.


August 26th, 2011
12:25 pm

Be Patient!!

“APS provides documents to Fulton grand jury” ……online in today’s AJC.

I’m sure Hall and many of her top lieutenants will be sentenced in accordance to their complicity in one of the greatest crimes committed against public education.


August 26th, 2011
12:26 pm

@Tar and Feathers Party

Higher paid teachers? If that comment wasn’t so very, very sad…it would be laughable.


August 26th, 2011
12:33 pm

@ Once Again….I understand some of what you are saying, but what happens to the inner city child or the child in Appalachia whose parents barely make enough to put food on the table and a roof over their heads? What happens to the children who lose a parent in an accident or to early death and all of the family money must go to merely survive? Do we just toss them aside and say, “Tough luck?” Do we punish them because of the “shortcomings” of their parents? Do we simply allow vast hordes of uneducated people to roam the country in search of making/getting money any way they can?

Ned Puddleman

August 26th, 2011
12:34 pm

The US is not in the top 20 in terms of education in the world. Georgia is 48th out of 50 states of a country that isn’t in the top 20 in education in the world. However, the US spends more moeny than any other nation in the world on education. Clearly funding isn’t the problem. The problem is who runs education; the government.

If you are a parent sending your child to a government run school you are commiting an act of child abuse. If you care about your child do whatever it takes to get them into a private school where they will actually learn instead of just being processed or “taught” to pass a federal government mandated test.


August 26th, 2011
12:36 pm

The problame isn’t with lack of funding – school systems are showered with funds. It’s the mismanagement of these funds that is the issue. Here in Gwinnett, between administrators, retirees, nurses, counselors, etc we pay far more to people not actually teaching our kids.

Not to mention sweetheart land deals to prop up politically connected developers or King Wilbanks building a $70 mil palace for himself.

That kind of waste buys a lot of books & technology!

No Artificial Flavors

August 26th, 2011
12:44 pm

Hey people how about some solutions to problems. Get active with your local board. Quit throwing out vague platitudes about government education and get some info in addition to boortz once in a while.


August 26th, 2011
12:46 pm

There’s also the unfairness (at this stage of the game) of a district like DCSS sending money as a “sending school” in the funding formulas for equalization to the “poorer” systems when DCSS is topped out on its millage rate and for other districts to be receiving districts, such as Gwinnett… particularly when you compare facilities (White County, for example, has stunning facilities and Dekalb’s are a disaster….). Some of the reciving counties have very low mileage rates. This aspect of the funding formula is out of whack……


August 26th, 2011
12:49 pm

to: No Artificial Flavors — it’s only after a decade of doing everything possible to change things that at the local PTA and school board level (and higher) I’ve decide that the system is so corrupt and flawed that, perhaps, vouchers may be the only way to truly get the kids educated so that there’s a future for my own children (I have ensured that my children have their educations — my kids have us to protect them… there are too many other kids out there who are being processed into this prison pipeline with the use of my tax money).

No Artificial Flavors

August 26th, 2011
12:55 pm

@ anonomom, Sounds like you’ve been very involved and understand most of the issues school. However local and state control has been greatly diminished withe the Feds unending mandates. So that’s where I will agree with you and others that government education is ineffective. My previous comment was at those that liken public schools to child abuse. Maybe APS but not all systems for sure.


August 26th, 2011
1:00 pm

I’d pay more if the money was directed at the schools my child attends. Not diluted to southern part of the county (Cobb)


August 26th, 2011
1:01 pm

Of course, communities should be able to go beyond the basics and build and fund better schools. The City of Bremen, for example, has always taxed itself far more than other local communities. The results are schools that always make AYP, that send students to college in huge percentages, and that have great test scores. Don’t penalize a community where residents want more for their children just because another city or county chooses not to do the same.


August 26th, 2011
1:22 pm

Yes, as long as we have Public Education the State should set minimum standards for a “foundational” education. Beyond that, local school districts and local tax policies should rule the day. If there are impoverished areas of the State that cannot sustain funding for a foundational education then the State needs to provide the funding by some formula. And yes, the political process should produce the foundational standards and funding formulas for the Districts being propped up; otherwise, it’s not public education, it’s a mandate on the public to fund someone else’s dictated agenda-driven idea of an eduaction (as opposed to an agenda developed by the representative political process). The Fed should butt out completely, Fed money and mandates corrupt the process, and private money should have no voice in how the public schools are operated (again, a corrupting influence if strings are attached).

Scream all you want, libs, about fairness and equality. We want NONE of your “fairness” or “equality” in education, because it inevitably costs more, drives down quality dramatically, and erodes personal responsibility and accountability. We have a collective responsibility to ensure there is an opportunity for a minimum level of education for all legal residents, and the rest should be at the discretion of the local folks.

Why is there a need for “crossing districts”? That one has me stumped. Either move or work to advance the quality of education within your district.

@ Vince

August 26th, 2011
1:52 pm

What happened during the Great Depression when similar situations occurred? Most poor people today are doing much better than the poor during the Great Depression. Poor families have food stamps, and pantries to help them put food on their table.

Coming from a poor family, my parents did not partake in government assistance. We always had healthy food on the table. Could I snack between meals, nope, but I wasn’t really hungry.

No one in our country knows what it’s like to be poor, really poor. Even poor people have homes, education, etc. When I taught in the poor South Side of Chicago, my students who were on welfare and food stamps had Michael Jordon sneakers, HBO, and other things that I could not afford on my teacher salary.

I have worked hard because I grew up poor to have more for myself. As my husband will tell you, he spent the late 70’s with shower bags for walls in his home’s bathroom, he refuses to have to live like that. When one grows up poor, it should give them an incentive to do better for themselves. When we give someone things that they haven’t worked for because we feel sorry for them, we make them reliant on the government. Think about the families that have been on welfare for generations.

Board Accountability by Good Mother

August 26th, 2011
2:06 pm

I appreciate the comments by posters who say we need more transparency in spending just as charities have. I want to know exactly where my tax dollars are going.

We also need more transparency in the area of the administrators. I want to know exactly what administrators are spending and how much — exactly.

We have more than enough money in APS, the trouble is, it is going to the board and their cronies.
When our nations’s president earns $400,000 a year, it is outrageous than the APS super earns $275 plus perks.

My sincere and ongoing thanks to the AJC for uncovering the APS thievery by board and super and its ongoing coverage to keep our government open and honest.

Thanks, AJC, also for the opportunity to talk openly here about something that is so important to all of us, education.

Good Mother

An answer

August 26th, 2011
2:08 pm

Ira in East Lake. Not talking about your area. Check out Candler Park taxes and Lake Claire taxes. Far more than Decatur.

An answer

August 26th, 2011
2:13 pm

Goes too far, you are only showing the county tax. You have to add BOTH taxes as I have been saying here for four blogs….BOTH city of Atlanta taxes AND Dekalb county taxes add to more than Decatur. you have to add BOTH taxes. You are only looking at one tax. Candler Park and Lake Claire get completely screwed. Those tax payers pay the HIGHEST taxes yet still have to be bear the burden of being in the atlanta public schools.

Once Again

August 26th, 2011
3:16 pm

Vince – Charity schools, private scholarships, “community schools” made up of involved and interested parents, who knows. Your concern is over a small number of kids that charity and other community involvement can easily address. And yet I hear that similar comment virtually every time I make such suggestions. Funny how EVERYONE is worried about someone else’s kid but never seems to care about their own. How truly sad.

Currently people of childbearing age know that as soon as they have a child “society” will take tons of responsibility for that child. What if we change that attitude so that they know that THEY are responsible for the child?? People think that actions have no consequences. A free lunch breeds a dependent society that knows nothing of self-reliance or responsibility.

You take the attitude that parents will not care about their children’s education and yet you are probably one of the many who want to see more involvement from parents in the educational process.

Please explain why a parent should care. They really have no choice in what school their child attends. If they find a good school, it could be taken away though redistricting. They have no input on teacher performance, no choice with regards to curriculum, no way to demand accountability, no ability to take their money and walk, etc. Since they are not a consumer, but a pawn, why should they really try to get involved? Nothing ever changes, even for those who do get involved.

Today, thanks to innovation, productivity increases, technology improvements, etc. even the poorest in our country are vastly better off today than some of the wealthiest 100 years ago. Air conditioning, color tv, automobiles, cell phones, the internet, etc. Because we have imprisoned the educational delivery industry within the contraints of government bureaucracy. Innovation is actively repressed within this system. The poorest suffer the most because they have the least opportunity to escape.

When you think of today’s restricted environment for education you may not realize the limits government places on options for education. For instance, you can homeschool your own child, but cannot add your neighbor’s kid into your classroom for money unless you have a teaching license. Then of course you are hit with classroom regulations, building regulations, HOA restrictions if your convenent mentions it, etc. By that same token, a bunch of parents can’t just get together, form a school for their own kids and take on a couple more even though they could easily handle the task. These are the kind of creative, low cost options (and of course there could be a million more if the market was free) that could easily address the issues of education for folks with less money – but the government forbids them, mostly to protect the teachers it licenses from competition (yes, that is what regulations are really about,not safety).

One needs to think outside the box. If you are the type who would want to make sure that the poorest kids got educated, you should step up and do that. But you should also work for freedom so that every parent and every child can get the opportunity to experience educational freedom in their lifetime. There are only so many years that are dedicated to learning in a child’s life. We continue to waste decades and decades arguing over how to tweak a system that cannot be fixed and should be abandoned for the sake of the children.

Dr. John Trotter

August 26th, 2011
3:39 pm

Money does not equate with successful schooling and learning. Just look at all of the urban school systems in the country. All. I am not exaggerating. All. So, something more fundamental than money needs to be in place.

The money inequities have been around from the beginning. Georgia (and I presume other states as well) have struggled with the funding formula, trying to ameliorate the inequities. In the early 1980s in Georgia, Dr. Michael LaMorte of the University of Georgia and a few others came up with the District Power Equalization (DPE) funding formula. Formulas were imbedded into the Quality Basic Education (QBE) Act under the Joe Frank Harris Administration. If you were around in the mid-1980s, you will recall that QBE was wafted up in every political discussion about public education in Georgia as if it were the newly-found holy grail in the public schooling process. School systems were essentially “bribed” to switch to the Middle School “Concept,” a concept which has since been dropped like a hot potato when it comes to sending monies to the school systems. It has, quite frankly, been a flop.

I remember when Joe Martin brought the COP funding formula to the Atlanta Board of Education. COP. Certificate of Participation. This brought in privatization to the funding. Perhaps ole Joe was ahead of the curve. It took Eli and Edyth Broad a few years to catch up with Joe on realizing the billions of dollars involved in public education. Now the Broads “train” potential superintendents (and search firms — and Glenn Brock — go a’shoppin’ for a newbie supe in their superintendent supermarket) and eventually have their tentacles in large, urban school systems throughout the country. It almost reminds of the BAE Systems (arms dealer) and its dealings with the Saudi Royal Family. Ha. Money galore! When you start sloshing around in big money (in the hundreds of billions), well, the rules are a little different.

Yes, Maureen, I have seen these discussions about “inequities” for a while now. In the 1950s in Georgia, we had the great ballyhoo over Minimum Foundation. Then came Adequate Program of Education in Georgia (APEG). Then came the almighty QBE. Even ole Roy got into the act with the his A+ Program (which tinkered around the edges of QBE, removing due process for teachers…which Sonny later restored). Now, don’t get me wrong…I think that Fran, Brooks, and Kelly are smart men. I have interacted with them on a bit level through the years. They are as capable of any other group of finding an “equitable” formula. But, they are really looking at the wrong “inequities.” It is this simple, guys. Good school systems support their teachers. They back up the teachers when it comes to establishing and maintaining order in the classroom. They do not tolerate defiant and disruptive students to remain in the regular school environment if these students do not change their ways. We know that no one can really do anything about who the parents are, and good school systems usually have good parents. There is a fundamental inequity in this area, but good school systems simply do not countenance irate and irresponsible parents screaming, shouting, and bullying their children’s teachers. What are we going to do about this “inequity”?

Good school systems also do not allow for “moronic” (yes, I like this candid expression, Fran) administrators to bully teachers, making their lives miserable and running them off to other school systems. Good school systems realize that you cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions. Good school systems are law-abiding. Bad school systems are antinomian in nature. They don’t give a rat’s behind what Title 20 of the Georgia State Code or the U. S. Constitution say. They simply do not care. That’s why at MACE we have very publicly and openly these last few years called the Atlanta Public Schools and the DeKalb County School System “gangsta school systems.” Good school systems actually obey the grievance law for certificated employees in Georgia (OCGA 20-2-989.5 et seq.) or the sick leave law (OCGA 20-2-850) or duty free lunch for elementary school teachers (OCGA 20-2-218). Systems like Atlanta and DeKalb often ignore these laws, and they take umbrage over the fact that we fight them over this.

When overhauling Title 20, I would suggest that the General Assembly actually put some teeth into the grievance law for certified employees. Penalize the school systems when they egregiously and flagrantly violate this law as they often and routinely do and create an automatic appeal process that works. Don’t allow the Georgia Board of Education to simply dismiss an appeal because “we don’t have a record to examine.” Of course you don’t because the gangsta school systems would never even hold a hearing. Had APS been forced to obey this law, teachers would have had an avenue to air their complaints about the systematic cheating. But, APS just routinely ignores this law. This is one of the several reasons why MACE pickets administrators and/or school boards. We have a simple formula at MACE: Obey the law and conduct a rather private grievance hearing or we will embarrass the heck out of you with a very public (and often “candy ass”) picket. It’s your choice. This usually works. Yes, the General Assembly should tighten up this grievance law. The DeKalb School System shut down a grievance hearing in which I was representing a teacher in the Spring of 2009 who was about to testify about systematic cheating (and he had a list of witnesses). I won’t mention any DeKalb employees responsible for shutting down this grievance because I feel confident that they were carrying out then-Superintendent Crawford Lewis’s wishes. Shortly after this shut down (and the subsequent MACE pickets in which we had “systematic cheating” on our signs), the cheating scandal in DeKalb erupted for all to see…and, sadly, Crawford was indicted.

One last thought for our General Assembly and Department of Education: Establish an office of a School Disciplinary Czar in Georgia with a private, secure, and confidential hotline that teachers can call. A staff of four or five investigators might make a dent on those “moronic” administrators who are bent on allowing defiant and disruptive students and their irate and irresponsible parents to abuse teachers. I am sorry, but the PSC simply doesn’t seem to have the capacity nor the stomach for such investigations. Sending complaints to the PSC over such matters almost invariably go unheeded.

There are many “inequitable” factors which beset the Georgia school systems, and the most important ones have little to do with funding. (c) MACE, August 26, 2011.

Joy in Teaching

August 26th, 2011
3:47 pm

Here is how to fix education:

* We’ve got to raise the bar in education and stop lowering it as NCLB has mandated us to do. Kids need to be required to do more than the basic minimum in order to be promoted to the grade level (if that) and school boards, principals, teachers, and parents need to support that. If little Johnny cannot read at the third grade level, is placing him in the 4th grade going to really help? What about when he gets REALLY behind and gets placed in the 8th?

* We’ve got to get some administrators in there who are not afraid to discipline a child while still giving that child and the parents of that child respect.

* We’ve got to rid ourselves of the idea that a college diploma is the end all and be all of school. College isn’t for everyone and there is nothing wrong working with your hands and other skills if that is how you are hard-wired. Technical schools need more funding and technical programs in our high schools need WAY more funding.

* Stop running your best and brightest teachers out of the classroom with an overabundance of useless and redundant paperwork. To be honest, the pay isn’t really that bad in this ecomony when so many have it worse that we are. But to require us to pay to keep certified at our salary? Institute an education forgivness plan of some sort. For example, the state pays for a Masters degree in English at a state school if you teach English in state for 7 years at your salary. Something like that. Yes, we may work 12 hour days during the school year, but we do have time off during holidays to spend those important moments with our families and friends. I did a recent straw poll. Of the 15 teachers on my hall, over half are on blood pressure medicine or anti-depressants due to job related stress. How sad is that for your child’s teachers?

Honestly? That’s it. Schools don’t need the latest bells and whistles. Class sizes can even be raised (if it is ok with the fire marshall) if discipline is no longer an issue.