Archive for February, 2012

Charter school bill stalls in Senate, but is still percolating

Regular folks who meet with their legislator over the charter school amendment get a Starbucks gift card. (Starbucks.)

Regular folks who meet with their legislators over the charter school amendment get a Starbucks gift card. (Starbucks photo.)

No bill this legislative session will be discussed as much as the charter school amendment, which was the subject of a fiery two-hour debate today in the state Senate.

A vote was never held, probably over concerns that there was not a guarantee of the two-thirds support needed to approve a public referendum on a constitutional amendment to empower the state to authorize charter schools. The Senate vote will occur when GOP leaders in the Senate are assured they have corralled the needed yeses. (The amendment already passed the House after hours of debate, a defeat one week and then a resurrection the next.)

A small example of how important this issue has become is the incentive of a Starbucks gift card to people who lobby their legislator about school choice. The offer is being made by the pro school choice Center for an Educated Georgia.

According to …

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Affirmative action: “A bitter, but necessary pill.” Diverse campuses are more interesting campuses.

We had a rollicking debate over whether race should be a factor in college admissions, tied to the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the issue this year.

I am not sure if the debate was that fruitful, given how few people understand that colleges do not now and will never admit students solely on highest GPAs and test scores. Colleges seek a diverse student body because they believe that a wide range of backgrounds and experiences enriches their campuses and their students. And few students want to be surrounded by classmates who look, sound and act just like them.

Here is an inside view of the issue from Stephen Joel Trachtenberg,  president emeritus and university professor at George Washington University. I thought he made some interesting points that were worth sharing.

This is an excerpt from his piece on Bloomberg:  (Before commenting, try to read his full essay.)

Using only high-school grades and standardized tests would give us a freshman class …

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Fulton’s surprise bonuses: Do they create two classes of educators?

Fulton County is using surplus funds to award teacher bonuses this year, a move that ought to be cheered by the county’s teaching force. But the decision is proving divisive given the plan to award classroom teachers  $1,000 and those who “support teachers”  $500.

The school board voted last week to spend $9.4 million in surplus funds on employee bonuses to make up for missed raises.  Classroom teachers will receive $1,000. All other full-time employees in support roles and in central office will receive $500. See the AJC story here.

An educator who falls into the support category said she was unhappy with school chief Robert Avossa’s explanation for the disparity, an explanation that she felt denigrated her efforts, commitment and professionalism.

“Most of us would agree that in a school system, you have two groups of employees – teachers and those who support teachers,” said Dr. Avossa. “We value the contribution that every employee makes to our system, so everyone …

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Gov. Deal: Get more Georgians into college. And get them to graduate.

Here is a release from Gov. Deal’s office on the state’s new push to both enroll and graduate more students from college:

Gov. Nathan Deal, along with all 35 presidents of the University System of Georgia, 25 presidents of the Technical College System of Georgia and representatives from Georgia’s independent colleges and the business community, today launched the campus level completion portion of Complete College Georgia, which was first initiated in August 2011. The initiative calls for and identifies strategies for the state’s public and private colleges to add an additional 250,000 college graduates – whether a one-year certificate, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree – by 2020, a number that is over and above current graduation levels.

“Any significant increase in the number of Georgians who complete college will require a historic new era of coordination between the state’s public and private colleges and the business community,” said Deal. …

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Is football too dangerous for schools to continue to maintain teams?

Research is showing that football poses not only immediate risks of injury to players, but lifelong brain injuries. Should high schools be in the football business? (Jason Getz/AJC photo)

Research is showing that football poses not only immediate risks of injury to players, but lifelong brain injuries. Should high schools be in the football business? (Jason Getz/AJC photo)

Interesting AJC story today about heat-related deaths among football players, of which Georgia has the highest reported incidences, according to a new UGA study.

The study found that overall heat-related deaths have tripled in the last 15 years and that most occurred in August and in  the eastern half of the U.S.

I had a recent discussion with a longtime national sportswriter about the disturbing research on football injuries, including studies that found NFL players who suffered concussions experiencing more problems with speech, memory, headaches and concentration. Another study by UNC’s Center for the Study of Retired Athletes found that pro players who had multiple concussions in their careers are more likely to suffer  depression.

This veteran sportswriter told me that he thought it …

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Charter school amendment battle shifts to Senate

With the House passing the charter school amendment last week, the issue now moves to the Senate where battle lines are already being drawn.

Here is a first volley from one of the amendment’s opponents in the Senate. Sen. Vincent Fort of Atlanta is Democratic Caucus whip. Fort says he supports charters, but does not support the amendment.

By Vincent Fort

Much has been made these past weeks about charter schools. Last week, the Georgia House of Representatives passed HR 1162, a measure billed as a pro-charter schools initiative.

Proponents of this state constitutional amendment claim it is a decision of whether or not to support charter schools. It is not. They also claim a constitutional amendment is needed because the Georgia Supreme Court has deemed it necessary to establish the legitimacy of charter schools. This is not only a misunderstanding of the court’s ruling in Gwinnett County Schools v. Cox, it is an intentional misreading and completely invalid.

Many state …

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Groups to protest today against new higher ed immigration bill

Speaking of immigration, a press conference will be held this morning at the state Capitol to protest Senate Bill 458.

The event will be attended by the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance, ACLU of Georgia, Freedom University, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and state Sen. Nan Orrock of Atlanta. College and high school students are also expected to participate in the 10 a.m. news conference.

SB 458 would bar illegal immigrants from attending all Georgia public colleges. The bill passed a Senate committee last week.

According to the AJC report on the Senate hearing:

But it was the proposed rule of banning some students from the 35 colleges in the University System of Georgia and the 25 in the Technical College System of Georgia that occupied nearly all of the 90-minute discussion.

Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, sponsored SB 458 and described it as a simple measure. He said illegal immigrants are taking college slots away from citizens and stressed …

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SACS to Cherokee legislators: Hands off school board elections and the chairmanship

The efforts of Cherokee legislators to realign the school board may be derailed by the accreditation agency that gives schools, including Cherokee, an important seal of approval.

Loss of accreditation could impede the ability of students from Cherokee to qualify for college scholarships, something that would not sit well with parents in this education-minded county.

House Bill 978 would realign the Cherokee county school board and effectively remove the elected school board chair and vice chair. Now, the school board has seven members elected county-wide who elect their chair and vice chair.

(You can read a condemnation of the legislators by Cherokee school chief here.)

I view this letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools as a rebuke of the lawmakers and a caution to leave well enough alone. We will have to see if the Cherokee delegation sees it the same way.

The letter was sent to Cherokee school board chair Mike Chapman.

February 27, 2012

Mr. …

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State’s immigration stance costs it major education conference

Several disappointed researchers and educators asked me to write about the decision of the American Education Research Association to move its 2013 conference from Atlanta to San Francisco because of our state’s new immigration law,  House Bill 87.

In passing the controversial bill last year, Georgia became one of three states to empower police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects. HB 87 — which is partly patterned after Arizona’s law — also sets new hiring requirements for employers and penalizes people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants here. (Read this AJC story for background on the bill.)

The AERA conference, one of the most prestigious education forums in the nation, typically attracts 14,000 or 15,000 educators.

In the letter announcing the decision, the AERA executive board wrote:

The situation leading to relocation was brought about by the passage on May 13, 2011 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 …

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President Obama on education today: Do something.

Here is President Obama with the marshmallow canon he referenced in his speech today, along with the student creator Joey Hudy. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Here is President Obama with the marshmallow cannon he referenced in his speech today, along with student inventor Joey Hudy. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

I thought you might enjoy President Obama’s comments today to the nation’s governors.

Most of his lengthy speech focused on education. This is an excerpt of the speech:

Today, the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average.  Their incomes are about twice as high as those who only have a high school diploma.  So this is what we should be focused on as a nation.  This is what we should be talking about and debating.  The countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.  That’s a simple fact.  And if we want America to continue to be number one and stay number one, we’ve got some work to do.

Now, there are two areas in education that demand our immediate focus.  First, we’ve just got to get more teachers into our classrooms.  Over the …

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