Are you ready to allow the Legislature access to local education funds in pursuit of greater school choice?

To mark National School Choice Week, the Center for Education Reform has held daily webinars on choice issues. Today, the center’s director Jeanne Allen speculated on the future of choice in states, only mentioning Georgia in passing for its special education voucher and private school scholarships.

Allen said two main factors determine state success in expanding school choice through vouchers and more charter schools: There has to be a “strong actor in the state, someone who wakes up every morning with a fire in the belly bound and determined to get it done.”

Second, Allen said there must be “friends on the ground,” strong grassroots groups to “show the Legislature that there is support and to cover the back of that actor.”

I am not sure if we have that “strong actor” in Georgia, although House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones may be the closest thing.

Rep. Jones, R-Milton, is sponsoring HR 1162, a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to approve charter schools over the objections of local school boards and redirect local dollars to them through a legislative sleight of hand.

If HR 1162 passes, the proposed amendment would be on the ballot in November. (You can find a petition for HR 1162 here.)

Last year, the state Supreme Court struck down a state-created commission authorized to approve charters and fund the schools at a level that incorporated local spending. (The state essentially funded the local share and dunned the locals that amount in their state allotment.)

To summarize the  Supreme Court’s rationale for rejecting the state commission, I am turning to one of the winning attorneys Thomas Cox, who represented Gwinnett County in the challenge:

The Court ruled that the Charter Commission Act ran afoul of the Georgia Constitution for two primary reasons. First, the Court held that the schools authorized by the Act were not in fact “special schools” as contemplated by the relevant provision of the Georgia Constitution. After examining the history, including comments by committee members and drafters of the relevant sections of the 1983 Constitution, the Court concluded that “special schools” were intended to mean schools that enrolled only students with certain special needs (including, for example, the Georgia School for the Deaf and School for the Blind and vocational trade schools). The term was not intended, according to the Court, to create “a carte blanche authorization for the General Assembly to create its own general K-12 schools so as to duplicate the efforts of or compete with locally controlled schools for the same pool of students educated with the same limited pool of tax funds. ” Second, the Court held that the purported authorization of state-created, but locally operating, charter schools, which are not approved by the local boards of education, infringed on the “fundamental principle of exclusive local control” of public education embodied in the Georgia Constitution.

The success or failure of the forthcoming effort to amend the Georgia Constitution to permit the state to create its own charter schools, with access to locally levied tax revenues, will likely determine whether, going forward, the front lines in the battles over charter schools will be established at the local or state levels. If the Georgia Constitution is amended as proposed by some in the General Assembly, then the State will become the ultimate authority in approving or denying charter schools and in mandating the direction of local tax revenues to fund those schools.

Rep. Jones essentially resurrects the Charter Schools Commission in her resolution, which she will be presenting to the House Education Committee this afternoon. The proposed change to the constitution contains this pivotal nugget with regard to control of locally collected school taxes: “The state is authorized to expend funds for the support and maintenance of special schools in such amount and manner as may be provided by law, which may include, but not be limited to, adjusting the proportion of state funds with respect to the affected local school systems.”

I suspect Georgia voters are going to be wary of turning over the keys to their local treasuries to the state Legislature. School taxes represent a sizable chunk of the local taxes collected, and this constitutional amendment would cede unprecedented access to lawmakers in Atlanta in the name of school choice.

Does anyone trust them enough to do that?

From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

143 comments Add your comment


January 27th, 2012
12:54 pm

@ HS Public Teacher-
Here is MY guess as TP what happened to the sleeping teacher. Absolutely nothing. The system protects their own, which is why there are so many cruddy teachers out there.


January 27th, 2012
12:55 pm

Oops- that should have read “as to what happened”.

Truth from GM

January 27th, 2012
1:28 pm

Ah, Truth, your “tell” is showing. You have a blind spot or two. Football is one of them.

To HS Teacher from GM

January 27th, 2012
1:37 pm

If the student had told the principal what happened what do you think would have happened? do you think they would have believed the child? Nah.

I plan to send my kids to school with a state of the art cell phone with video, audio and a superior service. I will instruct them to use it to take photos of anything a teacher or adult or a student is doing that is egregious or dangerous.

Imagine if the 28 year old football associate had a photo of Sandusky in the bathroom raping those kids. We would have the evidence we needed to punish and more importantly we would have the evidence to know who the victim was so we could help that little boy.

What the kid did wrong is let everyone know who took the photo. If my kid comes home with a teacher or adult doing something wrong we will handle it differently and put it out to the media — anonymously.

What it is OK to discipline my kid for — texting his/her friends or goofing off with his/her device when they should be studying but capturing embarrassing and wrong things by the teacher and school? Now that will get him/her a reward.

One little special needs kid went to school with a recording device on his collar and captured his so-called teacher beating him 18 times and talking to another teacher about the unfortuante size of her boyfriend’s p$nis. If it weren’t for that savvy parent and that device, that teacher would still be abusing kids.

So, teachers beware. When you walk in that school, expect your actions to be watched, videoed and recorded.


January 27th, 2012
6:36 pm

@GM, do you have any facts to back up your assertions? Or are you just throwing out baseless accusations?


January 27th, 2012
10:23 pm

Jan Jones hates public education. She pursues charter schools because she does not want her kids to attend with the riff-raff!

Mary Elizabeth

January 27th, 2012
10:40 pm

I just posted the following on Kyle Wingfield’s blog in response to a poster by the name of “Parent,” who had posted a link to a petition for support of HR 1162:

“The petition for school choice, which “Parent” posted at 9:09 pm, supports HR 1162. This petition states, in part, the following words:

‘Each child is different, and parents should be able to choose between a neighborhood school, charter school, private school or virtual school.’
I do not support using public tax dollars to send children to private schools. I do not support vouchers. This petition tells me that HR 1162 is political in nature, more than educational, or this petition, which was gathered to support HR 1162, would have been limited to supporting state ordained public charter schools, as is HR 1162. This petition, however, includes the choice, also, of private schools, along with charter schools. Obviously, this petition supports vouchers because parents have always been able to use their own money to send their own children to private schools – that goes without saying. Therefore, there was no need to state “private schools” on this petition, unless the underlying message was to voice support for vouchers, which would transfer public money to private schools, with student transfer therein. This petition, in my opinion, represents an initial attempt to dismantle traditional public schools for private schools (among other school choices) in Georgia.

I saw on ‘Ed Schultz Show’ this evening Schultz’s interview with Robert Greenwald in which Greenwald said that he will be showing, early next week, proof that the Koch Brothers are donating money to 150 colleges and universities across the nation (FSU included) in exchange for determining curriculum and teachers hired in those colleges and universities. This is an example of how private business interests can purchase their ideology within public schools, such as FSU. Using private money to purchase freedom of thought is the antithesis of what education should be, and doing that is the antithesis of what America stands for.

I do not want to see elementary and secondary schools in Georgia being swayed by private business interests for propaganda purposes by those who have investments in them. Students are not to be used as pawns. They are to be instructed in how to think for themselves. That is why we cannot allow our public schools to be dismantled. At present, public schools are paid for by the general public through taxes, not through the private market. And our public schools are not, at present, run by the private market. The corruption possible when the wealthy elite purchase power (and education) is one main reason that Thomas Jefferson was a strong proponent of tax-levied public schools by all citizens, for all citizens, for the common good of society. The following are words of Jefferson, as engraved within his national monument in Washington, DC:

‘I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.’ I stand with Thomas Jefferson.

I cannot help but wonder how many of Georgia’s Republican legislators support the Koch Brothers’ tactics and their ideology, which is privatization of public schools. And, I wonder which ones, if any, have attended Koch Brothers Conferences. That information should be public knowledge, as it might determine how people vote for a Constitutional amendment in Georgia, such as HR 1162.

Are you listening AJC?”


Mary Elizabeth

January 27th, 2012
10:42 pm

In addition to reading my 10:40 pm post, please watch the following video clip regarding the Koch Brothers’ attempt to dismantle public schools in NC. Alhough the video clip is dramatic in its music and dialogue, it does communicate important information to the general public regarding public issues. Look for more information from Robert Greenwald next week, as I stated in my 10:40 pm post, regarding the Koch Brothers.


January 27th, 2012
11:40 pm

Do we really trust the State of Georgia to divert locally collected tax money towards minimally monitored state charter schools? I don’t!

They introduce “austerity cuts” until schools can’t even afford toilet paper anymore. Then they create a “special needs scholarship” that “funds” over 200 schools, barely 10% of which are actually “special needs schools”. Here is a link to the state approved schools:

Check out the list, so much for separation of church and state.

Then you have the flagship virtual school, Georgia Cyber Academy utilizing K12, Inc. services and curriculum. K12 is currently under investigation for possible securities fraud, see this link:

Addressing the cost of special needs students, I don’t see the reason for complaints here. Don’t we fund teaching students from other countries the English language? Don’t we fund PE, Music, Art? Don’t we also subsidize the food our kids eat at school? And the busses they ride? All programs I support by the way. The problem is not the cost of funding special needs education, it is the fact that federal law allows our federal government to allocate up to 40% of the cost, yet it only funds between 9% and 14%. The rest is about an equal proportion of state/local money. The federal government needs to FULLY FUND the 40% it is legally allowed. Unfortunately I guess they have a bad precedent to follow when the state won’t even fully fund the general education to the extent legally allowed (austerity cuts again!). But that’s ok, because they are poised to take money out of our local pockets and put it anywhere they want it to go if they pass the bill and put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

How will you vote?


January 28th, 2012
9:00 am

I would urge us to consider a system where the money gets into the hands of the parents for “choice” in schools — public and/or private — and consider dismantling our currently failing system of schools and then empower the state to actually really watch and regulate what is happening to the money – hold those who use the money accountable for what is happening — don’t constrain them the way they are now with artificial testing mandates but watch for where and how the funds are used and for what actually happens to the kids — are they going to college? are they able to enter the work force? are they skilled? is it a handicapped population that is being given skills to work at mcdonalds? are they just being given something else? Let’s change our paradigm with the funds we are using so that it make sense for 2025 for all of our children rather than what is currently happening wherein those with highly successful parents get an education and have a future; those with very noisy parents get an education and a future; and those who don’t don’t and billions of dollars are being wasted on failing programs.

Mary Elizabeth

January 28th, 2012
11:09 am

Response to Anonmom, 9:00 am

“. ..consider dismantling our currently failing system of schools and then empower the state to actually really watch and regulate what is happening to the money . . .”

Anonmom, there are three words, from your statement above, that cause alarm, which – from your paragraph – I do not think you fully see. Please allow me, with goodwill to you, atttempt to alert you, and others, to the danger which HR 1162 would have for the children of our state.

You said, “empower the state.” To “empower the state” would be a danger because allowing legislators, not educators, to create a State Commission for Charter Schools, which is appointed by those with political power, not elected by the people directly, means that the legislators could sway instruction to their ideological agenda for children in Commission Charter Schools, throughout Georgia. And, it further opens the door to dismantle traditional public schools, which are not designed to indoctrinate students to any one ideology but to help students build skills and expertise for jobs, and, also, to enlighten their minds into historical forces, and other larger intellectual concepts, so that they may be equipped for higher learning in our colleges and universities,
if they so choose.

Education is not meant to exist for “mind control.” The word “e duc ation” literally mean “to lead the student out of his limited world into the world of greater ideas and thinking. True educators lead the student out of himself, or herself. True educators do not indoctrinate children with their own ideological point-of-view; they educate them. In the Communist countries of my youth, children were indoctrinated; but that is not America’s tenets. America was founded on freedom of thought and freedom of religion, above all else. And that is why, in Georgia, we have a Department of Education set up to establish curriculum that is unbiased to educate the masses of children in Georgia. That Department of Education is filled with educators who are there to serve the common good of all of Georgians through their educational training and expertise. It is their purpose to build curriculum for Georgia’s public schools whereby children are taught to think for themselves, not to build propaganda to have children become indoctrinated toward one ideological vision. That is what some politicians may attempt, however. That is why you do not want to “empower the state,” through HR 1162, to create its own charter schools.

What HR 1162 would do would be to put that power in the hands of politicians, some of whom may have ties to a national agenda of ideological thinking, which is controlled by those who influence political power through their great wealth because of their own corporate interests. Thomas Jefferson, with his well-educated and visionary mind, warned our nation against this happening. That is why he was a strong supporter of public education, or any form of education which is tied to political strings through the wealth and power of the few. Jefferson supported the public education of the masses through taxes paid by them for their public education, so that they would be trained to see into any machinations that the powerful may use to control them. I stand with Jefferson.

Public education does need to be improved, and as an educational leader of 35 years who came from a long, long line of educators, I know how to do just that. I am willing to offer what I know to that end. I am not willing to allow some politicians (some of whom have demonstrated allegiance to those of wealth and power on the national landscape) create Georgia’s laws, either knowingly or unknowingly, whereby the “state” could control the minds of our children, through stealthy means. Be aware. Local School Boards are not perfect, but, as citizens, you can, at least, speak to them directly, and you can vote them out of office, directly, in your district, if you do not like what they do. You will not be able to do that with an appointed State Commission for Charter Schools, or change, easily, the state’s Constitution once it has been amended.

You mention “billions of dollars are being wasted on failing programs.” Actually, billions of dollars have been cut from public education within the last decade. That is one of the problems with education, today, in Georgia. We need to remove politicians, by our votes, who have cut funds to public education this drastically, and we do not need to be manipulated by them to further dismantle public education. We need to put money back into our public schools, not deplete public schools even further, by billions of dollars.

I am attempting to open some “sunshine” into what has, sadly, been a “dark decade for public education” in Georgia.

Governor Ellis Gibbs Arnall, Georgia’s enlightened governor, from 1943 to 1947, when I was a small child, brought about widespread reform in education by making the Board of Regents and the Board of Education Constitutional bodies, ensuring the separation of politics from education. Arnall said, “Education is the cure for ignorance, poverty, disease.” Arnall abolished the poll tax, allowing the poorest citizens to vote without having to pay for this basic right of a democracy. Arnall said, “There is nothing wrong with government that democracy won’t cure.” He said, “There will come a time when equality is not only publicly accepted, but privately accepted as well.” He said, “The monument to my governorship is that we brought about the readmission of the South into the Union on the basis of full fellowship and full equality.” The South, under Armall, moved foreward; we do not need to move further backwards in Georgia, as we have done in the past decade.

Improve public education. Do not dismantle it. Do not support HR 1162.

Mary Elizabeth

January 28th, 2012
11:24 am


In my fourth paragraph, I posted the following sentence INCORRECTLY:

“That is why he (Jefferson) was a strong supporter of public education, or any form of education which is tied to political strings through the wealth and power of the few.”

I am now altering that sentence so that it states my thoughts, CORRECTLY, as follows:

“That his why he (Jefferson) was a strong supporter of public education, and against any form of education which is tied to political strings through the wealth and power of the few.”



January 28th, 2012
5:39 pm

Mary Elizabeth – I don’t know when you last were in public schools in the metro area — my kids have been there very recently — the current system has the government alreay indoctrinating our children. They are producing young adults who are turning into criminals … not educated citizens capable of performing in society. We are currently spending billions of tax dollars at the local, state and federal level and pouring them into the current system. I know that dollars have been cut from what hsitorically spent. But we are currenlty spending approximatley $10,000 per child per year. This money can be more effectively spent, with competition, by each parent, being forced to engage in the process by selecting the school the child attends. The state would not be empowered to dicatate curriculum at these schools — the state would have to watch that the money was being spent at the schools and not being siphoned out (or embezzled as I believe is currently happening with no oversight and finger-pointing — it’s state, not its federal, no it’s local and we go round in circles) — let them hold them accountable for actually spending the dollars but not for the curriculum… parents choose where the kids go and competition drives what takes place within the school house.. It would be a much better use of funds. Only about 50% of all children beginning 9th grade are currenlty graduating 12th grade and the vast majority of the rest are either landing in prison or on welfare. A huge percentage of those actually graduating are really college ready. We are wasting a ton of money and not making much progress. We need a different system. Competition has been proven to work and private school, and charter schools, do not cost nearly as much, per pupil, as what we’re spending, for public school (yes, I know that there are some privates that are charging over $20k a child but they don’t have to to provide much better services and a better education than what is happening in the vast majority of the public schools). Change is hard but it can be for the better. Particularly when there is an enormous culture of corruption.

Mary Elizabeth

January 28th, 2012
10:00 pm

Anonmom, 5:39

Thanks for the dialogue, Anonmom; it helps me to sharpen my thinking by hearing another point of view. I taught school from 1970 through 2006. My last 5 years were as a substitute teacher in North Fulton, where I substituted in about 10 different schools, middle through high school. I was an Instructional Lead Teacher in an elementary/middle school in south DeKalb County for almost a decade at the beginning of my career, and then I finished my last 16 years in a major suburban high school in south DeKalb. I was a teacher of a college prep couse, verbal SAT, and I was a Reading Dept. Chair. We tested all incoming 9th grade students and they had reading results from 3rd to 4th grade reading levels to grade level 16 in reading skills, but one-half of the 9th graders were reading on 6th grade level and below when we received them. I tried to show teachers how they needed to teach reading skills while teaching their areas of science, or social studies, and even mathematics, and to be aware of where each student was functioning. Our SAT scores, verbally, were consistently higher than other south DeKalb County schools and I believe that that was partly because of our efforts in diagnosing students and delivering instruction better than some other high schools in the area.

That’s my background in a nutshell. I well know that 50% of students drop out of high school and that was the mission I was on to stop, and still am on to stop, even in retirement. I cannot support dismantling public schools for privatization although I can support charter schools that are assigned from the local district’s Board of Education. As I mentioned previously, the Department of Education was established in the 1940s, on the state level, to establish curriculum statewide, and now Georgia is one of the top schools for the excellence in its standards. However, as you and I both know, students are not meeting those standards – for so many different reasons. If I can locate my previous post that explains this in more detail, I will repost it for you. We can solve this problem within public schools, but we need to be more diagnostic. I am not willing to give up on public schools. Even within North Fulton, where I substituted, I saw a wide range of perormance in schools. Some were excellent and some needed more support with personnel to individualize instruction to meet more success with students. Most often the reasons were not variances in teaching staffs, but in the economic/educational background of the parents. In other words, poverty still is a major factor. Instead of having depleted money from these less fortunate areas in public education, governors and legislators should have delivered more money and resources to these areas to give more individualized support for differing needs of students.

What will happen with privatization is that teachers will no longer have the security of the Teacher Retirement System. The same legislator who sponsored HR 1162 (for a state Commission for Charter Schools), also sponsored HR664 which would allow Commission Charter Schools to “exclude” their teachers from the TRS of GA. That is a plan for privatization of public schools. That means that teachers will have to plan for their own retirements in the future, just as those employees in businesses or corporations do presently. The problem with that is that teachers’ caps on their salaries are much lower than employees, of the same educational background, in the private sector, so that in order to save enough money for their (teachers’) retirement, private schools will either have to raise teachers salaries significantly, or simply let their teachers fend for themselves regarding their retirement plans, which is the more likely to be the course of action. When that happens, teachers will fend for themselves, and, thus, they will not spend hours after school, as I did, planning for their students or calling parents for communication, or developing curriculum suggestions to share with parents and others, but they will, instead, stop working at 4:30 when they walk out the school door, and look for a second job to supplement their income for their own retirement.

Do you see a major shift here? The move is from giving of yourself to looking after yourself primarily. Looking after #1 is ok for the business sector mindset, but not for public servants such as teachers. They should be fully dedicated to the students, and that is why their retirement benefits should continue to be provided through the state, either that or their salaries should be much higher, as in the private markets, so that they can provide for their own retirement. But do not think that this will not ultimately effect the taxpayer, not only in the quality of education delivered massively, but in the cost of the educational service provided.

However, the underlying problem is that we must address individual student’s varying instructional levels. I believe that can be done in public schools with greater training, in that need, for teachers. Many teachers are simply unaware of these individualized diagnostic approaches. School Boards need to be more responsive to parents, also, and if they are not, then they should be voted out of office for those members who will be responsive. More local charter schools should be allowed within local districts for students who are not “making it” within the public schools, and then those charter schools should share what they have found successful with the traditional local schools in their districts. Massive numbers of students need to be educated, and they cannot all be served through charter schools. Some parents are so impoverished that they cannot even provide the transportation to charter schools, especially when there is a single-parent household.

A state Charter Commission would be very political, I do believe, even more so than local School Boards and some of our legislative leaders have strong political connections to a national ideological agenda for privatizing schools. This makes me uneasy. I can foresee that we could, inadvertently, recreate another segregated society by class more than race. The very poorest students, who could not afford – even with vouchers – to attend private or charter schools, would remain in more improverished public schools, which will have been depleted of resources even more because of more resources going to charter and private schools for other students.

I wish we could sit and talk. There is only so much one can share on a blog. But do take a look at this link below which describes some negative results that have come from charter schools. It is so unfortunate what has happened in Fulton County in the last few years. The problems in educational delivery there have been an image some have carried over to public education, in general. But we cannot discredit all public schools because of what has happened in Fulton County. I do believe we can make public education better, and allow teachers to be real public servants in the public sector, or let them remain as public servants to children and to their parents. We must move slowly with charters and the recent movement for privatization because we could dismantle the public school system in Georgia like happened in Florida. Those results were terrible. Those in high places with big money and strong ideological agendas are pushing for dismantling public education to make education into a business model, which they understand. Educators are not meant to be businessmen and women, nor should they ever be so. At their best, teachers are, innately, “givers” and they care what happens in the lives of their students. We should not want to turn them into self-serving business people.


January 28th, 2012
10:38 pm

I think your points are all valid when the public system functions property. But the system isn’t functioning. DCSS hasn’t put money into funding the retirement system for teachers for a numbers of years now — it’s been siphoned elsewhere. The money that ’s supposed to educating the kids isnt’ being use that way. Our goals are identical. I have seen way too much corruption and abuse in the local system. You need to take the money away from the top… so it has to be used for the benefit of the kids to get them to where you want them to be. Probably 90% of the society in 2012 is responsible for funding their own retirement. Anyone aged 45 or younger funding social security with any sense knows it won’t be around… that system is bankruptcy… I’m older than that and I’m not counting on that. So the paradigms have got to shift so that my children and my grandchildren have a society to live in that is free and functions remotely like Jefferson expected to (with freedoms to all people, not the men as our founding fathers envisioned) — where we are headed looks to me to be more like Russia or Germany in the early stages of WWII — it isn’t very pretty — you need an educated population and we’re not doing it — we’re just pretending and spending lots and lots of money to do so.

Mary Elizabeth

January 29th, 2012
1:31 am

Anonmom, 10:38

Here is the link to my blog that describes Mastery Learning in some more detail. If I can locate the post on SQ3R, a technique for textbook reading, I will share it later. Read my response to Teacher and Mom, which follow my essay on Mastery Learning, for another example of individually diagnosing and prescribing instruction that was successful in the late 1990s in a high school in DCSS. I hope the present situation in DCSS improves.

I believe in FDR’s 2nd Bill of Rights for Americans such as the security of a job, opportunity for a home, and safety nets for all Americans, not just state employees, for old age, disability, unemployment because of Recession. I think guaranteed public education for all citizens and guaranteed healthcare for all citizens, as well as Social Security in one’s old age makes for a kinder, more secure nation. We can also be independent in our daily lives and in our careers while we have some benefits of a kinder society. I believe in capitalism as the economic engine of our society, but I think that social programs help to modulate the harshness of capitalism. I believe when America left behind those years of FDR’s humane leadership, and left behind the self-giving years of the Civil Rights Movement and the Peace Corps, and started valuing every a philosophy of “man/woman for him/herself” is when our nation started on a downward trend. Some call the years from the early 1970s to the present, “The Age of Greed” in America. That can be turned around, if we choose. We need to recognize, in my opinion, that we are all interconnected. We do not need a small wealthy elite who are mainly receiving the benefits of this nation without contributing their fair share so that all may prosper.These are the same people who want to privatize public education.

CharterStarter, Too

January 29th, 2012
3:18 pm

@ Mary Elizabeth and Others…

The Consitutional Amendment should be passed by the Legislature so that the VOTERS IN GEORGIA will have the opportunity to decide what THEY want public education in Georgia to look like. Legislators who vote against it going on the ballot are taking away the voice of the people, the very individuals they represent.

When I hear people pushing on the legislators to vote against it, I think that they must be awfully afraid that the general public will see a need for some change in how we do things in Georgia’s public education, and this will rock the status quo. If there was not a NEED or a DESIRE for charters, parents wouldn’t be enrolling their children in them and sitting on waiting lists. It is clear the public is demanding something else for SOME of its children – and I think that’s what scares the hell out of the districts. The “dismantling of public education” fear is totally irrational. Charter schools (start-ups run by their own boards) could never take over the entire public education system. That’s not ever been the end game – charters should be opened when their is a need or a demand for them and when they can add value to a community. Not a value defined by a school district, but a value defined by the pubic it serves.

The Georgia School Boards Association and individual districts are busy protecting “local control” over decision making and control of tax funds. I want to know when they will start talking about protecting the CHILDREN of Georgia and allowing the most local control you can get – the parents, to decide what their children need. District offerings – either traditional programs or charters – should reflect the needs of the public they serve.

Put it on the ballot. Then let’s schedule a PUBLIC debate between the traditional and charter proponents to get all of the issues on the table for the general public to consider.

Mary Elizabeth

January 29th, 2012
5:17 pm

CharterStarter, Too, 3:18 pm

Are you aware that the same legislator who is sponsoring HR 1162 is also sponsoring HB 664 which would allow commission charter schools to exclude their teachers from the Teacher Retirement System in Georgia? HB 664 does not state commission charter schools may allow their teachers a “choice” regarding TRS membership, but that they may “exclude” them from the TRS.

If you cannot see the politics in this, you should look deeper, and research more, especially into connections that some in the Legislature have to national figures of power with ideological agendas that reach into state legislatures, throughout the nation.

Are you aware of how HR 1162 currently reads to be placed on the ballot? Here is the language.

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended for the purpose of raising student achievement by allowing state and local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?” YES or NO

The resolution is not as innocuous as it appears. There is the deliberate correlation made between state and local charter schools by stating, “state and local approval of public charter schools;” whereas, in fact, the issue is “state vs. local control” of public charter schools. Furthermore, what Georgian would not be for “raising student achievement?” Voters could be misled by that language and not realize what they are voting for.

You say, “allowing the most local control you can get – the parents, to decide what their children need.” We have a state Department of Education, composed of educated professionals in curriculum to establish standards for educating all of the children of Georgia. Are you suggesting that parents understand curriculum better than those who have been educated to understand in detail curriculum continuums? Parents are, generally speaking, not that knowledgeable regarding curriculum, nor are business managers who may manage charter schools, some of whom may even be charlatans, trying make a profit on children, more than educating them.

We must do a better job of delivering the state’s curriculum continuum to the school children of this state, by addressing their needs more individually, but that can be done through improving teacher training in public schools, and through local charter schools which work within local school districts. The proposed HR 1162 states these words:
“A RESOLUTION proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia so as to clarify the authority of the state to establish state-wide education policy; to restate the authority of the General Assembly to create special schools; to delineate types of schools that the General Assembly may authorize and clarify funding authority; to provide for the submission of this amendment for ratification or rejection; and for other purposes.”
I am very wary of language which says, “to delineate types of schools that the General Assembly may authorize and clarify funding authority.” The General Assembly is made up of politicians who are not educators, in large part. I do not want to mix education with politics. Neither did Thomas Jefferson. Neither did our most progressive governor in Georgia, Ellis Gibbs Arnold (1943-1947) who established the Teacher Retirement System in Georgia and who (as is stated on Arnold’s statue on the lawn of Georgia’s Capitol) “brought about widespread reform in education by making the Board of Regents and Board of Education Constitutional bodies, ensuring the separation of politics from education.” In my opinion, HR 1162 would create a possiblity of joining politics with education. As an educator of 35 years standing, I can never support that mix. If established, the state Commission for Charter Schools, would be created by appointment, not by an election that would give the voice of the people. Charter schools that are allowed through the local Boards of Education, however, have more direct voice given to the voters because the voters elect the local Boards of Education members, who work closely with the local school system’s Superintendent, a person highly educated in the field of education, as well as his or her staff. If the voters do not approve of what the local Board of Education is doing, regarding charter schools, they can request an audience with the School Superintendent to explain their positions and hear answers from the Superintendent or his representative. Also, voters can vote local School Board Members out of office, if they do not approve of their policies in any area, including the area of charter school establishment.
Quotes by Gov. Ellis Gibbs Arnold, which are engraved on his monument at the State Capitol:

“Education is the cure for ignorance, poverty, disease.”

“There is nothing wrong with government that democracy won’t cure.”

The monument to my governorship is that we brought about the readmission of the South into
the Union on the basis of full fellowship and full equality.”

And, Ellis balanced the budget, eliminated the poll tax, and established voting age at 18. His most prominent accomplishment was reforming the college education system of Georgia, which had lost accreditation under former Gov. Eugene Talmadge.


January 29th, 2012
5:35 pm

@Truth. You really shouldn’t post things like “You lie. You are an idiot. And, worst of all, you continue to dare to post about something YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT.” Especially when it could easily be argued you might look in the mirror to say those things, lol.

Artificial turf in football stadiums: $1 million per school. That turf then means that they DO NOT use it during the school day because they want to protect their (football) investment. The stadiums are built for football, period. They certainly wouldn’t build stadia that size for soccer here, and get by with much less for baseball, lacrosse, etc. Many smaller schools don’t have the budget to do the maintenance and upkeep on grass fields just from booster club revenues, so local funding is “justified” by school use.


January 29th, 2012
5:42 pm

@ Truth Many head coaches’ salaries ARE, in fact, paid to some degree with local and/or state funds. If a football coach only “teaches” PE (lol, in many cases) say three periods a day, his teaching salary is only funded at 60% by the state. (Full load is 5 classes.) Local funds have to cover the rest.

Many systems do, in fact, pay coaches salary supplements through local funds; that supplement also applies to retirement calculations. Here is the link to FCSS list of supplemented positions. (Granted, boosters often augment this – or fund them fully in some school systems – but those would likely not be considered part of salary for TRS.

It was a substitute!

January 29th, 2012
8:38 pm

That headline about the suspended student and sleeping “teacher” fails to relay this important point: it was a SUBSTITUTE teacher. Not a “real” teacher. Way to keep the bashing going, dear media.

So often when I see a headline that uses the word “teacher,” and I actually read the article, it turns out that it wasn’t a “real” (and by “real” I mean certified, k-12, employed by a school district in a teaching capacity) teacher. It was a sub, or a volunteer coach, or a a teacher outside of a k-12 school (like a tae kwon do instructor or pre-k instructor – both private endeavors) or so on. The article from a few weeks back with the student who called the teacher cute…that was a sub, too.

I’m not trying to bash subs – I want people to realize that they haven’t had the training to deal with a lot of what today’s kids can dish out, and kids are going to try and push, and see what they can get away with. I’m also not defending stupid administrative decisions – they happen, and as the news will attest, too often for comfort. Nor am I saying that teachers never do bad or stupid things – they do, and unfortunately the news has too many of those stories, too. But I do want to caution people to read more than the headline – particularly if they are going to use that incident on an education blog to “prove” once again just how _______ (fill in the blank) today’s teachers are.


January 29th, 2012
9:01 pm

I’m reading a lot of hyperbole. Respectfully, I’ll try to simplify: The Supreme Court ruling was a travesty in one major way – it clarified the Constitution by changing it (in an unconstitutional manner). The ruling completely ignored both the role and the authority of the state in public education, and in effect removed any such role or authority. The amendment will simply restate and reassert the state’s role and authority in a more clear manner. Secondly, all the comments about “local control” and “taxation without representation” ignore the most wonderful of all facts – there can be no relationship or representation closer to students than THEIR PARENTS. The amendment will make it possible for the state to help parents assert their God-given right to choose the best educational options for their children.

CharterStarter, Too

January 29th, 2012
10:50 pm

@ CharterStarter – Amen.

@ Mary Elizabeth – I am well aware of the legislation that has been dropped. You are a product of 35 years of bureaucratic conditioning. I am certain it would be difficult for you to conceive of educators having an interest (and yes, some do) in an alternative form of retirment investment other than TRS and CHOOSING to work in a school that may have an alternative retirement plan offering. Because working in a charter school is a deliberate choice….for much the same reasons parents make the choice.

As for the Constitutional Amendment – it’s currently going through the PROCESS. It had to start somewhere (and why not start it the way you’d most like to have it?) There will be wording changes and concessions on both sides. Before pushing so hard against it, why not let the process play out and see what actually ends up being voted upon?

Given that charter schools are required to, at a minimum, follow the state curriculum and to meet the same (actually higher) academic outcomes as their traditional school counterparts, I rather believe that your point about “schools know best” is moot. Parents have the right to find a school setting, whatever that might look like, that best first their child academically, socially, emotionally, physically, etc. I hate to say this, but it’s true – if Georgia school districts always knew best, then we wouldn’t be 48th in the nation. It’s a systemic issue that we must address, and that starts with giving parents and taxpayers a voice in what the change needs to look like.

At what point do people realize that our whole state economy, contributing to our national economy woes as well, is being negatively impacted by maintaining the status quo in public education? What choice do we have other than to explore other options to raise achievement?

Mary Elizabeth

January 30th, 2012
12:27 am

Charter Starter, Too, 10:50

If you look back at my 5:17 pm post, you will see that it was not “choice” that gave me pause, but the word “exclude.”

I support charter schools which are coordinated with local School Boards and their efforts to educate all of the children within their districts.

Part of the process, as you say, is that all are given a chance to voice their concerns. I simply have given mine.

I would urge you to read some of the facts regarding improprieties in charter schools in the link which I gave in my 10:00 pm post of 1/28/12, especially the article by the policeman who had observed fraud in some charter schools in Florida. His article’s first paragraph is:
“With such a strong push for continued expansion in Florida, I am compelled to share my experiences as a police officer with the ugly side of Charter Schools and their management companies. As a former investigator and supervisor of a public corruption unit, several years ago my unit was responsible for a series of criminal investigations involving personnel, owners, and partners of Charter Schools. Where as some of these investigations resulted in schools being shut down and arrests others culminated in utter frustration resulting from criminals getting away with fraud. A fact made possible by industry wide practices that benefit from weak laws and the impossibility of effective industry oversight.”
The policeman’s experience does not mean that all charter schools are unworthy, of course. I am not against charter schools per se, but I think that the public should not “hop upon any bandwagon solution” to the complex problems within education.

To understand some of these educational problems, with more complexity, you may want to read the latest post on my blog, entitled “Mastery Learning.” Here is the link:

Mary Elizabeth

January 30th, 2012
8:39 am

Mary Elizabeth

January 30th, 2012
8:53 am

Here is a charter school in Atlanta that uses sound instructional approaches to increasing students academic growth, i.e. small group instruction and pacing of instructional delivery adjusted to each student’s ability to master the concepts. Traditional public schools could learn from charter schools such as this one. However, how much more would it cost the public, in taxes, to have a 1 to 6 teacher/pupil ratio in all traditional public schools – which serve masses of students – as this charter school has done, which serve only a relatively few students? Innovative thinking, such as utilizing retired seniors, parents, and business/corporate volunteers, may need to be pursued in traditional public schools in order to serve all the students in Georgia, with these successful techniques that individualize instruction.

CharterStarter, Too

January 30th, 2012
9:15 am

@ Mary Elizabeth,

I, too, am most supportive of charters that are able to be authorized by the local school district, however, we have quite a few VERY high performing charters that would never be in existence if left up to the districts. I believe it is rather naive for you to believe that the school districts play fair with authorization practices – the ones who do are definitely in the minority. If they did, the Commission would never have been needed. Likewise,if this C.A passes and another alternative authorizer is established, if the districts authorize fairly and don’t stonewall quality charters as they have been, then the alternative authorizer will never have an occasion to approve a school. This alternative authorizer is simply a way to keep everyone honest.

I cannot argue that there have been some charters that have closed down for suspect reasons. As sad as it is to have corruption in our world, at least the charters are held accountable. I appreciate you providing the links to those who have not met their responsibilities. Please allow me to share a few links with you of school districts in Georgia who have violated the public’s trust….the difference, of course, is that they remain operational. The only recourse for distrists is for SACS to come in, and that doesn’t really punish the boards so much as it punishes the students and the communities. Accountabilty is what is sadly lacking in our system.

I am not sure you realize it, but the CREDO study was widely criticised for its faulty research methodology. Please also do a search and read Caroline Hoxby’s study and educate yourself on the problems with the CREDO study.

My main point here, as I hope you can see, is that there is always another side to the story. It is my belief that the voters in Georgia should have the opportunity to explore BOTH sides and to make an educated decision that is best for this state. I do not believe legislators should take that right away from the people. I certainly see your point regarding individuals not knowing what they are voting for, but that’s the case wiith any election. The responsibility falls on the voter to educated themselves fully prior to voting. And each side has the responsibility of providing accurate information for the public’s consideration. I just can’t see what the “fear” is with letting the people have a voice…

Mary Elizabeth

January 30th, 2012
9:15 am

The article, in the link below, offers both the pros and cons of charter schools in Alabama. Notice some dangers in privatization, which can foster using students for profit making. That made me think of the unethical practices in the Florida policeman’s testimony that I posted in my 12:27 am post on Jan. 30. (See above.)

Mary Elizabeth

January 30th, 2012
9:28 am

Charter Starter, Too, 9:15 am

I do not know that it is a “fear” but more of an “alert” that I want to communicate. And that is that there is a national Republican agenda to dismantle traditional public schools for more privatization of schools – in movements in many state legislaturs across our nation. Some of Georgia’s legislators have ties to this movement. I am wary of a state Commission Board that is appointed by politicians, who are not educators, and who may have their own agendas to pursue. Politics and education are unhealthy bedfellows in educating children, in my opinion. Educating children belongs in the public domain, not in the private domain, in my thinking and in the thinking of Thomas Jefferson, so that special interests do not control the educational process. I realize that, at present, charter schools are public schools. I am not sure how long they will remain thus in reality, if control is taken away from educators (i.e., State Board of Education, local School Boards) and placed in the hands of politicians. A state Commission of Charter Schools may be controlled by politicians, instead of educators.


January 30th, 2012
11:39 am

@ ME(and others):
1. As laudable as you may think it to be, there is no way to separate politics and education, just as there is no way to separate politics from anything else important. We elect representatives at all levels, and they do their jobs (or not). Politics is where we the people connect with and select those representatives.
2. Given the disfunction, generally, of a public education system that is not performing, I don’t think there’s any advantage at all in having education just run by “educators.” I rather suspect that’s part of the problem. I do not hold with Diane Ravitch at all on this point.
3. It is easy to say there’s a GOP conspiracy to change public education to private. Nice slogan. Not happening. The GOP in Georgia is dedicated to sensible reform that puts more control in the hands of parents and results in true systemic change. To suggest that Democrats favor educators and the GOP favors profit (for instance) is just misleading. If anything, its mostly the GOP (thankfully not only, though) that is serious about meaningful, measurable reform.

C Jae of EAV

January 30th, 2012
12:11 pm

@ Charter Starter & @Mary Elizbeth: You both have engaged in a level of discourse on this topic of Lincoln/Douglas like perportions.

I would love to see you two engage a debate on this issue in public forum physically that would allow for a broader audience to walk along with you through the layers of this discussion.

Somewhere between in the middle of your two viewpoints lies the real answer to this dillima. Bottom line answer for me again is there is no one size fits all, a formula that provides greater choice and heightened accountability needs to be manifested !!

Mary Elizabeth

January 30th, 2012
12:38 pm

Charter Starter, 11:39

To respond to your points:

#1 It is a matter of degree. In the case of mixing politics with education, less is better.

#2 One has to diagnose a problem correctly, before it can be corrected. Many schools within traditional public education are performing excellently, while others are not. Often, the difference is related to the socio-economic background of the students. More individualization is needed, especially in those schools. Charter schools, with fewer numbers of students, can better individualize for instruction, but if all public schools had 1 to 6 pupil teacher ratios, the expense would be prohibitive. However, there are ways to better individualize within traditional public schools. Charter schools and traditional public schools should not be seen as adversaries, but should work together to enhance the academic growth of all students in the state. I think that is best done through local Boards of Education.

#3. I would urge you to do more research in that area.

Aside from that, you said: “To suggest that Democrats favor educators and the GOP favors profit (for instance) is just misleading. If anything, its mostly the GOP (thankfully not only, though) that is serious about meaningful, measurable reform.”

I never mentioned the word, “Democrats.” You did that. I do not think in stereotypical generalities, such as “GOP favors profit, and Democrats favor educators.” President Obama, and his Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan, for instance, are both very serious about meaningful, measurable reform, and both support charter schools. Many Republicans are, also, very serious about meaningful, measurable reform. I would not believe in privatizing educational delivery, whichever political party were to advocate for it. I do not think children should be used for profit. Jefferson agreed with me on the value of public education to society. You may be interested in reading his thoughts as to why.

Mary Elizabeth

January 30th, 2012
1:06 pm

C Jae of EAV, 12:11 pm

Thank you. I agree with both you and Charter Starter, as well as others, that some choice should be allowed to parents. However, I think that whatever choice is determined to be offered should be prudently weighed and decided. Charter schools have hurt Florida’s overall educational system. We must be wiser, and weigh more carefully, the long-ranged ramifications of what we do, here, in Georgia regarding choice and charter schools. That is why I have taken the time to post.

CharterStarter, Too

January 30th, 2012
6:23 pm

@ C Jae of Eav – I suggested a public debate. I’m game. :)

CC Watch Dog

January 31st, 2012
8:17 am

Shame on us, CCSD Parent? How can you possibly say to me that having a choice in how MY tax dollars are spent to educate MY children is wrong? If the School Boards would have acted responsibly in approving perfectly legal and robust start-up Charter school petitions, we would not need an appeals process! Giving all the power to the LSB is an inherent conflict of interest. Of course they don’t want these Charters because they are extremely afraid that Charters will do it better and cheaper. Tax money used to educate my child is the same amount whether they go to Joe Blow County School or Jane Doe Charter School. All we want is a choice, but all the School Boards want is total control. You want the local districts to have a monopoly on education with accountability to only themselves? How is that good for any child???

David Hoffman

January 31st, 2012
9:36 am

I have no children. I pay county, state, and federal taxes that support public schools. Here is the deal. You get your vouchers for religious schools, which is what these schemes are mostly about, AFTER I get every single penny of the taxes I would pay, that go to support public schools, given back to me each year. Now multiply me by millions of other taxpayers with no children. How big are your vouchers going to be then?

The other thing is to take school funding out of the hands of the counties. ALL property statewide gets assessed at one statewide rate for property taxes. You then take the total and divide by the number of children age 5 to 17 statewide. Give to each county based on the number of 5 to 17 year old persons in the county multiplied by the per child average dollars.

CharterStarter, Too

January 31st, 2012
1:59 pm

@ David,

Charters are PUBLIC schools educating school children locally. We are not talking about vouchers here.

Please answe me this: Why should a local board keep funds for children the do not serve, and why should a charter serving the students actually get that funding to do so? Keeping in mind, again, that charter schools ARE public schools.

CharterStarter, Too

January 31st, 2012
2:01 pm

Pardon – typo. Answer. And why should a charter NOT get funding for students they serve.


January 31st, 2012
8:22 pm

Hate to tell you this but your Dekalb County taxpayer dollars…. lots of them… have been going to New Birth church in various forms… from graudation ceremonies to camps to buses to afterschool programs and “magnet”/special schools — I’m afraid they may have been going there in other ways too since we don’t have on-line check registers and on-line pcard registers and because there are exemptions from tax returns and many other “checks and balances” — the tax payers have no way to really know how the taxpayer’s money is being spent. So just because there aren’t “charter” schools or vouchers doesn’t mean that the money isn’t being used in the way Mr. Hoffman doesn’t want them used. What I’m looking for is accountability, checks and balances and actual, real education where the funds are being used for the purposes for which they are being taken from me to be used…. I’m at a point where I don’t really care who the provider is but I want the services actaually provided so that the kids enrolled in the system aren’t also going to be taking more tax money down the road in the form of welfare and other social services or because they are in jail. If they are in jail, I don’t want to be the victim of their crime and I don’t want any member of my family to be the victim of their crime…. all because as a society we have failed to give them the opportuntiy to make a life for themselves because our current system of public education has no checks and balances in place and is corrupt and failing the children (and yes, much of it has to do witth the board members the citizens are electing but that’s becuase we have a very uneducated population that isn’t able to do much better so it’s a vicious cycle… something has to give) The system is broken!


February 1st, 2012
8:38 am

Bell went off reading John Taylor Gatto’s book “Weapons of Mass Instruction” … system was designed for mediocrity and conformity, among other not so “idealistic” goals… based on system that enabled Hitler to get citizens to cooperate with his mission during WWII…. food for thought.


February 1st, 2012
4:38 pm

Mary Elizabeth, I didn’t mention Democrats, but you singled out Republicans. I was just defending them. I agree that charters are but one solution, and my statement that public education is not working does not mean that all public schools are failing. I’m looking at the big picture. Spending has risen significantly over my lifetime, and performance is flat, at best. Many important indicators are falling.

I understand your faith in local boards of education, but I do not share it. Once elected, BOE members are indoctrinated by an association (supported nearly 100% by public funds) that is on record as opposing charter schools. Board members’ work is directed (contradict me, please!) by Superintendents they “hire” who are brought up within the same system they are prevented from reforming. The money is on the side of the status quo, which always turns slowly and with great protest, and never far enough to make a real difference. I have worked with Boards of Education all over Georgia, and their Superintendents, and their attitudes on charters seem to be cast in stone and buried deep. The legislature is responding to impatience from the voters and parents to shake things up. To my way of thinking, when it comes to willingness to innovate for children, it is the legislature that is truly representing the voters and taxpayers, not the Boards of Education.


February 2nd, 2012
8:19 am


Again, you are WRONG! At my local high school, the football stadium and field are used for many things. One that is coming up is the use of those facilities for the Susan G. Komen walk-a-thon for breast cancer fund raising. Things like that happen throughout the year using those facilities.

They are NOT just for football!!!

In addition, that field/stadium is used for soccer teams, summer camps for little kids, and many many other things.

You do lie.


February 2nd, 2012
8:26 am

@MB -

Get real (maybe you cannot). While you are correct that the “salary” might be a combination if they teach classes, look at how it breaks down…

The part paid by the school system (taxes) is ONLY for the compensation as a teacher. As you pointed out, if they teach 3 classes in the school, then that is all the school system pays for – the teaching part.

The supplement part for coaching is paid for through the booster funds. I know FOR A FACT that our community coach that is not a teacher is paid 100% only from the booster funds and NOT from any school system money (taxes).