Senate passes charter school amendment. Now, voters will decide the question in November.

The state Senate passed the controversial charter school amendment this afternoon, enabling a constitutional amendment on the question in November. The amendment passed 40-16, which represents the two-thirds majority required. The amendment already had passed the House.

One of the reasons for passage is the assurance from its author, Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, R-Milton, that the state would cover the costs of a state-approved charter school if its original charter application was not approved by a local school districts.

However, skeptics argue that the language is fuzzy enough that the state will still be able to divert money from local school districts to pay for state-approved charter schools.

The bill has become one of the most promoted pieces of legislation in the General Assembly this year, in part because of the assistance of the influential for-profit charter school industry, including online providers , which is looking to expand its foothold and profits in Georgia.

The research on charter schools remains mixed, as noted in a detailed Education Week review this month.

A new state Department of Education study found that Georgia charter schools do not outperform traditional schools. In 2010-11, 70 percent of charters met the adequate yearly progress targets of No Child Left Behind, while 73 percent of traditional schools in Georgia met those AYP targets that year. Charters had an 82 percent graduation rate in 2010-11; the state average that year was 80.9 percent.

First out with a response is the Center for an Educated Georgia at Georgia Family Council: (I will add reactions as I get them today.)

“We applaud a large majority of Georgia’s Senators for focusing on the interests of students instead of the heated partisan politics of adults,” said Jerri Nims Rooker, director of the Center for an Educated Georgia at Georgia Family Council. “Thanks to their courage, Georgia is one step closer to protecting the state’s shared role with local districts to support public education and the development of public charter schools. It is now up to the people of Georgia to approve this amendment, which is crucial for the future of quality public education in Georgia and to ensure that parents can choose the best public school for their child’s learning needs.”

The amendment will essentially put the state into the charter school business, which had been squelched last year by a state Supreme Court decision saying local boards of education controlled the right to create schools.

State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, decried the passage as a loss for students, saying, “Peel back the layers of the onion and what is revealed is a $400 million charter school management business coupled with underlying real estate deals. Our limping schools systems will be financially decimated when we redirect funding to these barely public charter schools — schools that create a parallel school system. Some of these multimillion dollar management contract amounts could fund entire school budgets in some areas of our state…Deals have been made for jobs, appointments, redistricting and more. What they have proven in the debate of HR 1162 is that the State Capitol is for sale. It is corruption in every sense of the word.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

212 comments Add your comment

Historydawg

March 19th, 2012
4:19 pm

How these folks at the center for educated Georgia sleep at night is beyond imagination! Using Georgia’s children and democracy for corporate takeover and the interests if a select few. It is a sad day for Georgia’s children and for local decision-making

that's goofy

March 19th, 2012
4:22 pm

Guess now we will see the will of the people. Do they favor traditional public schools or charter schools?

To put it another way: Do they support corporations profiting from education?

Cutty

March 19th, 2012
4:22 pm

Let’s just cut out the middle man (the General Assembly) and pass every law or regulation via referendum.

Jefferson

March 19th, 2012
4:26 pm

This is not what amendmends are for. If the state wants the job, let them fund the whole public education system and take property owners out of the financing business. Raise income and corporate taxes.

phil

March 19th, 2012
4:32 pm

Can’t wait to vote AGAINST charter schools! Thank you legislators for finally giving me this opportunity.

Local Control

March 19th, 2012
4:35 pm

Will these work like the Kittredge Magnet School for High Achievers in Dekalb County where students have to test to attend or like Gwinnett School of Mathmatics, Science, and Technology where anyone who can sign their name with an X can enter into the lottery?

Concerned Parent and Educator

March 19th, 2012
4:44 pm

THANK YOU! This is amazing. Thank you for leaving politics aside and making the right decision for the future of education in Georgia.

Historydawg

March 19th, 2012
4:45 pm

Local control, therein lies one of many problems: tax money with no accountability. Communities divided and individuals making bank off money intended for the common good of all. How are we reducing money and increasing pointless accountability measures for public schools, while creating more charters that have no accountability and that can select who has access to good education with no recourse for those excluded.

Historydawg

March 19th, 2012
4:47 pm

Thanks for the doublespeak, concerned educator. This is only about politics and greed. No one under the gold dome cares at all for Georgia’s kids.

Bernie

March 19th, 2012
4:50 pm

The ultimate goal of this process is school vouchers. if anyone, tell you otherwise is not being truthful.
This is the State Government picking and choosing winners of a quality education.

If you are not lucky enough to get into one of these CLASS based schools, your education will surely be compromised because of school funds and resources will be directed to those schools first.

Ronin

March 19th, 2012
5:01 pm

This will give the people the choice to decide on traditional district schools or Charter options.
It will be interesting to see the results this November. Granted, there is no guarantee that this will pass at the ballot box. The largest employer in many counties is the district school system.

However, I see this as a great opportunity to expand public/government education options in the State of Georgia. As for the fear mongers that say that corporations are going to “profit” from education tax dollars, that already happens by service contracts with local district schools. All the goods that are currently purchased by district schools go to shareholders or investors who in turn “profit” from the education dollar. If the employee/teacher/administrator works for the district or a Charter company, they too will profit. The important difference is that this will potentially allow parents to have more direct control or involvement in local school decisions.

This will be interesting.

Cherokee mom

March 19th, 2012
5:03 pm

Of course the state will divert money from the local school systems to fund these charters! Where else would the money come from??? I can’t wait to see how the wording on this amendment is phrased when it is put before the voters in November. I will enjoy voting against it….no taxation without representation!

Decaturite

March 19th, 2012
5:06 pm

This is a sad, sad day for Georgia’s k-12 traditional students, and a great day for corporate charter schools’ shareholders. Those corporate charter schools will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in slick ad campaigns to convince Georgia’s voters that traditional public schools are failing its students (when in fact the traditional schools are getting slightly better results than their charter counterparts in the state.) There’s no way that the traditional k-12 schools could remotely come close to to competing with them in ad campaign dollars. If it passes, we might as well admit that we’ve gone backwards as a state and created a segregated system again – only this time it’s not about race, it’s more about economics – the haves and the have-nots. Come on Georgia, just fund public education like the Constitution says you’re obligated to do. I am so ashamed to admit I’m a Republican!

Local Control

March 19th, 2012
5:08 pm

But where is the accountability now? APS is still unraveling a cheating scandal, Gwinnett has millions in overpriced, underdeveloped real estate parcels, both Gwinnett and Dekalb have bloated administrations while children are in overcrowded, underserved classrooms.

Accountability will come when the money isn’t dictated by a school district map. Accountability will come when parents and children can vote with their feet. Until then, mediocrity will rule.

Lynn43

March 19th, 2012
5:12 pm

The only thing public about charter schools is that our public tax money is used to pay for them. I’ve dealt with these charlatans (for profit school promoters) for 4 years, and I’ve seen the greed and conniving tactics they use, and it is not pretty. If you think these are public institutions, then go to the door and try to enroll your child. You will get a surprise.

Ed Johnson

March 19th, 2012
5:17 pm

Ron F.

March 19th, 2012
5:24 pm

“Thank you for leaving politics aside and making the right decision for the future of education in Georgia.”

Since they haven’t even begun to spell out the details of how this appointed state commission will work and who, ultimately, they answer to, I’m not so sure this is such a good decision. While I support change and see charter schools as one possibility, I don’t think the state commission will make any better decisions. It’s still a bunch of power-hungry politicians choosing which schools get approved, only now we’ll have less say in the matter. I hope the details will be carefully planned and presented prior to the amendment vote so that voters know exactly what we’re voting for and how this will all be managed and funded.

Cherokee Parent

March 19th, 2012
5:26 pm

Can’t wait to have the opportunity to VOTE NO for for-profit management companies crossing the GA borders to steal MY TAX MONEY.

Jayne

March 19th, 2012
5:29 pm

Until the local schools think that parents and kids have alternatives, they won’t change. No one is forcing anyone to do anything in the charter school issue. Parents and students who have an alternative are (shudder) sometimes exercising that alternative and are choosing a charter school. O NO. Lock up the children! This outrage must end! Worse, sometimes the state takes the money that was following the child into the public school and sends that money to the public charter school. Then the public school folks go bat crazy that someone is taking “their” money.
All this hyperventilating about corporate schools is just that,
The thing that drives the educrats over the edge is the possiblity of competition and parents free to choose which solution best fits the needs of their child.

carlosgvv

March 19th, 2012
5:37 pm

“focusing on the interests of students”

The only interests served by this are the ones of fundamentalist parents who want their children in Christian oriented schools which promote their religious views and denounce all science as just liberal theory. Republican politicans know they will be rewarded by being elected and re-elected by these far-right voters.

Stop Stealing Dreams

March 19th, 2012
5:38 pm

What a wonderful day for education reform efforts in Georgia! Now, Georgia has a chance to be a leader in ed reform and stop stealing dreams! Finally, common sense is coming to education reform. Now, onto the ballot boxes!

Mary Elizabeth

March 19th, 2012
5:40 pm

“The amendment will essentially put the state into the charter school business, which had been squelched last year by a state Supreme Court decision saying local boards of education controlled the right to create schools.”

=========================================

These words were well chosen. I do not think that the educating of children of Georgia should become primarily a “business” enterprise. Some will argue that public education is already such. Nothing is totally pure, but a charter school mandate which requires a Constitutional amendment foretells much more business investment in schools in Georgia than is currently the case. I do not think it wise, nor educationally healthy, for children to be used for profit. We shall see what the future holds, and what the essential intent is behind this Constitutional amendment. As I had stated in a previous post. “Time will, eventually, tell intent.”

—————————————————————————–

From Saul K. Padover’s book, entitled, “Jefferson,” pages 395-396: “The twin evils of bigotry and persecution could be avoided in the United States by a vigorous policy of enlightenment. ‘To penetrate and dissipate these clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education,’ Jefferson concluded. And so, in his old age, Jefferson developed a plan for public education in a democracy and gave the last years of his life to its realization. ‘I am now,’ he wrote at the age of seventy-four to George Ticknor, ‘entirely absorbed in endeavours to effect the establishment of a general system of education in my native state. By 1817 Jefferson had the last detail of his plan worked out. It was one of the most ambitious projects ever designed for education in a free republic.. . .They (the public schools) were to be free to all children, for Jefferson insisted that it was the duty of government ‘to provide that every citizen. . .should receive an education proportioned to the condition and pursuits of his life.’ ”
————————————————————–

Thomas Jefferson mentioned nothing of profit for business enterprise in his educational plan. He did state, however, that it was the “duty of government” to provide “free schools for all children” and that the purpose of education was “enlightenment” to dispel the “twin evils of bigotry and persecution.”

Jefferson believed that the continuation of our democratic Republic depended upon education of all citizens, with the intent that he had described, and that intent was not profit.

Ron F.

March 19th, 2012
5:43 pm

Jayne: as simple as it seems to have the money “follow the child”, how much of that money really is the child’s? The average property owner pays far, far less than the current per child amount spent by the state. Now if you want your money to follow your child, you should have just that- your contributed share via property taxes. If you rent, then what? The notion that all the funds the state puts into educating a child should be at the parents’ behest is absurd.

I understand the frustration parents feel- believe me, many teachers who post here feel it too. While I like the idea of choice, I also like being able to work and get paid in the profession I LOVE. I don’t think I’d much like the idea of having my contract yanked and suddenly being out of a job because a group of parents pull out and go to another school. You’re not going to have teachers with their lives packed in a rolling suitcase to move wherever the tides of fickle parental feelings dictate. And how will you attract good teachers when they won’t know where they’ll end up? I also don’t like the idea, as a taxpayer, of “trusting” a commission appointed by our crooked state legislators to decide which schools get approved and how they will be funded. That’s a great big mess waiting to happen.

And you should do some research on charter schools and the management companies used to run many of them. Hyperventilating is the least of your worries if there is a corporate profit to be paid.

And what about the kids? The pool of children we have to educate isn’t changing. How are charter schools going to do any better with the exact same bunch of kids? All you and many others are thinking about is how you can pull your kids away from the riff-raff and have a nice, safe, successful school. What about the rest?

money for nothing

March 19th, 2012
5:50 pm

Keep an eye on the Morgans (state rep Alisha & Cobb school board member David). Alisha went against party lines because it’s in her financial interest. David serves as both a school board member and as a lobbyist for charter schools (I know, it doesn’t look right to me either).

Ignorant Education

March 19th, 2012
5:52 pm

Watch “Waiting for Superman” and then vote your conscience.

My goodness...

March 19th, 2012
5:53 pm

The comments here reflecting the ignorance about charter schools and clear unwillingness to actually learn about the issue are illustration enough to expand the network of charter schools in this state. Clearly we are not teaching our citizens to think critically. Here’s a couple of places where opponents on this board an in other places are dead wrong about charter schools and this amendment:

1) There is nothing secret to the wording of the amendment — it’s in the resolution. Check it out.

2) Charter schools are not private schools, they are public schools and cannot (and do not) handpick their kids. If there is more demand than the number of seats available, they hold a lottery

3) To the issue about “for-profit management organizations,” they provide a service to the school, many times providing all back-office services, supplies and books, student management software and everything else you need to run a school. But let me ask this of the for-profit demagogues that propagate fear on this board and others: Do you have a problem with for-profit Microsoft making money from schools that need Windows? How about for-profit Sysco or another food providers making money off the schools for lunches? What about for-profit construction companies that build the schools? And what about for-profit textbook companies? And what about every other for-profit provider of every good and service in every school in every county in this state and across the nation. I guess they are just lining their pockets with taxpayer money, eh? Come on now…

Active in Cherokee

March 19th, 2012
5:56 pm

We still don’t have all of the information needed to vote of this amendment. My concerns, as they always have been, are with the state control of locally collected funds. To me, this is not a vote for for against ‘charter schools’, as it has been advertised; but a vote for or against state control over local funds. If the legislature finds its can spend local money in reagards to education, whats to stop them from trying it in other regards? As someone who generally votes Republican, I am ashamed of this Republican push away from local control and for a larger state governmnet. Local Money = LOCAL Control – end of story.

Ron F.

March 19th, 2012
6:05 pm

My goodness… Do some reading also. The for-profit companies, while providing a service, are in it for profit. They charge a flat, per-student price, for those services. That doesn’t include the computers, books, etc. that you mention. That money, from tax receipts, goes to a company over which the payers have little control beyond negotiation of a contract for those services. Outsourcing those management services doesn’t guarantee any better, or more accountable, providing of those services. And it worries me that an appointed state commission could influence how those companies are chosen and awarded contracts. A commission which has no direct accountability to voters- not a pleasant thought for me as a taxpayer.

As to how charter schools ‘pick’ their students- that is entirely the decision of the charter school. If approved, the school can, and many will, have entrance requirements. There is nothing in the current wording of anything I’ve seen about this amendment that says the charter schools will have to take any and all students. They can be as specific as the charter commission allows them to be.

pleasebeserious

March 19th, 2012
6:05 pm

Finally, a chance to have choice in Georgia. People in Cherokee County against Charter Schools should be complaining about their tax dollars going to schools in rural areas rather than where they live. Most people don’t have a clue what they are complaining about.

Ignorant Education

March 19th, 2012
6:05 pm

My goodness…. hit the nail on the head. It’s refreshing to hear the thoughts from somebody that actually has awareness of the legislation and issues at stake. The fact that the comments illustrate the degree of ignorance by teachers writing on here just makes me want to get further and further from an already broken public school system. The inertia will always be against change and those who benefit most from the currently failing system will push back the hardest. Hence the rampant entitlement mentality permeating Atlanta educators.

Get rid of teacher associations, fire all teachers that cannot pass merit based assessments (without cheating) and give parents the ability to choose where their children have the lowest chance of failure in this state’s awful public “education” options.

Ron F.

March 19th, 2012
6:11 pm

Ignorant Education: AS one of those teachers to whom you so derisively refer, bring on your merit based assessments. I’ll gladly show you how qualified many posting here are. I don’t know how you think you’re going to find teachers for your charter schools once you get rid of the despicable educators you seem to think are so rampant in the current system. I can also assure you that there isn’t a ready pool of qualified individuals just waiting to do your bidding as teachers in the new order of things. If you think it’s so bad now, go get a degree, pass the assessments, and become a teacher. Then let us know how things go. I’ll be waiting to read your first how-to best-seller on teaching.

Truth Hurts

March 19th, 2012
6:12 pm

Once again, state legislators say one thing, then do something else. But we knew that Painful Truth.

They say the best government is that which is closest to the people. But then they set up a situation whereby local school board can be told to fund a charter school approved “downtown” and not locally. To make matters worse, these same legislators say we are “just seeking the will of the people” by having a referendum on this amendment. But we know the Painful Truth. They know that the vast majority of such amendments pass whether they should or not.

Should local school systems have reductions in funds available for non-charter schools (which they will) and if a tax increase is necessary to maintain basic levels of education, those tax increases will come at the local level, not from the legislature. Legislators can then say “Hey, we didn’t raise taxes; your local school board raised taxes.” But we really know the Painful Truth.

If the boys downtown can tap into local school board funds thereby taking away local control, then state legislators have once again played games which ultimately hurt some children so legislators buddies (and contributors) can have a locally funded charter school without local approval or oversight.

The Painful Truth: Georgia education is lagging because of stunts like this one. Shame on you!

another comment

March 19th, 2012
6:15 pm

I am a Liberal, so Anti-Republican it isn’t Funny, but these School Boards and Superintends signed their own death card here. Fulton County signing the death warrant on High Performing Science Charter. Gwinnett fighting the popular Ivey Charter. I myself favor just going all the way to vouchers for all and letting the funds that the State and County are paying to cover each child to follow the child.

After all why should my child be stuck in a school where 40% of the kids are ESOL. Let someone take that money plus the Title one money and open up and ESOL school. There is no interation anyways. They self-segregrate especially in high school.

Let the kids with disabilities go to seperate schools. Look at what Sophia, Schenk, Atlanta Speech School, Howard School. Parents pay $22,000 a year so their children can have seperate special ed, education. They bring them up to level. Then they don’t slow down the rest of the class.

Lets let the kids that can be challenged. What is wrong with letting a parent decided where their children goes. It will also bring down the private school tuition as the public schools get better. It works both ways.

It is really sad that most of the people in Georgia do not know what good schools are. They do not know what good teachers are.

Ron C.

March 19th, 2012
6:16 pm

Yep, diverting money to corporate, elite interests. I’ll be voting no.

Active in Cherokee

March 19th, 2012
6:20 pm

@pleasebeserious – though I’m not fond of the tax dollars that go to the more rural counties, I do understand the reasoning. It does perplex me that Gwinnett is a system that recieves rather pays out; however, I don’t think anyone in the Atl area can truly understand the understand the needs of rural/south Georgia.

@ Ignorant – thanks for not being one of the people that says teachers in GA have a union, but if you think the teacher ‘associations’ here in GA have even as close to as much sway as other education groups (ie for-profit charter lobbyists) you are sorely mistaken.

d

March 19th, 2012
6:22 pm

@pleasebeserious says “”Finally, a chance to have choice in Georgia.” People have ALWAYS had choice…. That’s what the modified-free market system that we live in is all about. If you don’t like the publicly provided option, you make the necessary sacrifices and save up for a privately funded education. I am curious to see what will appear on the ballot versus the actual language of the amendment and exactly how the state plans to fund these schools without hurting the traditional K-12 education system…. and who do I get to complain to when an appointed board approves a school that cannot live up to the promises of its charter.

@Ignorant Education – Why do you want to limit my choice (specifically to belong to my professional association) but want to push “choice” for all other Georgians? Am I not a citizen with all the rights of all other citizens? What “merit based assessments” do you speak of? GACE/PRAXIS? You have to pass those content-knowledge tests to become certified to begin with, so there is no firing teachers on that, they can’t be hired without passing them. As DeKalb County says – “The School Cannot Live Apart From The Community.” Students who want to succeed will succeed regardless of the school. I have students who do not care about the class I am teaching, and they make it known. Fine. I have students, who in that same class, do care, and are succeeding and will do great things once they graduate in May. Those who don’t care, well, I’ll do my best for them, but the old adage about leading a horse to water comes to mind at this point.

Midway

March 19th, 2012
6:24 pm

Stop Stealing Dreams

March 19th, 2012
6:24 pm

My Goodness, THANK YOU for your comments. Finality, sanity and rational thinking is coming to this blog!!

AMHS Dad, Former Ivy Prep Dad

March 19th, 2012
6:27 pm

Finally! The opportunity for a real choice, not Hobson’s choice.

d

March 19th, 2012
6:28 pm

@AMHS Dad – as I asked before, how did you not have choice in Georgia prior to the possible adoption of this amendment?

Ron F.

March 19th, 2012
6:29 pm

“After all why should my child be stuck in a school where 40% of the kids are ESOL. Let someone take that money plus the Title one money and open up and ESOL school. There is no interation anyways. They self-segregrate especially in high school. ”

And that is precisely the point of view that will turn charter school into publicly-finded institutions of resegregation. If that excuse holds, many others will follow. How sad indeed.

Sadly, the influence of private charter school companies will begin in earnest very shortly. Groups of concerned parents, with innocent, heartfelt concern for their children, will have no idea where to begin. In will come the reps with their slick brochures and promises of grandeur and how easy the process is once you have the right group helping you. They’ll write the charters and salivate as the bean-counters add up the potential profits. The parents will be blindly, blissfully happy…for a while. It’ll take a few years of getting gouged by these companies for parents to realize that the promised land has a hefty price tag and essentially no better results. One need only look at published data, based on black and white numbers, to realize the charter schools aren’t performing any better. But alas, it will be too late by the time the giddiness wears off. God help us figure out what to do then. Once we’ve wasted billions of the state taxpayer’s money throwing it down the wishing well, we’ll be in a mess that will take years to fix.

Ron F.

March 19th, 2012
6:35 pm

“What is wrong with letting a parent decided where their children goes”

They have that choice now. They can choose to pay tuition to go anywhere they want. The money any parent pays in property taxes isn’t nearly what the state pays per child for education. Give them back the property tax money and let them pay the rest themselves.

“It will also bring down the private school tuition as the public schools get better. It works both ways”

LOLOL!!! If you think that will happen, you haven’t paid private school tuition lately. That’ll happen about the time Newt’s colony gets going on the moon!

Taxation Without Representation

March 19th, 2012
6:38 pm

This is, without a doubt, taxation without representation. Charter schools, in theory, are fine and may benefit all counties. However, this is different. Our politicians propose to divert funds from existing public schools to charter schools which are run by a for-profit corporation. Read the fine print — this is a bad idea, no matter how you look at it.

Native Atlantan

March 19th, 2012
6:40 pm

We’ve always had a choice in Atlanta — public or private schools. Why is there a need to introduce a competing hybrid using the same funds?

Hillbilly D

March 19th, 2012
6:53 pm

When y’all got out to vote on this, you better read it backwards, forwards and sideways. Amendments in Georgia have a long history of a yes vote meaning no and a no vote meaning yes. I suspect this may be one of those times, when we see it on the ballot.

AMHS Dad, Former Ivy Prep Dad

March 19th, 2012
7:01 pm

@ Native Atlantan – 45 percent of Georgia children live in low- income families, what private school choice fit their parent/parents budget?

http://www.nccp.org/profiles/GA_profile_6.html

AMHS Dad, Former Ivy Prep Dad

March 19th, 2012
7:01 pm

@ Native Atlantan – 45 percent of Georgia children live in low- income families, what private school choice fit their parent/parents budget?

http://www.nccp.org/profiles/GA_profile_6.html

Earl

March 19th, 2012
7:03 pm

For everyone who is opposed to school choice, do you find the performance of Georgia’s public schools acceptable? I moved to Atlanta as a strong supporter of public schools (and as a graduate of a public high school, state college, and state law school). However, I was shocked at the poor level of education my children received at supposedly quality north Fulton County schools. I would like nothing better than to send my children to my local public school, but it does not attempt to challenge the brightest students.

Hillbilly D

March 19th, 2012
7:07 pm

I find Section 2 of HR1162 as troubling as the charter schools part of it.

Old timer

March 19th, 2012
7:13 pm

School choice can only improve all. Schools…..