War of words escalates in charter school amendment fray between Barge and GOP leadership

There is a lot of back and forth on the announcement earlier in the week by Georgia school chief John Barge that he opposes the GOP-scripted charter schools amendment, starting with an email exchange that I had Wednesday with House Majority Leader Edward Lindsey.

After his strong public rebuke of John Barge, I asked Lindsey this question in an email:

Rep. Lindsey,

Wondering if you have any second thoughts on your  initial response to John Barge?

I plan on writing about this escalating battle of words for the Monday education page. One of my points on criticisms that Barge changed his position: It happens all the time in the Legislature, even to the point of folks changing parties. Candidate Deal himself changed his mind on Race to the Top — in a single day. In the morning, he said he would reject the grant if we won and, later that day, he changed his position.

(I was told that a call from Gov. Perdue was a key factor in Candidate Deal quickly changing his mind on that issue.) In this case, Barge says he is not bowing to political pressure, but to the reality of school funding and the consequences to the 1.6 million Georgia children in public schools.

I could list you a dozen changes of heart by your colleagues that did not result in such strong rebukes. Is that a legitimate criticism given that Barge did not see the financial straits of DOE until he got into the job?

Lindsey’s response to me:

Let’s first start off by placing our respective cards on the table. I was a co-sponsor of the Charter School Constitutional Amendment. As one of your avid readers, I know that you have had deep reservations about the merits of charter schools in general and this measure in particular. Therefore, it should not be surprising that I am dismayed by Superintendent Barge’s 180 % about face and you are heartened by it and wish to justify it.

That said, this is not a situation where policymakers simply disagree. My blunt rebuke and the Governor’s comments were justified and necessary to set the record straight in this situation.

Superintendent Barge was not an education novice who campaigned on an issue he did not fully understand when he ran in 2010. He is an experienced educator who was well versed on the history of the charter school issue and fully understood the arguments for and against — most of which being the same arguments we are hearing today.

Furthermore, this issue came to a boil again shortly after the superintendent took office with the Supreme Court decision in the spring of 2011 striking down much of HB 881. In response, those of us in the legislature and the executive branch worked closely with both advocates and critics of state funded charter schools for a year to answer concerns and fashion a coalition to pass the constitutional amendment in the legislature.

As part of that effort, we worked extensively throughout the process with representatives from Superintendent Barge’s Department of Education for information and guidance. Throughout this long drawn out process, Superintendent Barge never raised opposition to the proposals, voiced fiscal concerns, or otherwise indicated a change of heart.

Therefore, given Superintendent Barge’s extensive history in education before he ran, his documented “strong” support of state charter schools in the 2010 campaign, and his conduct on this issue since his election to the present, my rebuke and the Governor’s more measured comments to him were a well needed clearing of the air.

In this continuing war of words, here is a later email exchange between Barge and Lindsey.

This is how Barge responded to Lindsey’s first statement, the one in which the House leader questioned whether Barge was lying during the campaign or now on how he felt about charter schools:

Dear Rep. Lindsey,

Thank you for your comments on my position on the charter schools amendment. As the state’s top education official, I felt it was important stand up for the 1.6 million students and 111,000 teachers in Georgia’s public schools. I fully support creating high quality charter schools, but I cannot support the constitutional amendment. It would be harmful to the 2,300 public schools in the state that have been cut more than $4 billion since 2008. I am a true conservative who believes in limited government and fiscal responsibility. Establishing a charter school commission would go against both of those principles. First and foremost, we must work to restore school calendars to 180 days and make sure teachers are getting their full annual pay. A new state agency that duplicates the existing work of the state Department of Education and the powers of the State Board of Education – while taking away local control and costing taxpayers millions of dollars – is just plain wrong. If the amendment passes, I will honor the wishes of Georgia voters, but I could not stay silent on an issue so critical to our public schools. I look forward to continuing to work with you on issues relating to education in Georgia.
John Barge
Georgia Department of Education

And here is what Lindsey said in response:

Superintendent Barge:

I appreciate your response e mail and I am copying my GOP caucus and others since they also received my first sharp rebuke to you earlier this week. Quite frankly, however, despite your protestations, you simply cannot match up your present stated position in your email today with your past conduct in this area. I also sharply disagree with the merits of your arguments.

You were not an education novice who campaigned in 2010 by actively seeking out support from charter school advocates and indicated “strong support for state created charter schools. You are an experienced educator who was well versed on the history of the state supported charter school issue and fully understood at that time the arguments for and against — most of which being the same arguments we are hearing today.

Furthermore, this issue returned to a boil again shortly after you took office with the Supreme Court decision in the spring of 2011 striking down much of HB 881. In response, those of us in the Legislature and the executive branch worked closely with both advocates and critics of state funded charter schools for a year to answer concerns and fashion a coalition to pass the constitutional amendment in the Legislature. We also worked to maintain funding of existing state created charter schools with the help of your department.

As part of that effort, we also worked extensively throughout the process with representatives from your Department of Education for information and guidance. Throughout this long drawn-out process, you never raised opposition to the proposals, voiced fiscal concerns, opposed the continued funding of existing state funded charter schools, or otherwise indicated a change of heart. This history is what led to my blunt rebuke of your actions earlier this week.

Turning to the merits of your newly minted position, I share your stated concerns for the 1.6 million public school students in this state and the 111,000 public school teachers. Let me start of by reminding you that charter schools are public schools, charter school students are public school students, and charter school teachers are public school teachers.

Regrettably, there have been cuts in state spending on education since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008 – as with every other state in this country. Nevertheless, education has seen some of the smallest cuts of any area in our state budget. Our teachers are still the highest paid in the Southeast and after adjusting for cost of living among the highest paid in the nation. Overall funding per pupil in Georgia is also the second highest in the Southeast.

The status quo on education in Georgia is unacceptable. The overall graduation rate in Georgia hovers in the mid 60% range and half of the students who come from low income households drop out before graduating high school. In my household, if my children brought home success records like this from school it would be time for serious changes. It should be same for the Georgia’s education system.

Charter schools are not a silver bullet – there is no one silver bullet – but they are a critically needed tool in the tool box for education reform.  Confining children to low performing traditional schools with no hope of an alternative or choice is morally wrong in the 21st century, and under Georgia’s existing state constitution we already have a duty to provide a quality education for every child in Georgia.

I chaired the Charter School Study Committee in 2007 and studied charter schools in Georgia and around the country. Georgia’s present system has left us far behind other states in progress toward true education reform by virtue of many systems’ refusal to even consider charter schools or by other systems literally fiscally starving them to death.

Our charter school proposal provides a simple pressure relief valve – not a fire hose – by giving parents an alternative path for consideration of a charter school application. They must still meet rigorous standards for consideration and, if they fail to perform as promised, they can be shut down. (Let me know the last time a traditional public school was shut down for poor performance.)

You speak of local control. I believe the ultimate local control should rest with the parents and the students. Therefore, I will let you stand with the status quo education bureaucracy. I stand with the students and their parents who deserve better.

In closing, let me also add that I will work with you on other education issues in the future despite my deep disappointment in your reversal on this matter.

State Representative Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta)

From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

262 comments Add your comment

Follow the Money

August 17th, 2012
7:14 am

There is no need for a constitutional amendment to appoint a group of individuals to start more charters in Georgia. The state already has the authority to do this through existing mechanisms. The charters we have do not represent an improved educational option. In Georgia charters do not outperform the typical school counterparts. Why divert funds to organizations that do not have sufficient oversight, can avoid accountability, and do not perform better than the schools we already have? I am a Republican, but there is something other than policy and educational improvement at work in the GOP’s agenda here.

Is this middle school?

August 17th, 2012
7:20 am

Sounds like my middle school daughter and her friends in a texting argument. I hate you, I love you, I hate you, I love you.

Jim Kwater

August 17th, 2012
7:29 am

The state constitution is the wrong place to define responsibilities for educating our children.
The constitution provides a framework within which our elected officials craft laws and regulations that add order to our way of life. Using the constitution as an alternative to legislative action only invites endless legal proceedings, turning what should be positive cooperation into unnecessary competition.
As the legal proceedings ensue, “attorney full-employment” practices kick in and the taxpayer gets to pay for both sides of an argument that never should have occurred. We taxpayers (at least this one) should expect our elected officials to lead, and quit acting like school children arguing over who got the biggest piece of the pie or who gets to be boss.
If there is a problem with education – we should demand that the educators fix it. Or, replace them. Simply adding another element of oversight will quickly turn into over-management. The students lose, the parents lose, and the taxpayers get hosed.
As concerned citizens we should evaluate the Boards of Education and make sure we vote for people that will lead education forward. Vote YES for quality education; Vote NO for constitutional intervention.

james bryan

August 17th, 2012
7:31 am

I wonder if Rep. Lindsey has his students in public school? I also wonder how many Georgia state legislators have their children in public schools? Are our elected officials fighting for the best education for Georgia’s school children by never fully funding educational initiatives they propose? GOP, please take credit for your lack of interest in educational concerns, everyone knows the effects of your $4 billion in cuts; the truth is clear and politicians’ words cannot erase the disappointment felt by the state and the fears for our collective futures.

catlady

August 17th, 2012
7:38 am

Boo, hiss! And hurray for Dr. Barge!

Mitchel

August 17th, 2012
7:42 am

Mr. Lindsey comments the graduation rate is only 60 percent, truth is that is at age 18. Take that to age 24 and the graduation rate is 90 percent and has been there for many years.

Seriously?

August 17th, 2012
7:56 am

Mitchel – age 24? are you serious? why not look at 64? that way, 40% of them are dead, so it looks like we have a graduation rate of 100%! Mr. Lindsey is right on all counts. What we have now is not working – charters aren’t the full answer, but they are a start. Charters represent competition, an alternative – if they don’t work, shut them down – if they work better than the public school, shut the public school down.

Another Math Teacher

August 17th, 2012
7:59 am

Lindsey: “I am dismayed by Superintendent Barge’s 180 % about face”

I am dismayed that your are representing anything with the Geometry skills you have displayed.

Beverly Fraud

August 17th, 2012
8:05 am

“As one of your avid readers,”

And now Ed Lindsey admits he does not have any concern for regular classroom teachers, as they REPEATEDLY reported on this very blog that they had contacted him by email, and there was no response.

Why don’t you come on here Ed, and explain why:

-a representative of the “law and order” and “personal responsibility” party hasn’t proposed a SINGLE initiative that would support the classroom teacher in matters of discipline?

How can anyone call you anything BUT a hypocrite if you spout “rule of law” and “personal responsibility” but don’t empower teachers to hold students accountable for either one of them?

Halldawg

August 17th, 2012
8:08 am

If charter schools were true public schools, then we would not need another commission to oversee it. They are not public schools since they admit who they want and teach what they want. They are private schools that leach public money.

dc

August 17th, 2012
8:15 am

this exchange is both interesting and enlightening. The current educreaucracy wants to maintain it’s control over the money, and has to be forced to give up this control. local school systems are threatened by charter schools, and thus often reject them, so as to keep the money that would flow to these schools.

This taxpayer and parent appreciates Rep Lindsey and the others in our govt who want to give students and their parents effective choices, that offer the potential to better the lives of these kids and make our country a better place, rather than forcing them to stay in the current quagmire of low expectations that some of our local public schools have become.

Ed Advocate

August 17th, 2012
8:22 am

@ dc, I find it frustrating that supporters of the constitutional amendment accuse opponents of self-interest. I think it’s important to understand that the overwhelming majority of educators care deeply for their students, and that’s why they oppose the constitutional amendment.

LoganvilleGuy

August 17th, 2012
8:23 am

@Halldawg:

I am an avid opponent of this amendment for many reasons. However, your information is not completely accurate. Charter schools admit students via a lottery. They have no say in who they admit.

However, there are many reasons to be against state-controlled charter schools:

1. They will be approved by a NON-ELECTED panel of appointed bureaucrats. This translates to a fact that local taxpayers will have absolutely ZERO control of any of their tax dollars funneled to these charter schools. The only taxpayers that may have limited control are those that have children in attendance. With a locally approved charter school, you have an elected representative acting as oversight for your tax dollars.

2. Charter schools aren’t required to operate under the same restrictions and control as our neighborhood public schools. For whatever reason, people can’t seem to realize that this might be one of the issues causing problems in our schools. If we waive the rules for charter schools, why aren’t we waiving them for all public schools?

3. I’m still not sold on the idea of “for-profit” corporations in the education business. While parent-managed and operated charters are certainly possible, the greater likelihood is that you will be seeing for-profit charters. If you thought the APS cheating scandal was bad, imagine the potential for scandal when a company has to put up numbers to remain financially viable.

4. The research just doesn’t show that charter schools statistically do any better than public schools. Are there stellar charter schools? Absolutely. Is the potential there? Absolutely. The same principle is there with regular local schools too. However, current research suggest charter schools on average perform about the same or worse than their local neighborhood schools.

5. Going back to the point I touched on in #1, this really is about local government and control of educational funding. I like the fact that I can call up my local school board representative and discuss issues with them. If I disagree with them, I have the opportunity to remove them from the board through a LOCAL election process. This disappears with an appointed commission that will serve at the will of the governor.

Beverly Fraud

August 17th, 2012
8:24 am

@Another Math Teacher, maybe it’s not geometry Lindsey’s weak about; maybe it’s the military.

He scores high points for HYPOCRISY though. Give him that.

midnight garden

August 17th, 2012
8:27 am

I am just flabbergasted that our state Republicans want to bring control up to the state level from the local level. Doesn’t that go against everything they believe in? Thats why its suspect to me. I hope this gets voted down in November.

dc

August 17th, 2012
8:35 am

state chartered schools don’t take “local money” away from school boards, as far as I can tell. It sounds like the state is providing the money out of state tax funds.

@Ed.Adv – clearly there are awesome educators in our system. my wife used to be one, and for reasons I’ve stated here, left in part (imo, she wouldn’t say this) due to the perverse de-incentives in place that reward awful teachers at the same level as great ones. But you also have to admit (or at least…should) there are many schools in GA that are terrible places to send an aspiring student who wants to learn and advance themselves. And local school systems have gone to great lengths to make sure the parents and kids stuck in these schools don’t have the ability to move their child (and the money associated with this child) to a school where they won’t be dragged down by kids who don’t have any interest in learning.

I am hopeful that state chartered charter schools will provide this opportunity to these kids…the option that local school systems seem to be so against providing.

teacher&mom

August 17th, 2012
8:48 am

Rep. Lindsey is trying to muddy the waters and minimize the damage created by Barge’s position.

If the amendment is defeated in Nov., I wonder what mischief Lindsey, Morgan, Rogers, and Jones will hatch next?

teacher&mom

August 17th, 2012
8:52 am

@dc:

“I am hopeful that state chartered charter schools will provide this opportunity to these kids…the option that local school systems seem to be so against providing.”

Can you provide any data to support your statement? How many charter school applications are denied at the local level? How many are approved?

@Maureen: Any chance the AJC could investigate the number of charter applications approved or denied? For those charters that are denied, is there any way to track down the reasons? Just curious…..

David

August 17th, 2012
8:53 am

Suppose you have a school which has been deemed a failure by a large group of local parents. These parents complete the process of petitioning for this new state charter commission to intervene and open a charter school near the existing school. Let’s say 15% of the students from the original school choose to transfer to the charter school and subsequently 15% of the funding from the original school is now transferred to operate the new charter school. Some would argue that the original school would become 15% cheaper to operate. The reality is that this isn’t how overhead and operating costs work. The original school cannot simply cut 15% of the school nurse or 15% of the school guidance counselor. The number of rooms in the existing school doesn’t magically decrease by 15% so it costs the same amount to heat and cool the building. The percent of funding which will have to be applied to overhead and operating costs to operate the additional charter school sites will increase and the amount applied to classroom instruction will decrease. With that, class sizes will increase. The 15% of students who transfer to the charter school, which certainly won’t be a representative sample of the original school, may avoid some of the problems of the original school, however, for the 85% left behind, those problems will multiply.

teacher&mom

August 17th, 2012
8:56 am

Maureen Downey

August 17th, 2012
9:01 am

@teacher&mom,
You can find all the data here:
http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/default.aspxI

Also, I don’t understand the claim being made by some posters that local districts aren’t approving charter schools. Most of the schools operating in the state are under local imprimatur.
I also wish that the General Assembly leaders spent as much time talking about the 2,200 other public schools in the state as they do about the 110 public charter schools. (Data from DOE.)
I believe the vitriol around this issue stems from the General Assembly’s simplistic view that all charters are incubators of creativity and all other schools are stale, day-old bread. They hold to that view despite the state’s own report that charters are not outperforming other public schools. (See below)
When Georgia first began discussing charters, there was none of this rancor, this us vs. them mentality.
We have to see charters as one more avenue of reform but one that doesn’t necessarily lead to success in every case.

Maureen

According to DOE, 70 percent of charter schools made AYP or adequate yearly progress last year. In comparison, 73 percent of traditional public schools made AYP.
http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2012/02/16/new-review-of-georgia-charter-school-performance-finds-they-dont-outperform-traditional-public-schools/

dc

August 17th, 2012
9:05 am

didn’t local school systems have to approve ALL the currently operating charters? I though that was the point of this amendment…that the supreme court had disallowed state chartered schools. Or do I have that wrong?

Beverly Fraud

August 17th, 2012
9:16 am

Local school systems have brought this on themselves with their abysmal performance.

Local voters have brought this on themselves by REPEATEDLY re-electing those who provide abysmal performance. (What are the odds that many of the APS board members who turned a blind eye to cheating will be re-elected?)

This amendment could open the door for all types of fiscal abuse, but the status quo has shown a willingness to do nothing that will dramatically improve teaching and learning conditions (RTTT? Really?)

In sum, Georgia is getting what it FULLY and RICHLY deserves.

Georgia Teacher

August 17th, 2012
9:21 am

Look, if Charter Schools are the way to go for “fixing public education,” by all means, let’s convert every public high school to the charter school format.

Oh, wait. That would bankrupt the state.

But private companies can run a charter school AND make a profit!

Oh, wait. They can’t The Cherokee Charter Academy is $1.5M in the hole and had to be bailed out by its parent company.

And how exactly do private companies run a school cheaper than the government. Some would argue schools are wasteful of tax dollars and spend money on unecessary programs. And I agree. There is wasteful spending in public schools. But that is not where charter schools really cut costs.

It all boils down to two dirty words: special education.

Charter schools don’t have to provide special education services.

But surely this is THE SOLUTION for education.

Oh, wait. It is just another fad.

CTR

August 17th, 2012
9:26 am

@LoganvilleGuy To address your concerns in the order you raised them.

1) Charter schools must perform, and out-perform their local counterparts… How much more control are you looking for. To Rep. Lindsey’s point, when was the last time a failing public school was shut for lack of performance?

2) The flexibility granted to charter schools is contingent on performance. Look at the legislation. Charter’s must meet the same standards as all local schools PLUS the additional commitments they make as specified in their charters. I hate to say it, but if there were more performance-based systems in place for public schools, charters would be unnecessary. And, as a side note, Georgia was granted a waiver from No Child Left Behind, so we’ll see what the public system comes up with.

3) My son goes to a for-profit charter that I am very satisfied with. They have a policy of 20 volunteer hours for each family which demands parent involvement. Furthermore, there is a local governance council comprised of community and parent leaders. Please don’t believe that all for-profit corporations lack oversight from parents and the community.

4) What you say is true, and Rep. Lindsey admits this as well… Charter schools are not silver bullets. But all they offer is a choice. Why are we campaigning against choice?

5) Your right to vote for your locally elected school board members will not disappear with this amendment. With all due respect, if parents are satisfied with their local schools, by all means leave them there. What has changed?

Why are are we campaigning against choice, the choice to send your child to a different school if you so choose? A school that is still public, and must meet the core-curriculum standards that all schools adhere to, PLUS their additional academic commitments pledged in their charters?

As a tax payer, why can’t I use my tax dollars to fund my child at the school of my choice? Why can’t the money follow the child? Why should it continue to go to schools that my child doesn’t attend?

This is no threat to local schools… They aren’t going anywhere. If you like yours, stay there. Just don’t take our options away.

Lastly @Follow The Money… The authority granted under DOE to name Special Status Schools to charter do not fund them. They provide only 50% of the necessary funds to operate… In effect, tying one proverbial arm behind the back of the schools and asking them to answer to greater demands than public schools. Does this sound like the current mechanisms you describe create a level playing field? Or does it sound like it is a system designed to discourage charters?

Happy St. Pat's

August 17th, 2012
9:28 am

If one pressure release valve is good, two would be better. Let’s have *another* state agency which *also* can approve charter school applications, just in case the first state agency misses something or is intimidated by sme group that hates Georgia schoolchildren. That will give Georgia parents *real* choice and maximize local control. (Ahem)

living in an outdated ed system

August 17th, 2012
9:37 am

Excellent comments by Rep Lindsey. Barge will gradually lose his credibility and ability to lead our state’s education flip. This blog continues to demonstrate an obvious bias against public charter schools and would rather keep funding more $ into a monopoly system of education that has failed miserably. You should all take a good look in the mirror and think long and hard about why you want to defend the status quo. Teachers need to understand that this is an opportunity for them to do things differently, incorporate new approaches to teaching kids, and ensuring that the most under-served children are not left behind.

Instead, all you care about is the partisan politics. I could give a ****** what Barge, Deal and these other folks say. We are talking about innovation and the best way for Georgia to close the achievement gap. Instead of being afraid to read a piece of research because you don’t like the author’s affiliation, maybe you would look at the facts and then decide where you think that methodology needs to be questioned.

Every single one of you who opposes this charter school amendment doesn’t understand that change is hard. Every new reform effort – public charter schools, blended learning, digital technology, etc…you see it as a threat instead of an opportunity. You will all look at my post as typical reformer rhetoric, but the research and facts are there. You all just choose to ignore it.

When you vote against this amendment, just remember you are not voting with the best interests of Georgia’s children in mind, and you are stating through your vote that you are comfortable with not only allowing monopolies to continue, but also comfortable with an education system that is not even living up to the standard of “adequate” that is explicitly mentioned in our state’s constitution.

I will let all of you keep bitching and moaning with your rants on this blog about how teachers are defamed and that the state is taking away funding from schools. Just remember, I have research that shows that there is NO STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT CORRELATION between education funding and academic achievement! It’s out there in the public domain. Check out pages 204 and 205 in the “American Revolution 2.0″ whitepaper I sent y’all. It’s all there, black and white.

catlady

August 17th, 2012
9:40 am

“Charter schools admit students via a lottery. They have no say in who they admit.” Loganville guy.

EXCEPT when the school is set up, though the application, “focus”, and nitty-gritty details process in a way that “weeds out” students. First, the parent has to HEAR about the charter, then they have to apply (frequently involving making an appointment and going to a certain place), then the charter can make an effort to exclude certain kids because they “don’t offer what he needs”, and finally, if the charter does not provide transportation and free meals, that further limits the students who can attend. So, yes, many charters self-select, and exclude children de facto based on the rules to get in.

LD

August 17th, 2012
9:55 am

@dc The State DoE can and has granted charters. Also, even if approved by a local board, the state also needs to approve charters for that school to open. Currently, charter schools apply first to their local boards, and then if denied, appeal to the state. Check the link that Maureen gave – especially the History of Charters Granted and Terminated link.

Personally, I like the checks and balances in the current system. If a local community votes in a board that for some reason approves every charter application it receives, at least the state can still ensure that these schools meet educational requirements and will be fiscally sound. I still have no faith that an appointed Charter Commission will be anything but a commission of good old boy political favor appointments that will only be concerned with forwarding their personal interests. Also, I have an issue with duplication of effort (and funding the commission) – even if the Georgia Supreme Court ruling raises a question as to the state’s role in chartering schools, there is no reason the granting power couldn’t be given to the State Board of Ed. Why does Georgia need a commission when we have a State Board of Ed?

Judy

August 17th, 2012
9:55 am

There are quite a lot of interesting comments and I felt compelled to add my comment. First and foremost, as an educator with over 20 years of experience in public schools, I must say that I totally SUPPORT charter schools. All parents deserve a “choice” and that is what a charter school provides for those that cannot afford private school. Charter schools are in fact PUBLIC SCHOOLS and have to take students, including special education students. If a school district establishes a charter school that charter school is under their control and technically, the school is just another school in the district. Charter schools have a lot more flexibility to work with students, be innovative and they are not mandated to keep low performing teachers. Yes, I am a teacher in a public school and trust me we are surrounded by low performing teachers. Why is there so much fear and resent from “monster mega” school districts – they are control freaks! If it can’t go their way, then it goes no way. This must stop…. what is important – THE CHILDREN – THE STUDENTS. Why do we constantly loose sight of this? I have an idea… don’t waste so much money on LAND DEALS … don’t have top heavy district offices, cut there first, you would be surprised at how much money you could save. As far as the Gwinnett and Cherokee school board being against charter schools (that they don’t control) FINE… Each person has one vote and everyone will cast their one vote. We are not in a CULT society – your voice doesn’t control the masses. Parents, be willing to care about others, support charter schools, that are not county run…. Talk to your school board members about their willful allowance of WASTE in district offices FIRST! Gwinnett receives quite a lot of money, as does DeKalb, etc. It is about fiscal management!.. With all of the money neither of these school districts, as a whole as ever made the state standards – AYP… Let’s talk about fixing that first! Check out the salaries at the top… check out the pay scales on the district websites… District office HR folks, all of the fluffy titles… all make $90K-$160K… teacher salaries… start at $35K. So, let’s really talk about the money!!!!!!! By the way- I am a staunch Democrat!!!! So, let’s do what’s right for students -

CharterStarter

August 17th, 2012
9:55 am

Wow. A lot of “same ‘ol” going on here. Big surprise.

So I’ll say some things that are either different or that readers don’t believe – but that doesn’t mean they are not true:

1. The reason we need a constitutional amendment is because the Georgia Supreme Court essentially rewrote the Constitution last May and left the state out of ANY role in setting policy or accountability for public schools. The legislature (both parties in both houses) acted decisively in answering that insult, and now the voters have the final say. There is no other way to fix that problem.
2. Bringing back the Commission does not create a new bureaucracy, nor does it put control at the state level. The state commission will authorize some schools (a fraction of the total of approved charters in the state) – which it can also later de-authorize (unlike a traditional public schools, which live on whether or not they perform), but the schools themselves will be locally controlled by the parents, teachers and other stakeholders who create them and run them. Local control will truly be at the school level, not at the state.
3. So much has been made about “for-profit” companies starting and running charters, but again, if you look at the record, very few existing charters have contracts with these external organizations. That is also true of the handful of charters that were approved by the Commission. For charters to exist, the flexibility granted them must include the flexibility to bring in help with curricula or book-keeping or HR. That is what these firms do, when they are invited in under contract. It is hypocritical in the extreme for the status quo to be outraged that SOME charters pay SOME firms to do SOME work and make money at it, while these same bloggers have no trouble at all with textbook vendors, software companies, furniture or equipment manufacturers making a profit in traditional public schools.
4. The only studies that show charters not performing as well as or better than traditional schools are the studies funded by opponents of charter schools. Go visit a real charter school and see for yourself.
5. The amendment opponents consistently state that a dollar spent on a charter is a dollar taken away from traditional schools. They also say we must first restore “full funding” (whatever nirvana that was) to traditional education. This implies that at “full funding” public education in Georgia was working (it wasn’t) and it will work again (it won’t, because it never did). In our current economy, it is a responsibility of our leaders and funders to be creative and flexible. Read HR1162 and HB797 (the enacting legislation for the amendment). This laws guarantee that no local funds will be used to support these charters, nor will any state dollars be held back from districts.

Educate yourselves!

Ros Dalton

August 17th, 2012
10:12 am

It is incredibly frustrating and dishonest to ceaselessly hear that this is a fight over charter schools as though since the State Commission was struck down charters have been eliminated from Georgia. Not only have the vast majority of existing charters continued to operate as normal, many brand new charter schools have successfully opened their doors in counties all across Georgia following the proper channels of approval by their LOCAL school boards. Charters are here to stay. There will always be an avenue to open and operate charter schools in the state of Georgia.

What is at stake is rewarding politicians the power to appoint whomever they choose with no qualification or oversight into a position to take funds from your local schools and give them to which ever charter school catches their eye. And let’s be honest, how do you catch a politician’s eye? With money. So when the Lt. Gov. decides that cousin Jim Bob needs a new line he can throw him an appointment to the Charter Schools commission and YOU HAVE NO SAY IN IT. If Jim Bob decides that Kathy Lee Gifford’s Future Hairdressers Academy of America deserves to set up shop in my neighborhood there is nothing I can do about it. He doesn’t have to explain it, he doesn’t ever have to face a vote to throw him out if it’s a disaster, and to be completely blunt he never has to think about it again much less visit it.

It’s also true that unless a few dozen idiots decide to send their kids there the school won’t be a success and won’t take money from my schools, but that’s just a matter of marketing. FSA sold themselves on academic performance and yet by every state and national standard was solidly average in that arena, and still the parents who hear “Title 1″ and ignorantly think “that means something’s wrong at little Johnny’s school” will flee there at top speed.

I’ve personally met every member of my local school board. If they screw up I know how to get to them to tell them they screwed up and exactly what I think they should do about it. I will almost certainly never meet a member of the Charter Schools Commission, and if I did they would have no reason to listen to anything I had to say. I can’t influence their position whatsoever… but the national charter school groups (corporations) certainly can.

It comes down to this, where do you think the power should lie? With the men and women of your community, the ones you vote for and can reach with your voice, or with the appointees of the empty heads down at the capital, men for whom trading favors and influence for money is a way of life?

CharterStarter

August 17th, 2012
10:13 am

Maureen, to your comment: “I don’t understand the claim being made by some posters that local districts aren’t approving charter schools. Most of the schools operating in the state are under local imprimatur” – it is a fact that the merest fraction of charter petition brought before local boards of education over the last five years have been approved by those boards. It is also a very well-documented fact that those Boards of Education pay good money to the Georgia School Boards Association to train their members annually, and that that training is clearly biased AGAINST charters. The system is rigged against charters and choice.

While most charters that have been approved by the state are also approved locally, there is no connection between the percentage of charters with local and state approval and the much higher percentage of charters denied locally – some repeatedly.

There is also no data at all about the number of charters NOT submitted because the petitioners KNOW they will be denied and refuse to waste their time. The system is rigged precisely to discourage this type of innovation.

An alternate path to authorization that first requires local denial (as will be created if the amendment passes) will ultimately force the local Boards of Education to be “honest brokers.” If you value local control, then, you should be in favor of the amendment.

Maureen Downey

August 17th, 2012
10:22 am

@Charter. Let me just address #4 to start:

You wrote: The only studies that show charters not performing as well as or better than traditional schools are the studies funded by opponents of charter schools. Go visit a real charter school and see for yourself.

Georgia charters were not judged by “studies”; they were judged by same yardstick with which we have been judging schools for decades. In the United States, we judge schools by test scores, for better or for worse. And Georgia schools have suffered for decades because of their low test scores.
The charter scores show that them scoring below other schools in Georgia, according to CRCT/AYP performance. That is not a point we can debate; scores are scores.
You can argue that scores are not a fair assesment of a school’s worth. If you do so, you will be joining the traditional public school advocates who say the same thing about their low scores.
One shift in the charter school debate nationally has been away from citing test scores as proof of the charter movement effectiveness and citing instead parent satisfaction.
It’s a poor substitute. You can find happy parents in terrible schools. We have to hold schools accountable for their core mission: academic performance. Our bar — the CRCT — is not that high. All Georgia schools — charters or not — should make it.
When they don’t, we shouldn’t make excuses. I found it troubling that anyone attempts to wave away lackluster scores with a frivolous statement that “The only studies that show charters not performing as well as or better than traditional schools are the studies funded by opponents of charter schools. ”
Maureen

Doug

August 17th, 2012
10:25 am

Here is the crux of this issue as expressd by Dr. Barge – “A new state agency that duplicates the existing work of the state Department of Education and the powers of the State Board of Education – while taking away local control and costing taxpayers millions of dollars – is just plain wrong”.

Heck yeah it is wrong – tax dollars wasted. Why isn’t the Tea Party all over this overreach by government, and wasteful government spending?

Maureen – It might be interesting to research where former employees of the Charter Commission landed after the Supreme Court ruling shut down their gov’t agency. Are they still on the state government payroll? If so, where?? And why? What are they doing?

Mary Elizabeth

August 17th, 2012
10:32 am

The primary reason for the “vitriol” around this issue is because it is political in nature – more than educational. The amendment to Georgia’s Constitution has national impact. Those political forces who do wield national impact are looking at what will happen to this amendment to Georgia’s Constitution in November. Those politicians in Georgia who refuse to state what I have written as political reality are playing a surface game of educational and political reality with Georgia’s citizens – by using Republican “educational talking points.” They have underestimated Georgia’s citizens and their commitment to improving traditional public education for ALL of Georgia’s school children – and it will not happen simply through charter schools. When Rep. Lindsey mentioned the words “education novice” in order to berate Dr. Barge, he unwittingly also disparaged Georgia’s citizens who follow educational and political issues and are far from being “education novices” as to what is really occurring in this matter.

I was in attendance at the House Education Committee meeting in which Rep. Jan Jones (a member of ALEC) spoke in behalf of this Constitutional Amendment. She co-sponsored it along with Rep. Edward Lindsey (also member of ALEC). After citizens spoke for and against this amendment, a leading member of that committee said, “We are going to pass this (HR 1162) bill.” That translated to me to signal that the House Education Committee had already predetermined its own agenda regarding HR 1162, irrespective of the public’s voice, and what it was going to do regarding this Constitutional amendment.

Here is a list of Georgia’s politicians with ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose agenda is to dismantle traditional public schools and use public tax dollars for the implementation of “public” charter schools throughout the nation.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Georgia_ALEC_Politicians

This educational issue would never have this type of heavy-handed conflict unless it had national repercussions, politically. Readers should be aware of this fact. I would think that that fact, alone, would make citizens wary of voting for a Constitutional Amendment in November that is so political in nature – especially since there is already a means for citizens to appeal a local decision regarding disapproval of a charter school to the state Department of Education’s Superintendent of Schools. Again, this is not about education. It is about political power.

If Georgia’s Legislature spends almost a decade undercutting financially traditional public education, how can one expect traditional public education to improve? The main answer is not simply “public” charter schools; the primary answer is for Georgia’s Legislature to start funding traditional public education with more commitment in the future.

In my opinion, Dr. Barge is being a true public servant and not a politician in this matter – and they evidently are hard to come by. The public should also take notice of that fact and compliment him for exercising his conscience even as political “darts” are thrown his way, publicly. Abraham Lincoln had had a change of opinion, also, because of his conscience, and his deepening moral consciousness resulted in a better America.

BehindEnemyLines

August 17th, 2012
10:34 am

The mistake was trusting Barge to get something critical right. (Not that there was much worth choosing from in that particular election in the first place). He’s just another roadblock to improvement that will have to be removed down the line.

bigdawg

August 17th, 2012
10:43 am

All this aspiring educator sees from charter schools is they are they offspring of the for-profit colleges that are stealing federal funds, especially veteran’s educational funds, lining the pockets of their fatcat “administrators,” while never really improving the lot of the STUDENT! Do a little research into U. of Phoenix and Strayer College. See how much debt those schools are saddling their students with! And, check the graduation rates…abysmal!

South GA Teacher180

August 17th, 2012
10:45 am

Publicly financed schools that are independently run and free to experiment. They are seen differently by different interests.
1) Frustrated Parents see them as an answer to dumbed down regular schools. 2) Many political conservatives see them as an optional euphemism called “school choice” which they think will create competition. 3) Constitutional conservatives see them as “taxation without representation”. 4) Global corporate entities and NGO’s see them as a vehicle to further workforce training to create a global work force to serve the ends of a global society.

It has become obvious to all but the very blinded to reality that government schools have become a disaster regardless of which end of the political spectrum one finds one’s self. One often hears, “schools have failed”. Not so, it was planned, and the orchestration during at least the last half century of the deliberate dumbing down has succeeded to set the stage for restructuring what we’ve known as public schools. Rand corporation, one of the players in the process, had a name for it, “the unfreezing of the system”.

Since charter schools are not autonomous private schools, but are public schools funded with public money, they must be considered as a component of the original “parent” trunk of the Education Banyan Tree.

The Charter School Movement did not originate from parents looking for an escape from existing public schools. It originated from government planners in collaboration with think tanks, NGO’s and global corporate interests. The question not asked by charter school proponents today is, “how do charter schools fit into the Banyan Tree’s original trunk, and why are top level education officials (Arne Duncan ,Secretary of Education) leading the parade for charter schools unless charter schools have a role in the bigger picture to internationalize education?

It is interesting how these RINO Republicans are going to implement the Obama Education agenda at all costs.

CharterStarter, Too

August 17th, 2012
10:46 am

@ Maureen – ok…so if CRCT is the yardstick, then how come Barge didn’t bother to show state charter performance by grade and subject area and their meets and exceeds rates like other schools are reported?

How come he relied on data from the year before last rather than current data. While certainly appropriate to include, it should raise eyebrows that he chose not to use the most current data.

It is also very interesting that he chose to use AYP, which districts and charters alike across the nation have screamed for years is “unfair” because one subgroup can fail a school (which is true), despite excellent overall achievement. And we both know that AYP will no longer be the yardstick.

I also find it exceedingly strange that some of the information he published is contrary to what his own internal department reported to the legislature in the annual report. And some of his statements are not quantified at all – just conjecture.

I’m totally fine with you using data…real Georgia data. But if you or anyone else is going to use it, then at least have the integrity to make sure it is accurate and comprehensive and that it can be verified by interested citizens.

CTR

August 17th, 2012
10:46 am

@Maureen

So please make yourself clear… Are you for or against the Amendment? What you say is true, we should make NO excuses for under-performing charter schools. BUT by that same logic, we should make no excuses for under-performing traditional schools. But there is nothing that can be done about traditional schools who under-perform should this amendment fail.. Whereas, if we amend the constitution, there will be something parents can do… Make a choice.

Cellophane

August 17th, 2012
10:46 am

Is it possible the State DOE has gotten a good taste of what “overseeing” the state special charter schools has been like for a year, and they want no more of it? Someone might want to ask about the special education complaints from parents the State DOE has had to handle for the special charters. The State DOE is not staffed adequately to handle these schools, much less the additional schools a commission would approve– unless the agency is expanded, and that would be growing government, which is wrong, right?

jarvis

August 17th, 2012
10:47 am

Maureen, nothing about the Orchestra refusing to let Lassiter and Walton Highs choruses perform because they have too many white kids?

CharterStarter, Too

August 17th, 2012
10:50 am

@ Doug – yes, please check and see if those individuals are on the state’s payroll. And publish it here.

sneak peek into education

August 17th, 2012
10:50 am

Bravo to Dr. Barge and his bravery to stand up for what his conscience tells him and the charter supporters want to ignore-this amendment will gut traditional education at the expense of thousands of children’s education.
I wish I had much more time to write but there are so many untruths spoken by the charters proponents
1. There are few for-profit charters operating. That may be the case at the moment but if this amendment passes it will open the floodgates. The sharks are circling and they smell the MONEY.
2. That charters are used to serve those stuck in a low performing schools with low SES children but yesterday CharterStarter stated that charters should be setup in all districts-even the successful ones.
3. That charter schools are public schools-in other states the goal posts are moved to give charters huge advantages by giving them less transparency than their counterparts.
4. The charters operate at less than their traditional counterparts but they do this in a number of ways-paying teachers less, not providing the basics for their students, etc… but the CEO and admin are often times paid more than their traditional counterparts.

As has been said a number of times, the ability to start charters and appeal their denial already exists-we do not need another unelected level of Deal appointed cronies to be involved in this. It will lead to no good.

jd

August 17th, 2012
10:51 am

Arms were twisted and threats made to anyone opposing the agenda to pass the constitutional amendment and any agency head that spoke against would have been severely punished. My guess is that Dr. Barge could no longer remain silent – and he is now being punished.

Speech is not to be constrained (U.S. Constitution) and the voters cannot approve that which they do not understand (Jefferson). So — everybody get over it and start producing evidence of the true consequences of this amendment.

jarvis

August 17th, 2012
10:53 am

@Charter Starter, not being argumentative, I actually am intertested in knowing where the contrary data showing the success of Charter schools is.

Thanks

3schoolkids

August 17th, 2012
10:54 am

Local control with HB1162 and HB797? Then how about full disclosure of all financial data pertaining to state approved charters? If I go visit Cherokee Charter and ask for their financials from last year and the audit they submitted to the state DOE, do you think they will give it to me? I would love to have as easy access to state approved charter financials as I have with locally approved charters and the local public schools.

If throwing money at our “problems” won’t fix it, then why do the state approved charters need more money? We hear complaints in the news that they are strapped but where are the financials to back this up? How about full disclosure of the per student per year revenue (including grants) each state charter school received last year?

Beverly Fraud

August 17th, 2012
11:00 am

To supporters of this amendment: Why should we trust ANYTHING Ed Lindsey has to say, when he has done NOTHING to support the regular public school teacher in matters of DISCIPLINE?

If the shill for “law and order” and “personal responsibility” hasn’t advocated for teachers to have tools to hold students accountable for academics OR behavior, is it not right to dismiss him as a COMPLETE, TOTAL hypocrite?

There are INDEED ways to “leverage” the public schools into doing a better job, OTHER THAN “competition”

If he would support those in addition to this amendment, wouldn’t that increase his credibility when he claims it’s “for the children”?

Beverly Fraud

August 17th, 2012
11:02 am

We seem to have a choice between government hacks who want to hold on to their power, (at the expense of the children) and privateers who want to maximize their profit (at the expense of the children) No wonder Fled FLED.