Barge: Can’t support diverting $430 million from schools to create duplicate bureaucracy for charter school approval

Here is the full statement from Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge on why he opposes the Nov. 6 constitutional amendment that would create a state board to approve and fund charter schools even over the objections of local boards of education.

This surprising position by Barge, a stand in opposition to the governor and the House and Senate leaders, may go a long way to winning back the respect of local school officials, many of whom were shocked by the school chief’s endorsement of Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, a vocal proponent of choice. That endorsement echoed around the state.

In this statement, Barge may be providing a strategy for opponents of the constitutional amendment, which essentially rewrites who can create schools. By focusing on the cost of the commission and its still unexplained duplication of powers with the state board of education, Barge can make a pocketbook argument for opposing the amendment.

And that argument could resonate as the state is seeking an extension of its control over local schools at a moment when it is providing less and less money to them.

On the other hand, the language of the amendment is so broad that it gives no real clue to the fact that it is shifting power to a new appointed state commission to create schools in local communities. Georgians have a history of approving constitutional amendments without a clear sense of their implications, especially in extending tax breaks to special interests.

By John Barge

I fully support the continued creation of high quality charter schools for Georgia’s students, but after careful consideration of what is best for all of Georgia’s students, I have decided to take a position in opposition to the constitutional amendment that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

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).

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. 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).

I trust our local school districts will continue to approve only high quality charter schools for Georgia’s students, and I am committed to working with all of our school districts to ensure that high quality applicants are not denied locally – including mediating between high quality charter school applicants and any local districts that are reluctant to approve them, as provided by existing Georgia law.”

I fully support the continued creation of high quality charter schools for Georgia’s students, but after careful consideration of what is best for all of Georgia’s students, I have decided to take a position in opposition to the constitutional amendment that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

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).

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. 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).

I trust our local school districts will continue to approve only high quality charter schools for Georgia’s students, and I am committed to working with all of our school districts to ensure that high quality applicants are not denied locally – including mediating between high quality charter school applicants and any local districts that are reluctant to approve them, as provided by existing Georgia law.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

75 comments Add your comment

k teacher

August 14th, 2012
12:39 pm

Good for Barge!

Ronnie Raygun

August 14th, 2012
12:43 pm

Hopefully he stands his ground when all of the freebies (bribes) start being offered by charter school management companies. Most of the Gold Dome crowd is already in their pocket.

Ernest

August 14th, 2012
12:43 pm

Superintendent Barge presents a very compelling case.

bootney farnsworth

August 14th, 2012
12:46 pm

common sense.
amazing.

want to take bets on how long it takes for the “unions got to him” posts to start?

bootney farnsworth

August 14th, 2012
12:52 pm

I still like charter schools. I just want the business community to help fund them.

it will not ruin our souls to have a orange school called the Home Depot academy for the skilled trades,
a camo school called the US Army academy for leadership and military science
or a blue AT&T academy for technology studies.

football programs have done this sort of thing for years.

Happy St. Pat's

August 14th, 2012
12:56 pm

What? A Georgia politician takes a realistic and principled stand? I need to lie down.

Mountain Man

August 14th, 2012
12:56 pm

“unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts,”

If the local systems were doing such a good job, why is there a demand for charters?

scrappy

August 14th, 2012
12:58 pm

‘Barge can make a pocketbook argument for opposing the amendment.”

Because using common sense, much less intelligence, and the desire to have high quality real education for all students, would be too much to hope for from GA voters?

Sad, but true.
GA voters will only vote this down if they are convinced it will cost them more in taxes.

bootney farnsworth

August 14th, 2012
12:59 pm

now lets see someone call for the USG to be investigated.

BT

August 14th, 2012
1:02 pm

AMEN…thank you John for standing up for what is the right thing to do for public education. We wonder why we cant compete? China just went to a 270 day school year and we have systems going 160 days at best. on top of that, some systems leave early one day a week?

Bernie

August 14th, 2012
1:04 pm

While we are discussing the sensibility of this DASTARDLY ACT ON OUR CHILDREN. Today ,The Children of Atlanta are unable to get adequate BUS Service and are forced to trek the dangerous and murderous streets of Atlanta this new school year. All due to the failure of its current School Superintendent and School Board ineffectual and unconcerned Leadership.

Thousands of little BOYs & Girls must start their day wondering, if they will survive the gauntlet of avoid speeding, reckless and careless drivers, drug users and dealers, untold numbers of known and unknown Sex offenders that are lurking along the way, while passing numerous vacant homes and empty structures where such devious acts to be perpetrated upon our most defenseless citizens.

Meanwhile, the deafening silence from Mayor REED is almost criminal, especially after the NON-stop cheer-leading that we were all subject to for a ill-advised transportation plan. We also heard from the likes of Andy Young, Shirley Franklin, and other city council leaders. However, when it comes to protecting and insuring the daily safety of our children….All we hear..is SILENCE!

Mountain Man

August 14th, 2012
1:08 pm

“What? A Georgia politician takes a realistic and principled stand? I need to lie down.”

No, just protecting his turf.

bootney farnsworth

August 14th, 2012
1:11 pm

sometimes the willful stupidity of some of the posters here amazes me. after a multi-decade long career in high ed it shouldn’t but it still does.

if an honest person were to ask why are charters a good idea in a functioning public system, I’d respond with the following simple answer.

because not all schools, not all students, and not all systems are created equal.
public education is intended to provide the average person with the basics/fundamentals of education. what we used to call the thee Rs. it was never intended to face some of the challenges politicians force on it.

in cases where a child clearly excels, lags, or has special circumstances to overcome, the average public school can’t and shouldn’t be forced to provide certain services at the expense of the larger mainstream student body. its a very simple concept of ROI.

charter schools are a great idea for the exceptional, the unusual, and the unexpected.

for the truly dense (willful or naturally deficient) let me break it down this way: public ed is like a Ford dealership. basic reliable transportation for the average consumer. it doesn’t cater to the high end or the low end, although both are welcome.

if you want a sportier car, go find a BMW dealer
if you want a older car, go get auto trader
if you can’t afford a new Ford, go to Car Max

detritusUSA

August 14th, 2012
1:14 pm

Hey mountain man, you ask “If the local systems were doing such a good job, why is there a demand for charters”. It’s because certain people don’t want their children going to school with “the children of those people”. They also want the state to help pay for their children to attend what will be essentially private schools.

Reality_Check

August 14th, 2012
1:14 pm

If Mr. Barge hadn’t taken this position, he should resign. Public funding + privately operated = recipe for disaster.

bootney farnsworth

August 14th, 2012
1:19 pm

@ Maureen

is it possible to add an ignore feature here? while I love open and honest discussion, its really getting tiresome to have to deal with the same people spouting the same drivel slightly reconstituted from yesterdays topic. if they were actually bring their own thoughts it would be one thing, but with so many obviously working some version talking points….

I don’t want to see anyone denied an opportunity to express themselves. just a way posters could put some individuals they just can’t work with somewhere the individual in question doesn’t have to be bothered by their drivel

bootney farnsworth

August 14th, 2012
1:21 pm

can’t help but wonder if part of this isn’t driven by Barge seeing this going down in flames in court.
I can’t see any way this would stand legal scrutiny

Beverly Fraud

August 14th, 2012
1:40 pm

Barge: Can’t support diverting $430 million from schools to create duplicate bureaucracy for charter school approval

But when can take a one time RTTT grant and spend millions off the top to create a bureaucracy that will remain in place, bleeding taxpayer’s dry, LONG after the funds have dried up?

Give the guy credit for breaking ranks, but what ever happened to conservative principles such as personal responsibility and rule of law? You teach those, not by hampering teachers, but by EMPOWERING them to hold students accountable.

In other words, why are the Republican as gutless on DISCIPLINE as their supposedly weak willed Democratic opponents ever were?

Maggie's Daughter

August 14th, 2012
1:40 pm

Dr. Barge: How about making this about the kids instead of your power and influence? Same with your brethren school boards and superintendents. Education is not about school districts, school systems and boards of education. It is about providing a quality education to kids and what parents want. If schools aren’t cutting it then let parents have charters or vouchers or their money to homeschool or send them to private schools. You and your kind are what are keeping Georgia still part of “Dixie” and a shameful part of the 19th Century. Selfish and petty. Just like the Greeks.

jd

August 14th, 2012
2:06 pm

Mountain Man — where is the evidence charters are better? Answer: There is not any. The factors identified with predicting success of any school are the same – for k12 and charters. Otherwise, the rational citizens of this state would be creating charters left and right!

MANGLER

August 14th, 2012
2:09 pm

Bernie – then walk with your children to school, or take them in your car. That argument is for school busses to ferry children who live within a mile and a half of a school. If the neighborhood that the school is in and that the child lives in is truly as bad as you portray, then you need to take steps to improve the situation, or move away. Those are issues for residents of the neighborhood, police and city officials, not the School Board. No city provides school bus service to everyone everywhere. My school had a 3 mile minimum radius, many have more.

Mary Elizabeth

August 14th, 2012
2:09 pm

“I fully support the continued creation of high quality charter schools for Georgia’s students, but after careful consideration of what is best for all of Georgia’s students, I have decided to take a position in opposition to the constitutional amendment that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.”

“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).”

“I trust our local school districts will continue to approve only high quality charter schools for Georgia’s students, and I am committed to working with all of our school districts to ensure that high quality applicants are not denied locally – including mediating between high quality charter school applicants and any local districts that are reluctant to approve them, as provided by existing Georgia law.”
================================================

Dr. Barge,

Thank you for your forthright stand, and especially for the three excerpts, above, which I have lifted from your overall statement, in order to highlight those particular points. Imo, there is no need for an amendment to Georgia’s Constitution because, as you have stated, your position already “. . .
includ(es) mediating between high quality charter school applicants and any local districts that are reluctant to approve them, as provided by existing Georgia law.”

I, now, am more reassured that Georgia’s School Superintendent for public education is placing full value upon being a good steward to all of the students in Georgia, instead of upon political gain. This retired, dedicated educator appreciates your public position. Thank you, again.

Bernie

August 14th, 2012
2:14 pm

MANGLER @ 2:09 pm – I disagree with your opinion as stated, as well as many other Thousands of parents and citizens of Atlanta as well.

Beverly Fraud

August 14th, 2012
2:24 pm

Barge: I cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools

Umm…isn’t that EXACTLY what accepting the RTTT grant does?

Anybody else see the logical inconsistency?

living in an outdated ed system

August 14th, 2012
2:26 pm

Now lets debate who is providing misleading, confusing figures. Barge’s $430M is completely misleading.

living in an outdated ed system

August 14th, 2012
2:30 pm

@Bootney, you are displaying your ignorance for the entire blog to see. The amendment is being voted on because the supreme Court misread the state constitution. and declared the state charter commission unconstitutional. Once the amendment passes, then the commission will be legalized in the eyes of a Supreme Court that invented a word not found in our constitution: “exclusive authority.”

Hillbilly D

August 14th, 2012
2:32 pm

The charter school question needs to be looked at from two different angles, urban/suburban and rural. I think it’s two vastly different situations and the answers might indeed be different. Many counties in Georgia have only one high school and only one middle school. I have trouble understanding how that would fit into the charter concept.

CPJ

August 14th, 2012
2:44 pm

“…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)”

That pretty much sums up the reason why so many of the politicians are lining up in favor of this. These for-profit companies and their lobbyists are contributing lots of money to state leaders in the hopes of getting corporate welfare from the state. Just follow the money and this all makes sense.

Ron F.

August 14th, 2012
2:46 pm

detritus: In the rural counties, that is quite possibly true. The recent revelation about the student body percentages in Delhi, LA (public 90+% black, charter 79% white) is what I expect we’ll see in many of the rural, farming counties.

Solutions

August 14th, 2012
2:50 pm

Of course we can afford another bureaucracy, just cut teacher pay 20%, and split the money with tax rebates to homeowners and the bureaucrats! There an no jobs out there, so the teachers will whine, but fail to resign over the pay cuts. Next year, chop another 20%, more rebates for home owners, and a special bonus to the bureaucrats who make it all happen, a win-win if I ever saw one!

APS Parent

August 14th, 2012
2:55 pm

As an educator and a parent. I respect John Barge for stating a realistic and reasonable statement on Charter Schools.

dc

August 14th, 2012
3:03 pm

“the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education”……Seriously? What a farce. The reason Charter schools are needed is exactly because of the crappy job being done by these same bureaucracies, and the way their idiotic policies are driving our best teachers out of teaching.

Sure sounds like another self serving POL who is protecting his turf.

Amazed

August 14th, 2012
3:29 pm

Barge had pretty much marginalized himself when he endorsed “Will the winner”(Sen. Rogers). This move is a step in the right direction. Although, he did tremendous damge to his creditbility among educators throughout the state. Hope this is genuine and we will see this sort of fight in him as we enter the silly season in January.

Farm

August 14th, 2012
3:31 pm

Maggies Daughter

I appreciate that you feel you should control the use of your money. Unfortunately, so do I. If you would agree to spend on the school of your choice all of the school tax funds you pay, I’d have no problem with that. But like all of the charter, voucher and “school choice” folks, you want to get the right to direct the money others like me paid in as well. the rest (the substantial majority) of the money you will need to supplement your own school taxes. Here’s the problem: I elected school board members, and legislators, and State School Superintendents to look after how my tax money gets spent. I didn’t elect you, and I have neither confidence in your ability nor the right to vote on your performance. So as long as you want control of your own money in your unelected hands, I will cheerfully vote for an amendment to give you that. But the expenditure of my public tax money needs to stay in the hands of people who face me at the ballot box.

Beverly

August 14th, 2012
3:56 pm

Good move Dr. Barge! But when are you going to fire the former charter school commission employees that are now “hiding” in the DOE bureaucracy?

Trim the Middle

August 14th, 2012
4:08 pm

Charter schools were most of the Gump kids went UNTIL our public school system FAILED. I dont have a definite answer but charter schools are here to stay….look at Dekalb, APS, Fulton and Clayton and look at who is in charge. Decent law-abiding tax paying folks dont want their kids subjected to the element that has permeated these school districts starting in the mid 60’s. And now that most of the decent kids have left for the outer outer burbs and the private schools, one can see what is left based on the test scores of these districts. That being said, as a Republican, the sooner we can repeal No child LEFT Behind and Race to the Top, maybe we can salvage what is left in metro Atl…I dont know what my party was thinking about when they passed those two acts.

HS Public Teacher

August 14th, 2012
4:12 pm

Thanks heavens!

Republicans blast everyone else for spending, but ignore their own.

Trim the Middle

August 14th, 2012
4:13 pm

@ Bernie……who created the mess ur talkin about in these neighborhoods? Inquiring minds want to know.

HS Public Teacher

August 14th, 2012
4:13 pm

@Trim the Middle -

I can tell you what “your party” was thinking….

Let’s create levels of government that makes it easy for me and my buddies to siphon money from taxpayers. Read: the rich get richer.

Tony

August 14th, 2012
4:19 pm

Wow. Thank you, Dr. Barge. I am not opposed to charter schools. I am vehemently opposed to having a funding mechanism that gives preferential treatment. Also, I am adamantly opposed to the notion of “for-profit” management organizations running so-called public charter schools.

Georgia and education not compatible

August 14th, 2012
4:21 pm

Just Wow Dr. Barge, Wow! :)

Holly Jones

August 14th, 2012
4:52 pm

There already exists an appeals process for charter applications that are denied at the local level- the state school board. There is NO reason the create another committee- packed with non-accountable rubber-stamping buddies of Deal, Jan Jones, Will the Winner, and all the other folks who cry “local control” ad nauseum, except when it comes to making sure that these “special” schools get approved. This is an obvious end-around to assure that “no charter is left behind.”

The charter that was initially denied here in Cherokee, but then given that “special school” status, was denied not because of anyone defending their turf, but because the financials were not transparent enough and we the taxpayers would have been on the hook for the mortgage of the school building if CSUSA pulled out, much like we are for a failed recycling plant in Ball Ground, thanks to our BOC.

Ed Advocate

August 14th, 2012
4:54 pm

Thank you John Barge! Wish you’d come out in opposition earlier, but I’m glad to hear that you’re standing up for GA kids!

Jessica

August 14th, 2012
5:03 pm

If it’s costing that much money for the state to oversee charter schools, they are not doing it right. The idea is to give the control and responsibility back to the parents of the children enrolled there, not create another ridiculous bureaucracy.

Jefferson

August 14th, 2012
5:14 pm

The GOP wants everything, and they want it for free.

Hillbilly D

August 14th, 2012
5:17 pm

But the expenditure of my public tax money needs to stay in the hands of people who face me at the ballot box.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Ben

August 14th, 2012
5:31 pm

I consider myself a conservative and I come down on Barge’s side here. No public monies should be spent to support these charter schools. Parents seem to want a better public education for their kids and not pay for it and the system doesn’t work that way. A parent can send their child to a private school but not on the public dime, so parents either u pony up your net dollars and send your little one to a private school if you’re truly concerned about educational quality or shut up and try to improve the system you’re in but no pubic money should be spent on charter schools without the local school board’s okay.

LD

August 14th, 2012
5:33 pm

@Jessica – but many of those parents have no background or training in the management of a public school. Also, being on a charter school’s governing board is a volunteer position; as dedicated and committed many board members are, there is a limit as to how much time and depth many can give to the position. Some charter schools have had catastrophic management failures. The school boards do need to provide oversight to their charter schools.

Follow the Money

August 14th, 2012
6:00 pm

The payoff here is for Rogers and his private company pals who will make millions. We have been sold this private is always better than public stuff for years. if this passes, follow the money and see who gets the money. Another law brought to you by ALEC.

yuzeyurbrane

August 14th, 2012
6:09 pm

This is a profile in courage. You know it washes him up in Republican politics.