Rural lawmakers: Charter school amendment is Atlanta battle. We don’t want to get caught in crossfire.

State Rep. Jason Spencer

State Rep. Jason Spencer

Here is another perspective on the proposed charter school amendment to the state constitution which may come to a floor vote this week in the House.

State Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, a physician’s assistant in Kingsland, wrote this letter to his constituents to explain his opposition to House Resolution 1162.

Active in the Tea Party movement in coastal Georgia, Spencer writes, “The charter school movement is predominantly isolated in the Atlanta metro area with some bipartisan support. Many of the rural school systems in Georgia could wither on the vine if this amendment passes.”

Spencer’s opposition to HR 1162 reflects the sentiments of other rural legislators that this is an Atlanta battle, and they don’t want their local schools to suffer in the crossfire.

While leading Atlanta area Republicans are supporting the amendment to allow the state to create charter schools and fund them, rural lawmakers worry that their already struggling schools will pay a price. Of course, there may be pressure exerted to get these rural GOP legislators to fall in line on this issue. We may see tomorrow.

Here is Spencer’s letter:

This legislative session has gotten off to a brisk start and we are taking on some very important issues that will affect the future of the delivery of public education in Georgia. Much of the grumblings around the capitol is the issue of charter schools. Last summer, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down a 2008 law and ruled it unconstitutional. This ruling put most of Georgia’s charter schools in disarray leaving families wondering what to do. The Georgia Supreme court stated in its opinion that …

“…our constitution embodies the fundamental principle of exclusive local control of general primary and secondary (K-12) public education.”

Those in the school choice movement take exception with the Supreme Court’s use of the word “exclusive” in its opinion and seek to amend the current constitution to correct a problem the previous law created.

It is interesting to note that the charter school movement in Georgia started before the elections of Governor Deal and Superintendent Barge. In fact, this movement started before the election of President Obama, who is a strong supporter of charters. Last week, the House Education Committee voted 15-6 to pass House Resolution 1162 to the House floor for voting. This resolution would establish a Constitutional amendment allowing charter schools to receive state funding from the state bypassing local school board control. The Senate could pass the amendment, but there may be a roadblock to the “school choice” movement. One of the largest roadblocks would be for the amendment to gather a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. State Democrats could block-vote against the measure, and they want to recruit some of the more rural conservative Republicans, especially from the southern tier of the state.

The charter school movement is predominantly isolated in the Atlanta metro area with some bipartisan support. Many of the rural school systems in Georgia could “wither on the vine” if this amendment passes. A discussion about the reform of the Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula has begun with the passage of HB 192, but key reforms in the funding model has yet to take place and be dealt with; therefore, many rural systems could be in jeopardy of obtaining less state equalization dollars. It would probably be a good idea if the Tax Reform Commission were charged with revising the property tax law and bring their attention to property tax collections and reform. An alignment of discussions between the Tax Reform Commission and State Education Finance Study Commission now become more essential if the amendment passes.

Another issue to consider in all of this “school choice” commotion is that the property tax digests are shrinking too fast to sustain rural school systems. As one would expect, the Atlanta area property tax digest is much larger compared to rural systems. The larger communities may be able to sustain some deviation of funding to charter schools, but the rural systems will lose out on much needed funding to implement the mandates under the QBE funding law. Most rural schools in the southern Georgia are against this amendment because of the disparity in funding allotment. In fact, if a rural system is located near a military base, they are encouraged to accept federal dollars in order to supplement the disparity in state equalization funds under the QBE law.

In recent economic events, the federal government is planning to drastically cut federal impact money to these areas. This is a dire situation for rural school systems; regardless if they have performed above the state curriculum measures like our school system in Camden County.

Another caveat about the charter movement is President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan wants to bypass the states and offer Race to the Top (RTTT) dollars directly to schools districts who become charters. Georgia received $400 million of RTTT money and awarded half of those dollars to twenty-six “less functional” districts.

Many school systems agreed to change to charter governance and adopt the Common Core Standards to receive those dollars. Adopting Common Core Standards could cost states $30 billion dollars and continue to allow federal encroachment on state and local authority on Georgia’s educational system. I have shared these concerns with my “school choice” Republican colleagues that this charter initiative is nothing more than a conduit to receive federal dollars which will continue to erode local control. In addition, I remind my colleagues that local control is a basic conservative tenet when discussing public education policy.

With the siphoning of equalization dollars away from local school boards in addition to the passing of HR 1162, Duncan’s agenda will be fulfilled with the help of Georgia Republicans in the House and Senate. How ironic that a Democratic President’s educational agenda will be implemented by Georgia’s Republican legislators, while Georgia Democrats will most likely block-vote to keep local control for school districts. Keep in mind, there is no state authority or entity that has been determined to regulate the flow of these state and local dollars to the charter schools, specifically the 5 mil share. Also, the charter schools will be receiving equalization money where there is not a board accountable to the tax payers.

This amounts to taxation without representation. Is this choice or is this deception to sacrifice local control? With the help of Georgia Republicans, the Obama Administration has found a way to circumvent the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and changing Georgia’s Constitution in the process to weaken local control. Unfortunately, this may be the end game for local school board control as we know it. Starving rural systems will quickly accelerate the federalization of Georgia public education, thus weakening Georgia’s ability to be economically competitive.

One thing to consider in all of this charter movement commotion is that there has been no independent research of significant student performance under charter systems and RTTT endorsed curriculum. I expect HR 1162 to come to a floor vote this week.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

87 comments Add your comment

Mikey D

February 7th, 2012
8:40 pm

“Of course, there may be pressure exerted to get these rural GOP legislators to fall in line on this issue. We may see tomorrow.”

This pretty much sums up why everything’s so screwed up whenever politicians get involved. It no longer matters what the constituents believe is right or wrong. The only thing that matters is the good ol’ party line. Lord help us all!


February 7th, 2012
8:47 pm

Well, I’m no Tea Party fan, but Rep. Spencer makes very valid points. In my own rural system, the state commissioned charter could siphon away $300,000 from our already meager budget. Some will argue that the money should follow the students; however, we weren’t providing services for these students to begin with, as most attended private schools. So now we are facing the problem of teaching the same number of students with less money, not to mention the racial disparity of having a majority white “public” school across the street from the 99% minority one.


February 7th, 2012
9:23 pm

Thank you maureen for posting this very informative letter from rep Spencer. This decision is the epitome of strange bedfellows shacking up for diffeent reasons. None of which have anything to do with education or using taxpayer money wisely. This amendment needs to be defeated.

Charter Parent

February 7th, 2012
9:30 pm

No, most DON’T attend private school. The majority of charter students come from public school systems. Our charter school is 99% African American. Whatschool are YOU talking about?

Mary Elizabeth

February 7th, 2012
9:32 pm

@GeeMac, 8:47 pm

Your comments confirm what I have said earlier – that citizens must weigh carefully the full ramifications of a massive charter school movement. We do not want to resegregate the South. The era of segregated schools during the days of Jim Crow was a repressive climate for whites and blacks alike because people were locked into “groups,” and they dared not branch out of their group’s mindset of thinking or acting. Where is enlightenment in that vision? The highest purpose of education is to enlighten so that people gain confidence enough to think for themselves. If Georgia does not recreate another “closed society,” as we lived in during Georgia’s segregated past, young people will choose their friends based on reasons other than race or class status. We must continue to move forward, not backwards, in Georgia.

Yes, President Obama supports public charter schools, because he, through his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is seeking innovative approaches to improve education, but President Obama does not support dismantling public education for private education. I support some innovative charter schools which will work with, not against, traditional public schools and traditional public school systems. Some charter schools have the possibility of enhancing education in Georgia through Race to the Top funds, that are over and beyond Georgia’s regular educational budget funds, but the creation of excessive numbers of charter schools, which could be political in nature, could harm traditional public schools financially. I do not believe President Obama would be in support of that. I cannot support HR 1162 because the appeal process through a State Commission of Charter Schools – which eventually could determine how many charter schools could be created in Georgia – would be controlled by politicians with their own agendas, and not by educators. Appealing local Board of Education decisions regarding charter schools would be better handled by Georgia’s State Board of Education, who are educators, not politicians.

Rep. Spencer has good reason to be concerned that rural schools in middle and south Georgia may be adversely effected, financially, if HR 1162 becomes law.


February 7th, 2012
9:32 pm

GeeMac opposes spending local money on local students at the school of their parents’ choice. He notes that the public school wasnt providing services to these students because their parents were paying dearly to send them to private schools. Hello – the community has an obligation to all the students, not just the ones who couldn’t previously leave the public system. Its supposed to be universal access to education. We gotta pay for it.


February 7th, 2012
9:36 pm

Some good information from and excellent points made by Rep. Spencer – we’re proud to have him here in Coastal Georgia!

Truth Hurts

February 7th, 2012
9:50 pm

Just rural districts? What about ALL school districts in the state? If HR 1162 passes, large systems in metro Atlanta like Fulton and Cobb, which have been cutting salaries and furloughing all staff for the last few years, will be squeezed even more, have to make even more cuts, or raise taxes. This is a way state legislators — like Jan Jones and Chip Rogers– can dip into local school system coffers, decide how some of local money is spent, all the while not raising taxes themselves. Almost all systems in Georgia have a 20 mill cap on taxes so even local school boards can only raise so much.

Republicans in the state legislature are doing what they condemn Washington for doing — cutting into local control and governance. They are pandering to the noisy crowd, demanding their charter schools.

What is the Painful Truth? The Painful Truth is that HR 1162 will cut into funds that should be in the classroom for students. It will cause class sizes to increase, educator moral to decline, all while Georgia is working hard to improve the quality of education in this state. In sum, HR 1162 will hurt students and will be a detriment to improving student achievement — plain and simple.

Why don’t Jan Jones and Chip Rogers just introduce a constitutional amendment to eliminate all local school boards so they can run things themselves?

Ron F.

February 7th, 2012
9:53 pm

The problem with 1162, regardless of how you feel about charter schools, is that the details just aren’t there as to how funding will be accomplished. Sure, if kids go from the public school to a charter school, then the public school loses funding equal to those numbers. The challenge will be setting a time frame so that the necessary adjustments to staff, etc. can be accomplished fairly for both schools. As it is, 1162 doesn’t address how the resulting funding changes will be accomplished. As a teacher in a small, rural district facing a major funding shortfall again next year because of “austerity cuts” which have taken nearly 10 million in ten years while our enrollment has increased, I can tell you we can’t handle the potential cuts that would occur without careful communication and agreement between the charter and the public system. If local boards and the state want to work together to implement needed charter schools in a district, so be it. But if the state is allowed to simply approve them and then “adjust” funding without any communication, this could really hurt systems that are already suffering.

Mary Elizabeth

February 7th, 2012
9:57 pm

I should add to my 9:32 post that HR 1162 would create a State Commission of Charter Schools, which would be appointed not elected. A national Republican goal is to support private-based charter schools because of their support of limited government. Public schools are afterall “government” schools. We must be wary enough to realize that public charter schools of today could, tomorrow, be made into private charter schools. We must not dismantle public schools. We should improve them, but we must not dismantle public education, which is the right of every American child.

Justin Beaver

February 7th, 2012
10:09 pm

So Rep Spencer, are you in favor of consolidation for your district of Camden County with your neighboring districts of Charlton and Blantley to achieve some economies of scale? We have 180 and nearly 60% have populations under 3,500 students. Please explain to me why this option is never considered to prevent rural districts from “wither(ing) on the vine”? Is it to protect all of those government jobs Representative?


February 7th, 2012
10:39 pm

Ron F. your point is a very good one. Unfortunately the way charter school law is currently written, it would be “descrimination” if a local school refused to accept a student who wanted to transfer back from a charter, regardless of what time of year it is. Curious, there is no mention of amending that in HR1162. Just for fun it would be great if the state would release how many students transfer out of charters back into local schools in the 2-3 months before spring testing. I think that should be a new subgroup on AYP.

NO!! to HR1162

February 7th, 2012
10:49 pm

Our local schools are suffering too much as it is now with all the budget cuts! Local school boards can approve charters and that is sufficient. Keep local control!!

Charter Schools are PUBLIC schools

February 7th, 2012
10:53 pm

@Mary Elizabeth
9:57 PM

“private-based charter schools”


All Charter schools are public. There is simply no such thing a private-based charter school.

A charter school’s governing board is accountable to their PUBLIC charter authorizers. Every charter school in Georgia is based on that PUBLIC approval and oversight.

If you still claim otherwise, I simply ask you to reference one actual approved school charter in Georgia that shows its governance is private and unaccountable to public oversight. Not just a school name either, but the actual reference to the section and page of the charter that would supposedly prove this.

Each school’s charter should be readily accessible on the school’s website and/or the charter authorizer’s website.


February 7th, 2012
11:01 pm

So, you click on a page and start scrolling down when the advertizing banner refreshes and you get taken back to the top of the page.

Over and over again.

Hey, AJC, these new advertising banners are a PITA.

Hillbilly D

February 7th, 2012
11:10 pm

I brought this up a few days ago. Many rural county school systems have one high school, and many have only one middle school as well. So if anybody wants to pull out of these schools, they’ll either go to a private school or a school in another county. If the money goes with the student, that means my local property tax dollars (the biggest part of my property tax is school taxes and I imagine that’s true of most folks) will be going out of the county. I don’t care for the idea of paying property taxes for somebody to go to school somewhere else.

GA parent

February 7th, 2012
11:31 pm

Agree with Hillbilly D.
It would also affect local property values.

Hillbilly D

February 7th, 2012
11:37 pm

Almost all systems in Georgia have a 20 mill cap on taxes so even local school boards can only raise so much.

I’m not clear is you mean 20 mills total tax or just 20 mills school tax. In my county and nearly every county around me, property tax totals are over 20 mills and getting close to 25 in some. School taxes run 13 to 16 mills in most cases.

Also in many counties up here, a large part of the county (1/3 in some) is in the National Forest and isn’t subject to property taxes. We also don’t have, nor do we want in many cases, as many services as urban and suburban counties.

It’s sort of an apples to oranges comparision, in some respects.

CharterStarter, Too

February 8th, 2012
12:05 am

@ Lee, amen. It’s driving me nuts.

To our rural folks – economic development in rural communities is imperative. Property values are low because there is declining industry and commerce and the education system needs reform (see achievement data for the majority of rural districts). Good schools attract business. Good schools attract homeowners and increase property values. Our rural communities can’t afford NOT to make some positive steps to build and increase you local economy. The local school districts will benefit down the road. Think about it…

Mary Elizabeth

February 8th, 2012
12:12 am

Charter Schools are PUBLIC Schools, 10:53 pm

I realize that presently charter schools in Georgia are public schools but I wanted people to think “outside of the box” and not think just in terms of the present. I said that what is today a public charter schools could tomorrow become a private charter school. Please read the following statements by educator and writer Jonathan Kozol:
“Charter schools are, according to Kozol, a bridge toward vouchers:

In the long run, charter schools are being strategically used to pave the way for vouchers. The voucher advocates, who are very powerful and funded by right-wing foundations and families, recognize that the word “voucher” has been successfully discredited…. They have now shrewdly decided the best way to break down resistance to vouchers is by supporting charters, which represents a halfway step in the same direction. One of the intentions of this, by creating selective institutions, usually with extra forms of funding, is to discredit the entire public enterprise in America. We already have the privatization of the military, as we’ve seen with the private military contractors in Iraq; we’ve seen the privatization of the prison system. Well, the next step is the privatization of public schools. It’s a matter of ideology. In rare occasions, a charter school created by teachers in the public system and in collaboration with activist parents in the community have had at least short-term success…. They tend very quickly—even when they’re started by teachers with the best intentions—to enter into collaboration with the private sector.”
And from the same article that published Kozol’s quote, please read the following:

“While nonprofit charter schools are more pervasive than their for-profit counterparts, for the quarter of charters that are for-profit, the obvious problem is that the drive to make a profit will compromise educational quality. And for-profits and non-profits are under similar pressure to expand as quickly as possible.

Edison Schools Incorporated is one of the largest for-profit charter school companies. It ran twenty schools in Philadelphia alone until it was discredited this year. With board members like John Chubb of the Hoover Institution and Brookings Institution, it made a bald-faced attempt to turn millions of dollars in profits by controlling 157 schools. (Not very successfully, though; it was traded on the NASDAQ for four years but only showed one quarter of profitability.) The most fundamental problem with a private model of education is that a company’s profits depend directly on cost-cutting. The cheaper the services they provide, just as in private prisons and hospitals, the more profit they turn. So there is always an incentive to do things on the cheap—poorly maintained physical plant and equipment, low pay for teachers and other staff, and larger class sizes mean bigger rates of return.

The dynamic works in fundamentally similar ways with nonprofit entities. The pressure to cut costs in order to have money left over for expansion forces nonprofit entities to act in a similar fashion to their for-profit cousins. Every nonprofit charter operator is under immense pressure right now to expand as quickly as possible and to measure success by how quickly they are able to replicate themselves. The newest mandate from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is that we need to close thousands of broken inner-city schools and replace them with charters. There is fierce competition over who will get the contracts, especially among nonprofits. And nonprofits are, of course, allowed to pay their administrators very high salaries as well as keeping a small profit.

And then there is corruption. Celerity, a nonprofit charter school that made an attempt to co-locate on the campus of Wadsworth Elementary in Los Angeles, contracts out all its services to a for-profit firm, Nova, run by the same owner. This backdoor model—of a nonprofit funneling dollars to a separate, for-profit entity—is common. Kent Fischer explained it in the St. Petersburg Times:

The profit motive drives business…. More and more, it’s driving Florida school reform. The vehicle: charter schools. This was not the plan. These schools were to be “incubators of innovation,” free of the rules that govern traditional districts. Local school boards would decide who gets the charters, which spell out how a school will operate and what it will teach. To keep this deal, lawmakers specified that only nonprofit groups would get charters. But six years later, profit has become pivotal…. For-profit corporations create nonprofit foundations to obtain the charters, and then hire themselves to run the schools.”
I found the above article through Google. Here is the link. I recommend readers and legislators read the entire article. Georgians need to realize what may be ahead for Georgia’s schools if wisdom is not used in decision-making about all school choice possibilities, not simply regarding charter schools. Are we trying to dismantle public education in Georgia, and why would we do that? Why not improve public education, instead?

CharterStarter, Too

February 8th, 2012
12:29 am

@ Mary Elizabeth –

1. The charters school law prohibits for profits from starting schools. Boards and authorizers have full control over this. The fear is misplaced – unless you believe your district and the state will not provide appropriate oversight. I am pretty sure the districts have a good handle on this – Cobb sure has.

2. The legislature can choose to not allow vouchers in our state. Why are you hanging this on the charter schools and not trusting our elected officials to represent their constituency?

I sure am hoping my trust in them is not misplaced and they will listen to the thousands of emails and calls from charter parents who don’t care about vouchers and only want to protect their school for their child.

Tell The Truth

February 8th, 2012
5:51 am

I am tired of everyone saying–if HR1162 passes it will do this, that, and everything else. It will only do ONE major thing that we should all agree upon–give the voters an opportunity to speak on what they want. The school districts, superintendents, PAGE, and the PTA all oppose this issue going to the ballot. Do you know why? They are deathly afraid that YOU THE VOTER WILL VOTE FOR AND PASS IT AGAINST ALL THEIR BUREAUCRATIC WISHES. How can anyone disagree with letting the voters decide. Or, to those who don’t trust the intentions of the sponsors of HR1162, don’t you trust the public either? HR1162 puts the question before the people. And I, for one, believe that the voters of Georgia ARE intelligent, will be able to decide for themselves, and will vote accordingly. You who oppose HR1162 want an autocracy not a democracy.


February 8th, 2012
6:34 am

IT won’t be just the rural schools withering on the vine…. who is going to write the checks when systems can’t even cover teacher salaries for more than one month at a time?

yes i am worried

February 8th, 2012
6:44 am

Charter Starter

I often empathize with your points, but you are disingenous with point 1. In fact, when the commission did exist, they clearly favored schools started by non-profits, many of which were actually for-profits in other states that allowed for for-profit schools. (K-12, etc)

Go back and read the last few lines of your email. Protect MY CHILD’S SCHOOL. A constitutional amendment should be for the good of the vast majority, not for a few.


Atlanta mom

February 8th, 2012
6:49 am

Last year rural republicans got screwed with the illegal worker legislation. This year the charter school movement? Maybe rural republicans need to recognize that the party line is not doing them any favors.

Attentive Parent

February 8th, 2012
7:04 am

“A charter school’s governing board is accountable to their PUBLIC charter authorizers. Every charter school in Georgia is based on that PUBLIC approval and oversight.”

Not to be mean but the governing board has an obligation to defer to the principal or super in case of a dispute under SACS’ accreditation criteria. SACS is a private entity that has been given extortionate, unaccountable power already over public tax money. All these charter pushes are simply increasing the power of AdvancEd to push its model for radically restructuring American education away from academics.

Given what Rep educators already enacted when they passed HB 186 pushing the votech for all approach for high school, I wonder where they get their ed advice from. Actually I have been told it is Gene Bottoms of SREB.

Finally has anyone else read that Fulton charter? Talk about accelerating the gutting of academics. It appears that Robert Avossa came to Fulton to run a con on Fulton’s taxpayers and children. Shame on the Board for allowing it 7-0.

Charter Parent

February 8th, 2012
7:14 am

@ Truth…
Yes they are all scared of letting the registered voters and taxpayers decide.


February 8th, 2012
7:36 am

Charter school folks don’t get the money part of this. It is really easy to say- the money follows the student but the issue deals with the economy of scale. When a charter school take let’s say 10 students from each school in a district, there is no reduction in how much the district has to pay for serving the remaining students. 10 students does not erase the need of a teacher, principal, custodian or bus driver. There is no cost reduction to the district. Really- districts don’t mind the idea of charters but the money is the issue. The results of charters to many districts are reduced services for the remaining students. Believe it or not (except for APS) most districts have cut to the bone already and are not flush with cash.


February 8th, 2012
7:43 am

It might be interesting for AJC to do an article from the perspective of districts who oppose charters. It seems we are hearing many sides of this without the a voice of public school districts.


February 8th, 2012
8:11 am

If school districts (Fulton County Schools and APS) in particular were doing an good job of educating kids, parents who value education would not seek out Charter Schools. From personal experience Fulton County Schools cater to the lowest common demoninator. I have seen the learning environment in class rooms destroyed by the administrations refusal to address disruptive kids in the classroom. School administration is very reluctant to take on these issues due to fear of legal ramifications. Mainstreaming of developmently challenged students is also a disaster. Both the developmently challenged students and the high achieving students are short changed. The Public School advocates will tell you if you are the parent of a motivated, high achieving student that you should keep in the school for the good of the school even if your child suffers educationally and developmentally. As a parent you only get one chance to get it right. That is why parents are voting with their feet a pocketbooks for Charter Schools and Private Schools to provide their kids with a challenging, positive learning environment.


February 8th, 2012
8:15 am

Mabe we should let the Government School System wither on the vine and put back responsibility in parenting!!


February 8th, 2012
8:21 am

The amendment would allow the state to give my local tax money to a non-elected entity. This is not right. I have a locally elected board to govern this money. If I don’t like them I vote against them. It’s simple.

Keep the Fed out of my State business and keep the State out of my Local business.

State charters that take local money are Taxation Without Representation!

Ed Advocate

February 8th, 2012
8:41 am

I’m a SE GA native and am proud of Rep. Spencer’s thoughtful approach to this issue and his bravery in bucking House leadership. Instead if towing the party line, he’s listening to his constituents and voting in their (and their kids’!) best interest. Thank you Rep. Spencer!

Ron F.

February 8th, 2012
8:50 am

83jacket: in the large metro systems, there is definitely a need for specialized schools, and plenty of population to justify the need. Parental concerns are valid and charter schools may be a way to address some of those needs. That said, what do we do with the kids you identify as causing the problems? I teach the “at-risk” population in my district, and while difficult, most of them turn out alright in the end. It takes a lot of work, but being with their more successful, capable peers does help many of them see what they can be if they try. If all they have around them is other challenged learners, then they become what they see.

Unfortunately, the push for charters is led by those with the means to move their kids and pay the cost of transportation, etc. How does this help the poor kids, the learning disabled, the challenging behavior? Segregating the “good” kids is only one part of the argument here. How do we then best help the rest? I’m all for career academies or schools focused on specific academic talents, but how do we fund them fairly so the kids left to ride the bus to their local school don’t end up in something the equivalent of juvenile detention centers?

Inman Park Boy

February 8th, 2012
8:57 am

If rural school systems “wither on the vine” that’s what is called a FREE market, where parents are FREE to make educational choices. Anyway, why do you care if these rural systems “wither” when in fact (see the scores) they do such a terrible job??

Mary Elizabeth

February 8th, 2012
9:00 am

Charter Starter, Too, 12:29 am

I only ask that you read the link information that I provided last evening – in full – for I believe you will be stunned, if you take the time to do that.

I am not against charters per se, I just want my eyes wide open. That is how I was trained to think as an educator – to look with my own eyes, analyzing every aspect, and not simply to join a “bandwagon” fad, just because it is popular.

Why not put public momentum into reducing – significantly – pupil-teacher ratio in traditional public schools? Students would better excel, and they would understand that, philosophically, we are all one.

I recommend that all who read this blog, read the above link in full.

Michael Moore

February 8th, 2012
9:04 am

In January 2010, the Civil Rights Project (CRP) released a study that found “charter schools experience severe levels of racial segregation compared to traditional public schools. A subsequent RAND report challenged the CRP as suffering from methodological shortcomings. If allowed to stand, any gated community, or special interest group could propose a charter and operate their own school with public monies. Imagine a developer when asked, “how are the schools around here?,” replying, “don’t worry about the public school down the road that didn’t make AYP, we’re going to have our own school just down the street from your house that keeps out the undesirables.”

Basically, charters are independent public schools. These schools must follow a “charter,” or contract, that offers something public schools do not: the ability to operate outside the typical restrictions of public schools. For example, in Chatham County, Oglethorpe Academy operates under a charter based on “Core Knowledge” largely building on ideas proposed by E.D. Hirsch in his book Cultural Literacy, that there is a fundamental core foundation of knowledge all students should have. In Bulloch County, the Charter Conservatory offers a “constructivist” approach meaning that knowledge is co-constructed by all participants. These are approaches not offered in the public schools and successes and failures of these philosophical positions can be useful knowledge to any district willing to learn from them.

How successful are charter schools? They may not be the educational cure-all proponents portray. The research is highly mixed and depends on where you are. Michigan reports much lower charter test scores than public schools from the state. Some California and Pennsylvania studies found modest strength in test scores. Of course, it also depends on who is doing the studies. For California, the studies were conducted by RAND and the Goldwater Institute both major players in the charter movement. The Michigan study was conducted by the Evaluation Center of Western Michigan University.

However, a 2009 study from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University analyzed charter achievement in fifteen states and the District of Columbia. CREDO found decidedly mixed student achievement outcomes. The study concluded that only 17% of charter schools provided greater student achievement results than public schools, while nearly half provide interchangeable results compared to public school students. Alarmingly, 37% of charter programs in the 16 state sample delivered achievement scores significantly lower than public school performance.

Like many educators, this issue is a tough call. I’ve spent my professional career either in a public school or preparing most teacher candidates for careers in public school and would like to see charter concepts be incorporated within the administrative structure of school systems. However, my altruistic notions are offset by the reality of dim administrators and clueless boards of education. Until we undertake real reform, charter schools can provide thoughtful alternatives provided the approval process is also thoughtful. This amendment is not what I consider to be thoughtful.


February 8th, 2012
9:07 am

again as i have posted before, it doesnt matter whether a public school, charter school, private school, or home school, if the instructor doesnt have a safe environment, supported teachers, and supplies for students.


February 8th, 2012
9:45 am

In response to some earlier posts:

@Charter Parent “No, most DON’T attend private school. The majority of charter students come from public school systems. Our charter school is 99% African American. What school are YOU talking about?”

I’m talking about Patuala Charter Academy, located here in southwest Georgia (Edison, Calhoun County). It’s own founder admitted that “Initially, you will see more urgency on the side of private school parents who are tired of paying tuition,” said Ben Dismukes, a Pataula founder and himself the parent of two private-school students.” in one of Maureen’s previous blog posts []

An acquaintance of my husband recentely told us there were only 4 students left in her son’s private school class (4th grade, I think), so, at least down here, most of the students were in fact drawn from private school populations.

@swga “GeeMac opposes spending local money on local students at the school of their parents’ choice. He notes that the public school wasnt providing services to these students because their parents were paying dearly to send them to private schools. Hello – the community has an obligation to all the students, not just the ones who couldn’t previously leave the public system. Its supposed to be universal access to education. We gotta pay for it.”

The local public school has never denied access to any students living in this county. Parents have always had the choice to either send their students here, to a neighboring county public school, or to one of 3 private schools. In the not too distant past, Calhoun County offered an exceptional educational choice for ALL of its community members. That fell apart back in the late 1990’s due to a suit that the use of tracking students by ability was discrimanatory. White parents protested and pulled their students out. Now they don’t want to pay tuition, either to the private school or the neighboring county public system, and they don’t want to return to the local public school, and it is largely due to demographics.


February 8th, 2012
9:47 am

Ron F. – I understand the challenge public schools face but essentially what you and school districts like FCS and APS are saying is that the eductational needs for motivated, high achieving students are a secondary priority and its up to their parents to find additional educationally stimulating opportunities outside the classroom. For many parents that this impicit philosophy is unacceptable and they are willing to make monetary sacrifices to send their kids to private schools and why they are supportive of Charter schools where they feel their kids are provided a stimulating educational environment. I saw this issue first hand in my child’s classroom last year. Two students in the class, (one of which was very smart) were behaviorly challenged and because of the administrations failure to deal with their disruptive behavior the learning environment of the entire class was compromised.


February 8th, 2012
10:05 am

By the way, Calhoun County Elementary has always made AYP. The Middle/High school has struggled, but is making steady improvements. 100% of this year’s seniors passed the Graduation writing test last year and the only reason we missed AYP last year was due to the number of students receiving SPED diplomas – 6 out of a class of 36 – which counts against your graduation rate.

Let my clearly state that I do not oppose charter schools per se. I also believe in parents exercising their right to make educational decisions for their children. In the spirit of full disclosure, I must state that I pay $500/child per school year for my children to attend school in Early County, a majority minority public school system that is large enough to offer the gifted services, honors and AP courses, and extensive career electives I want for my children. Our system simply does not have the number of students nor the financial and personnel resources to offer these options. And if additional local and state dollars continue to be diverted to the charter school, that is literally across the street, we never will be able to offer these options to the students who remain in our local school, which is really a shame.


February 8th, 2012
10:11 am

83jacket writes “I saw this issue first hand in my child’s classroom last year. Two students in the class, (one of which was very smart) were behaviorly challenged and because of the administrations failure to deal with their disruptive behavior the learning environment of the entire class was compromised.”

And herein lies the daily struggle for most teachers – How do we balance the needs of ALL the students? Thank you for recognizing that the administration should have dealt more effectively with these disruptive students. Classroom teachers do not have the option of banning or removing a student from class. What is the best solution? I don’t know. Public schools must find a way to teach all the students who show up.

Jerry Eads

February 8th, 2012
10:23 am

“In addition, I remind my colleagues that local control is a basic conservative tenet when discussing public education policy.”
Precisely. So many “Republicans” seem to have not even a remote clue what the term conservatism means. Bravo to Spencer.


February 8th, 2012
10:37 am

Not a bad letter if I do say so myself…Bravo brother.


February 8th, 2012
10:40 am

This bill in it’s intentional vagueness is a recipe for fiscal disaster. Parents are going to the battle lines in many states over the effects of similar laws; state control over charter schools with no representation from taxpayers. It is about money not education. It is reckless endangerment of taxpayer dollars and students who may attend a charter school that there is no way the state can monitor – counties don’t have the boots on the ground to monitor the operations of existing charter schools. Why is Jan Jones in such a rush? Why doesn’t she lay her cards on the table? Call your house representative to say NO to HR 1162!


February 8th, 2012
10:43 am

Will the CCPS board of education explain why Ed Heatley makes $339,423.99 per year and is allowed travel expenses totaling $10,273.74? This is an enormous amount of money for a medium sized school system. No wonder, he is trying to force employees out of a certain age. Since when did age equate with competency? Who is he to think that he can put older workers out to pasture? He is wielding power like Adolf Hitler, yet the board is doing nothing to suport students and teachers. Teachers are barely surviving, but he is making an astonomical salary. CCBOE when are you going to speak out for the right thing?

Mary Elizabeth

February 8th, 2012
10:47 am

Gee Mac, 10:05 am

These impacting words, of yours, deserve to be highlighted, which I am now doing:

“Our system simply does not have the number of students nor the financial and personnel resources to offer these options. And if additional local and state dollars continue to be diverted to the charter school, that is literally across the street, we never will be able to offer these options to the students who remain in our local school, which is really a shame.”


February 8th, 2012
10:53 am

@Inman Park Boy, my rural school routinely shows CRCT scores that exceed the state average. We have consistently made AYP every year since NCLB was instituted except for one, and that was a problem with our severe to profound special ed. class. Should we also be allowed to wither on the vine? Are the only ones who matter those in the metro area? Remember, Georgia is the largest (physically) state east of the Mississippi. It is not just the metro Atlanta area. Open your eyes and look around. City folks often like to make fun of those of us from rural areas, but they (the city dwellers) are often the most myopic, provincial minded people around!

@yes I am worried, I am also sick of the MY CHILD attitude of many parents. We should be concerned about the education of all children. It should not be just about making sure MY CHILD gets a good education so he/she can get a good job/marry well. We need all our citizens to be well educated in order to maintain our civilization.

@Mary Elizabeth, your comments are wonderful!


February 8th, 2012
10:57 am

APS Parent

February 8th, 2012
11:04 am

Mr. Spencer realizes what all his fellow rural Republican colleagues should understand — that they are being led by the nose by their suburban Atlanta leadership to support a constitutional amendment that will be particularly devastating for public education in rural Georgia. In small, sparsely populated districts, charter schools are virtually non-existent because (among other reasons) they are not economically feasible to operate. Yet by authorizing the General Assembly to create its own system of “state” charter schools, HR 1162 would result in more and more state money being siphoned off out of QBE funding available for regular public schools, thus further hammering already-devastated budgets of small rural districts. This result may be fine for all of the “free market” worshipers who believe the public education system should operate like a Walmart (or should be ditched altogether), but it would require us to write off entire populations of our state as unworthy of an adequate educational opportunity.