As GOP calls for more charter schools in No Child rewrite, school boards endorse local control. And Cobb has charters on its agenda today.

Charter schools continue to dominate local,  state and national discussions of school reform. The GOP rewrite of No Child Left Behind contains a bill called the Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act 2011. The bill expands funding opportunities for the replication of successful charter schools and facilities assistance. It also encourages states to invest in high quality charter schools.

Quality will be the issue this afternoon when the Cobb school board takes up the two-year renewal petition for Imagine International Academy of Mableton. Because of academic under performance, the county administration has recommended denial of the renewal for the school, which serves 600 students. The school is expected to counter that its performance is in line with other county schools and better than some.

According to its posted agenda, the Cobb board will  consider a renewal petition from the International Academy of  Smyrna and a start-up request from Turning Point Charter Leadership Academy School of Excellence. The schools are seeking approval for the 2012-2013 school year.

To further the discussion today, here is an op-ed on charter schools by Jimmy Pope, past president of the Georgia School Boards Association, and Jeannie M. (Sis) Henry, executive director of GSBA.

There are 180 locally elected school boards in Georgia that have the Constitutional authority to manage and control the schools within their local school district. By electing local school board members, citizens ultimately keep the decision-making power on how local taxes for public education are spent.

This is critical, especially when considering the recent debate over who should approve charter schools. The Georgia Supreme Court recently ruled that these decisions should be left at the local level with locally elected school boards. When asked to reconsider its decision, the Court said, “No.” It was the right decision both times.

Because of the Court’s decision, groups that disagree are talking about offering a Constitutional Amendment to allow some other group to make decisions on whether or not a charter school belongs in a community. This would amount to taxation without representation. There are a number of problems with this approach. We advise extreme caution when there is talk of taking power away from the citizens. Please consider the following:

• The charter school issue is not about choice; it is about who controls local tax dollars. Parents have choice right now. Most school districts in Georgia offer a number of specialized programs for students who are gifted, at-risk, have special needs, are artistic or who are interested in a vocational track. There are also a number of online options and charter schools for parents who prefer those options. These charter schools were approved because they answer a distinct need in the community. They are still accountable to local taxpayers.

• Parents can also choose to send their child or children to a private school. That is a viable choice for many families that have religious or other reasons to want their children in a private school. These schools are supported with private money because they have their own accountability standards. Local citizens have no say in how they operate or use private funds. That is how it should be.

• Public education is an institution that is supported by our society because Americans have always recognized the importance of having educated citizens.  It is through taxation that we support public education, police protection, local government services and more. Our system of government cannot survive if people can pick and choose like from a menu which parts of government they will support.

• Local citizens should retain the power to elect local government officials who decide how local taxes are budgeted, spent and accounted for.  If we go down a road where political appointees can approve local charter schools that use local tax dollars or state dollars earmarked for local schools, what’s next? Will politicians in Atlanta decide on where or how police protection is provided in a community, or where libraries will be built?

We urge Georgians to look beyond the sound bites around the charter school issue to what lies beneath the political rhetoric. We have a system of government that gives the decision-making power to citizens.  Citizens exercise this power at the ballot box.  It belongs there and not with political appointees who are beholden only to a few.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

38 comments Add your comment

Pope Pious Local Controlus

September 29th, 2011
12:14 pm

Funny how these “advocates” of local control never seem to want to turn down federal dollars and the loss of control that goes with accepting those dollars do they?

Why should they be allowed to corner the market on the dumbing down of our future electorate, when so many others have shown they too can meaningful contributions to our collective stupidity?

Charter schools are PUBLIC SCHOOLS

September 29th, 2011
12:39 pm

Posting the Georgia Department of Ed General FAQ on Charter schools before all the erroneous statements about charter schools start.

It’s an informative read if you are unfamiliar with charter schools or if you are choosing to expound on charters without actually learning how they are approved or operate.


September 29th, 2011
12:51 pm

“Turning Point Charter Leadership Academy School of Excellence”???

I wonder if they plan to present ‘The First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence’


September 29th, 2011
12:54 pm

I say APS in its entirety needs to be turned over to charter operators. Millions upon millions have been and will be wasted if we do not abolish this national disgrace we call a school district!


September 29th, 2011
1:04 pm

So Cobb County is considering not renewing a charter because academic underperformance and the Charter counters with, “its performance is in line with other county schools”?

Isn’t the whole idea behind the Charter movement to produce better results?

If the results are “in line” with other county schools, then I guess the experiment isn’t working. As I understood it, Charters were supposed to explore new methods. If that is the purpose, then not getting better results is reason enough not to renew the charter.


September 29th, 2011
1:11 pm

say it ain’t so….parents should not have a voice hear…the experts (teachers) should make all of the decisions


September 29th, 2011
1:15 pm

The GOP rewrite should be called “empowering parents to send their children to schools that teach the Earth is flat, The Bible is factual and can be proven to be true, evolution is a tool of the Devil and global warming is a myth”. And, of course, all those children will grow up to become good young Republicans.


September 29th, 2011
1:16 pm

Taxation without representation is ALSO when school taxes are collected and administrations resist charters and renewals. Foxes guarding hen houses comes to mind.

Maureen Downey

September 29th, 2011
1:19 pm

@SOGa; Apparently, the school says it is doing better than the county says it is. The county gives this short summary of its reasons for recommending denial of the renewal:

Based on the review of the petition, several concerns exist including, but not limited to financial planning, academic innovation, and planned services for federally identified populations of students



September 29th, 2011
1:30 pm

I guess I am changing my name.


September 29th, 2011
1:33 pm

A quick look at the Imagine Schools national website reveals that the Mableton school has declining results and is likely not financially viable per Imagine’s own internal grading/reporting system. Sort of like an F on your self evaluation.

Charters are handicapped from “GO” because they don’t have a source of funding for facilities and many EMOs promise funding but with ultimately costly strings. Smyrna International used to be an Imagine facility but cut ties in order to save over $1million per year in operating costs paid to Imagine. Even after that their renewal info indicated they would be paying their teachers 17% less than the Cobb County scale.

Ask a business person on either side of the charter debate if their business could succeed paying wages 17% below the local average and they might fianlly find something in common.

Maureen Downey

September 29th, 2011
1:37 pm

Dear New catlady, We have a longtime “catlady” on this blog, so please consider Catlady2 or CobbCatlady or some other deviation. The original catlady has been on the blog longer than me, and deserves to keep her name.


September 29th, 2011
2:00 pm

Also, the original “catlady” never has bad grammar or misspellings in her posts, and they are always fair-minded and written from the viewpoint of a longtime teacher. This alone distinguishes her posts from yours, whoever you are.


September 29th, 2011
2:04 pm

@Waldo – LOL. They need an acronym badly.

Sounds like the typical foot-stomping of big government not getting it’s way. Boo hoo.

Kind of related…does anyone have tips for comparing local charter and traditional schools? Our local traditional school is excellent, but I would at least like to make an educated comparison. Not trying to hijack, Maureen :o )

Dr. John Trotter

September 29th, 2011
2:06 pm

A quick note (in a hurry): I have never been a Charter School fan. It, to me, is a back-handed way of getting other taxpayers to pay for your kid’s private education. For example, look at the charter school in the Lake Oconee area of Green County. Republicans tend to holler about small government (and I agree) but then want to do things Statewide (new States laws or Constitutional amendments) when they can’t get their way at the Local level.

Let me hit on my constant chord about what is really wrong with public education >>> a lack of discipline. But, this is the 800 pound gorilla that no one wants to talk about – neither Republicans nor Democrats. The lack of discipline in the urban schools is unconscionable, and there is not a damn thing (no program, curricula, etc.) that can be done to improve these schools until the lack of discipline is grabbed by the horns. Grabbed by the horns? Heck, the educrats and politicians won’t even get close to the horns. They’re scared to talk about this obvious problem.

Herman Cain graduated from Archer High School of Atlanta, and I dare say that if he had attended the same out-of-control schools like APS now has, he would have fallen through the proverbial crack and not have turned out to be the successful Mathematician, Businessman, and Politician that he is today. In fact, I think that I am going to vote for Mr. Cain in March of 2012 in the GOP Presidential Primary. I voted for President Obama in November of 2008 — and before that I voted for George W. Bush on two occasions. How’s that for being transparent? Ha! I guess that I will be part of the “Honkies for Herman” brigade. I was part of the Peanut Brigade for home-stater Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Charter Schools? Just vanity and striving after the wind. Yes, it may help a select few students whose parents can afford to drive them to school each day. But, what about those students who actually want to learn but whose education is materially and substantially truncated by the defiant and disruptive miscreants who are allowed to terrorize the urban schools? If you folks think that I am over exaggerating, then continue to enjoy your lemonade at Chick fil-A and bury your heads in the concrete. Hey, Chick fil-A is good, isn’t it?! But, how many of them do you see in the straight-up urban areas? © JRAT, September 29, 2011.

Retired teacher

September 29th, 2011
2:08 pm

Recent stories around the nation point that charter school operators often use the funds for big salaries for themselves and hire young, inexperienced teachers. Teachers come and go, even during the school year. Charters lack stability in their teaching force and some use funds to travel to lavish convention vacations. In San Diego one charter operator bought wine and dog treats with funds. Public schools have much more accountability to the public and taxpayers.


September 29th, 2011
2:20 pm

Waldo, Flanders is principal, “he puts the Pal, back in principal”

Being a capitalist, i don’t think the teachers of high quality are going to stoop lower in pay. Plus, your tax dollars are sent out of state to some office space in some other state or to a PO box in a tax haven country. Your tax dollars at work.


September 29th, 2011
2:32 pm

@ Dr. Trotter -
Your opening statement said that you consider a Charter School is a “back-handed way of getting other taxpayers to pay for your kid’s private education.” Hopefully, you know that Charter Schools are public schools and they are a part of the public education system…not a private school.

Have you ever attended a Charter school? Talked with Teachers and Administrators about why they believe in dedicating their lives to this form of education for impacting children’s lives? Have you ever talked to a student from a public Charter school…maybe one that attended their local assigned school, but they were given the opportunity to attend a Charter school and took advantage of the opportunity and they appreciate the education that they are receiving?

All children are not alike. And they all won’t thrive by being placed in a “one size must fit all” educational environment. If we can give parents a choice to find the best educational environment that fits their child at the same or even sometimes less money, then shouldn’t we provide those opportunities for our children…more opportunities to have a chance to to succeed in their educational experience?

DeKalb Resident

September 29th, 2011
2:36 pm

Wow, a number of points stand out in this letter, but I will just focus on a couple.

First – how many of the families affected by the APS cheating scandal really have choice? Given the percent that qualify for free/reduced price lunch in these schools, I am sure many of them cannot afford private schools. Plus, looking at the waiting lists at many charters, their clearly is a demand for greater choice that APS and other districts are not meeting. Even high performing districts like Cherokee County have people on waiting lists. Clearly there is a lack of choice available to many families.

What about school vouchers for low-income families funded by the state portion? No local dollars would be used and there could be accountability measures placed on all schools that accept scholarships (reporting standardized test scores, teacher certification, etc.)

Second – I agree that education is supported because educated citizens are necessary for a successful society. It affects the economy, health outcomes, crime, democracy, etc. However, why does it matter where a child is educated? Why does it have to be in traditional public school for it to be worth society’s investment? Is a student educated in a private school worse for society than a public school? How about a charter, online, or home school? Seems to me all that matters is that students receive a good education. The state is going to pay for a student if he/she goes to a public school. Why not pay the same amount for that student to attend a different type of school as long as accountability measures (see first point) are included to protect taxpayer money?

The authors are right, it is about tax dollars, but not just local tax dollars. It is about all dollars. Why else does the School Boards Association (along with the teacher and superintendent associations) lobby against programs that would remove state dollars from traditional public schools? If a student leaves the public school, that state dollars leave the school too. Why not send the state funds that would have educated the student at a public school to their new school?

It makes no difference to me where parents choose to educate their children. As long as kids are receiving a high quality education, I (and the rest of society) will benefit. Seems to me that the state should pay for this public good, no matter what type of school a child attends.


September 29th, 2011
3:46 pm

“empowering parents to send their children to schools that teach the Earth is flat, The Bible is factual and can be proven to be true, evolution is a tool of the Devil and global warming is a myth”

Man, bitter religion-hating atheists who post garbage like this are just a drag on everyone.

cobb mom of 4

September 29th, 2011
3:49 pm

The Mableton Charter made AYP and the Smyrna Charter school did not. Why deny Mableton and keep Smyrna open? South Cobb has enough poor performing schools & students. The Board should be looking at ways to improve both schools, indeed ALL the schools in the South Cobb area.

Desperate for Charters

September 29th, 2011
4:52 pm

I am sick, ridden with anxiety, knowing that I have no other choice than to send my child into one of hell’s deepest holes, an APS school. Terror reins.

Yesterday’s AJC article that detailed the taped recorded repeated slapping of a autistic child by his teacher for crying and then afterwards, the same teacher in front of children, again on tape, socializing with another employee about a man’s sex organ – was the last straw for me. Superintendent Davis, these “educators” are still in front of children.

This like the cheating did not occur during your watch, but certainly you would consider such brutality much more worthy of your immediate attention than the current scandal. You must with all due haste, remove these people from interacting with children.

I am a hard working parent who earns just enough to take care of the basics. I cannot afford to send my child to a private school. We need options!

Why can’t schools compete like private businesses? Competition brings about new ideas and better service. If we had an option, do you honestly think anyone in their right mind would purposely send their child to an APS school? As it stands, we are trapped!

A special needs parent

DeKalb Resident

September 29th, 2011
5:02 pm

@ Desperate for Charters
If your child has an IEP he/she is probably eligible for a Georgia Special Needs Scholarship. You can use the funds to send your child to one of the 190 approved private schools or you could transfer to a different school in APS or even to another district. To learn more visit


September 29th, 2011
6:00 pm

We have a copycatlady(lol), now that’s the cats meow.


September 29th, 2011
6:04 pm

The bar in education has been steadily raised over the last several decades. Naturally, there will be better performing schools than others. But overall, there has been progress over time. Why then, is there such increasing hysteria over accountability, test scores, etc.? Let’s stop all the paranoia about having to be “first” in everything we do.


September 29th, 2011
7:43 pm

Don’t you love the names of these charters? I’d like to name one “The Super-Terrific, Wonderfully-Improved, High Achieving Academy for the Most Awesome Kids Ever”.

Thanks, Ms. Downey. Maybe I should copyright the name!


September 29th, 2011
7:45 pm

Actually, I think I predate two of your predecessors!


September 29th, 2011
8:02 pm

@2:32 Ed–
Dear alter ego–
While I actually agree with what you said, we can’t both be Ed. I’ve been Ed for a whileon the various boards at AJC since I used to be an “ed” (Maureen if no one else should get that) , but I’m willing to go with Ned.
Fred and Ted are, however, right out, so please don’t use Ned.

old school doc

September 29th, 2011
8:06 pm

spoke to a lady the other day. She said she was not as pleased with her charter school this year as compared to last year. I asked why. She replied, ” the kids in my neighborhood we were trying to get away from are now students at our charter school”. It’s not the charter, it’s the students. Amen to Dr. Trotter-we are all too afraid to ask parents to actually RAISE their children.


September 29th, 2011
9:38 pm

I hate to beat a dead horse about my personal opinion on the matter, but since charters are given freedom away from the bureaucracy of traditional public schools, why don’t we look at the people who put all the bureaucracy in place to begin with? Let’s start freeing up the traditional public schools from the restrictions that people claim are holding them back when advocating for charters.

Charter schools are PUBLIC SCHOOLS

September 29th, 2011
10:19 pm

Dr. Trotter,

Any children in a charter school’s attendance zone (usually the entire county of the local school board that has approved the charter) can attend. That’s about as public as public school gets.

Based on your comment above and previous comments you’ve made about charter schools, it’s time for you to study the FAQ:

Any good educator would at least do his/her homework on the topic before trying to teach it, right?

Calling a charter school a “private education” is simply not true.

if you can't keep up your promise

September 29th, 2011
10:34 pm

then what ground do you have to complain? People criticize the school system for “wasting” money on this and that, but they want the schools to continue with the failure – simply because it may be a less of a failure???


September 30th, 2011
9:56 am

The quality of our prisons will improve only when we get a higher quality inmate.


September 30th, 2011
11:12 am

Last night the Cobb County school board decided to denied the charter renewal of Imagine Intarnational Academy of Mableton. One school board member stated that it is “their responsbility to safeguard public money”.

My question is how are you protecting taxpayer money that is diverted to the numerous underperforming non-charter public schools in GA and more specifically, the South Cobb area when you close a charter school, that outperformed the majority of the comparable non-charter public schools in the South Cobb area? The true message that is being said is that we are okay closing a better performing school in order to keep the lesser performing schools open.

If you truly want to protect the money that I contribute to the schools as a resident of Cobb County then you should also close all of the non-charter public schools that are underperforming. Now, I realize that is not realistic; therefore, it you want to protect us taxpayers then you should at least offer us alternatives – such as Imagine International Academy of Mableton – to which we can choose to send out children or not.


September 30th, 2011
11:29 am

My personal experience shows that IAS (International Academy of Smyrna) is in fact working to proviide a good education for my son. Their approach is challenging, innovative and fun for my son. I also like that they welcome parental involvement.I’m very happy that their charter was renewed!!

Really amazed

September 30th, 2011
1:58 pm

Addision elementary (Georgia’s first charter) voted against renewing charter for year 2013 as well!

Active in Cherokee

September 30th, 2011
11:22 pm

I don’t understand why they would make the proposed act limited to ‘Charter Schools’. Why not simpy make it ‘School Choice’ so that districts could also recieve additional funding for legitimate choices such as magnets, STEM schools, and Vocational Academies. I think many polititians just like throwing around the term ‘charter schools’ because it is a popular catch phrase right now. If they want to help at the National level give local school boards the support to truly offer the ‘choice’ that best fits the situation and needs of the local public schools – or just stay out of things all together.

Dr. Monica Henson

October 3rd, 2011
10:57 pm

@Dr. John Trotter: I have visited Lake Oconee Academy in Greene County, a charter school that was chartered by the local BOE. It is headed by Dr. Otho Tucker, a nationally known and respected educator who has served as a board member for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and the Georgia Charter School Association. Dr. Tucker authored the charter school law in North Carolina and also served as that state’s first director of charter schools for the Department of Public Instruction.

When I visited his campus to learn more about Lake Oconee Academy, I was pleasantly surprised to see a true diversity of students in the classrooms. The school educates many low-income children, not just privileged residents of Reynolds Plantation. The collaboration between the BOE in Greene County and the developers of the residential neighborhood was an effort to help expand the middle class in the area and entice young families to move to the county. Lake Oconee Academy is a great example of improving education as an economic development tool.