Barge breaks rank with his opposition to GOP-backed charter school amendment

Speaking of charter schools this morning on the blog, this is big news as state Schools Superintendent John Barge has been a loyal GOP party member, even endorsing Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, who is one of the chief proponents of school choice in the Georgia Legislature.

Barge’s decision to oppose the charter schools amendment on the November ballot will likely anger supporters of the controversial measure, including Gov. Nathan Deal.

However, Barge’s action confirms what his supporters have said all along about him: He is his own man and will act independently of the Republican party if he disagrees with a stance.

School chief John Barge, who stunned public education supporters with his endorsement last month of Chip Rogers, is full of surprises. Today, he announced his opposition to the GOP-backed charter school amendment.

School chief John Barge, who stunned public education supporters with his endorsement last month of Chip Rogers, is full of surprises. Today, he announced his opposition to the GOP-backed charter school amendment.

According to the AJC:

Barge will announce his opposition to the proposed charter school amendment to the constitution today, becoming the highest profile Republican to break with his party on the issue.

Barge, elected superintendent in 2010, met with Gov. Nathan Deal this morning and later called other legislative leaders so they would not be blind-sided by his position.

The charter school fight was an especially bitter one during the most recent legislative session, when Republicans successfully pushed to place on the ballot a proposed amendment to the constitution that would guarantee the state’s power to authorize and fund charter schools.

Barge had not previously announced a public position on the issue, saying up to this point that he would respect the decision Georgia voters make this fall.

That stance changes today.

“I cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education,” Barge said in a prepared statement. “What’s more, this constitutional amendment would direct taxpayer dollars into the pockets of out-of-state, for-profit charter school companies whose schools perform no better than traditional public schools and locally approved charter schools (and worse, in some cases).”

Barge said the passage of the amendment, the restoration of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission and state funding for the charter schools it approves would be too costly for the state.

“Until all of our public school students are in school for a full 180-day school year, until essential services like student transportation and student support can return to effective levels, and until teachers regain jobs with full pay for a full school year, we should not redirect one more dollar away from Georgia’s local school districts — much less an additional $430 million in state funds, which is what it would cost to add seven new state charter schools per year over the next five years (the annual average of the Charter Commission that would be revived if the amendment passes),” Barge’s statement read.

Barge’s opposition to the amendment is a boon to other opponents, who have made the same arguments against its passage. Members of Barge’s party, however, aren’t likely to be thrilled.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

71 comments Add your comment

Dunwoody Mom

August 14th, 2012
11:12 am

Until all of our public school students are in school for a full 180-day school year, until essential services like student transportation and student support can return to effective levels, and until teachers regain jobs with full pay for a full school year, we should not redirect one more dollar away from Georgia’s local school districts — much less an additional $430 million in state funds, which is what it would cost to add seven new state charter schools per year over the next five years

Bravo, Dr. Barge!!!!

Ron F.

August 14th, 2012
11:13 am

“I cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education,” Barge said in a prepared statement. “What’s more, this constitutional amendment would direct taxpayer dollars into the pockets of out-of-state, for-profit charter school companies whose schools perform no better than traditional public schools and locally approved charter schools (and worse, in some cases).”

See, now I have to like him again. I lost a lot of faith in him when he endorsed Chip, but I might be able to forgive after reading this. We’ll see.

Ernest

August 14th, 2012
11:16 am

Wow, this really took real courage on his part. I wonder if this will have any impact on the vote in November?

teacher&mom

August 14th, 2012
11:18 am

Dr. Barge is proving to be a real leader. Now he needs the citizens of GA to stand behind his leadership…before the Republican party tries to trample him into the red GA clay.

catlady

August 14th, 2012
11:18 am

Redemption! Thank you Dr. Barge!

Beverly Fraud

August 14th, 2012
11:18 am

A guy who broke ranks and took a PRINCIPLED stand? In Georgia? Wow.

threedeep

August 14th, 2012
11:20 am

Common sense prevails! The state control is about money, the major companies have already put in bids to Gov. Deal’s office.

jd

August 14th, 2012
11:22 am

Charter Schools and T-Splost – contrast and compare the politics. Can the T-Party oppose one and not the other? Answer due in November.

Mountain Man

August 14th, 2012
11:23 am

He broke ranks and opposes charter schools because they take away some of his area of control. Same with local school systems – often they deny charter schools because they want to retain control and especially they want the MONEY. If the local school districts dealt with their problem issues, there would be no need or clamor for charter schools.

Dunwoody Mom

August 14th, 2012
11:28 am

@Mountain Man – do you have a child sitting in a class of 39 students?

Mountain Man

August 14th, 2012
11:29 am

So Barge needs to look at the $430 million and see how many student-years it buys and compare that to the amount spent (total) at public schools. Then compare that with the amount that the public schools save by not having to educate those students that transfer to charter schools. THAT would be the true test of how cost-effective the charter schools are.

Raquel Morris

August 14th, 2012
11:30 am

This is huge. As an Atlanta parent zoned for an under-performing school, I must explore all of the options for my child. I am completely comfortable with locally-approved public charter schools, and was leaning towards supporting the amendment before reading Barge’s courageous statement. He is absolutely right. The State of Georgia must invest all it can into our traditional public schools, while encouraging local school boards to approve qualified public charter candidates, before opening up a new system of schools needing funding.

Bernie

August 14th, 2012
11:34 am

This Statement comes from the same Gentleman that just a mere few weeks ago supported the candidacy of one the main supporters of the destruction of the Georgia Educational system as we know it and the implementation of this proposed
State Charter School initiative. Am I the only one to see the irony and the conflation of his comments above?

How can this MAN possibly, be truly trusted to truly lookout and care for the Education of OUR Children? Especially after being SILENT on this issue for so long and not for becoming a vocal advocate sooner! This move appears to be more of a CYA act and is Dis-ingenious at best!

Mountain Man

August 14th, 2012
11:35 am

“@Mountain Man – do you have a child sitting in a class of 39 students?”

No – what does that have to do with the price of eggs in China? Do you think that the legislature will approve extra money for public schools if charters are turned down? No, public schools will get the same amount of money. You do know that if you don’t want 39 kids in a classroom, all your county has to do is up their property tax and pay for extra teachers, right? (unless you are at the max) Or create a county SPLOST for education? Also, if charters take some of the students away and counties are left with ALL of their tax money, maybe it would not be 39 kids to a classroom.

a teacher

August 14th, 2012
11:37 am

Chip Rogers will bury you.

Bubba

August 14th, 2012
11:38 am

Efficient businesses try to make the best use of what they have, before spending money on replacements.

Go, Barge, GO!

August 14th, 2012
11:42 am

Imagine that… exercising COMMON SENSE over a Political party! Dr. Barge, thank you for taking a stand publicly! We need MORE leadership that will base decisions on ‘what is right’ – and not solely based on the agenda of ANY political party.

Courtney

August 14th, 2012
11:45 am

Yes! I was begining to think I was the only Republican who cared about education and our children.

Ed Wynn

August 14th, 2012
11:45 am

Looks like all the administrators and educrats oppose charter schools. After watching the idiocy of many local school boards over the years, I am beginning to like the idea of charter schools. Could it be that they fear the possibly of losing their fiefdoms and their high salaries? Hmmm.

Laughing

August 14th, 2012
11:48 am

John Barge is just another politician trying to keep his job. He barely won the 1st time and now wants the thousands of DOE employees to put up yard signs for him. Total hack.

Get Educated

August 14th, 2012
11:52 am

This isn’t about charter schools, salaries or fiefdoms. It’s about a small (7 member) politically appointed, unaccountable group making decisions about local schools. Barge is right. According to the Charter School Commission’s own report to DOE, they performed no better than public schools. This is about an expansion of state government versus local control.

If you don’t like your local school board, vote them out. With the appointed commision, you have no say whatsoever, though your tax dollars fund what they do.

David Hoffman

August 14th, 2012
11:53 am

Wow! From the statement he makes, I infer that the lack of QBE funding would bother him. The private “charter” school people need to collect tuition from the parents who want to send their children to private “charter” schools. We all pay tax money to support the public school system. That is where the money needs to stay.

The real scoop

August 14th, 2012
11:55 am

@ Mountain Man – your comments clearly show you don’t understand the real issues here. Hate to tell you but cutting school funding, upping class sizes and cutting instruction days DOES affect the price of eggs in China – as well as the cost of everything in the mountains, valleys, etc. It affects school performance and ultimately our global competitiveness which affects our economy and the price of EVERYTHING eventually. Sure – up your property taxes… another load of baloney. In Gwinnett, Cobb, and other places – if they can stomach another tax hike – they have the tax base to support that… but what happens in all the other counties with marginal property tax bases already strapped to the max in a down economy just to provide basic services? What you help create then is largely what this Charter School Amendment will help reestablish – the haves and have nots in terms of school choices. I’m not a bleeding heart liberal, and fall decidely on the conservative side of the ledger, especially in economic policy. However, if you can’t see this being nothing but political pandering and power grab you need to wipe the smokey mountain fog from your eyes.

What this really boils down to is Deal wants his politically appointed and malleable Commission in charge of creating schools rather than the person (people) the voters elected to do so because then that $430 Million diverted from public education can be doled out to people who his folks favor. Get real – this is nothing more than creating a windfall slush fund for his folks to dole out to whoever benefits them the most. And like Dr. Barge says – whom I have known since college and is an honorable man who I admire for taking this stand given recent Republican antics towards those who DARE stand up for what is right – hate to tell you but Charter Schools on the whole fare absolutely no better than public schools and are NOT subject to any local input or control.

P.S. – you want to tap into a legitimate source of funding for public schools locally? Repeal the school tax exemption for people over 60 or whatever the age is. It was done as a political vote buying trick – and hate to tell those folks who clamored “why should we pay? We don’t have kids in school?” Neither did 60 year olds when your kids were getting an education but they paid… so should you.

jd

August 14th, 2012
12:00 pm

It sure would be nice to have an objective discussion of the merits of charter schools, the criteria for decisions involving tax payer funds, how budget cuts have impacted local systems, and whether our representatives are applying zero based budgeting principles to their decision to fund state charter schools at a higher per pupil average than k12 schools. That is what Jefferson would have wanted.

Ed Wynn

August 14th, 2012
12:01 pm

I just retired after 32 years of teaching in public schools, Get Educated. I have seen first hand the waste and stupidity of local systems. Also, I read the news of other school systems, and observe theirs. I stand by my statement about “fiefdoms.”

Kevin

August 14th, 2012
12:07 pm

I find it interesting, people voted down the T-SPLOST because they did trust the state government, DOT. However, it seems that the same people support the State Government as a plan to take more money and add another layer to a government is pushed by the government that so many people clearly mistrust! I am voting NO because I don’t want another layer of government, another board or commission or department. There are 2 ways to get charter schools and most counties have charter schools and the State Board of Ed allows them as well. So what is going on with these schools that don’t get approved the 1st 2 ways that they need a 3rd shot.

Charter Schools are not going to fix education. Until we all, parents, students, teachers, bloggers and politicians stop seeing education as a right but more as a responsibility things will never get better.

Mountain Man

August 14th, 2012
12:13 pm

“Charter Schools on the whole fare absolutely no better than public schools and are NOT subject to any local input or control.”

I think you might have it backwards. If you don’t like a charter school, you can always choose to send your kids next year to public schools, so they HAVE to be responsive. On the other hand, when there is ONLY the public school, if you have issues with them, you have no recourse (other than home schooling). I was in that position once in Cherokee County and ended up home schooling for 9 months and then private school because the public school was so bad.

Old Physics Teacher

August 14th, 2012
12:14 pm

I was told that Nathan Deal making John Barge State School Superintendent was the best decision for Georgia’s children in many, many years. I didn’t believe them. I figured he was nothing more than a “yes man” for the Republican party, and for those of the legislature (that would be most of them) that wanted to destroy public education. I freely admit that I was 180 degrees wrong.

Unfortunately for Deal and the rest of the Republican party, they have put into office a Sir Thomas Becket for Deal’s (and the Republican Legislature’s) Henry VIII. I hope he suffers a better fate. GO GET ‘EM DR. BARGE!! The teachers of Georgia salute you!

mathmom

August 14th, 2012
12:18 pm

Thank God someone at the state level understands something about education. Thank you, Mr, Barge.

Mountain Man

August 14th, 2012
12:18 pm

“Charter Schools on the whole fare absolutely no better than public schools”

And I know an excellent public school system – Atlanta Public Schools. Every kid in Atlanta should be made to go there, so that they can learn how cheating is done. The rich send their kids to private school, but the middle class LEAVES, goes to the suburbs.

The real scoop

August 14th, 2012
12:18 pm

Agree with Mr. Wynn to an extent – my wife is a public school teacher and there’s no question much of the superstructure of school systems can certainly be characterized as a “fiefdom” – but that is an example of why this amendment is bad not why it’s necessary.

First – why would we trade fiefdoms – where at the very least locals can get involved and vote people out or recall if necessary… for an aristocracy or oligarchy overseeing $430 Million tax dollars we pay?

Second – fiefdom or not whether a local school system is “good or bad” is a case by case analysis. My children have gone to three different public school systems. Two have largely oeprated at a very high level and demonstrate continuing success in educational achievement (all small counties or city systems by the way). One succeeds in doing mostly good things in terms of educational performance IN SPITE of the complete lack of understanding and accountability of its adminstration -because it has great teachers and faculty, period.

Again the real question is why would we voluntarily give Deal’s chosen few control over $430 Million of our tax dollars meant for education when we all want to decry fiefdoms and lack of control and accountability? Has anyone produced any credible research or numbers to show having charter schools improves education overall? Sure it improves reelection chances and lines a few people pockets… We can accomplish that without this amendment me thinks.

Mountain Man

August 14th, 2012
12:21 pm

“decision to fund state charter schools at a higher per pupil average than k12 schools.”

I think if you look at TOTAL per-student spending, you will find the charters spend a LOT LESS per pupil. It is only the STATE part that is higher (state charters receive no local tax money).

living in an outdated ed system

August 14th, 2012
12:24 pm

Means nothing. Barge just mortgaged his political future and made the dumbest decision of his life. The amendment already has bi-partisan support and his flip won’t change that. You can all have fun with your premature and misguided celebrations. Barge will be neutralized and ostracized by Governor Deal and team, and he came out on the side of supporting mediocrity in public education.

A sad and embarrassing day for our state.

The real scoop

August 14th, 2012
12:29 pm

Mountain – you think this amendment is going to improve Atlanta Public Schools? Really? You think taking $430 Million from statewide public education to create a handful of profit makers is a legitimate response to problems in a school system like APS?

We can agree correcting issues there (and in similar situations) is necessary but there’s no possible way you can suggest this amendment has a snowballs chance of helping.

And no – I don’t have it backwards – the statement Dr. Barge made about Charter Schools not producing any better results is backed by years of educational research, not sound bites. Why? Because charter school success occurs in areas that ALREADY had good public schools, parental involvement, and frankly didn’t “need” charters in the first place. There are some successful “charter” schools in underserved areas as well. But bet your mountains they have charitable benefactors pouring money into them – they are not designed and run by “for-profit” companies and still only serve a precious few of the mass of people needing improved schools.

Political Mongrel

August 14th, 2012
12:30 pm

@Mountain Man: comparing apples to oranges is what you’re doing. It has been shown nation-wide that in general charters, in spite of all the rhetoric, do not perform better than public schools. You have examples of ones that do wonders, but there are examples of failures, too. There examples of brilliant public schools along with the flops. Just because you had problems in your district does not mean that those problems are universal.

But there is no question that funding the charters will take a disproportionate part of the state funding. And as for your per-pupil claims, I’ve seen exactly the opposite.

Brosephus™

August 14th, 2012
12:36 pm

Thank you Dr. Barge!!!

Mountain Man

August 14th, 2012
12:39 pm

“You think taking $430 Million from statewide public education”

Where in the amendment does it say that public school funding will be reduced by $430 million to create a pool of $430 million for charters? Of course public schools will receive less state funds if they teach less students, it is on a per-student basis.

“And as for your per-pupil claims, I’ve seen exactly the opposite.”

I am from Missouri, you are going to have to “Show ME”. How can a STATE charter that receives money only from the state spend more than a local school that receives local money PLUS state money??

Old timer

August 14th, 2012
12:41 pm

Good job Mr. Barge…. I sure wish someone would run against Deal.

Ray

August 14th, 2012
12:41 pm

Don’t local school boards already approve a lot/most charter school applications? Didn’t APS, who many deride on this blog, just approve an expansion of Drew Charter School and a new Drew High School? So why do we need a constitutional amendment to allow a centralized state board to veto local school board decisions? Is it just because state Republicans want to control everything and not let local school boards, which, heaven forbid, might include a few Democrats, to have any say whatsoever? Isn’t this counter to the entire conservative “states rights” mantra that local control is always better than centralized non-local control? Or does that only apply when it is politically convenient?

Old timer

August 14th, 2012
12:42 pm

Locally run charters are fine…for profit…no…for profit colleges out tons.

Mountain Man

August 14th, 2012
12:42 pm

One reason why some parents want charters is because charter schools actually try to solve some of the key issues with public schools – discipline, truancy, social promotion, and parental apathy. Issues that public schools have not shown the backbone to confront.

Maureen Downey

August 14th, 2012
12:50 pm

@Mountain, That is Dr. Barge’s figure, drawn from the cost of the commission while it was in operation. See Barge’s statement on new post.

Robert

August 14th, 2012
12:52 pm

Yay, Dr. Barge!

Mountain Man

August 14th, 2012
12:54 pm

“much less an additional $430 million in state funds”

Dr. Barge’s use of the word “additional” seems to belie the thoughts expressed here that these monies would come out of existing public school funds.

bootney farnsworth

August 14th, 2012
12:56 pm

imagine: a politician saying something, anything involving additional spending is not good in a struggling economy

bootney farnsworth

August 14th, 2012
12:57 pm

all this is good, but still does nothing to deal with the problem of runaway useless spending on unnecessary middle managers and pet projects

2kidsinschool

August 14th, 2012
1:08 pm

Good for him! Political courage- gotta love it.

Lynn43

August 14th, 2012
1:24 pm

Thank you, Dr. Barge. You are the only Republican I voted for and had begun to think I had made a mistake. This restores my faith in you.

This is horrible legislation and the amendment is presented in language meant to confuse. Just vote NO.

class act

August 14th, 2012
1:28 pm

Class act Dr Barge for standing up for what is right…..refreshing.

living in an outdated ed system

August 14th, 2012
1:31 pm

If the amendment fails, so does Georgia’s public education system.

You all think that a vote for the amendment is a vote AGAINST traditional public schools. It is not. In many communities, there is no viable option for our children. Additional options will force the existing schools to do what they haven’t done for decades, which is innovate. Public charters do not have to be available in every community, but most definitely in places where the graduation rates are abysmal – like APS. Even our so called “Broad Prize Winner” Gwinnett County School system has a graduation rate under 70%.

Every one of you should think REAL HARD before you oppose this amendment. All you are doing is letting a monopoly continue to act as such, and that means innovation won’t occur. You don’t have to take my word for it. There is countless literature and research on this subject.

I feel so sorry for Georgia’s children if this “flip” has any material impact on the current bi-partisan support for the referendum.