Our PolitiFact Georgia team looks at John Barge and charters: Not much of a flip.

AJC PolitiFact Georgia was asked to examine whether state school chief John Barge flipped-flopped on charter schools with his stunning announcement last week that he did not back the charter school amendment on the November ballot.

Some of his critics have been sending links to a speech that candidate John Barge gave to a conservative group as proof of his flip-flop, but I have to go on record about that 2010 video clip: Barge said nothing different in front of Tea Party supporters in the burbs than he did in front of intown parents at a campaign debate at Inman Middle School that I covered for the AJC.

In fact,  a liberal-leaning policy analyst was sitting two rows in front of me, and he was shaking his head in dismay at almost all of Barge’s responses. Barge seems to be an elected official who does not tailor his message to the crowd. He has consistently decried too much state-level bureaucracy and wasteful spending, so it is not surprising that he would oppose the creation and funding of a new Atlanta-based commission to approve charters.

Here is an excerpt of the AJC PolitiFact Georgia story. Please read the full piece if you are interested in this topic:

Many charter school supporters, including the governor, felt they were double-crossed last week when Georgia School Superintendent John Barge announced his opposition to a constitutional amendment aimed at creating more charter schools. The amendment would reinstate the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, a body that can approve charter schools that local boards reject. The state Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional.

“[T]his is a flip-flop for the record books,” said Bert Brantley, who was the communications director when Sonny Perdue was governor and is working with charter school supporters for the referendum. Barge’s spokesman said he has not switched his position at all.  “It was the same then as it is now,” Matt Cardoza said.

Barge’s opponents say proof of his flip-flop lies in his answers to a 2010 campaign questionnaire by the Georgia Charter Schools Association, an advocacy group. It asked whether Barge agreed with the statement “I support House Bill 881.” His answer: “Strongly agree.”

But this doesn’t prove Barge flip-flopped, Cardoza said.  The 130-word lead-up to the question asked for the candidate’s stance on funding for commission-approved charter schools, not the bill as a whole. It explained that under HB 881, if a student attends this kind of charter school, the per-pupil amount of local tax revenue that would have gone to the district for his or her education goes to the charter school instead.

Barge’s response to a separate question showed he had reservations about the commission.

It asked whether Barge supported “non-district authorizers,” or entities such as the commission that have the power to approve and monitor charters without local school board interference.

Barge’s answer: “Agree.” But he found it “greatly disappointing that we need another administrative body to do something that the local, and ultimately, the state board of education should be able to do.”

Barge’s response gave the clear impression that he supported the commission’s creation, although he held reservations about the extra level of bureaucracy it created.

“While the opponents of his position want you to focus on the HB 881 question, it’s hard to not see how he clearly felt based on his answer to the more important question regarding having a third authorizer to do what the local boards and state board can already do,” Cardoza said.

Barge’s announcement Tuesday restated this concern. He said the commission “unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education.”

Another point in Barge’s favor is that he filled out the questionnaire in 2010. It’s poor proof that he changed his stance on an issue that didn’t exist until 2011.  We found no evidence that before Tuesday’s announcement Barge had taken a public stance for reinstating the commission.

In fact, he gave the impression he’d avoid taking one. Atlanta Journal-Constitution political columnist Jim Galloway described Barge’s position in a July 25 story:

“Asked whether he would campaign for the charter school question, state School Superintendent John Barge expressed a fondness for charter schools in an email, but added this: ‘We will, of course, respect the will of the citizens of Georgia regarding how charter schools are authorized.’”

If Barge’s opinion changed on anything, it’s over whether to campaign on the issue, not the amendment itself.

Barge broke ranks with other charter school supporters when he decided to oppose the amendment, but he did not quite flip-flop.

From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

149 comments Add your comment

pleasebeserious

August 21st, 2012
9:22 am

When will the state of Georgia realize that the public school system here is a failure. Parents want options.

td

August 21st, 2012
9:26 am

Representative Lindsey,

Since you are a “frequent reader” of this blog, are you now going to make a public apology to a fellow Republican for calling him a liar publicly when it is obvious now you did not know what you were talking about?

I am willing to bet that you do not have the guts to admit you were wrong and to apologize. I am also willing to bet that you will not even come on this blog today to acknowledge this story.

LoganvilleGuy

August 21st, 2012
9:28 am

@pleasebeserious:

You do have options. It is called private schools.

I would rather see an end to “school taxes” rather than lose total control of my tax money because I don’t have a kid in a charter school.

At least with an elected board, I retain control of my money even if I don’t have a child that uses it.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 21st, 2012
9:31 am

Dr. Barge cannot be re-elected without the support of the GSSA and PAGE. Plain and simple. He is a pragmatic elected official.

td

August 21st, 2012
9:35 am

Dr. Monica Henson

August 21st, 2012
9:31 am

Is it not true that these two organizations supported Jim Martin two years ago?

pleasebeserious

August 21st, 2012
9:35 am

@LoganvilleGuy,

My children do attend a pricey private school in Cobb County. Just wishing I had other options without moving to another state.

dc

August 21st, 2012
9:38 am

so Maureen….given your explanation above, I’m thinking almost any change to a position can be explained away by saying “well I didn’t agree with that one provision”. It seems pretty weak to me. The guys “strongly support” response seems pretty clear. And if he wanted to “explain” what that meant (i.e. I don’t support state chartering of schools), he had the oppty then.

Maureen Downey

August 21st, 2012
9:42 am

@dc, To me, the issue here is charter school amendment, which is very different than charter schools, most of which will continue to be approved and funded at the local level anyway.
I don’t think there is a Barge record to reverse on the amendment, which is what he came out against next week.

Chuntter

August 21st, 2012
9:44 am

Those who would continue to block education reform and deny choices to parents are grasping at straws here.

The amendment will pass in November. A half century of steady declining test scores and/or education standards have finally focused parents’ attention on the need for real change. The millions that teachers’ unions will pour into trying to defeat this—and reform measures in dozens of other states—will empty union coffers before it turns back the tide of parental resolve.

Maureen Downey

August 21st, 2012
9:45 am

@Dr. Henson, But he didn’t have their strong support in the last election and was elected. I am not sure that history bears out your belief that the incumbent needs PAGE and GSSA. Incumbents almost always get re-elected in Georgia. Barring arrest and disgrace or seismic shift, it is hard to unseat an incumbent in Georgia in a state race.
Maureen

Holly Jones

August 21st, 2012
9:46 am

And once again- Barge is not against CHOICE. He is opposed to this amendment. Not the same thing, no matter how Deal, Lindsey, et al want to spin it. No matter what happens in November, charter schools can and will be approved by their local boards (yes, Virginia, there really are locally approved charters) as well as by the State BOE if denied at the local level. This is about who has the ultimate say in the spending of local tax dollars. Can you more easily contact and get a response from your local BOE member- whom you elect- or an appointed member of a state level commission who owes you nothing? THAT’S the issue.

td

August 21st, 2012
9:55 am

Chuntter

August 21st, 2012
9:44 am

“Those who would continue to block education reform and deny choices to parents are grasping at straws here.”

What education reform are you talking about? We currently have the ability to grant Charter schools and no matter if this amendment passes or fails in November there will still be the ability to reform Charter schools. The difference is we now have locally elected politicians we can hold accountable for their decisions if the amendment passes then the voter will no longer have that option.

DeKalb Teacher

August 21st, 2012
10:06 am

@TD
In many counties there is a tyranny of the majority. Many communities are being held hostage because they are in the minority in their county. The elected official for that minority is powerless. For example, South DeKalb holds North DeKalb hostage.

The state is trying to pry those schools out from the tyranny and hand it back to the local community.

Aquagirl

August 21st, 2012
10:08 am

My children do attend a pricey private school in Cobb County. Just wishing I had other options without moving to another state.

What options do you lack? Are you not happy with your kid’s current school?

CharterStarter, Too

August 21st, 2012
10:13 am

@ Maureen – Please, if you can, explain to me his responses on the REST of the survey he published from the state charter association.

He strongly supported 881, which CREATED the independent charter Commission. Are you saying that he did NOT think it was “extra bureaucracy then” but does now? How is that not flip flopping? Charters are trying to create the same Commission (with a different funding mechanism).

In supporting 881, he also supported an actual DEDUCTION from districts. The economy was bad then as well (and he spoke to all sorts of ways he would address it in his campaign, including decreasing the size of the DOE…) He is now arguing (although totally inaccurately) against districts losing funds because of the Commission. How can he support district losing funds 2 years ago and claim he isn’t flip flopping?

Tell me again how he is being consistent?

CharterStarter, Too

August 21st, 2012
10:13 am

@ td – Do you mean Joe Martin?

Ann

August 21st, 2012
10:23 am

Thank you for keeping us all abreast of the facts, Maureen! Opinions and interpretations will always follow a public figure, but I admire Dr. Barge for obviously taking a politically dangerous position.

Concerned Citizen

August 21st, 2012
10:25 am

Wealthy parents want options, but their abundant resources already have enabled those options. It’s so Republican to take money from public schools and hand it over to the wealthy. It’s also unconscionable.

td

August 21st, 2012
10:25 am

DeKalb Teacher

August 21st, 2012
10:06 am

@TD
In many counties there is a tyranny of the majority. Many communities are being held hostage because they are in the minority in their county. The elected official for that minority is powerless. For example, South DeKalb holds North DeKalb hostage.

And if the North Dekalb community puts out a great Charter idea then even if the local School board rejected it then the SBOE (run by Republicans appointed by Deal) would overrule them and establish the Charter. How is this Amendment going to improve this process?

Hillbilly D

August 21st, 2012
10:27 am

If a local community wants a charter school or schools, there is a way for them to do that now. No need to get the state involved, that I can see.

td

August 21st, 2012
10:29 am

CharterStarter, Too

August 21st, 2012
10:13 am

I just figured it out. You are either Jan Jones or a better choice is Erin Hames (sp). Did you really think Dr. Barge was going to keep you as Chief of Staff?

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

August 21st, 2012
10:38 am

“A wise man changes his mind. But a damn fool never does.”

Maureen Downey

August 21st, 2012
10:49 am

@To all, The Rome News-Tribune came out in full support of Barge in this editorial:
http://www.romenews-tribune.com/view/full_story/19850547/article-EDITORIAL–John-Barge-is-a-hero?instance=news_page_secondary_story

STATE VOTERS are being asked on Nov. 6 to make one of the most vomit-inducing choices of their lives … and we don’t mean the presidential contest. The proposed constitutional amendment to give the state power to create charter schools anywhere it wishes, using tax money that it once gave to support your children and grandchildren in local public schools, is one of the most nightmarish proposals ever floated.

Frankly, this newspaper having been a supporter of the really, truly charter-school concept long, long before it was distorted into a mindless political weapon of deception, hasn’t even known where to begin in warning readers about it. This Trojan horse is, pure and simple, designed to destroy — not improve — local-level public education.

Early polls show most voters, being far too easily and routinely deceived, might actual favor what little the ballot will say on the matter — apparently many believe “charter” to be shorthand for “freedom of choice” instead of, as in this instance, meaning the freedom to spend your tax money to pay for somebody else’s choices. And, defeating this would not stop local creation of charter schools (there are already about 100 in the state). However, approving it would allow charter schools the local community has said it does not desire to be rammed down its throat.

THIS NEWSPAPER continues to support true charters that are paid for and governed and directed and supervised and supported by the local voters and their elected officials. Also it especially supports magnet schools, which are far more needed and focused and could be created by the charter method — in fact, that’s what the highly respected county “career academy” actually is. Not only that but the entire Floyd County system — every single school — is already officially designated as of charter status in the sense that teachers, parents and community members have a hands-on role in direction and decision making. That’s the way to go, not having the state’s politicians, with their appointed cronies, telling hometown citizens/parents what their schools should be like, teach and who would be allowed to attend.

Thus, it is with appreciation for true guts that all should applaud the position taken by John Barge, the state school superintendent who resides in Floyd County and has worked for both the local and Bartow County systems. In open defiance of his own Republican Party, that seems to prize blind obedience above intelligence, he came out against this amendment — and swinging.

This is no small example of political bravery. This amendment was floated by GOP Gov. Nathan Deal (after the Georgia Supreme Court had struck down as unconstitutional an earlier attempt by the state to take over local public education). That all GOP members of the local delegation actually voted for this atrocity would be reason enough to vote them out of office — except nobody is running against them. Citizens beware: You get what you allow to happen.

BARGE, WHO should get a “profile in courage” award, did not hold his fire, saying:

“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. 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). …

“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 danger in this being on the ballot is that it doesn’t at all look like what the public would get. What appears on the surface is like asking voters “Do you think children should be able to read and write?”

It doesn’t explain that such charters could set their own admission requirements, which some fear would mean denying entry to the poor, minorities and special-needs children who some, sadly, believe “drag down” the opportunities offered their own little geniuses.

IT DOES NOT reveal that the legislature has already set it up for any such state-blessed charters to receive more than twice as much in taxes as “ordinary” children in local public schools get from the state … and takes those extra sums away from them. By the way, parents who already ante up tuition to send their children to this community’s several excellent private schools have particularly good reason to be infuriated.

Not only that but that could just be the start of the money diversion as, in HB 797, there is this interesting clause:

“Actively seek, with the assistance of the department, supplemental revenue from federal grant funds, institutional grant funds, and philanthropic organizations. The commission may receive and expend gifts, grants, and donations of any kind from any public or private entity to carry out the purposes of this article.” (The italics are ours.)

Also, among the many booby traps in plain sight on something few voters will ever read (the actual legislation) it says the state can define attendance zones — including of up to “statewide” size.

The state already has such as the School for the Deaf in Cave Spring. Perhaps that envisions special boarding schools for future violin virtuosos or Nobel Prize winners — with the taxpayers anteing up for room and board, probably in Atlanta, as well as education. Frankly, such intense specialized schools are better created locally (and would be far more likely if the Rome/Floyd systems consolidated) as children with individual special talents are more common than rare when properly nurtured.

OR, THIS could allow a “statewide” boarding school, say at Sea Island, with admission requirements limited to the children of legislators and Georgia government employees making more than $100,000.
This thing is ugly, ugly, ugly and downright un-American. Barge is a hero for standing up against it and every voter in this state, including supporters of what charter schools are really supposed to be, should join him in not only voting “No!” on this come Nov. 6 but in crushing it so viciously that nothing of like evil would dare be attempted ever again.

CharterStarter, Too

August 21st, 2012
11:02 am

@ Maureen –

I’d also like to ask that you actually VERIFY his data. That means….not just ASK the DOE if it’s right, but actually check it and ensure it is comprehensive and that there is more than 1 variable considered. That means to do a same:same comparison with districts as well on the same things the charters were evaluated on for “quality”.

For example, if he is going to hammer the few charters in the state that use for-profit management companies, then please ask him to speak to the almost 30 districts I found using a single for-profit vendor (I could find the others if needed…), including Bartow County and his native Cobb County spending hundreds and thousands, and sometimes MILLIONS.

Please ask him to compare the AYP rates in districts that actually have charters rather than just a statewide average. And ask him to put up a comparison of grades and subjects on CRCT and EOCT like districts are assessed.

Ask him to fairly compare districts’ governance by considering the number of districts with SACS violations. How many have come up to the State Board recently for a hearing? How many do not demonstrate transparency in governance following basic Open Meetings. Do you know how many districts don’t bother to post board meetings or agendas on their websites? A lot.

Charters are always, always hammered, which is fine. But what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

td

August 21st, 2012
11:02 am

Maureen Downey

August 21st, 2012
10:49 am

If I am not mistaken, this is a pretty conservative paper?

Chuntter

August 21st, 2012
11:06 am

… But John Barge won’t get your vote in the next election if he has a credible Democrat opponent—will he, Maureen?

The faux Republicans who ran for school board positions in that party’s primary can likewise kiss their local teacher union support goodbye.

And @Dr Henson, you seen unaware that—unlike GAE—PAGE doesn’t endorse political candidates or fund their campaigns. It’s a prime reason why PAGE has twice the membership of GAE and continues to grow at their expense.

Solutions

August 21st, 2012
11:10 am

My advice, for what it is worth, to parents is to use the public schools for what they are worth, but supplement liberally with tutors, on line learning especially in math, statistics, and physics, and provide reading material for your child on any subject that interests them, no questions asked. Limit tv, video game, and internet time, use them as a reward for doing the online math. Buy piano or violin or guitar lessons to teach music, and encourage team sports regardless of the level, recreational or select. Too bad some of the charter money cannot be used to purchase music or language lessons.

teacher&mom

August 21st, 2012
11:12 am

@Dr. Henson:
PAGE does not endorse candidates.

Prof

August 21st, 2012
11:28 am

@ td, August 21st, 10:29 am: “CharterStarter, Too….I just figured it out. You are either Jan Jones or a better choice is Erin Hames (sp). ”

I figured out yesterday that CS2 must be Rep. Jan Jones who sponsored the charter school amendment in the House, on the “War of Words” blog on Aug. 20, 11:39 am and 2:30 pm. Another poster, sneak peek in education, had noted that CS2 had claimed to work in a small business earlier and then to be a “public school educator,” and was suspicious of the discrepancy. I checked Rep. Jan Jones’s website, and found that she has been a small business owner, and sponsored at least 3 prior legislative bills relating to public education. Since “educator” can mean “a specialist in the theory and practice of education” as well as “teacher” (American Heritage Dictionary), both claims would accurately describe Rep. Jan Jones.

And in all of the many recent blog-threads about this amendment on “Get Schooled” and also Kyle Wingfield’s blog, CS2 is right there with very long posts to answer each and every objection to the amendment…rather like a robo-call.

Dr. John Trotter

August 21st, 2012
11:45 am

I think that it’s all a bunch of hooey. I think that the man did what he thought was right. I agree with him. I think, under the dire circumstances, Dr. Barge is doing a fine job. I voted for him. MACE also does not endorse, even when its own members or associates run for elections. I personally, however, directly helped two “MACE folks” this summer and both won 56 to 44, one getting re-elected for the seventh term to the State House and continuing to be a fierce advocate for public education and public school teachers, Darryl Jordan, and one, Anderson (Andy) Ramay, beating the Chairman of the school board in Jeff Davis County. Ramay is “Of Counsel” for MACE and has defended many teachers in hearings. Both of his parents are public school teachers.

I think that John Barge just needs to continue to do what he feels is right for public education in Georgia. I think that he did this when he apparently changed his mind on the proposed charter school commission amendment. I am going to vote against this amendment too.

CharterStarter, Too

August 21st, 2012
12:17 pm

@ Chuntter – LOL. I’m willing to bet membership choice has more to do with the price for dues (GAE= 278 vs. PAGE @ 175) than their legislative priorities.

I will say that despite PAGE’s hurry up “open letter” regarding their support of charter schools (because of course, they don’t want to lose member dues…), our charter teachers care about not only cost, but they pay attention to legislative positions, too. They are jumping ship FAST from membership with PAGE and GAE. They want a membership organization that has the integrity to stay neutral on matters that impact various portions of their PAYING membership.

@ Prof – You can’t possibly think I’d let Mary Elizabeth be more verbose than me? Goodness, no!

Dr. Monica Henson

August 21st, 2012
12:19 pm

Thanks, Maureen, for the historical information on the incumbents in the school superintendent race. Whether PAGE endorses candidates officially or not, they, like GAE and GSSA, surely communicate to their membership. I am of the opinion that the hysteria being cooked up over the constitutional amendment issue will bring out more voters than usual, and if the education establishment (GSBA, GSSA, et al) behaves in this state like they do in other states where I’ve lived & voted, there’ll be plenty of “public information” disseminated.

CharterStarter, Too

August 21st, 2012
12:27 pm

@ Dr. Trotter. The thing is…he said he DIDN’T change his position. So did he, or didn’t he?

mountain man

August 21st, 2012
12:33 pm

I will vote FOR the amendment in November. If I have the option, I will vote AGAINST John Barge in the Republican primary. And if our local BOE votes against a reasonable charter school, I will vote against every one that voted against it. That is my choice. We will see who wins in November.

Maureen Downey

August 21st, 2012
12:45 pm

@Dr. Henson, Historically, voters approve amendments. They are typically written by the sponsors in such a genial way that nobody would vote “no.”
I think the charter school amendment will pass, largely because of that pattern.
Maureen

Prof

August 21st, 2012
1:07 pm

@ CharterStarter, Too, August 21st, 12:17 pm: “@ Prof – You can’t possibly think I’d let Mary Elizabeth be more verbose than me? Goodness, no!”

Curious the way you keep attacking Mary Elizabeth (you called her “Ms. Southern Belle” on an earlier blog-thread) when there are plenty of others also questioning you. Is it because her points are most telling?

“Verbose” means “using or containing an excessive number of words” (American Heritage Dictionary). Mary Elizabeth seems to me to be “testifying” eloquently about the value of and need for a solid public education of all citizens, not just those who are privileged. You, however………..

John Konop

August 21st, 2012
1:32 pm

I have heard this complaint about the Solyndra deal ie bypassing of “ key taxpayer protections in a rush to approve the funds”, from many republicans about the Obama administration. For those of you supporting Charter schools without proper controls in place what is the difference? As you know I have been very consistent about wanting proper controls in all deals that put tax payers at risk. I am in further shock, how this is not a cornerstone issue for the Tea Party. If you support the current charter bill, than why would you ever complain about deals like Solyndra ?

…….In 2009, the Obama administration fast-tracked Solyndra’s loan application, later awarding it $535 million in guarantees from the stimulus funds.

The deal later came under scrutiny from independent government watch dogs and members of Congress, which said the administration had bypassed key taxpayer protections in a rush to approve the funds….

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/08/solar-energy-company-touted-by-obama-goes-bankrupt/

Mary Elizabeth

August 21st, 2012
1:42 pm

The below is part of my response to Charter Starter, Too’s (Jan Jones’s?) remarks to me in the thread “War of Words. . .”) now in the August archives, concerning Georgia’s Constitutional Amendment:
——————————————————

From Jefferson’s words on public education in his “Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XIV”:

“Another object of the revisal is to diffuse knowledge more generally through the mass of the people. This bill proposes to lay off every county into small districts of five or six miles square, called hundreds, and in each of them to establish a school for teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic.”
————————————————————

Notice the words “mass of the people” and “every county into small districts”. . . “to establish a school” to teach ALL of the children in his day. Sounds remarkably like public education by school districts, does it not?
————————————————————-

Public education can and will improve. There have been huge societal changes within the past 50 years and these changes in society (for the better overall) have, nevertheless, effected public education. Public charter schools can help to the end of improving public education, but they must work in harmony with traditional public schools and be guided by local Boards of Education. This state does not need another level of special charter schools – as proposed in HR 1162 which is now Georgia’s Constitutional Amendment. This amendment will hinder traditional public education overall, not help it

CharterStarter, Too

August 21st, 2012
1:43 pm

@ Prof – Yes, I….provide FACTS and links to public sources rather than eloquence. I’m ok with that.

I was teasing Mary Elizabeth, Prof. She has gotten very flustered with my push back and it was a bit out of character from her usual charm in her sharp tone this morning. I don’t mean any harm. She is not all wrong in what she says. I do think she relies a bit too much on Mr. Jefferson, and I do think she is rather paranoid about for-profit take over (and still hasn’t answered my question about districts using for profit management companies…) For all that, she clearly values education, and I respect her passion.

I just want accurate and comprehensive data presented. Not one person (including ME) on the opposing side has responded to my very pointed questions posed (based on irrefutable data). The voters should have the information to fairly evaluate and vote. Why are the answers to these questions avoided? I have answered the questions posed of me and supported my answers.

td

August 21st, 2012
1:53 pm

CharterStarter, Too

August 21st, 2012
1:43 pm

What proof? I debated you on Kyle’s blog for almost an entire day and you still could not “prove” why this amendment was even necessary when the commission would do the same thing that the local BOE and state BOE currently does under current law. You keep coming back to some argument that if this amendment is not passed then all charters will be thrown out. Bogus argument with no proof whatsoever.

Mary Elizabeth

August 21st, 2012
1:57 pm

@Prof, 1:07 pm

Thank you for your comments, Prof.

I have found that when a person attempts to trivialize another it is usually because that person feels threatened by the one he/she is disparaging.

I believe that my strong commitment to public education, especially to traditional, not-for-profit public education, threatens those who want to undermine traditional public education. Readers should question why anyone would want to do undermine our traditional public education, instead of working with its leaders and teachers to improve it. Could personal gain be a factor? One has to question. Traditional public education serves the common good – it is inclusive to all.

Ron F.

August 21st, 2012
1:57 pm

“Thanks, Maureen, for the historical information on the incumbents in the school superintendent race. Whether PAGE endorses candidates officially or not, they, like GAE and GSSA, surely communicate to their membership.”

They never tell you how to vote, or “urge” you in any way. They report on the legislation, their positions, and tell you to decide. I’ve voted both with them and against them and never felt pressured either way.

Ron F.

August 21st, 2012
2:03 pm

CS2: Any organization representing educators will, at some point, have to take a position for or against legislation. There’s no shame in doing so, and I would be unlikely to join one that pretends to be neutral. I like PAGE for the fact that their position and their lobbying are clear, their positions carefully articulated, and their members informed of this. There’s no national organization to whom they must be beholden. I’m fine with disagreeing with them, and sometimes I do. My vote is MY vote, not theirs, and they don’t tell us how to vote.

Ron F.

August 21st, 2012
2:08 pm

As to the topic of this thread, the man changed his mind. So……what difference does that make? He doesn’t support the amendment. That doesn’t mean the world will end or that charter schools will suddenly be run out of town. What it means is that the man knows, as should we all, that the state doesn’t have the money for this right now, regardless of how “needed” it might be. And when they start trying to find the funds, they’ll pretend not to cut education funding, now at about 38% and then find some way to do it. What else can they do, close Sonny’s fish farm or whatever that thing is? Right now, the charter schools we have are over 80% locally approved. That’s not bad, and doesn’t seem to portend gloom and doom for them getting approved.

Mary Elizabeth

August 21st, 2012
2:15 pm

Charter Starter, Too, 1:43 pm

Just because you state something as truth does not make it true. You state that Mary Elizabeth has gotten “flustered” with your “push back”. You say that Mary Elizabeth has gotten “paranoid” over “for-profit take over.”

Wrong on all counts. But, you continue to spin, because that is how you operate in what you do – spinning truth.

I have given plenty of facts to justify that there is a profit motivation in this nation for dismantling traditional public schools and so have many others. Trying to trivialize that fact will not change the tact that that is true. “You cannot fool all of the people, all of the time.”

bootney farnsworth

August 21st, 2012
3:33 pm

what I can’t understand is the alleged outrage by so many posters.

the man supports the concept of charter schools, but not the idea of additional funding for them at the lowest functional and economic point in Georgia educational history.

I thought the red meat crowd was all about reducing excess spending.

CharterStarter, Too

August 21st, 2012
4:21 pm

@ td – I never said all the charters would be closed. Please reread what I wrote. What I SAID us that some members of the Supreme Court AND the Attorney General said there is a gray area that can only be fixed by a Constitutional Amendment.

@ ME – Now YOU protesteth too much.

Ron F.

August 21st, 2012
4:47 pm

“I thought the red meat crowd was all about reducing excess spending.”

Pick a side, and it’s all about reducing spending on the other. It doesn’t take a calculator and a math degree to figure out, as Jethro would say, “naught minus naught equals naught.” While this is too oft framed as an ideological debate, for many like me who try to at least examine both sides, it’s all about the money. And from where I’m looking, it’s like saying you’re going to build a new house when the bank’s about ready to foreclose on the one you’re in now.

dc

August 21st, 2012
5:06 pm

@Maureen, you make be right, and I may be wrong. Personally I think that the incentive of local school systems is to view charters as competition for “their” money. So having the ability for some other group to ensure that local parents and kids have options is part an parcel of supporting charter schools (whose entire purpose is to provide an alternative to existing failing schools). Just my opinion, and you may well be right that he never intended to support a state level of control.

catlady

August 21st, 2012
5:23 pm

So it really wasn’t a flip. Just a slight hop. Hope he gets the apologies he deserves.

Tony

August 21st, 2012
5:52 pm

Dr. Barge stood up to the political machine with his convictions about educating all of Georgia’s students. He knows and has communicated that this amendment is bad for Georgia and its children. It’s a shame that the machine tries to defame his character and twist his words just because he has exposed the fraud for what it is. There is no need for Georgia to have a new funding system for only a select group of students. As a state, we should set as a high priority the proper funding for all students.

Mary Elizabeth

August 21st, 2012
6:01 pm

Tony, 5:52 pm

Very well said. Thank you for your astute post.

Ron F.

August 21st, 2012
7:31 pm

Tony: that’s what happens when you break away from the collective hive mindset and become self-aware.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 21st, 2012
9:36 pm

Ron F: “They [GSSA, PAGE, GAE] never tell you how to vote, or “urge” you in any way. They report on the legislation, their positions, and tell you to decide. I’ve voted both with them and against them and never felt pressured either way.”

Herb Garrett, in his capacity as GSSA executive director, attended a leadership conference recently as a featured speaker and launched an inflammatory political diatribe to a room full of superintendents, principals, and other school leaders, urging them to vote against the amendment. I am not going to reveal which conference so as to protect my source, who attended the conference and heard every word.

Mary Elizabeth

August 21st, 2012
10:11 pm

“Herb Garrett, in his capacity as GSSA executive director, attended a leadership conference recently as a featured speaker. . . urging them to vote against the amendment.”
==================================================

Good for Herb Garrett for taking a public stand against this Constitutional Amendment. GAE, also, is taking a public stand against it. As many educational leaders and organizations as possible need to voice their opposition to this Constitutional Amendment. (See Below.)
———————————————————————————-

“GAE lauds State Superintendent’s stance against charter school constitutional amendment

‘We truly appreciate the state’s top education official standing up for Georgia’s 1.6 million kids and against the November 6 constitutional amendment on charter schools. Dr. Barge sees first-hand the impact this constitutional amendment would have on ensuring every child in Georgia has fair access to a quality education,’ said Calvine Rollins, president of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) in response to today’s announcement from State Superintendent John Barge saying he could not support the proposed November 6 constitutional amendment.

‘We understood from its introduction that passage of this amendment would invalidate the decision making processes by which local communities elect their citizens to make local school decisions and be held accountable,” said Rollins. ‘GAE is in total agreement when Superintendent Barge says that he could not ’support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy …and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education.’

‘His announcement shows he fully understands the negative ramifications for our public school children should the amendment pass,’ said Rollins. ‘He hits the nail on the head when he says passage 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).’ . . .

Rollins says the bottom line is that passage of this amendment would be a step backward from efforts to meet the promise that both we and our state constitution have made to our children. So on November 6, she and now Superintendent Barge, are asking Georgia voters to vote no on the constitutional amendment regarding charter schools.”

http://gae2.org/content.asp?ContentId=1655

bootney farnsworth

August 21st, 2012
10:47 pm

@ Ron

worst thing which ever happened to me professionally was when I began to think for myself. I started asking questions, and ……it wasn’t pretty

teacher&mom

August 22nd, 2012
6:57 am

@Dr. Henson, I attended also conference and heard Mr. Garrett speak. Yes, he did urge the participants to vote against the amendment. However, a couple of charter schools were also in attendance and even they acknowledged that while this amendment will mean more money for their schools, it will be detrimental to rural schools.

No one is fooled.

pleasebeserious

August 22nd, 2012
9:37 am

In order to allow my son to receive twenty-six AP credit hours and enter GA Tech as a Biomedical Engineering student this fall, it WAS necessary to send him to a pricey Cobb private school and therefore I am happy with my choice. The same options are not offered at our neighborhood public school. Since I have four intelligent children, this is a costly, albeit, worthwhile investment. The only students admitted to Ga Tech from our over-crowed public school were the top three students. There were ten admitted from the small, private school my children attend. It was either that or move to Finland where teachers are valued and paid accordingly..

Dr. Monica Henson

August 22nd, 2012
11:05 am

I have no problem with Mr. Garrett, or anyone else from GSSA, GSBA, PAGE, or GAE, speaking his mind on the issues. What I DO have a problem with is state-funded organizations holding conferences and similar events and allowing such political rhetoric from one side without permitting the other the same forum. I contacted the folks in charge of the conference and asked that a speaker from the other side be allowed to attend their next meeting. I was told that Mr. Garrett did not provide political commentary, that all he did was summarize educational legislative issues objectively, and that this organization did not allow political comment at their events.

Where I come from, we call that kind of statement a “whopper.” I suspect that Rep. Lindsey, Sens. Millar and Rogers, et al, would call it an unethical use of tax dollars, probabbly illegal as well.

Mary Elizabeth

August 22nd, 2012
12:17 pm

About the proper use of the public’s tax dollars. . . .

On August 20th, on Kyle Wingfield’s blog, CS2 stated that the Constitutional Amendment’s special charter school administrators “are looking for educators with a shared philosophy, passion, and proven results. . .”

Our exchange on that blog was specifically related to those teachers hired to teach in the special charter schools established by this Constitutional Amendment and was specifically regarding their inability to become members of Georgia’s Teacher Retirement System. (Rep. Jan Jones had sponsored s bill – later pulled – which would have given principals of special charters the choice to disallow their teachers from joining the TRS. Rep. Jones also sponsored the Constitutional Amendment bill.)

CS2 stated to me on Aug. 21 on this blog as a follow up to the previous exchange: “Schools have various missions and teaching philosophies, so it is nice to have a group of like minded people working to the same purpose.”

I want fo highlight for the reading public that my original exchange with CS2 about this issue (on Kyle Wingfield’s blog) was not about “teaching philosophies” but, instead, was specifically about the fact that these special charter schools could very well disallow their teaching staff from joining the TRS. CS2 wrote at 6:56 am on Wingfield’s blog: “The state chartered special schools are being given an OPTION (not a requirement) to explore other investment opportunities besides TRS. Teachers CHOOSING to work in these schools will know this prior to being employed and can decide for themselves.”

Pertinent to my specific TRS exchange with CS2 on Kyle Wingfield’s blog and followed up on this blog the next morning, that exclusivity in hiring specific teachers (based on a “shared philosophy”) was not about a teaching philosophy but was about a specific pragmatic TRS concern, which is more political than instructional, in nature. Furthermore, that political position regarding not joining the TRS of Georgia parallels the national Republican ideological agenda of dismantling traditional “governmental” schools and teachers’ “governmental” pensions funds.

I ask this question to the public: Is it right to use public tax dollars, meant for public schools, to fund special charter schools that may have an exclusionary political vision within their teaching and administrative staffs? Public schools and public school monies, via public taxes, should be used for funding public schools that serve all of Georgia’s school children and that do not have a political agenda.

“You cannot fool all of the people, all of the time.”

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

For the exact words of my exchange with CS2 (August 19 & 20) on this issue on Kyle Wingfield’s blog, read below.

—————————————————————————-

“Mary Elizabeth
August 19th, 2012
11:16 pm
‘I will be voting yes on November 6th. All teachers should be voting yes as well. I want to have options which meet my teaching philosophies!!!!’
=================================================

Teachers who vote ‘yes’ for Georgia’s Constitutional Amendment in November will be voting against their own best interests. Their options will decrease, not increase. Rep. Jan Jones, the sponsor of HR 1162 which created the words for the Constitutional Amendment that will form a State Commission for Special Charter Schools, also sponsored another bill in which teachers who teach in those special charter schools could be disallowed from being a part of the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia by their principals in those special charter schools. . .”
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

“CharterStarter, Too (K. Wingfield’s blog, copied from post on M. Downey’s blog at 6:45 am, below.)
August 20th, 2012
6:56 am

CharterStarter, Too (on M. Downey’s blog)
August 20th, 2012
6:45 am

@ Mary Elizabeth – Let me just take this one point at a time.

Retirement. Perhaps you are unaware that the state is upside down with the retirement system in Georgia. Teachers are FORCED to pay into a retirement system that may or may not be sustainable by the time they retire. There are many, many other retirement investment options available to individuals that would be less costly to the individual, the employer, and provide a better return on their investment. The state chartered special schools are being given an OPTION (not a requirement) to explore other investment opportunities besides TRS. Teachers CHOOSING to work in these schools will know this prior to being employed and can decide for themselves.

It is amazing to me how easily people are led into believing they should only have one choice in life and in their careers. That is simply not true.”
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

“Mary Elizabeth
August 20th, 2012
8:17 am

CharterStarter, Too, 6:56 am

‘The state chartered special schools are being given an OPTION (not a requirement) to explore other investment opportunities besides TRS. Teachers CHOOSING to work in these schools will know this prior to being employed and can decide for themselves.’
==============================================

Your have chosen your words, above, shrewdly, which tells me a lot about who you probably are besides being a parent and teacher. If a given teacher has no other prospect for a job, because of teacher layoffs in traditional public schools, she/he may have no other financial choice but to work in one of these special charter schools. . .”
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

“CharterStarter, Too
August 20th, 2012
9:40 am

@ Mary Elizabeth – please link us to this language of which you speak. The schools (having stakeholder input) would have the option of using TRS or not.

Do you really expect that charters will hire teachers ‘just looking for a job?’ Ummmmm….no. They are looking for educators with a shared philosophy, passion, and proven results. . .”

Ron F.

August 22nd, 2012
12:51 pm

“I have no problem with Mr. Garrett, or anyone else from GSSA, GSBA, PAGE, or GAE, speaking his mind on the issues”

PAGE and GAE aren’t state funded, and I would think supers could argue paying for GSSA out of local money. Members may choose to join them, but no state money goes directly to them. I could join Students First- would it then be state funded?

Ron F.

August 22nd, 2012
12:57 pm

“Where I come from, we call that kind of statement a “whopper.” I suspect that Rep. Lindsey, Sens. Millar and Rogers, et al, would call it an unethical use of tax dollars, probabbly illegal as well.”

Yes, and I’m sure they wrote the book on ethics…that’s rather like crediting Satan for writing the Bible. I’m sure they attend conferences that support what they believe in, conferences that are one-sided.

I get it now- everything traditional public school- very, very BAD, and we’re just stealing from the taxpayers. Everything charter- perfect, revolutionary, and cutting-edge.

Prof

August 22nd, 2012
1:08 pm

I see that according to that bill discussed by Mary Elizabeth and CS2, the membership of TRS could be substantially reduced if the principals of state chartered schools could prevent their faculty and staff from joining. This in turn could affect the financial stability of TRS…. I wonder if this is connected with the push by some state legislators to reduce state pension payments by TRS that I’ve heard about?

This interests me as a TRS member.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 22nd, 2012
1:54 pm

“PAGE and GAE aren’t state funded, and I would think supers could argue paying for GSSA out of local money. Members may choose to join them, but no state money goes directly to them.”

The conference I’m referencing was not hosted by PAGE, GAE, or GSSA. It was hosted by an organization that is funded by state school dollars, along with local school dollars paid by member districts. Regardless of how anyone feels either way on the issue, for a publicly funded organization to allow GSSA’s executive director to wax all firebrandy on the constitutional amendment issue isn’t the way that the public’s dime is supposed to be spent. And then to lie about it and claim that there was no political presentation made–well, that speaks for itself.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 22nd, 2012
1:55 pm

Prof, all of my staff and I at our state-chartered special school district participate in the TRS system.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 22nd, 2012
2:00 pm

Ron F, if I were to spend the public monies entrusted to our school district in any manner other than legal to the letter, I’d expect to be fired, possibly prosecuted, and our charter school would most likely be closed. When was the last time you saw the latter occur in a public school district in Georgia? The former occurs pretty doggone frequently in some places.

Mary Elizabeth

August 22nd, 2012
2:22 pm

“Prof, all of my staff and I at our state-chartered special school district participate in the TRS system.”
==========================================

The bill regarding the TRS and Special Charter Schools, sponsored by Rep. Jan Jones in the past legislative session, would have given special state charter school principals the OPTION of deciding whether or not to allow their teachers to join the TRS. Principals of these special charter schools would have that option, not their teachers. (Teachers in these special charter schools would only have had the option of whether to accept employment in those schools to begin with.)

That legislative bill was tabled, but it was presented. Even though Dr. Henson’s particular special charter school staff “participate in the TRS system,” if that bill were to be presented and passed in the next legislative session, other special charter school principals might choose to disallow their teaching staff from joining the TRS, in the future.

The essential question to ask is: “Why was that TRS bill for special charter schools created to begin with?”

Dr. Monica Henson

August 22nd, 2012
2:30 pm

I don’t know the answer to the essential question. For my staff and me, all of whom are veterans of the public school system, participation in TRS was an attraction. I thought that some charter schools have their employees participate in their management company’s 401k system now, instead of TRS, but I might be mistaken.

We don’t participate in the state health benefits, but TRS is definitely important for us.

John Konop

August 22nd, 2012
3:03 pm

…….In order to allow my son to receive twenty-six AP credit hours and enter GA Tech as a Biomedical Engineering student this fall, it WAS necessary to send him to a pricey Cobb private school and therefore I am happy with my choice. The same options are not offered at our neighborhood public school. Since I have four intelligent children, this is a costly, albeit, worthwhile investment. The only students admitted to Ga Tech from our over-crowed public school were the top three students. There were ten admitted from the small, private school my children attend. It was either that or move to Finland where teachers are valued and paid accordingly..

In Cherokee county the % of high achieving students (top private school type kids) getting into Georgia Tech was very high in my kids class last year. Also many got into other top schools like U of Chicago, Emory, Cal Berkley…….

Congratulations on your kid getting accepted, but students like that in many high school in Georgia can get the classes they need via AP and or joint enrollment. My wife and I are pleased with preparation out kid got before entering Georgia Tech.

Ron F.

August 22nd, 2012
4:57 pm

“When was the last time you saw the latter occur in a public school district in Georgia? The former occurs pretty doggone frequently in some places.”

Now I can’t quote the numbers without some research, but I do recall hearing recently of folks charged for just that. I’m also not sure your “doggone frequently” is provable either. We’re audited and errors caught when they happen about as well as anywhere else it would seem to me. If you know of any that haven’t been, shouldn’t you be notifying the appropriate legal authorities?

Once again, I’m not trying to nitpick, but it is getting old to hear the outright attacks on a system you claim to want to help change. It would seem you’re more about ending it completely, but I realize I could be wrong. Your words here often come across that way, and I’m sure some of that is a knee-jerk reaction to the criticisms and scrutiny your program faces. I remember being referred to as “foot soldiers for the status quo” in an article of yours I read once, and it didn’t do a whole lot to make me want to read more about what appears to be a well planned system. I just don’t see how we’re ever going to get to the point where your successes will be longed for in traditional public schools if the rhetoric is always so bitter between towards those of us who still believe in what we do in the public system and honestly hope that change will occur. There are a lot of us out there.

Mary Elizabeth

August 22nd, 2012
5:30 pm

“I thought that some charter schools have their employees participate in their management company’s 401k system now, instead of TRS, but I might be mistaken.”
===========================================

That is interesting news, Dr. Henson. Thank you for posting that information for readers.

Here is what I am, now, seeing could happen in the future. Some special charter schools, especially those given authority to function by a Special Commission of Charter Schools (which the Constitutional Amendment would create), whose members would be appointed by a Republican governor, might have principals within those charter schools who would choose the OPTION of disallowing all of their teachers to join Georgia’s Teacher Retirement System – as the TRS bill sponsored by Jan Jones last year gave principals of those special charters the option of doing.

Those principals of those schools might want their teachers to form private, not public, retirement plans, based on “their management company’s 401k system.” Thus, if enough principals of charter schools opt for private market 401k retirement plans for their teachers, then that would be consistent with the Republican ideological agenda of dismantling both public “government” schools and also dismantling “governmental pension plans” of teachers. Mission accomplished – in terms of the Republican ideological agenda of transitioning these state workers from public to private pension plans.

And, imo, Prof is astute to recognize, in posting at 1:08 pm, that if “membership of TRS could be substantially reduced,” that that situation “could affect the financial stability of TRS.”

I will mention, again, that in July a recently retired teacher, at a social social function, had shared with me that a member of the TRS had advised her to retire as soon as she was able because of major changes that would be occurring at the TRS in the next few years. Additionally, a leader of a Georgia professional educator’s organization (one which is not political) had told me – after I informed that person regarding the Jan Jones’ TRS bill in last year’s legislature – that the word-of-mouth was that TRS would be undergoing major changes within the next two or three years.

Prof, also, posted at 1:08 pm: “I wonder if this is connected with the push by some state legislators to reduce state pension payments by TRS that I’ve heard about?”

If you are a member of the Teacher Retirement System of Georgia, you need to connect dots, imo, between charter schools, Republican legislation in Georgia’s House and Senate, and the Teacher’s Retirement System funds. In my opinion, these recent moves are all connected politically, and they are not advantageous for Georgia’s public school teachers as a whole, especially those who are nearing retirement.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 22nd, 2012
10:43 pm

Mary Elizabeth, it would be the charter school’s board of directors that would make any decision regarding whether a staff participated in TRS, not the school’s principal. All Georgia charter schools, even those with management contracts or education services contracts with private, for-profit companies, are governed by nonprofit boards of directors. Therefore, if a charter school staff participated in the management company’s 401k, it would be the decision of the charter school board for that to be the case, not the management company’s decision.

The Charter School Commission members were not all appointed by the Governor–it was a combination of appointments. From the Commission’s bylaws: “The Commission will consist of seven (7) members, with three (3) members being appointed by the State Board of Education from a list of individuals recommended by the Governor of the State of Georgia, two (2) members appointed by the State Board of Education from a list of individuals recommended by the President of the Senate of the State of Georgia, and two (2) members appointed by the State Board of Education from a list of individuals recommended by the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the State of Georgia. The Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall each recommend a list of no fewer than two nominees for each appointment to the Commission. Each member shall serve a term of two (2) years; however, for the purpose of providing staggered terms, of the initial appointments, three (3) members shall be appointed to one-year terms and four (4) members shall be appointed to two-year terms as determined by the Georgia State Board of Education. Thereafter, each appointee shall serve a two-year term unless the State Board of Education, after review and upon recommendation by the initial recommending authority, extends the appointment.”

Dr. Monica Henson

August 22nd, 2012
10:53 pm

As I’ve posted here before, I am the chief administrator of a state-chartered special school, Provost Academy Georgia, that has a contract with an education services provider, EdisonLearning, Inc. I am an employee of the PAGA Board of Directors, NOT EdisonLearning, and the same holds true for all of the school’s employees. There are no EdisonLearning staff on the Board. EdisonLearning does not make any operating decisions for the school. We have contracted with EL to provide us with back-office support in areas such as human resources and finance. We have a School Operations Manager, employed by the Board, who reports to me. She and I make all budget decisions in consultation with the Finance Committe of the Board and seeking input and advice on some issues from the EL Regional Comptroller. EL assists us with grant writing, technology infrastructure, equipment, and support. We enjoy a tremendous staff development resource from EL’s pool of national trainers, all of whom, like my staff and me, are veterans of the public schools. My administrative staff and I design all of our staff development, and EL provides us with trainers and materials based on OUR DESIGN, not a cookie-cutter program dictated by them.

If our Board were to hire administrators and central office staff to do all of the things that EL does for us, we would spend far more on salaries and benefits for them than the annual fee for services that we pay EL. This allows to operate with a very lean central office (only 3 administrators plus a Community Outreach Manager), not the “bloated bureaucracy” that so many on this blog decry.

Provost Academy Georgia does not profit from its own operation. EdisonLearning is a privately held stock corporation and operates on a for-profit basis, making its money on the services we and other schools (most public school districts, not charter schools) purchase from them. All of the other vendors we (and all public schools) deal with, including educational publishers, technology manufacturers, school furniture companies, etc., are for-profit companies. All those who continually bemoan the evil “for-profit charters” need to do a little studying up on what an effective charter management contract looks like.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 22nd, 2012
11:03 pm

Ron F., I don’t want to see the end of public school districts. What I want is a sea change in the attitude of the people who run public school districts, that the schools are places where children are to be educated and educated WELL, not run as employment agencies for adults. I want to see the district monopoly broken and competition introduced, because a rising tide lifts all boats. I have seen firsthand in several districts that the mere idea that a charter school might be introduced pushes school boards and central offices to start offering families more and better choices for their kids in the district programs. I want to see the hypocrisy and lying by those who claim to speak for the education establishment come to a screeching halt, or at least exposed for what it is. I’d like for the education of children to become the true focus of those in charge of public education at the local district level, not control of dollars and decision-making power. Those things will not happen from within the American public school district machine. It will take a revolution from the outside. That’s what I hope to help engineer, in my own little corner of the public school world. My staff and I would like nothing more, three to five years from now, for school districts to call us and say, “Can we come and see what you’re doing so we can do it, too?” Replicating our success, when we achieve it, and scaling it all high schools, those in large school districts in particular, is our dream.

Ron F.

August 22nd, 2012
11:35 pm

And if you do it well, Dr. Henson, they will come. You’re right that much of the administration and leadership in public education needs to be thrown out with yesterday’s newspapers. Go after them, and you might find a lot of us in the system cheering you on and joining the cause. I only ask for caution as you lump teachers into that mix. Many of us who stay in the traditional schools really do care about our jobs and see what we’re doing as an essential part of making education in this country work. I’m not saying don’t push your revolution, just be careful who you label as the enemy. While my view of charter schools has evolved greatly in recent years, I can’t get past the often inflammatory rhetoric that makes us all seem like blind sheep following the herd. Right now, you need our support via votes to gain some ground. It would be beneficial to your cause to recognize the efforts, often silent, of many fantastic educators still on the other side of the fence. Attack the leadership; goodness knows APS and Dekalb alone provide ample opportunity for well deserved scathing commentary. But keep in mind that many of us watching you from this side would feel much better about supporting you if you didn’t label us so caustically for our sacrifice for the sake of, and our love and dedication to, children where we are now.

Mary Elizabeth

August 23rd, 2012
2:27 am

Dr. Henson, 10:43 pm

Thank you for your detailed response to me, and for supplying me with additional information in a courteous manner. Let me address your points, individually, in sequence, which is not how I normally post, but with your post so full of detail, I believe that that format will work better in responding to your post, in this instance.

(1) Dr. Henson: “Mary Elizabeth, it would be the charter school’s board of directors that would make any decision regarding whether a staff participated in TRS, not the school’s principal.”

Mary Elizabeth: Dr. Henson, I have no doubt that that is true regarding your experiences and it may well be true with other charter schools; however, I specifically focused on the fact that in the Jan Jones’ legislative bill regarding the TRS, the words were specifically that “the principal” of the special charter schools would have the option of determiing whether the teaching staff of his/her school would be allowed to become members of the TRS. I recall that word choice very well because I focused, for an extended time, on comparing the options given to “the principal” as compared with those given “the teachers” in those special charter schools relative to those teachers becoming members of the TRS.

Of course, we could both be correct. You are speaking from your experiences and knowledge base as a special charter school administrator, and I am speaking, specifically, of that TRS legislative bill and its wordage.
———————————————————————–

(2) Dr. Henson: “All Georgia charter schools, even those with management contracts or education services contracts with private, for-profit companies, are governed by nonprofit boards of directors. Therefore, if a charter school staff participated in the management company’s 401k, it would be the decision of the charter school board for that to be the case, not the management company’s decision.”

Mary Elizabeth: In your 2:30 pm post, you had stated, “I thought that some charter schools have their employees participate in their management company’s 401k system now, instead of TRS, but I might be mistaken.” You did not mention a Board of Directors at that time, but I had assumed that the principal would have acted in that role in deciding on the management company’s 401k for his staff. It really is a moot point, however, regarding whether the principal or the Board of Directors were to be the decider of the pension plan for teaching staff members in the special charter schools because, in either case, their ideological persuasions may be identical in believing in the value of privatizing teachers’ pensions over the value of continuing to sustain government based pensions through the TRS.(I realize, from your earlier post, that in your particular school that you and your teaching staff value being part of the TRS, but that may not be the persuasion of other Boards of Directors in other Special Charter Schools.)

Moreover, I hope that you and readers will read the following words from the link which I provide below. The article is written by Los Angeles teacher, Sarah Knopp:

“The pressure to cut costs in order to have money left over for expansion forces nonprofit entities to act in a similar fashion to their for-profit cousins.” (I do not know how rapidly EdisonLearning, Inc., the management corporation for your special charter school, seeks to expand its services to others and how that might effect your particular situation. I simply wanted to show that this situation can happen in other charter school cases.)

“There is fierce competition over who will get the contracts, especially among nonprofits. And nonprofits are, of course, allowed to pay their administrators very high salaries as well as keeping a small profit.”

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

The profit motive drives business…. More and more, it’s driving Florida school reform. The vehicle: charter schools. This was not the plan. These schools were to be ‘incubators of innovation,’ free of the rules that govern traditional districts. Local school boards would decide who gets the charters, which spell out how a school will operate and what it will teach. To keep this deal, lawmakers specified that only nonprofit groups would get charters. But six years later, profit has become pivotal…. For-profit corporations create nonprofit foundations to obtain the charters, and then hire themselves to run the schools.34″ (Again, I am not trying to imply this will happen in your particular nonprofit school, I simply wanted the readers to know that this has happened with some charter nonprofts. The number 34 in the quote, above, refers to the documented footnote in Ms. Knopp’s article.)

http://www.isreview.org/issues/62/feat-charterschools.shtml
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(3) Dr. Henson: “The Charter School Commission members were not all appointed by the Governor–it was a combination of appointments. From the Commission’s bylaws: ‘The Commission will consist of seven (7) members, with three (3) members being appointed by the State Board of Education from a list of individuals recommended by the Governor of the State of Georgia, two (2) members appointed by the State Board of Education from a list of individuals recommended by the President of the Senate of the State of Georgia, and two (2) members appointed by the State Board of Education from a list of individuals recommended by the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the State of Georgia. The Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall each recommend a list of no fewer than two nominees for each appointment to the Commission. Each member shall serve a term of two (2) years; however, for the purpose of providing staggered terms, of the initial appointments, three (3) members shall be appointed to one-year terms and four (4) members shall be appointed to two-year terms as determined by the Georgia State Board of Education. Thereafter, each appointee shall serve a two-year term unless the State Board of Education, after review and upon recommendation by the initial recommending authority, extends the appointment.”

Mary Elizabeth: Thank you for this detailed information. Allow me to point out to you and to readers the following sequence of information: Governor Deal, is a Republican and of that persuasion; The President of the Senate, Lt. Govenor Cagle, is a Republican and of that persuasion; The Speaker of the House, Speaker Ralston, is a Republican and of that persuasion. Moreover, as stated in the article above: “Last year, Gov. Nathan Deal purged the state board, replacing longtime members with his own appointees, most of whom support charter schools.”

From that composite list of “deciders” of who will become members of the state Charter School Commission (if the Amendment to the Constitution passes), if appears that the deck is stacked – if you will – for most part, if not all, for those state Charter School Commission members, more than likely, to be of the Republican persuasion, which is to advocate for private market corporations working in conjunction with public charter schools, as their managers and advisors in some situations – and not to advocate for traditional public run “government” schools.

This fact makes me even more uncomfortable with the upcoming Amendment to the Constitution being passed in November regarding the sustaining of our traditional public schools, and it further confirms, in my opinion, my belief that HR 1162, which became this Constitutional Amendment, has had as many political goals as educational ones.
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It is very late, so that I will respond to your 10:53 pm post tomorrow. Again, thank you for the details contained within your post at 10:43 pm, as well as for the time and effort that you gave toward sharing those details on this blog.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 23rd, 2012
10:20 am

Mary Elizabeth posted, ‘From that composite list of “deciders” of who will become members of the state Charter School Commission (if the Amendment to the Constitution passes), if appears that the deck is stacked – if you will – for most part, if not all, for those state Charter School Commission members, more than likely, to be of the Republican persuasion, which is to advocate for private market corporations working in conjunction with public charter schools, as their managers and advisors in some situations – and not to advocate for traditional public run ‘government’ schools.”

Well, I’m a Blue Dog Democrat, and a card-carrying member of Democrats for Education Reform. I am very much in favor of public schools–charter or district–working with privately held corporations, nonprofits, and anyone else who can provide services that are research-based best practices that WORK FOR KIDS to improve education.

Improvement of failing schools and eliminating bad practices at all schools is not a partisan issue. The national Democratic Party, the NEA, the AFT, the AASA, the NSBA, et al, don’t OWN the issue of public education the way they used to. I don’t share the “conspiracy theory” mentality of many of the posters to this blog. I don’t believe that there is a nefarious Republican plot to dismantle the public school system in this country and replace it with a privatized system. I also don’t believe that the re-establishment of the Charter Schools Commission would set up a “shadow” privatized system of public education.

There is a battle going on right now between those of us who are willing to face the fact that many children are being shortchanged in the worst way by being held hostage to the public schools in their districts. We have to do something to help them, and waiting for the school districts to fix the problem hasn’t worked. Creating charter schools that demonstrate best practices that work is a very public way to force the hand of school boards, central offices, and other foot soldiers of the status quo (yes, Ron F., I use that phrase when it’s appropriate) that it is not acceptable to waste children’s time any longer.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 23rd, 2012
10:44 am

EnteRon F, thank you for your constructive criticism. I have been quite caustic at times in my characterization of the education establishment for what I believe is very good reason–but know this, I am a champion of teachers who take the time to know best practice and use it in their classrooms, who do whatever it takes, who don’t complain about kids and parents, who aren’t afraid to be judged based on how their students perform on a variety of assessments, both standardized and teacher-created–in other words, those who get it done. They are not legion in the American public school system. We need more people like that to go into public education and STAY in it. The reasons why we don’t have that are numerous, but bad administrators, meddling school board members with political axes to grind, pay cuts and furloughs, and other outside-the-classroom factors are prime among them.

Having said that, public school teachers are going to have to become part of the solution, not defenders of the status quo. Continuing to fight to the death to preserve a compensation structure that rewards longevity over performance doesn’t help public opinion of teachers. Complaining constantly over class sizes in spite of the research base hurts their credibility. Continuing to pay union dues, and those who pay GAE dues are supporting the political agenda of the NEA, hurts their credibility as well.

We pay our teachers and advisors at Provost Academy Georgia competitive salaries, give them excellent corporate benefits, and ensure their membership in TRS. We are working in this, our first year, to explore options for making our salary structure one that takes into account the growth of the school and the performance outcomes of our students, not a simple series of step raises. Teachers and advisors will be leading this exploration, with the help of our School Operations Manager and EdisonLearning’s school finance experts. I’d rather pay truly great teachers (”great” being determined by several objective factors, not my personal opinion) salaries exceeding $75,000 a year as our enrollment grows and let them use technology tools and differentiated instructional strategies to manage class loads far beyond what they would have in a brick-and-mortar classroom, than pay a building full of teachers with wildly varying levels of skill, experience, and accomplishment based on the number of years they’ve been working and keep their class loads at 150 or fewer. And I have an entire staff filled with fantastic teachers, all veterans of the Georgia public school system, except for one who has taught in the cloud his entire career, who agree. We are all tired of trying to fight the system from within to engineer the kind of changes that need to happen to make school work for KIDS instead of adults.

We got tired of trying to think outside the box. Now, we are creating our own box.

Mary Elizabeth

August 23rd, 2012
11:58 am

Dr. Henson, 10:20 am

“I don’t share the ‘conspiracy theory’ mentality of many of the posters to this blog. I don’t believe that there is a nefarious Republican plot to dismantle the public school system in this country and replace it with a privatized system.
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In all due respect, Dr. Henson, I will turn 70 years old later this year and, being the daughter of a dynamic governmental publc servant, the city manager of a South Georgia town, who had been a ghost writer for a progressive governor of Georgia, and who knew powerful politicians, personally, such as Sen. Herman Talmadge and Sen. Sam Nunn, and who was a Democratic campaign organizer in South Georgia for many statewide political elections, I have followed political movements all of my life, especially as a result of being his daughter. Also, having spent seven years of my early adult life in New York City, where I received my undergraduate degree, I also have seen another, more liberal political and philosophical vision than has existed, and still exists, in Georgia, today, for the most part. Later, as the city manager of a North Georgia town, my father had welcomed Sen. Robert Kennedy there, and my father, also, was an admirer of President John Kennedy, as well as of FDR, both progressive, if not liberal, Democratic presidents.

I believe you are speakfully truthfully about what you believe, but I also believe that you are either naive as to what is happening politically in this nation and state, or you must work so closely with the powers-that-be in your line of work that you simply have decided not to see what is happening.

I would urge you, and other readers, to read about ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) in depth. This organization was formed in the mid-1970s and has a significant number of Georgia’s Republican polticians among its members. State Sen. Chip Rogers is the National Treasurer for ALEC. Sen. Rogers, of course, is Georgia’s Senate Majority Leader. Observe carefully who has funded ALEC over the decades. The great majority of its funders have not been Democrats. The Koch Brothers have been among its major funders.

I would also urge you – and others – to read about the national, and state Republican ideological agenda not only to privatize public education, but also to privatize Social Security, and Medicare. I am sure that you must have heard of the phrase “starving the beast of government,” the philosophy of which many Republicans have endorsed. (The efforts by Republicans to dismantle Social Security have been attempted by Republicans since FDR, with whom most Republicans have fervertly disagreed in political philosophy. Franklin Roosevelt, of course, established Social Security so that all Americans never, again, would have to undergo the severe hardships which they endured during the Great Depression. As late as a few years ago, President George W. Bush pursued a committed campaign to privatize Social Security, but his efforts were not supported by the majority of the American people.

Read the work of Common Cause, Media Matters, Nobel Prize Winner of Economics, Dr. Paul Krugman, in his columns for the New York Times, the blog of Katrina vanden Heuvel of the politcal magazine “The Nation,” at the link, http://www.thenation.com/blogs/katrina-vanden-heuvel, and specifically, read lengthy article entitled, “Covert Operations:The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama” by Jane Mayer in “The New Yorker” magazine, August 30, 2010, to become more savvy into what has, in fact, has been happening for decades in America to turn our nation into one which embraces a more “Ayn Randian,” libertarian, business model, within its policies and institutions, including those within education. That article mentions the political group, Americans for Prosperity, of which I think you and others should also be made aware.

Personally, I believe that there should be a balance in vision and policies. I also believe that this nation has been led to become out-of balance in its vision and policies. I am trying to help restore that balance.

I am, also, an advocate for traditional public education, functioning at its best. I spent almost a decade working closely with an outstanding instructionally-based principal who had been the Associate Superintendent of Instruction in the metro county school system where I worked. He promoted me to become his Instructional Lead Teacher. I have never seen a private, or a charter school, come close to understanding, and implementing, the intricacies of instruction for each student’s continuous academic advancement as this principal had accomplished in his model, multiaged grouping, team-teaching school. It functioned as a public school model, at its best.

I believe that charter schools can work closely with traditional public schools for the betterment of both. They need to work in harmony with one another. I urge all readers to read the link which I have given previously to the Sarah Knopp 20-page article on the charter school movement in America to understand better the politics, and national dynamics, within the charter school movement.

Dr. Henson, I will now attempt to address your 10:53 pm post last evening, with specificity.

LD

August 23rd, 2012
12:08 pm

@Dr. Henson – I’m very interested on some of the specific ways you’re changing the box. The charters in my area, imo, really did nothing “innovative;” they used different texts, and a slightly different delivery model, but nothing that I hadn’t seen before. When I asked one of the principals which sections of Title XX they had waivered for classrooms/instruction, the answer was, “None.” I do know that some students need a different environment than their zoned school. However, in all the my reading about, talking to people at, and (limited) visitation of charter schools, I have not heard of anything in instruction that is remarkably different. Any SPECIFIC examples you can give are appreciated.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 23rd, 2012
1:00 pm

LD, we are a virtual charter high school. Currently, all of our students work “in the cloud” from home. We offer a complete catalog of high school courses and require our kids to earn at least two STEM elective credits in addition to their Georgia graduation requirements. Our course catalog contains 12 STEM courses beyond the graduation requirements, including Java, HTML, Sports Medicine, Superstars of Science, Forensics, and Introductions to four different types of engineering. We offer a full slate of Advanced Placement courses as well, and a variety of special education support services.

Our courses are designed to be engaging and interesting, and our teachers are among the best in the state, all Georgia-certified. Much of the student work is done asynchronously, with teachers intervening when it becomes apparent that a student has difficulty, or when a student requests assistance or a conference. This practice allows the teachers freedom from having to create traditional daily lesson plans and manage behavior to prevent disruption of student learning. Many assignments can be computer-scored, reserving the teachers’ time for providing thoughtful feedback on “big” assignments such as essays, research projects, etc.

Students are able to advance as quickly as they wish, as long as they can demonstrate mastery of their subjects. In this regard, we are revolutionizing the concept of time as it relates to high school. It is entirely feasible, for example, that a student who is strong in English might start 9th Grade Literature this month and finish it by October, and World History by December, while taking until February or later to finish the math and science courses. Rather than making the student wait until the end of the semester or school year to start the 10th Grade English and History courses, they can start as soon as they’ve finished the 9th Grade courses, continuing to work in math and science at a slower pace as needed.

Our students are case-managed by Advisors who carry a much lower caseload than traditional high school guidance counselors. Advisors check in regularly with kids and their families and serve as their primary point of contact for the school.

Online learning exclusively isn’t for everyone, but it sure does appeal to an awful lot of kids. For our urban students at high risk of dropping out, we are in the process of opening Magic Johnson Bridgescape centers. Our Teachers and Advisors will work from the centers, providing the caring adult connection for the at-risk students who will attend in four-hour shifts. Those students will spend about 80% of their time at the centers working at high-tech stations on their online coursework. They’ll have the benefit of Teachers in person to provide tutoring and pull-out instruction, often remedial reading, as needed, as well as a daily check-in with their Advisors. Unlike the Performance Learning Center model (”sold” by a Georgia nonprofit organization, by the way), our Magic Johnson Bridgescape centers will not screen out kids who read below the 8th grade level, or restrict them only to students who have presented no disciplinary issues in the past. Unlike some privately run alternative centers for at-risk high schoolers who pay their staff very low salaries and consequently end up with not the best teachers, we are staffing our centers with the same outstanding and accomplished faculty who also teach our honors and AP students in the cloud. This is, in my opinion, the single best and most significant innovation we offer–ALL kids get the BEST teachers. We couldn’t do this in a brick-and-mortar model with the traditional staffing structure, which limits the resources of time and space. We’d have to choose which kids get the strong teachers and which ones get the lesser teachers. This way, everyone wins.

We are spending our very first School Year Staff Development Day in a couple of weeks doing staff development “in the cloud.” We will use webinars for Teachers and Advisors to confer with our EdisonLearning technology partners and see how it’s going with the eSchoolware learning management system. We’ll send out training materials on child abuse reporting and sexual harassment for staff to review at their own pace, modeling what our Teachers do for our students in class.

We have taken our pool of staff development money and divided it evenly among all of our Teachers and Advisors, given them the authority to spend it, and will allow them to choose the trainings and conferences that most appeal to them. Any schoolwide training and development we provide onsite in Atlanta is tailored to staff requests and differentiated by needs assessments, not presented in isolated sit-and-get sessions that we administrators plan in order to fill 8 hours.

Those are a few specific things we are doing differently.

Mary Elizabeth

August 23rd, 2012
2:34 pm

@Dr. Henson, 10:53 pm, August 22, 2012

I had planned to have a response to your 10:53 pm post of last evening by this time, but I have been studying and becoming informed regarding Provost Academy, Georgia, as well as becoming more informed about Edison Learning, Inc., and Magic Johnson Enterprises and the Magic Johnson Foundation.

Some of what I have learned, I have been pleased to discover. I do, however, have questions regarding other elements of which I have learned. It may be as late as tomorrow before I can construct a cohesive post regarding the wealth of knowledge of which I am learning today.

Would you be so good as to tell me the current student population of the Provost Academy in which you are the chief administrator? Also, could you tell me the number of certified teachers that you have on your staff. And, If this is not an inappropriate question for public knowledge, I would, also, appreciate knowing what your annual operating cost is, or what your budget is, annually, in order to operate each school year. Knowing that would help me analyze with greater depth. Would you break your annual funding down into how much money you receive from the state of Georgia via public tax money as a charter school, how much you receive from grants, (and from where the grants come, if possible), and how much money your school receives from the Magic Johnson Foundation? There may be, also, be other sources of funding for your school of which I am unaware. Would you be able to educate the public to those sources of funds, also.

I would need that information, along with the information which I am in the process of learning, to respond with depth. I salute your efforts to work with students who have dropped out of school, or who are in the process of doing so. As a former public school teacher and leader, I was, also, highly motivated to serve those particular students with as much skill and compassion as I could generate. We have more in common than you might realize.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 23rd, 2012
9:22 pm

Mary Elizabeth, everything you ask for is public record because we are a public school. Our enrollment as of today is at 269 students. We have a goal of 750 students for School Year 2013 and will accept students all year-round. If we have more then 750 enrollees, then we will happily accept them.

We currently employ nine Georgia-certified teachers and five degreed advisors, all of whom have either teaching or counseling certificates, some also with social work licensure, and several with graduation coach experience. We also employ three administrators, including me, a community outreach manager, an administrative assistant, and a data owner (more commonly known as a registrar).

Our state funding is approximately $4,440 per pupil. We won an Implementation Grant in the amount of $600,000 from the State Board of Education. This grant is part of a federal block grant for charter schools from the U.S. Department of Education. As a public school, we are eligible to draw Title I, Title IIA, IDEA (special education funding), and funding for alternative education for students who present at high risk. We are in the process of finalizing the specifics, but I anticipate our operating budget to be in the neighborhood of $5 million for this first year of school. Our community outreach manager is working with the grants department at EdisonLearning to identify additional sources of grant funding available to public schools.

We do not receive any funding from the Magic Johnson Foundation or from Magic Johnson Enterprises. Mr. Johnson has designated 5% of his Foundation’s scholarships annually for Bridgescape graduates, so some of our students may benefit from those if they meet the Foundation’s qualifications. We will receive assistance from MJE’s marketing department in the form of forging relationships and setting up partnerships with businesses in the communities we serve so that our students will receive mentoring and work-based experiences such as internships and job shadowing opportunities.

I think we have a lot in common, Mary Elizabeth, especially when it comes to teaching and learning. I read quite a lot of the same things you mention in your posts; my interpretation of them is substantially different, I suspect. :)

Dr. Monica Henson

August 23rd, 2012
9:31 pm

Also, we have applied for a state Facilities Grant that would provide us $30,000 in reimbursement of our lease of space for our headquarters and flagship Magic Johnson Bridgescape center in downtown Atlanta. We have not been notified whether we have won this grant.

John Konop

August 24th, 2012
8:46 am

Dr. Henson demonstrates this issue about charter schools is not black and white. I support strong well run opportunities that her school provides. And I do think the public schools should embrace what she is doing and cordinate with her. On the other hand I am suspect of some charter schools which are not tightly run with have very little value add. We tax payers should be put in a situation that the charter school is at less risk than the tax payers while the money goes to a private venture.

LD

August 24th, 2012
10:17 am

@Dr. Henson – thank you for your detailed response. I think your plans are wonderful! However, in reading your plans, it would appear that the only classroom waiver you are implementing is the seat time requirement (by allowing your students to work at their own pace). If there are others, please let me know. The rest of your plans appear (to me) to be the best practices of instruction, intervention, and mentoring. I wish you the best of luck!

John Konop

August 24th, 2012
10:20 am

Sorry,

….We tax payers should NOT be put in a situation that the charter school is at less risk than the tax payers while the money goes to a private venture……

Dr. Monica Henson

August 24th, 2012
11:04 am

LD, we hold a “blanket” waiver of Title 20. We have the ability to invoke several waivers as we need them.

So far, we are using mastery learning for credits, which is not a Title 20 waiver. This is possible because we are essentially an alternative school, although not all of our students are “typical” alternative school students. Only those who meet the state’s criteria as alt. ed. students will generate that funding stream, but all of our students are able to take advantage of mastery credit instead of seat time.

“Class size” in the traditional sense doesn’t apply to us because of the nature of virtual learning and mastery credit. Our teachers will carry far larger class loads than a brick-and-mortar teacher would, but their use of the technology platform and individualized learning plans and pacing for students allow them to manage those loads effectively–this seems to most educators to be a paradox, more kids + individualizing their learning is not only possible but easier than traditional teaching, but it really does work. I did this myself in my own classroom when I was a teacher (back when the earth was cooling :) )–individualized learning plans and pacing–and I was able to manage relatively large class sizes of 35+ English students and still assign lots of essays and projects. By concentrating the teacher’s grading time on “big” projects, and allowing for computer-scoring of “minor” assessments (I used a grading station and self-scoring by students, as I didn’t have all the technology bells and whistles available to me back then), teachers’ time is freed up for the studentswho really need individual and small- group attention. We also benefit from a tutor pool that is available 8 AM to 10 PM in the interactive research center in our learning management system–this is provided by EdisonLearning as part of our annual education services contract.

Students are able to access reteaching and re-assessment in the LMS courseware if they are unable to demonstrate mastery on a particular concept, similar to the concept of “reaching the next level” in gaming. However, if they don’t show mastery, they don’t simply repeat the same instruction–the system provides a different method of reteaching before allowing the student to retry the assessment (randomly generated items ensure that they don’t just memorize the questions). After a few tries of reteaching and reassessment, the LMS generates an Alert to the Student, Teacher, Advisor, and Parent. The Advisor consults with the Teacher and the student can either be referred to a central services tutoring appointment, which the Advisor can help the student set up, or the Teacher may elect to conduct a live learning session (similar to Go To Meeting, except with video capability) with the student, or a group of students with the same issue.

Teachers will use several different research-based best practices in online instruction. Pretty much all of these do not require a waiver under Title 20.

We don’t need to observe square footage of space per student, because most of our students will work in the cloud and not in a center. Federal ADA requirements are not waivable, so our centers will have to meet those specifications. State safety requirements are not waiveable, either.

I hope that this clarifies the waiver issue for you.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 24th, 2012
11:08 am

Mr. Konop, and any readers of this blog: please feel free to visit us anytime! We plan to have the Atlanta flagship center open by early November, and our satellite Magic Johnson Bridgescape centers in Macon, Augusta, and Savannah open by or before spring semester, as long as we meet our enrollment targets and have the funding available. Our books are wide open for the public to see, and we welcome public questions and scrutiny. We are truly creating our own box, and we are excited to share it with the world, especially the taxpayers who are enabling us to embark on this marvelous adventure into the future of high school education.

Mary Elizabeth

August 24th, 2012
4:11 pm

Dr. Henson, 9:22 pm, August 23, 2012

As I had mentioned in my 2:34 pm post to you yesterday, I salute your efforts, and those of your staff, at the Provost Academy, especially regarding those students who have dropped out, or who may drop out, of school. I, also, want to thank you for providing the details in your post through which I could analyze, with specificity.

I spent yesterday reading your comments, and researching information not only regarding Provost Academies, but also regarding Edison Learning, Inc., the corporation which your Board of Directors has hired to manage or to assist your school. I, also, read about the Magic Johnson Foundation (and Magic Johnson Enterprises) with which Provost Academy will be working. I, also, want to salute Magic Johnson’s efforts in behalf of students who are at risk for dropping out of school.

However, in studying the financial data, carefully, I want the public to realize the following:

Your school serves 269 students and your annual budget is (approximately) $5 million dollars.

The DeKalb School System serves over 102, 000 students, and it has an annual operating budget of 774.6 million dollars (for 2012, per Wikipedia).

To serve 102, 000 students (as the DCSS does) in schools such as Provost Charter Schools each with an annual budget of 5 million dollars, would take 380 charter schools (such as Provost) and would cost that public school system $1,900 million annually, instead of the $774.6 million annually that it presently costs the DCSS to serve 102, 000 students within its traditional public schools.

That increase in cost would force the DCSS annual budget to be 2.4 times greater than it presently is. That means that to educate all 102,000 students – with as low an enrollment as your school presently has (269 students) with an annual operating expense of 5 million dollars – would take 380 charter schools and would cost tax payers 2.4 times more than they are presently paying to educate all 102, 000 of DeKalb County’s public school students.

If the powers-that-be were to grant $1,900 million dollars to the DCSS for its annual budget instead of its present 774.6 million dollars annual budget to serve all 102, 000 students in that metro public school system, (which would be 2.4 times greater than the present annual budget), I would imagine that instruction in the DCSS would be greatly enhanced, also, especially if administrative and overhead costs were kept to a minimum, and the additional funds were to be placed on enhancing public/teacher interaction and instruction.

There is only so much money from taxes for education in this state. The money must be carefully allocated. If the amendment to the Constitution were to pass in November, the state Charter Commission could assign as many special charter schools as it desired without accounting to individual school systems throughout the state, but the money going to those special charter schools would eventually reduce the money allocated to those traditional public schools systems throughout the state, simply because, again, there is only so much money to be allocated to public schools in Georgia.

These are reasons why I strongly support the authorization of the number of public charter schools assigned in Georgia to be kept to the local school districts’ Boards of Education. They, alone, will be able to equitably determine how many charter schools should be assigned to serve ALL of the students in their districts. I am not against charter schools, and from the excellent work done in Dr. Henson’s school with students, I think that some public charter schools – working with traditional public schools to enhance instruction for every public school student in Georgia – could greatly enhance the instruction of all of Georgia’s students. However, the numbers of charter schools within each district must be kept under control and balanced with all the public schools in each district, for financial reasons and balancing, in order to serve equitably all of the public school students in each school district throughout this state.

I have much more to add from my research yesterday, but I will post my thoughts in sequential posts, in the next day or two. This is enough, now, to post, regarding the budgetary aspects of balancing public charter schools with traditional public schools in Georgia.

Mary Elizabeth

August 24th, 2012
5:53 pm

I should mention that not all of this year’s annual operating budget of Dr. Henson’s charter school comes from public tax dollars.

Mary Elizabeth

August 24th, 2012
9:27 pm

CORRECTION to my 4:11 pm post:

I stated, twice, at 4:11 pm that it would take the DeKalb School System’s creating “380 charter schools” to serve all of that large school district’s 102, 000 students in settings whereby each of its schools would serve as few students as are presently being served in Dr. Henson’s charter school of 269 students.

I was thinking, but did not write effectively, that it would take the DeKalb School System’s creating “380 charter-LIKE schools” (similar to small magnet schools) to serve all of . . . . . .”
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I need to be that definitive with my word change from “charter” to “charter-like” in order to clarify that the DeKalb School System could not possibly rely on 380 public charter schools – each financially dependent upon receiving grant money yearly in order to operate – in order to serve all of its 102,000 students, yearly. A school system of that size and impact must have continuity and cohesion from year to year. Thus, it must rely on public taxes – and not on grants which can be withdrawn from year to year – in order not only to operate not only for a given year’s duration, but also to be able to project programs and policies for the next several years, and even to project for the next decade. Thus, the great majority of its schools – regardless of how large or how small each individual school might be in population – must rely upon public taxes which are stable, rather than upon grants, which are more precarious as to whether or not they will be forthcoming from year to year.

Mary Elizabeth

August 24th, 2012
10:11 pm

Dr. Henson stated in her post at 9:22 pm last evening, August 23, 2012, the following:

“Our state funding is approximately $4,440 per pupil. We won an Implementation Grant in the amount of $600,000 from the State Board of Education. This grant is part of a federal block grant for charter schools from the U.S. Department of Education. As a public school, we are eligible to draw Title I, Title IIA, IDEA (special education funding), and funding for alternative education for students who present at high risk.”
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Dr. Henson, further, stated in that same post:

“Our community outreach manager is working with the grants department at EdisonLearning to identify additional sources of grant funding available to public schools.”
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According to my math, since Dr. Henson’s charter school serves 269 students, and since her school will have been allotted $4,400.00 in per pupil funds from the state, that means that Dr. Henson’s school will have received $1,194,360.00 from the state from public taxes for her $5,000,000.00 operating budget for this year. That would mean that the remaining amount of money needed for her charter school’s 5 million dollar operating budget for this year would need to be forthcoming from grants. Of that additional amount of grant money needed, the “Implementation Grant in the amount of $600,000 from the State Board of Education” has already been awarded.

These financial factors all need to be recognized and weighed. Again, I do appreciate the fact that Dr. Henson has been willingly transparent in sharing her charter school’s funding and budgetary information for the coming year with the public.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 24th, 2012
11:37 pm

Mary Elizabeth, our budget is a work-in-progress right now while we are in the startup phase. My $5 million guesstimate for the full fiscal year 2013 is exactly that–a best guess, based on our efforts to predict the future. We have kept our staffing and facilities expenses low enough to be able to operate the virtual school on the actual dollars generated by our enrollment. The “real” budget should be complete by the end of the coming week.

The students who will populate the Magic Johnson Bridgescape centers will draw down brick-and-mortar charter funding, which will be approximately $6,400+ per pupil, in addition to alternative education funding and potentially some IDEA funding as well. We have based our initial budget estimates on our “best guess” that our Bridgescape students would generate an additional $2.4 million in alt. ed. and brick-and-mortar funding. We have no way of knowing for sure how many of those students we will attract outside of metro Atlanta.

As of today (Friday 8/24), we have a total of 332 students enrolled, with a Savannah-area cluster looking like the first one that could grow large enough to populate a satellite center outside of ATL. The good news is that enrollment is robust and shows no sign of stopping for now, and we are in the process of remodeling and fitting out our flagship Magic Johnson Bridgescape center downtown. We hope to have it open in early November.

We are enjoying the benefit of EdisonLearning’s Enrollment Services Center, which markets our school via direct mail, radio and television ads in markets outside of metro Atlanta, and our website. They also process enrollments and track activity for us in a weekly dashboard. I have to remind readers that we receive this service as part of our annual management fee we pay to EL, and it is a tremendous value for the money.

This is the great benefit of entering into a contract for educational services and support with a private, for-profit company–for the price of what a metro Atlanta district would pay in salary alone for two experienced central office administrators, we are getting full service enrollment and marketing, public relations, human resouces, financial management assistance, a complete learning management system and technical support for it, central services tutoring for our students, and training and staff development for our administrators and teachers. That’s an economy of scale that we could not possibly attain on our own.

In the interest of full disclosure :) , I’d like to point out that I spent one year working for EdisonLearning as their employee, so I’ve had a unique opportunity to see “the inner workings” of their education services division. They are a terrific company, and I can’t say enough about how well they support our school. They earn every penny of every dollar we pay them, and the value we receive is amazing. I am confident that in the spring, our student performance outcomes will demonstrate that our partnership is a great value for the taxpayers.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 24th, 2012
11:41 pm

“That would mean that the remaining amount of money needed for her charter school’s 5 million dollar operating budget for this year would need to be forthcoming from grants.”

Not true–federal Title, IDEA, and alternative education funding, along with the brick-and-mortar charter differential would make up the remaining funds. It would be fiscally irresponsible to launch a school without clear, reliable funding streams in place. The Charter Schools Division at GaDOE reviews all state special charter applications rigorously, and had we forecast the need for nearly $2 million in grants other than state and federal block grants, they never would have recommended us to the State Board of Education for approval.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 24th, 2012
11:45 pm

A final note: we also had to submit “contingency” budgets showing how we would make adjustments if our actual enrollment was far short of our 750-FTE goal. Again, this is part of the caution that GaDOE’s Charter Schools Division exercises in ensuring financial viability.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 25th, 2012
8:21 am

“I should mention that not all of this year’s annual operating budget of Dr. Henson’s charter school comes from public tax dollars.”

Federal block grants (Title, IDEA) are tax-funded. State allotments for FTE are tax-funded. Alternative education supplements are tax-funded. The Implementation & Facilities Grants are tax-funded. I’m not sure where you get the idea that not all of our operating budget comes from public tax dollars. I would love for us to win some funding from private individual donors, which is by far the biggest source of philanthropy in the U.S., as well as nonprofit and corporate grants, but so far we haven’t applied for any.

John Konop

August 25th, 2012
9:04 am

In all due respect Mary the per pupil funding amount is less than we pay now. I realize virtual learning is not for everyone and or every class. My own niece uses a vitual learning charter school and it has worked very well for her. In my opion public schools should embrace this concept and use it conjunction with their facilities. Why not let students use this and still be eligible for extra curricular activities, classes offerd in high schools…….. It seems a hybrid joint projects could be put together that would create more options and save tax payers money by joint use of facilities, facultiy……. We must move past this us verse them debate, and Intead work toward improving the system. I have no doubt after reading your debate with Dr. Henson both of you have the students best interest at heart. But in life must issues are not black and white, we must find the best shades of gray.

Mary Elizabeth

August 25th, 2012
10:50 am

Dr. Henson, I think that you and I are having a dialogue on this thread which should be very valuable to the general public regarding the best use of public charter schools to best serve the students in Georgia. I appreciate this exchange. I must raise some concerns I have about public charter schools, however, and I believe that others may share some of my concerns. Our dialogue on this blog will give you an opportunity to response to my concerns, and vice versa.

I will number the concerns I have, for clarity. I will use more than one post for these concerns.

(1) My first concern compares the cost of funding individual and relatively autonomous public charter schools with the cost of serving a much greater number of students in county or city public school districts.

You stated the following at 11:37 pm, August 24, 2012: “This is the great benefit of entering into a contract for educational services and support with a private, for-profit company (Edison Learning, Inc.) – for the price of what a metro Atlanta district would pay in salary alone for two experienced central office administrators, we are getting full service enrollment and marketing, public relations, human resouces, financial management assistance, a complete learning management system and technical support for it, central services tutoring for our students, and training and staff development for our administrators and teachers.”

I must point out that Provost School serves only about 300 students (269 was the student population which I had used previously to compare with a large metro school district’s operation, the DeKalb County School System, and, as of yesterday, 8/24/12, your enrollment had increased to 332 students). DCSS serves over 102,000 students. I had mentioned that it would take around 380 charter-like schools, similar to yours, to serve all of those 102,000 in DeKalb County. If each one of those 380 schools had to hire a management company such as Edison Learning, Inc. for the services it would provide for EACH of its 380 charter-like schools, then the total expense would be much more than having a few administrators do the same job for the WHOLE school system as Edison Learning, Inc. does for Provost School.

Let us examine the specifics. You say that you are able to hire the services of Edison Learning, Inc. for the cost of two county-level administrators of a major school district. I would estimate that each county office administrator would earn about $100,000. per year. That would mean that two county-level administrators would earn about $200,000. per year. So, I would assume that you are paying Edison Learning, Inc. somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000. per year for their services.That would mean that you would be paying them about 4% of your total operating budget for the year. However, you must remember that your management compay serves only about 300 students, and since 380 charter-like schools, similar to yours, would be needed to serve all of DeKalb County’s students, then the cost to the taxpayer would be about $76,000,000. to serve all 102,000 students, or just under 10% (9.8%) of its total 2012 operating budget of $774,600,000. – a much higher number than simply paying two public school central office administrators $200,000. to oversee the same role that Edison Learning, Inc. does for your school of 332 students, for the entire school system of 102,000 students. (I realize that the DCSS would need more than two administrators to perform the same functions you mention for the whole system, but not a great many more. The savings to the DCSS comes through having a large number of schools -143 – and their total student populations -102,000 – served under one Board of Education, instead of a myrial of smaller, almost autonomous public charter schools such as Provost, each of which would hire its own management company such as Edison Learning, Inc. Also, I realize that the salary of a DSCC county office administrator could be either be lower or higher than I estimated. For instance, if you are paying Edison Learning, Inc. closer to $400,000. yearly, instead of the $200.000. which I had estimated above, then that percentage of your total operating budget would increase to 8%.) The point is that dividing students into smaller units of rather autonomous public charter schools does not appear to be financially sound for the school system, as a whole, or for the taxpayer. Therefore, the number of public charter schools which operate within each district must remain controlled and perhaps limited. It seems to me that the best way to help all of the students would be to focus those limited charter schools on serving at risk students who are candidates for dropping out of school, as your school does, since the drop out rate is so high – between 34% and 40%. The percentage is higher for minority students.

The reading public may be interested to know that I have analyzed some of the actual figures that “Charter Starter, Too” posted to this blog on August 20, 2012, relative to Georgia’s public school systems that use the services of a for-profit managing company, in order to let the public know what percentage of the overall operating budget for a given school system the hired, for-profit, managing company would be receiving. The DeKalb School System was not listed in that group; however, another metro school system, based on that list, did use the services of the for-profit managing company mentioned. That school system was the Cobb County School System. I was able to find that the operating budget for CCSS for 2013 is $841,000,000., or 841 million dollars (googled). The figures given by CS2 for the CCSS to hire the for profit management company, Ombudsman, was $2,533,587.50. for 2011. I realize that it is not totally valid to get a percentage based on two different years for the operating budgets of the school district (2011 for the Ombudsman management service cost to the CCSS, and 2013 for the overall operating budget for the CCSS); nevertheless, giving this percentage will help the public analyze more closely than not giving a percentage at all. I was not able to find the CCSS’s operating budget for 2011. The percentage of $2,533,587.50 (for Ombudsman’s services in 2011 to the CCSS) to the overall operating budget of the CCSS for 2013, of $841,000,000., is less than 1% of the overall operating budget; it is approximately .3% of the overall operating budget paid for by public taxes. It seems that the profit motivation in public school systems may be less than thought.

Dr. Henson, I do have some concerns about public charter schools hiring management companies based on a for-profit basis. I believe that your intentions are centered on the students’ growth at Provost, instead of on profit, but I am not at all certain that that would hold true for all public charter schools who hire managment companies that are based on for-profit. I will pose my concerns, in this regard, in my next post on this thread.

Before I leave this post, however, I should state for the public that, although Provost’s per pupil funding will increase from $4,440. to $6,400.+, once Magic Johnson’s brick and mortar Bridgescape schools are added to the Provost School’s online design, you had stated that Edison Learning, Inc. would be helping you to write applications for additional grants – so that that part of your budget may be more precarious from year to year than the more consistently stable operating budgets of county school systems, it would seem.

Mary Elizabeth

August 25th, 2012
11:10 am

John Konop, 9:04 am

I have always voiced that I thought that public charter schools should work in harmony with traditional public schools to find the best answers and choices for all students. It is my position that the assignment of public charter schools should remain with the local school districts, instead of with the state of Georgia’s Charter Commission, so that the local districts might better manage their financial allotments to serve all of the students’ needs in the district.. I continue to maintain that the number of charter schools in each district must be carefully weighed, balancing that number against the greater good of serving the interests of all of the students in the school district.

It is not my position that the Constitutional amendment – which would create a state Charter Commission – would give the financial stability nor the instructional cohesion that would serve the best insterests of all of the students in the state of Georgia because those schools special charter schools would be removed from accountablity to the local school districts, which give close attention to detail in their areas. Appeal based on disagreement with local school districts is already available by law to the state Board of Education through Georgia’s Superintendent of Schools.

Mary Elizabeth

August 25th, 2012
11:39 am

Dr. Monica Henson, 8:21 am

“I’m not sure where you get the idea that not all of our operating budget comes from public tax dollars. I would love for us to win some funding from private individual donors, which is by far the biggest source of philanthropy in the U.S., as well as nonprofit and corporate grants, but so far we haven’t applied for any.”
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I was trying to state that I believed you received part of your operating budget from grants from corporations, as well as from per pupil funding – since at that point in our dialogue – I did not see how per pupil money, alone, of $4,440. per pupil, would complete your estimated operating budget of 5 million dollars for the year. It was only after I had posted my 5:53 pm post yesterday, that I learned, through your subsequent post, about the possible per pupil increase to $6,400.+ (for some students with the Magic Johnson addition of Bridgescape schools), did I understand how this increase in per pupil monies would complete your budget, in large part, for this coming year.

Again, thank you for the invaluable information which you are sharing. I am learning as we interact, and I am trying to analyze with cohesion and with whatever depth I can muster, as we continue to interact. I have a social function to attend for the remainder of today, but I hope to post my additional concerns and thoughts later this evening, and tomorrow, on this thread. One of my thoughts involves the hope that corporations will contribute to public charter schools through grants. I have read about the “servant leader” philosophy that some corporations already endorse, and I would hope that more would do so in the future in that it would create a more humane, less “muscular” society for all, I believe. One of the ways to make that “servant leader” concept become manifested would be for corporations and private philanthropists to serve disadvantaged children, especially, through corporate and private grants.

I hope that you, Mr. Konop, and all readers have an enjoyable weekend.

John Konop

August 25th, 2012
1:21 pm

Mary,

I also have simular concerns…

Dr. Monica Henson

August 25th, 2012
9:20 pm

“DCSS serves over 102,000 students. I had mentioned that it would take around 380 charter-like schools, similar to yours, to serve all of those 102,000 in DeKalb County. If each one of those 380 schools had to hire a management company such as Edison Learning, Inc. for the services it would provide for EACH of its 380 charter-like schools, then the total expense would be much more than having a few administrators do the same job for the WHOLE school system as Edison Learning, Inc. does for Provost School.”

First, Provost Academy Georgia (PAGA) doesn’t have a limit on the number of students we can enroll. As I mentioned previously, we have just surpassed the 300-student mark in our first week of operation, having launched our first recruitment campaign in late May. Our goal for FY 2013 is 750 students, and if we have more demand, we will certainly fulfill it, hiring additional staff if we need to. As our enrollment grows, our management fee will not (this is built into our board’s contract with EL), as it is a flat fee. We are taking advantage of EdisonLearning’s economies of scale on the front end as we start up, and we will build our own economies of scale as we grow. The reason why we have been able to negotiate a favorable rate with EL is because we have the potential to grow into a large operation, as we are our own LEA and essentially function as a statewide charter district. It is in EL’s business interest to get in on the ground floor with us so that when we grow, they can negotiate a new and more lucrative contract with us. For the meantime, we have locked in a fee that we can afford. Our success will also get the EL name “out there” to potential partners both in the charter schools and the districts across Georgia. There is nothing preventing any school district in Georgia from opening its own Magic Johnson Bridgescape center either in partnership with PAGA or separate from us, and we would be delighted to see that happen.

Second, for a large district like DCSS to have a separate management contract for every school would be a ludicrous waste of money and would not capitalize on the district’s own economies of scale. A far better use of funds for the district would be to hire a/some management firm(s) to serve blocs of schools–the district could use its large enrollment numbers as leverage to get competitive and favorable rates. Assuming that the district were in fact to balkanize into 380 separate and independent charter schools, in your scenario, best charter practice would advise that blocs of charters band together to do what I just described–secure a competitive rate for services.

Several school districts across the country already hire EdisonLearning and other private, for-profit education service companies to provide services like school turnaround, management of alternative learning, virtual courses, after-school and summer programming, and staff development. EdisonLearning has a solid track record of success in all of these areas.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 26th, 2012
10:17 am

Just keep in mind that my original $5 million guesstimate is based on an assumption of 750 FTE, we make monthly adjustments upward or downward to reflect actual numbers, and we only forecast future expenditures based on streams of income that are not grant-dependent, and I think that it makes more sense.

As far as corporations and nonprofits making grants to charter schools, this already happens in many cases. For that matter, they do the same for districts. The Gates Foundation is probably the most famous example and makes grants to all types of public schools. The Walton Family Foundation, based in Arkansas and connected to the Walmart founders, is an organization that makes grants to charter schools across the country. There are hundreds of companies that offer grants to schools.

Interestingly, though, gifts from individuals account for nearly three-quarters of the philanthropy in the U.S., as colleges and universities well know. I’d like to be able to attract enough positive attention to PAGA that wealthy individuals who support charter schools, dropout recovery & prevention, and education reform would consider adding us to their gift lists. That’s a long-term goal, though, and would probably require the employment of a full-time Development Director to manage its implementation. We’re not in that ballpark yet.

Mary Elizabeth

August 26th, 2012
12:52 pm

Dr. Monica Henson, 9:20 pm, August 25, 2012

“It is in EL’s business interest to get in on the ground floor with us so that when we grow, they can negotiate a new and more lucrative contract with us.”
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2. My second concern involves the use of public tax dollars, which have been used for traditional public education of all of Georgia’s students, for corporate-based schools, public and otherwise. I will repost two of my final two paragraphs in this post for re-emphasis, here, within my introductory remarks to this concern:

“If one were a cynic, one might think that Provost Acadamies’ and EdisonLearning, Inc.’s plans have included using the public tax dollars – which have previously been assigned to traditional public schools – in order to market for their business model schools that will, then, be in ‘competition’ with traditional public schools. Thereafter, it appears that these schools will continue to absorb per pupil money from tradtional public schools for their online instructional-design schools.

Again, I believe that as long as Provost schools serve the at-risk students who are dropping out of traditional public schools, that they are serving well educational purposes, but when they market to increase their enrollment to include all students, then I think that they are following more of a business model than an educational one. If that is the case, then I would suggest that most of their monies might better come from corporate grants than from per pupil funds of which the taxpayers, such as myself, have paid for the education of all of Georgia’s students through traditional public education which is not using marketing approaches for its enrollment.”
=================================================

In all due respect, Dr. Henson, your statement, above, seems to indicate that Provost Academies and Edison Learning, Inc. are working, together, with a business model to market in order that both might grow and prosper. Edison Learning, Inc. is a for-profit company, as you have stated.

I realize that traditional public schools have, also, hired for-profit companies, for specific educational purposes, as Cobb County School System had done in 2011 when it hired Ombudsman, but I also noted that the cost of hiring Ombudsman was less than 1% of CCSS’s overall operating budget, (given in my analysis on that which I posted on this thread). I also noted, in that post, that the percentage of your total operating budget, which you spend to contract Edison Learning, Inc., appears to be higher than that of the CCSS.

Georgia’s traditional public school districts serve well the majority of the students who attend their schools. The problem that needs specific, impacting attention within Georgia’s traditional public schools, imo, is addressing the needs better of that body of students who are considered to be “at-risk” for dropping out of school. I do not think, based on your previous remarks, that Provost Acadamies intend to limit their focus to those at-risk students’ needs. I understand Provost Academy’s wanting to offer their school’s services, also, to those students who may learn best through an online approach to learning, and I can appreciate that. However, I do not believe that the vast majority of students will learn best from an online approach to learning as opposed to having “flesh and blood” teachers in traditional public schools working with them directly, supplementing their overall instruction, perhaps, even with online services. Moreover, having served these students as an instructional leader, I have some concern that many, if not most, at-risk students may not function well with online instruction, although I support any educational means that will help these students to stay in school and to graduate from high school. I believe the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Centers, which will offer these at-risk students places where they can work with teachers directly, “in the flesh,” will meet with more success than online instruction without this extra human present dimension. (Magic Johnson’s Bridgescape Centers, as you have stated, are working in conjuction with Provost Acadamies in Georgia.) I do recognize that some students, at-risk and otherwise, will prefer an online instructional model. I support those limited numbers of students, who work best with an online style and approach to learning, being able to access online instruction; however, I believe online instruction is now offered within traditional public schools, to some degree. The main benefit, imo, that Provost Academies could offer the students of Georgia (while also working with traditional public schools) would be to focus upon those students who may be in the process of dropping out of school, or who have already dropped out of school, but still wish to receive a high school diploma.

Edison Learning, Inc., a for-profit company, has contracts, presently, in 24 of the states of the U.S, the United Kingdom, and in the Middle East. Provost Academies have schools in Georgia, in Colorado, and in South Carolina. Provost Academies market their schools through Edison Learning, Inc., so that there appears to be a close working relationship between this for-profit managing company and Provost Acadamies. (I believe you have noted, in full disclosure, that you previously had worked for Edison Learning, Inc.)

The following statement is from the Provost Academy link which I provide, immediately, below:
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http://ga.provostacademy.com/index.php?q=enroll-now-ga&gclid=CNHD8Nau_7ECFQ7GKgodaB8AuQ

“At Provost Academy we pride ourselves on offering top-quality curriculum and instruction to our students. The foundation of our approach is EdisonLearning eCourses – the engaging, customizable and rigorous curriculum used at Provost Academy. EdisonLearning eCourses and technology platform allow Provost Academy to craft personal learning plans customized to the needs of each student. The courses were designed by leading experts with nearly a decade of proven experience in online learning. Exciting new classes and features are added regularly to ensure that our students have the very best online learning experience available today. Our curriculum is uniquely designed to us. . .”
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Potential students for Provost Academy are asked to fill out a form which simply asks for their name, e- mail address, and telephone number. After that form is submitted, a Provost employee will call the potential student to gather the information for the official application. Once the official application has been processed, the student will be entered into a promotion for an Apple iPad. (Readers of this blog should click onto the blue “Terms and Conditions” link under the iPad picture on the application form to read about this promotion in full.)

There is an additional way that individuals may register for this promotion for the iPad, and that is simply by entering the what is called the AMOE (Alternate Means Of Entry).In this alternate means of entry, interested individuals would simply give their basic information of name, address, and telephone number, and agree to receive futher information later from Provost. That appears to be a means of gathering marketing names for expansion of Provost’s enrollment for the future. These approaches reflect a business model, not an educational model. Traditional public schools do not “market” to increase their enrollment of their students; they accept all students who walk through the doors of their schools to register.

The following are the specfic words from the “Terms and Conditions” link that I mentioned, above: “By entering the Promotion, entrant agrees to accept e-mail marketing messages from Provost.” Also, were stated these words from the “Terms and Conditions”: “Please be advised that Provost Academy, a division of Provost Systems, Inc., is not in any way affliated with Apple, Inc.. . .”

If one were a cynic, one might think that Provost Acadamies’ and EdisonLearning, Inc.’s plans have included using the public tax dollars – which have previously been assigned to traditional public schools – in order to market for their business model schools that will, then, be in “competition” with traditional public schools. Thereafter, it appears that these schools will continue to absorb per pupil money from tradtional public schools for their online instructional-design schools.

Again, I believe that as long as Provost schools serve the at-risk students who are dropping out of traditional public schools, that they are serving well educational purposes, but when they market to increase their enrollment to include all students, then I think that they are following more of a business model than an educational one. If that is the case, then I would suggest that most of their monies might better come from corporate grants than from per pupil funds of which the taxpayers, such as myself, have paid for the education of all of Georgia’s students through traditional public education which is not using marketing approaches for its enrollment.
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I concur with these words of Thomas Jefferson: “. . .an instead of an aristocracy of wealth, of more harm and danger, than benefit, to society, to make an opening for the aristocracy of virtue and talent, which nature has wisely provided for the direction of the interests of society, and scattered with equal hand through all it’s [sic] conditions, was deemed essential to a well ordered republic.” (Saul K.Padover’s book, “Jefferson,” p. 68.)

Mary Elizabeth

August 26th, 2012
1:14 pm

Dr. Monica Henson, 10:17 am

“The Walton Family Foundation, based in Arkansas and connected to the Walmart founders, is an organization that makes grants to charter schools across the country. There are hundreds of companies that offer grants to schools.”
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Please read the excerpt below, from Sarah Knopp’s article, in the link I provide at the end of this post: (Ms. Knopp is a teacher in Los Angeles. The numbers which I leave within the excerpt refer to her well documented footnotes.)

“According to U.S. Census data, well over $800 billion is spent on education, public and private, at all levels in the United States each year.20 This makes it roughly the same size as the U.S. trade deficit with China. The private sector wants to get its hands on this money. . .

The Walton Family Foundation of Wal-Mart is the single biggest investor in charter schools in the United States, giving $50 million a year to support them.21 The Waltons specialize in giving money to opponents of public education. ‘Empowering parents to choose among competing schools,’ said John Walton, son of Wal-Mart’s founder, ‘will catalyze improvement across the entire K–12 education system.’22 According to a National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) report, ‘Some critics argue that it is the beginning of the ‘Wal-Martization’ of education, and a move to for-profit schooling, from which the family could potentially financially benefit. John Walton owned 240,000 shares of Tesseract Group Inc. (formerly known as Education Alternatives Inc.), which is a for-profit company that develops/manages charter and private schools as well as public schools.’23 Wal-Mart is a notorious union-busting firm, famous for keeping its health-care costs down by discouraging unhealthy people from working at its stores, paying extremely low wages with poor benefits, and violating child labor laws. The company has reportedly looted more than $1 billion in economic development subsidies from state and local governments.24 Its so-called philanthropy seems also to be geared to the looting of public treasuries.

As for a coordinated effort, the private incursion into public schools is being pushed by a band of jackals grouped around Bill Gates and the $2 billion that his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have sunk into the education “reform” movement. The foundation funded a 2006 study by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce called Tough Choices or Tough Times, ’signed by a bipartisan collection of prominent politicians, businesspeople, and urban school superintendents,’ which called for a series of measures including: (a) replacing public schools with what the report called “contract schools,” which would be charter schools writ large; (b) eliminating nearly all the powers of local school boards—their role would be to write and sign the authorizing agreements for the contract schools; (c) eliminating teacher pensions and slashing health benefits; and (d) forcing all 10th graders to take a high school exit examination based on 12th grade skills, and terminating the education of those who failed (i.e., throwing millions of students out into the streets as they turn 16).25

In the beginning, the Gateses used their dollars and employees to push school districts such as Los Angeles to break up mega-high schools into ’small learning communities.’ But now they are advising superintendents to give up that project and go straight for independent charters. Gates’ $60 million project, ‘Ed in ’08: Strong American Schools,’26 will use the elections this year to influence politicians to accept their three mandates: standardization of curriculum nationally, merit pay for teachers, and more time in schools. The campaign’s money comes from Bill Gates and Eli Broad, a Los Angeles real estate magnate. Roy Romer, the former superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, is its spokesman, and it counts among its supporters a diverse crowd—from Rod Paige, the former secretary of education, who once called teachers’ unions ‘terrorist organizations,’ to Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the corporate-backed National Council of La Raza. It trumpets success stories, like its ‘Mission Possible: Greensboro, North Carolina,’27 where 383 teachers were paid bonuses in direct relation to their students’ test scores.

The movement also has regional boosters. In Los Angeles, Eli Broad, the billionaire who tried to engineer the mayoral takeover of Los Angeles schools, gave Steve Barr and his nonprofit Green Dot $10 million. Last spring Green Dot took over the 2,600-student Locke High School from the Los Angeles Unified School District and has a goal of expanding to forty-one schools throughout Los Angeles.28 Green Dot is supported by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who invited Green Dot executive Marshall Tuck onto his five-person educational advisory board. Villaraigosa is currently pushing for a $7 billion bond measure for the November ballot in Los Angeles, $450 million of which would be earmarked for charter schools if his friend (and former school board member) Caprice Young has her way.29 It’s not surprising that Green Dot’s ties with Democratic Party politicians are so strong, since founder Steve Barr cut his political teeth campaigning for Gary Hart, Bruce Babbitt, and Michael Dukakis.30

Globally, companies are being coached about how to get their hands on state money allocated for public services. An important new book called The Global Assault on Teachers and Their Unions: Stories for Resistance chronicles an international movement to privatize education.31 ‘Education corporations’ are popping up in China on the ashes of public elementary schools. ‘City Academies’ in England are being handed over to private sponsors. Reports shared among these policy-makers offer strategies for how to accomplish this deregulation. One such report is ‘The Politics of Education Reform: Bolstering the Supply and Demand: Overcoming Institutional Blocks,’ published by the World Bank in 1999.32 (The institutional ‘blocks’ are, of course, teachers’ organizations.)

There is no monolithic bloc of evil government and corporate forces marching along a single road map to privatization. Some charter schools were created on the genuine initiative of community members or teachers and parents. In some schools, like ones based specifically on antiracist curriculum, students are undoubtedly learning in a better atmosphere than they were before. But in Los Angeles, for example, while these represent only a handful of the 147 charters, dominated by EMOs and CMOs, they are used to blunt criticism of the dominant, corporate trend in the charter school movement.”

http://www.isreview.org/issues/62/feat-charterschools.shtml

Dr. Monica Henson

August 26th, 2012
1:40 pm

Provost Academy Georgia proudly markets itself to families all across the state and makes no apologies for doing so. As a new school “in the cloud,” we don’t have the name recognition of existing public school districts. We leave it up to families to make the determination of whether we are the best choice for their high schoolers. I don’t believe that any public educator has the authority to make the presumptuous statement that most families’ public education choice ought to be limited to the local public school district. It is not your job, Mary Elizabeth, or mine, to dictate to any family what is the best educational choice for their children and where they should put them in school. It IS my job to offer an excellent choice for families to consider. If the public school districts in this state truly are providing the best options for almost all students, I expect that parents have sense enough to agree, vote with their feet, and put PAGA out of business. As it stands, it appears that we will meet our FTE goal and probably surpass it well by the end of FY2013. Do you believe that 750+ families are so ignorant that they can’t decide that their local public school district is not the best place for their children to learn?

PAGA’s state funding does not remove a single state dollar from any school district in Georgia, nor does any other state-chartered special school. We welcome the opportunity to provide a viable, cost-effective method of educating students at high risk of dropping out, especially recovering those kids who have already dropped out. It’s not just “good business,” it’s the right thing to do morally and ethically. However, the state of Georgia is a free market economy, and we have a law in place that allows us to educate children in grades 9-12. Do I want to grow PAGA and educate more students? Absolutely. Am I using a combination of traditional public education methods, charter school best practices, and corporate business models to accomplish that? Yes, emphatically. And I make no apologies for doing it. I’ll bet that our students’ families would second my motion that the hysterical conspiracy theory-fueled monologues about “evil, for-profit charter schools” is plain and simple fear-mongering by the guardians of the status quo.

Mary Elizabeth

August 26th, 2012
2:04 pm

And from the excerpt which I posted at 1:14 pm, please notice the following phrase, the full context of which is posted at the end of this post:

“c) eliminating teacher pensions and slashing health benefits. . .”

Now, please read the language of HB 664, sponsored last January by state Representatives Jan Jones and Edward Lindsey:
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“A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Title 47 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to retirement and pensions, so as to amend certain definitions; to provide that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission may elect to exclude all teachers in a commission charter school from membership in the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia; to provide that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission may make an irrevocable election to exclude public school employees from membership in the Public School Employees Retirement Fund; to provide for notice; to provide for a refund of employer and employee contributions; to provide conditions for an effective date and automatic repeal; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.”

Note these particular words from HB664, sponsored by Representatives Jan Jones and Edward Lindsey, in last year’s General Assembly:

“to provide that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission may elect to exclude all teachers in a commission charter school from membership in the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia. . .”

I hope, also, that Georgia’s public school teachers (and other state workers) as well as state teacher retirees (and state workers) read in Friday’s AJC (8/24/12) that their state health benefit plan premiums (through the state’s Department of Community Service) would be increasing by 9% to 30%, in the coming year.
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And, some are still not seeing the national and state agenda to “starve the beast of government” in favor of private market interests? The only ways to stop this stealthy out-of-balance private-market interests movement are:

(1) To be aware of what is happening, in truth, regardless of what some may “spin” as truth, and

(2) To vote out of office those politicians of that ideological persuasion who have the power to implement that agenda. (One, also, has to question: Could some of the politicians who are so fervently carrying out such an extreme ideological agenda also be benefitting, personally, by doing do? I do not know the answer to that question, but I must continue to think and to question because of the intensity of feelings which these issues are drawing.)
================================================

Full context, from Sarah Knopp’s article, regarding the elimination of teachers’ pensions, follows:

“The foundation (The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) funded a 2006 study by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce called Tough Choices or Tough Times, ’signed by a bipartisan collection of prominent politicians, businesspeople, and urban school superintendents,’ which called for a series of measures including: (a) replacing public schools with what the report called ‘contract schools,’ which would be charter schools writ large; (b) eliminating nearly all the powers of local school boards—their role would be to write and sign the authorizing agreements for the contract schools; (c) eliminating teacher pensions and slashing health benefits; and (d) forcing all 10th graders to take a high school exit examination based on 12th grade skills, and terminating the education of those who failed (i.e., throwing millions of students out into the streets as they turn 16).25″

Dr. Monica Henson

August 26th, 2012
2:17 pm

Finally, PAGA is not a “corporate-based” school. The Board of Directors is a completely autonomous group that hired EdisonLearning to provide services. The nonprofit corporation’s name is Georgia Online Academy, Inc., which anyone can see by looking up our charter agreement with the State Board of Education. We are licensed to use the school name “Provost Academy Georgia” as part of our contract with EL, just as we are licensed to offer our students the eCourses curriculum via the eSchoolware learning management system.

Licensing agreements are part of how the business of school is accomplished in school districts and private schools as well. Every football stadium and gymnasium in the state has a scoreboard with a Coca-Cola or Pepsi logo on it, and the concession stands and vending machines on school property only sell beverages that match the scoreboard, because schools sign licensing agreements with beverage companies. Those companies make actual money from these school contracts, some of which is realized as profit and some of which is returned to corporate shareholders in the form of dividends. (In the interest of full disclosure, I happen to own Coca-Cola stock in my IRA account and so do my son and daughter. :) )

PAGA does not offer school sports, so we don’t have any Coke-related licensing agreements. However, we are considering the purchase of Study Island to provide test prep for our students who need it (as do many Georgia public school districts). Study Island is licensed by Archipelago Learning, Inc. It will cost us about $4,000 a year to license it for our students if we have 750 FTE. If our FY 2013 budget is $5 million, our $4,000 licensing fee for Study will be 0.0008 % of our annual operating budget. If we buy it, does that make us a corporate prostitute? Would it then make, let’s say purely for example Grady County, a bigger corporate prostitute than PAGA if their licensing fee were more of a percentage of their annual operating budget than ours, but less of a corporate prostitute than the DeKalb County School System if DCSS were to buy it and negotiate a licensing fee that were less of a percentage than ours or Grady County’s? (I have no idea if either district actually uses Study Island–I am simply using them as examples because I’m familiar with both and have met both their superintendents.)

My hyperbole is intended to show how paternalistic and condescending the arguments against public charter schools, including those operated in partnership with education service providers, whether nonprofit or corporate, really are. There are thousands of districts in the U.S. who partner with Communities in Schools, including CISGA. CIS and its state affiliates are nonprofit corporations that must operate “in the black” in order to continue to exist. CISGA created the Performance Learning Center model and markets it across the country. Their earnings from the PLC business constitute “surplus,” which would be called “margin” (profit) in the private corporate world. Surplus funds enable CISGA to hire additional employees and expand their operations and sell more PLCs. Does this make CISGA a nefarious entity? Are they less so because the PLCs are designed to educate students who might be at risk of dropping out of high school? Are they more so because the PLC model screens out students who don’t read at least at the 8th grade level and those who have presented disciplinary issues in the past? Does the PLC model constitute “cherry picking” of at-rik students who are more likely to score well on standardized tests?

One of my friends at EdisonLearning who has worked in public education in both the private corporate and the nonprofit worlds is fond of saying “No margin, no mission.” I agree with him wholeheartedly. I will continue to work hard to operate PAGA as a responsible nonprofit enterprise that fulfills its mission “to provide historically underserved students with a flexible and highly individualized virtual high school experience.” I will leave it to the parents of high schoolers in Georgia to determine whether their children are underserved by the public school districts. If I am wrong, then no school district will “lose” students to PAGA, our school will go out of business, and 19 employees and I will be out of our jobs. We have willingly assumed that risk. Let the chips fall where they belong.

Mary Elizabeth

August 26th, 2012
3:36 pm

@ Dr. Monica Henson, 1:40 pm

“I don’t believe that any public educator has the authority to make the presumptuous statement that most families’ public education choice ought to be limited to the local public school district. It is not your job, Mary Elizabeth, or mine, to dictate to any family what is the best educational choice for their children and where they should put them in school.”
===============================================

Dr. Henson, I have never stated or implied that it was my “job” “to dictate to any family what is the best educational choice for their children and where they should put them in school.”

If some parents wish to send their children to private schools, for instance, then I believe that they should be able to do so. However, I also believe that these parents should spend their own money, and not my public tax money nor the tax money of other citizens, to do so.

I have stated, previously, that I also support public charter schools which are approved through the Boards of Education of their local school districts because those school districts are able to control and balance what is necessary, financially, to serve well ALL of the students in their districts – those in the ttraditional public schools and those in public charter schools. If a specific charter school is denied assigment by a local Board of Education, the parents of that charter school may appeal to the State’s Board of Education, through the Superintendent of Schools, by law, presently.

Moreover, I have demonstrated, through the links that I have provided on this blog, that some charter schools may have a more stealthy financial opportunism at work than meets the eye. I believe that local Boards of Education would be better able to focus on assessing what their particular charter schools may be about, in that financial regard, than those charter schools which are not monitored as closely. I support choice, but not choice in which my tax money – which is meant for the public education of all of the school children of Georgia – may be used for the profit purposes of “educational “opportunists, who may not have their students’ educational needs as their primary forcus and intent.

Why not work through your local school district, Dr. Henson, with your public charter school, to serve those students whose applications your school accepts? Could it be that Provost Academy’s dreams of expansion are not possible by doing that? If that is a reason for not working with local districts, to have them approve your charter schools, then the public needs to be aware of that fact, because there is only so much public tax money to go around for public schools in Georgia
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My next concern, #3, which I will post later, will involve the instructional cohesion which the State Board of Education, and local school districts in Georgia, working together, are able to bring to all of Georgia’s public school children.

Public charter schools that are authorized by local Boards of Education, of course, would be part of that overall cohesive delivery throughout Georgia. However, some charter schools – which are not working very specifically instructionally either with the State Board of Education, or with local Boards of Education – may not be a part of this overall instructional cohesion among districts throughout the state, in behalf of all of Georgia’s students. We live in a highly mobile society, and that can effect students’ academic development negatively, especially if students’ instructional records and instructional plans are not coordinated well among districts throughout Georgia.

Mary Elizabeth

August 26th, 2012
5:12 pm

An excerpt from my 12:52 pm post, today:

”Also, were stated these words from the ‘Terms and Conditions’ (of their iPad promotion):

‘Please be advised that Provost Academy, a division of Provost Systems, Inc., is not in any way affliated with Apple, Inc.. . .’ ”

Dr. Monica Henson

August 26th, 2012
9:36 pm

“I do not believe that the vast majority of students will learn best from an online approach to learning as opposed to having “flesh and blood” teachers in traditional public schools working with them directly, supplementing their overall instruction, perhaps, even with online services. Moreover, having served these students as an instructional leader, I have some concern that many, if not most, at-risk students may not function well with online instruction, although I support any educational means that will help these students to stay in school and to graduate from high school.”

Just because you don’t believe something doesn’t make it accurate. There are more than 2 million American students in K-12 school systems who take at least some of their instruction online. While not every student wants or needs a full-time virtual school, for many students, it’s a great choice. And it is their PARENTS who should be able to make that choice, not local public educators who favor the continuation of the monopoly on public education and keeping all education dollars in the hands of the local school district. The legislature of Georgia and many other states agree with my position.

PAGA students do have flesh-and-blood teachers interacting with them, even though the instructional delivery platform in online. Our teachers have the ability to run live-link learning sessions as needed for small groups and invidivuals. Moreover, these teachers are experienced educators who have all but one worked in person in public schools and proven themselves to be among the best educators not only in Georgia, but in other states as well. Our Magic Johnson Bridgescape students will be spending approximately 80% of their time onsite working on their computers, with the remaining time spent with their Advisors, and with Teachers if needed for tutoring and remediation.

I have also served as an instructional and administrative leader of at-risk students, including working as the chief instructional officer of a charter high school that provided a hybrid learning environment for a 100% Title I dropout population–chartered by Atlanta Public Schools and operated by a nonprofit corporation, not a private, for-profit education services provider–and I have seen firsthand that the combination of excellent teachers plus computer-based content delivery can be powerful.

As far as seeking approval of a local board of education in order to have chartered PAGA, it is neither realistic nor feasible to secure local approvals from 180 public school districts. PAGA was not intended or designed to be a single local public school, but a statewide charter LEA. If PAGA had been chartered by a local board of education, then it would have surrendered considerable autonomy and would have had to adhere to local BOE requirements and restrictions that may be in conflict with the mission and vision of the Board of Directors and the school’s leadership and staff.

“I believe that local Boards of Education would be better able to focus on assessing what their particular charter schools may be about, in that financial regard, than those charter schools which are not monitored as closely.”

Really? Like Fulton County Schools did with the Fulton Science Academy, a locally chartered school? Even in the face of their concerns over the charter school’s finances, the Fulton County BOE was willing to award them a three-year renewal instead of the requested ten-year renewal. That doesn’t sound like rigorous oversight to me. As far as financial oversight is concerned, the Charter Schools Division of the GaDOE provides far more stringent and rigorous oversight of state-chartered special schools than Fulton County Schools has provided for its locally chartered schools. The Charter Schools Division follows best practices promoted by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. The idea that a state-chartered special school just somehow floats around with minimal oversight is ridiculous.

As far as your argument that I will reiterate (once again) that NOT A SINGLE DOLLAR in Georgia is being redirected away from any public school district in order to fund any of the state-chartered special schools. There is zero reduction in state funding of district schools in order to fund state-chartered special schools. I’m not sure what’s not sinking in on that point.

Our students all bring their GTID with them to PAGA and are assigned them by us if they come to us from out-of-state, private school, or homeschool. We participate fully in the statewide information system via the MyGADOE Portal. We request students’ transcripts from their sending districts. Like any other public school district, we maintain permanent record files on all of our students.

PAGA is designed to offer a different public education option for families via virtual learning. I’d like to see PAGA expand to every district in Georgia, and my staff and I have to prove to our families that we deserve their trust and respect. Your position that families should not have public school choices outside of the limited offerings in their school district of residence is clear evidence that you are a defender of the status quo, which has not earned the respect and trust of the families who are opting out. For whatever reason, they don’t want their children to be held hostage by their local public school district. They deserve the choice of where to send their children for public school. And now they have it. I will work as hard as I can to keep that choice in their hands. Does that keep me employed? Of course. Does it grow PAGA into a larger district? I certainly hope it will. Will that help EdisonLearning make more money in the long run? It sure will, as long as they continue to provide the quality of service that we currently receive in serving our students.

There is nothing underhanded, unethical, or illegal about PAGA’s mission, vision, and values, or EdisonLearning’s, for that matter. The goal is to provide a high-quality public education to our students. We know going in that we will attract a significant percentage of high-risk kids. That’s why we are offering the Magic Johnson Bridgescape learning center component. But we have no intention of limiting our offering strictly to at-risk students, because that is not the mission of the school system we have opened. Students who live in districts that don’t offer a variety of world languages are underserved. So are students who have medical conditions that restrict their ability to attend brick and mortar schools. So are students who have been bullied mercilessly with no intervention by the adults in their local district schools. So are teenage mothers who have been told by their local school principal not to come back to school after their babies are born.

You and others who would presume to restrict the use of any tax dollars to the district school monopoly and hold families without the means to afford private schooling hostage to their ZIP codes have already lost that battle conclusively in Georgia. Your efforts would be far better spent in improving your own backyards than in casting stones at the new house on the block. We are happy to invite our district neighbors into our house to learn about what we do and talk about the possibility of collaborations to benefit students. But we are not interested in submitting to the rules of their houses, as they have already been shown not to work for the folks who have chosen to live in ours now.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 26th, 2012
9:55 pm

I don’t believe that my tax money, or the tax money of other citizens, ought to continue to be directed to local boards of education that allow schools to fail and continue to employ the personnel that ran those schools into the ground. I’d rather see the operation of a failing district school be turned over to a private, for-profit management company with a proven track record, a nonprofit with a proven track record, a university school of education with a degree program in charter school leadership, or any other organization that can do a better job. The stakes are simply too high–children’s lives are too valuable to waste while tax dollars continue to be piled at the altar of “local control” when local control has proved to be incompetent.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 26th, 2012
10:04 pm

Apologies for the typo, and here is the correction:

As far as your argument that “per pupil funds of which the taxpayers, such as myself, have paid for the education of all of Georgia’s students through traditional public education which is not using marketing approaches for its enrollment” are being co-opted by state-chartered special schools, I will reiterate (once again) that NOT A SINGLE DOLLAR in Georgia is being redirected away from any public school district in order to fund any of the state-chartered special schools. There is zero reduction in state funding of district schools in order to fund state-chartered special schools. I’m not sure what’s not sinking in on that point.

The ONLY reason why most local school districts don’t use marketing approaches for their enrollment is because they hold a monopoly on the public funds to educate their resident students. They also have local real estate agents that market for them, if they are high-quality districts. Even within large school districts, there are clear delineations and degrees of quality in the schools–just ask a prospective homebuyer that the local real estate agents say. If the district is large enough, like Gwinnett County Public Schools, the local BOE may be directing hundreds of thousands of YOUR tax dollars, if you live there, to the Chamber of Commerce to promote the school system and support the local BOE’s political agenda.

Once competition for those students is introduced into a district, it becomes incumbent on the school system to market itself effectively. The best marketing is viral and word-of-mouth, which doesn’t cost a dime. Great schools enjoy the benefit of both and need not fear competition.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 26th, 2012
10:49 pm

And finally…I emphatically do NOT apologize for holding a drawing for an iPad for families in order to increase interest in enrollment. It increases interest and gets attention for us.

When my kids were young and attending district public schools, whenever the annual school-sponsored magazine sale fundraiser kicked off, the kids who sold the most subscriptions were shown that they could win all sorts of prizes, such as Sony Walkmans (this was pre iAnything days).

Does that make local school districts who participate in these types of fundraisers “corporate-based schools”? How about the schools that sell the right to sponsor their sports scoreboards to Coca-Cola and Pepsi? I’m still waiting for an answer to that burning question.

Mary Elizabeth

August 27th, 2012
11:07 am

Dr. Henson, I will answer as succintly as I can several of your remarks, from your posts from 9:36 pm to10:49 pm last evening, because I mainly want to address, this morning, what will be my concern #3. That concern will cover why I believe that district school systems, working in harmony with their district charter schools, and with the state Board of Education, can offer Georgians the most cohesive educational plan for instructional delivery to all of Georgia’s students.
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(1) You stated several times the following thought: “I will reiterate (once again) that NOT A SINGLE DOLLAR in Georgia is being redirected away from any public school district in order to fund any of the state-chartered special schools.”

My response is that from a narrow, legally-correct position, you are technically correct, but there is a catch. The money for state-chartered special schools will not come, directly, out of the direct money distributed to local school districts from the state of Georgia’s per pupil funds meant for those specific school districts (because of citizens’ protest about this during the last legislative session and because of the concern of some House legislators). However, per pupil funds for state charter schools do come fom the state’s overall educational budget, and I will emphasize, again, that there is only so much money in the state’s educational budget to be had. If an overabundance of state charter schools were to be authorized by the state’s Commission for Charter Schools, Georgia’s overall educational budget will certainly be depleted if district level funding remains the same. There are more financial complexities and considerations involved than simply thinking in terms of “allowing per pupil funds to follow the students.” Authorizing many more state public charter schools, which will not be working through and with Georgia’s school districts, might eventually mean a tax increase for Georgia’s citizens, in order to maintain funding to the district schools, at the present level.

I have no problem with Provost schools (and Edison Learning, Inc.) generating expansion in Georgia for their schools, but I think that, if you do market to expand significantly your schools in Georgia, then your funding needs to come more from grants from corporations and private individuals, such as from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, rather than from tax monies meant for the public education of all of the students in Georgia because there is a limited amount of that money to be had to educate all of Georgia’s students.

I will repeat a line from the Sarah Knopp article which I linked at 1:14 pm yesterday:

“According to U.S. Census data, well over $800 billion is spent on education, public and private, at all levels in the United States each year.20 This makes it roughly the same size as the U.S. trade deficit with China. The private sector wants to get its hands on this money. . . ”

(2) You state: “Just because you don’t believe something doesn’t make it accurate. There are more than 2 million American students in K-12 school systems who take at least some of their instruction online. While not every student wants or needs a full-time virtual school, for many students, it’s a great choice.”

My response was not simply based on an uninformed belief, but from my 35 years of teaching experience. I posted the following, regarding this issue, yesterday, at 12:52 pm (Caps added today, for emphasis):

“Moreover, having served these students as an instructional leader, I have some concern that many, if not most, at-risk students may not function well with online instruction, although I support any educational means that will help these students to stay in school and to graduate from high school. I believe the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Centers, which will offer these at-risk students places where they can work with teachers directly, ‘in the flesh,’ will meet with more success than online instruction without this extra human present dimension. (Magic Johnson’s Bridgescape Centers, as you have stated, are working in conjuction with Provost Acadamies in Georgia.) I do recognize that some students, at-risk AND OTHERWISE, will prefer an online instructional model. I support those limited numbers of students, who work best with an online style and approach to learning, being able to access online instruction; however, I believe online instruction is now offered within traditional public schools, to some degree. The main benefit, imo, that Provost Academies could offer the students of Georgia (while also working with traditional public schools) would be to focus upon those students who may be in the process of dropping out of school, or who have already dropped out of school, but still wish to receive a high school diploma.”

(3) You state: “As far as seeking approval of a local board of education in order to have chartered PAGA, it is neither realistic nor feasible to secure local approvals from 180 public school districts. PAGA was not intended or designed to be a single local public school, but a statewide charter LEA. If PAGA had been chartered by a local board of education, then it would have surrendered considerable autonomy and would have had to adhere to local BOE requirements and restrictions that may be in conflict with the mission and vision of the Board of Directors and the school’s leadership and staff.”

My response is “follow the money.” I am sorry to be so cynical relative to the intent of state charter schools (not yours necessarily) but, as they expand, they will absorb more state money from Georgia’s overall educational funds. I think that a better plan would be for public charter schools to work with public school districts, while being assured of having as much autonomy as possible (guaranteed, perhaps, from Georgia’s DOE). In this way, your school would be able to coordinate directly your innovative efforts with local school districts in order to help raise the academic standing of ALL of Georgia’s students, not only and mainly in behalf the students, themselves, but also in order to raise Georgia’s standardized test scores (which will effect the amount of incoming industry to the state), and especially to lower Georgia’s current drop-out rate, which is 33% (and 40% among minority students). This would be a great combined effort of Georgia’s public charter schools, working closely with Georgia’s traditional public schools, for the same purposes – which are to help all of Georgia’s students progress and achieve to their potential and to make Georgia a first-rate state, in educational and economic quality, for all of its citizens.

CharterStarter, Too

August 27th, 2012
2:03 pm

@ Mary Elizabeth – Based on your quote (below)….you do realize you are comparing apples and oranges. You are using the whole DISTRICT’s budget versus the amount spent on for-profit and then using a singular charter school’s budget for comparison. I appreciate you thinking through this, but let’s compare apples to apples. Please contact Cobb County and ask them what their total budget for the students served just through Omsbudsman is. Then figure out the percentage going to Ombudsman from that. Then you can do a true and accurate comparison. This would be a worthwhile exercise, I think.

“I was not able to find the CCSS’s operating budget for 2011. The percentage of $2,533,587.50 (for Ombudsman’s services in 2011 to the CCSS) to the overall operating budget of the CCSS for 2013, of $841,000,000., is less than 1% of the overall operating budget; it is approximately .3% of the overall operating budget paid for by public taxes. It seems that the profit motivation in public school systems may be less than thought.”

Mary Elizabeth

August 27th, 2012
2:58 pm

When Dr. Henson and I began this substantive debate regarding state Commission charter schools and traditional public schools (which include district charter schools), I mentioned that I wanted to address several concerns which I would number in sequential posts. Below is a recapping of those concerns, and the development of my third, and final, concern, which involves academic cohesion and coordination in Georgia’s schools..
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(1) My first concern compared the cost of funding individual, and relatively autonomous, public charter schools with the cost of serving a much greater number of students in public school districts. (See my post at 10:50 am, August 25th, on this thread.)

(2) My second concern involved the use of public tax dollars, which have been used for traditional public education of all of Georgia’s students, for corporate-based schools, public and otherwise. (See my post at 12:52 pm, August 26th, on this thread.)

(3) My third concern will cover why I believe that district school systems, working in harmony with district charter schools, and with the state Board of Education, can offer Georgians the most cohesive educational plan for instructional delivery to all of Georgia’s students. (See below.)

This third, and final, educational concern is addressed not only to readers of this blog, but especially to Georgia’s state senators and representatives. You are the politicians who will make laws which will effect educational delivery to Georgia’s students for decades to come. I am making this final concern addressed especially to you, and I am appealing to each of you to rise above the fallacious belief throughout our state (and nation) that somehow charter schools will be the “saviors” of education in America. I believe this is erroneous thinking although I do believe that charter schools have their proper place in enhancing educational delivery. However, I do not want to see Georgia’s educational delivery system become one of educational anarchy. Let me take a few minutes to explain. Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to read these remarks.

Public charter schools might have a broad and positive influence on a large number of Georgia’s students, especially if they were to operate in conjunction with local school districts. We live in a highly mobile society, and that can effect each student’s academic development adversely, if students’ continuous advancement is not closely monitored throughout their k – 12 educational careers, not simply for a given year. Students’ instructional records and instructional plans must be well-coordinated among districts throughout Georgia. State charter schools, even though they operate under the umbrella of the state’s Department of Education, function so autonomously that I question whether they would be able to foster that type of coordinated educational cohesion with other educational agencies over an extended period of time. I would urge educators and politicians not to become overly enamored of any one state charter school, even if that individual charter school might be performing excellently. That school may have a select body of students who are few in number. Moreover, many of the students in state charter schools – as well as students who receive educational delivery through other means, such through home schooling, private schools, online instruction, or through traditional public schools, or distric-level charter schools – will be transferring to other educational situations and facilities, over the course of their twelve or more years in schools. I ask you to consider this question: What single agency is going to coordinate each student’s standing, overall for twelve or more years – not only as to where each student is located, at every point in time, in order to receive his/her course work, but where he/she is functioning instructionally, with academic specificity, at every point in time – so that the student’s present teachers will be able to know and then address instsruction for that student in a targeted way? I believe that the state Board of Education does not have the means to effectively monitor the whereabouts and progress of every, single student in Georgia. I believe that autonomous public charter schools will be focusing on the results that they can accomplish for their given body of students, especially for each school year. Their focus will not be upon the coordination of their students’ results with other agencies of educational delivery in Georgia. Private schools, home schooling, and online instruction, likewise, will have a focus exclusive to their own particular populations, especially for a given year. Only public school districts will have the means of coordination of students’ records not only between schools within their own districts, but also with schools outside of their districts, because they have already had a history of doing so for decades. Their mechanism for the coordination of students’ progress and developmental history through records has already been established, and they already have prioritized it as a value to be shared between educational agencies in Georgia.

I have written often of how important it is for each student’s precise instructional level to be addressed, at every point in a student’s continuous progress from k – 12, for students to reach their maximum potential. Georgia can no longer afford to have students lost in transferring from one academic setting to another. They must be closely followed, both as to where they physically are, but also as to where they are functioning academically, at point in time, for twelve or more years. We have seen how students can get “lost” in the system through how difficult it has been to track the whereabouts of students who end up dropping out of school. But, this, too, must be accomplished. We know that 90% of students in Georgia who drop out of school will end up in prisons. See link, below, for that data:

http://www.ajc.com/news/truancy-a-lingering-problem-1489975.html

In this age of technology and computer advancement, students records and instructional standing on standardized tests can be quickly accessed through a computer data system. Teams of teachers working together in school districts can study these test results and plan for the continual advancement of their mutual students based on their students’ precise instructional levels. Teachers in district public charter schools could, also, work with these teachers in the traditional district schools when their students transfer from one setting to another. Cohesive analysis of students academic histories may even determine that certain students may need more than four years to graduate from high school – under a directed, specific plan-of-action for 5, or even 6 years, in high school for those students to become proficient in reading and math skills, as well as in all of the high school curricula. Their reading and math scores should be thoroughly known and documented in 9th grade (as well as before 9th grade) so that all high school teachers are aware of their scores, via computer access, and remediation should be an ongoing process that should occur, with precision, well in advance of their beginning college or technical school. This approach is consistent with learning theories. Please read the link that I will provide in my next post, entitled, “Mastery Learning,” which will demonstrate how the rate of achieving mastery of content must be adjusted to individual student’s instructional needs. Of course, this rate of learning cannot be adjusted if the student’s academic history is unknown.

We must have continuity in instruction in Georgia’s educational delivery model. I hope that Georgia will be able to stand well ahead of “the crowd” of those who are simply joining educational bandwagons that charter schools are the “saviors” of education. Charter schools have their proper place, and working with district school systems which educate the large masses of students in Georgia, public charter schools may help to improve traditional public education, which does need improving, especially for with those large numbers of students who are dropping out of school.

The key factor toward ensuring that Georgia produces a state-if-the-art educational delivery model is not to try to dismantle traditional public education, but to use the assets traditional public education already possesses, in coordination with Georgia’s state Board of Education, and in coordination with district charter schools, to make Georgia’s traditional education better and to keep educational delivery in Georgia moving into the 21st century – with cohesion and coordination – for the benefit of all of Georgia’s public school children.

Mary Elizabeth

August 27th, 2012
3:02 pm

Here is the link regarding “Mastery Learning,” which I mentioned in my 2:58 pm post, above, that I would be posting next:

http://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/about-education-essay-1-mastery-learning/

John Konop

August 27th, 2012
3:27 pm

The article basically points education should be based on aptitude ie anti No Child Left Behind. Am I missing something? You should of sent this to kathy cox years ago……..

Mary Elizabeth

August 27th, 2012
4:41 pm

@Charter Starter, Too, 2:03 pm

You omitted that part of my post, in which I had said this:

“I realize that it is not totally valid to get a percentage based on two different years for the operating budgets of the school district (2011 for the Ombudsman management service cost to the CCSS, and 2013 for the overall operating budget for the CCSS); nevertheless, giving this percentage will help the public analyze more closely than not giving a percentage at all. I was not able to find the CCSS’s operating budget for 2011.”

Notice that I had said that I thought it was better to know something in that regard rather than not presenting anything at all, in that regard. I did not have a perfect “apples to apples” comparison available to me because I had begun writing that post in the wee hours of last Saturday morning and the Cobb County School System was closed at that time. After my comments were posted at 10:50 am, Saturday, I have been focused upon presenting to the public two other concerns that I have had relative to state public charter schools, including my concern number 3, which I just posted at 2:58 pm today. (BTW, I will call the CCSS during this week to ascertain their operating budget for 2011, and I will present the answer given to me by the CCSS, on this thread.)

In terms of comparing a large metro school system’s hiring of a for-profit managing company with a small charter school’s hiring of a for-profit management company, I think that it is appropriate to compare the two in order to determine what percentage (%) of each’s operating budgets goes toward hiring a for-profit managing company (or companies). A thorough analysis in that regard would need a more detailed inquiry than I would be able to generate on this blog. I introduced a rudimentary comparison in order to encourage the public to consider the percentage (%) of the school’s overall operating money that is spent on for-profit companies – both within public charter schools and within traditional public schools – rather than simply considering the flat amount of money with no % comparison. Some large schools systems, for instance, may appear to spend much money on services from for-profit companies but when the total amount that they spend for these services is compared with their total overall operating budgets, it may not be much. As I noted in my last line, below, “It seems that the profit motivation in public school systems may be less than thought.”

Moreover, it should be noted that I had analyzed that it would take approximately 380 charter-like small schools, such as Provost Acadamy schools, to serve all 102,000+ students within the DeKalb School System – and that, if that were ever attempted, it would cost the taxpayers 2 and 1/2 times more than the amount that taxpayers are presently paying to educate students within DSCC as it is presently designed. (This was simply a financial analysis; I was not trying to suggest that public charter schools should not be a part of a school district’s overall instructional delivery plan, but I do think that public charter schools need to be limited in number in order to serve all of the students within the district well, and at a reasonable cost.)

Below, were my full commments regarding the “apples to oranges” comparison which you allude to above, and of which you only included a part – in your 2:03 pm post, above.
————————————————————————-

“The reading public may be interested to know that I have analyzed some of the actual figures that ‘Charter Starter, Too’ posted to this blog on August 20, 2012, relative to Georgia’s public school systems that use the services of a for-profit managing company, in order to let the public know what percentage of the overall operating budget for a given school system the hired, for-profit, managing company would be receiving. The DeKalb School System was not listed in that group; however, another metro school system, based on that list, did use the services of the for-profit managing company mentioned. That school system was the Cobb County School System. I was able to find that the operating budget for CCSS for 2013 is $841,000,000., or 841 million dollars (googled). The figures given by CS2 for the CCSS to hire the for profit management company, Ombudsman, was $2,533,587.50. for 2011. I realize that it is not totally valid to get a percentage based on two different years for the operating budgets of the school district (2011 for the Ombudsman management service cost to the CCSS, and 2013 for the overall operating budget for the CCSS); nevertheless, giving this percentage will help the public analyze more closely than not giving a percentage at all. I was not able to find the CCSS’s operating budget for 2011. The percentage of $2,533,587.50 (for Ombudsman’s services in 2011 to the CCSS) to the overall operating budget of the CCSS for 2013, of $841,000,000., is less than 1% of the overall operating budget; it is approximately .3% of the overall operating budget paid for by public taxes. It seems that the profit motivation in public school systems may be less than thought.”

Mary Elizabeth

August 27th, 2012
4:53 pm

John Konop,

John Konop, 3:27 pm

“The article basically points education should be based on aptitude ie anti No Child Left Behind. Am I missing something? You should of sent this to kathy cox years ago…….”
================================================.

Years ago, when a major metropolitan Atlanta school system mandated that all of its 8th grade students take an algebra class (not considering each students’ individual instructional level), I knew as an instructional leader of 25 years, that over half of those 8th students would end up failing that course (and they did). I spent many hours writing a detailed article which would have informed not only educational leaders in that county’s instructional department, but also members of the state’s DOE as they design grade level curriculum, and the general public. I submitted my educational article to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but it was never published to my disappointment – not for myself but for all of those students who failed that course who were simply misplaced in it to start with.

CharterStarter, Too

August 27th, 2012
10:25 pm

@ Mary Elizabeth – I did read your comment, but the problem is that even though you justified it and said that you knew it was apples to oranges, you posted the information anyway. It is that sort of communication that does the voters of this state a disservice. Truly, I don’t mind you doing some comparisons, but at least be consistent and accurate in your comparisons.

I’m going to show you something. I am sincerely interested in your thoughts…and other bloggers This is but one example that should shock the very soul of every tax payer and educator in this state. THIS is why we need charter schools, and this is exactly why we need a state Commission. There is a reason the superintendents and boards are fighting so hard against this amendment….and looking at the data below, it is clearly not because of the children.

Data sources (PLEASE go check these numbers for yourself):
http://www.open.georgia.gov
http://www.doe.k12.ga.us (Report Card, allotment sheet for # students)

Pataula Charter Academy:
• Serves 5 school districts (Baker, Early Randolph, Calhoun, and Clay Counties).
• 290 students
• They have 1 principal a business manager, and an office clerk. Like all state chartered special schools, they have the same responsibilities as any other district/LEA.
• $4900 per pupil last school year; comparing this school to all school districts in the state, it is the lowest funded of all of them (with the lowest district being at 6086, Pike County).
• Although they were extremely lean and had to make some VERY tough decisions, and their facility is mainly used modulars, they:
o Pay on the state salary schedule
o Did not furlough their teachers
o Did not cut school days
• They made AYP

3rd Meets/Exceeds 4th M/E 5th M/E 6th M/E 7th M/E 8th M/E
Rdg 90.5% 90.7% 81.2% 100% 100% N/A
Math 90.5% 86% 90.6% 96.4% 96.3% N/A
• Dr. Barge did NOT name this a quality school according to “HIS” data…

Baker County:
• Serve 332 students in 1 school
• Total per pupil amount is $14,471.64, which is the 3rd highest per pupil funding in the state. Even comparing just state and local per pupil amounts, the district is at $12,417 per pupil, which is still the 3rd highest per pupil funding in the state.
• Spent only 57.7% of its budget on instruction, which is ranked #173/180 districts in lowest investment into instruction
• Spent 16.4% of its budget on general administration (central office), which is more than $500,000. It is ranked #179/180 districts in highest amount spent on central administration.
• The district has at least 4 administrative staff doing central/general administration functions PLUS a principal, assistant principal, secretary, and IT support.,,,for almost the same # of students as Pataula
• The superintendent’s salary in 2011 was $101,827 + 13,434 (transition) for a total of $115,261
• Superintendent’s travel expenditures were $5459.81
• Other travel expenditures were $29,995.98 (including: $5113.41 for the Technology Director; $1369 for a bookkeeper; and $1323 for a central administration support person)
• Spent $8417 and $280, respectively for dues and fees to the Georgia School Boards Association and the Georgia School Superintendents Association…these are lobbying organizations.
• They made did NOT make AYP and are on NI3, or corrective action.

3rd Meets/Exceed 4th M/E 5th M/E 6th M/E 7th M/E 8th M/E
Rdg 69.2% 69.6% 72.4% 88.5% 89.5% 91.7%
Math 53.8% 56.5% 69.0% 60.0% 84.2% 41.7%
• Dr. Barge is against the Constitutional Amendment because “we don’t need it” and because our traditional schools are being financially starved.

I ask you, does this look like a good return on your investment? Are teachers and students getting what is needed? Is reform needed? Does anyone really think that if a district cannot self monitor and manage money and ensure academic outcomes NOW that they will ever do on their own? Do you REALLY think they want to allow charters in to shake up what they have going on at central office?

In my view, the superintendents and boards are supporting their fiefdoms (there is clear evidence above.) Teachers are being furloughed in our state, school days are being cut, resources for instruction are lean, morale is low….but rather than addressing the problem, charters are blamed and misinformation is purposefully publicized, and the state is blamed. The public is told that charters will “bankrupt” our school systems….it looks to me like the districts are going to bankrupt themselves with their mismanagement and poor prioritization. Ask tough questions, people.

Give charters a chance to push improvements in public school efficiency and outcomes. Above is just ONE example of why we DO need them.

P.S. Dr. Barge, you owe Pataula Charter Academy a sincere apology…or at least an explanation why they weren’t listed as a quality school like Museum School. Clearly whoever provided you the data on the “quality” of state chartered special schools did not give you accurate information.

CharterStarter, Too

August 27th, 2012
10:29 pm

@ Maureen – I double dog dare you to post the above data in a blog topic by itself. That’s not the only district….there are many, many others.

CharterStarter, Too

August 27th, 2012
10:39 pm

@ Dr. Henson – thank you for the work that you do. It’s important work. And thank you for the courage you exhibit with providing factual information and showing transparency and honesty in this conversation.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 27th, 2012
11:19 pm

You are more than welcome, CS2! And thank you for chiming in. Mary Elizabeth, I am still waiting for your opinion of public school districts entering into licensing agreements & other corporate contracts, and how that differs from what we do at PAGA.

Now, on to addressing some points in M.E.’s last couple of posts.

**”I think that, if you do market to expand significantly your schools in Georgia, then your funding needs to come more from grants from corporations and private individuals, such as from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, rather than from tax monies meant for the public education of all of the students in Georgia because there is a limited amount of that money to be had to educate all of Georgia’s students.”

I will remind you, ma’am, that PAGA is a PUBLIC school. We are entitled under the law to public funding. Tax monies meant for the the public education of all the students in Georgia are not the property of the school district fiefdoms, and I borrow CS2’s word because it fits like a kid leather glove. The state has the responsibility and authority to educate children in Georgia–education has always been a state responsibility–and the state is executing the will of the people via the decision of the legislature to fund state-chartered special schools. That battle has been fought and won. The unspoken fear of anti-charter district personnel is that some charter schools may demonstrate, like Pataula Charter Academy is doing and PAGA plans to do, that it is entirely possible to educate children well without spending at the same levels that districts have been doing. When that is proven on a large scale, the funding game will change dramatically.

I am confused. You bemoan “corporate-based schools,” yet you say that charter schools should be funded with corporate support instead of tax dollars. There are literally thousands of districts that benefit from corporate grants. Should they be required to give up public tax dollars from the state because they are able to secure corporate funding? Your argument does not make sense to me, even though I’ve read through it several times.

**”State charter schools, even though they operate under the umbrella of the state’s Department of Education, function so autonomously that I question whether they would be able to foster that type of coordinated educational cohesion with other educational agencies over an extended period of time.”

This is simply ridiculous. State-chartered schools report directly to the Charter Schools Division of GaDOE. They are required to participate in all educational reporting, have the identical access to state data warehouses that districts have, and their administrators interact almost daily with personnel throughout GaDOE. They are public schools, like it or not, and are perfectly capable of participating in the network of information that operates all over Georgia. They are required to maintain the same kinds of recordkeeping systems that any public school district must maintain. They are audited in order to ensure that the records are being kept and kept accurately. I have gotten a lot less grief and stalling over transcript requests that I’ve sent to charter schools than I do from many districts. There’s far less red tape to navigate in communicating with our fellow charter schools than there is in the byzantine large districts of metro Atlanta.

**”Only public school districts will have the means of coordination of students’ records not only between schools within their own districts, but also with schools outside of their districts, because they have already had a history of doing so for decades. Their mechanism for the coordination of students’ progress and developmental history through records has already been established, and they already have prioritized it as a value to be shared between educational agencies in Georgia.”

I cannot read this statement without laughing out loud. Pure absurdity that speaks for itself. This brings to mind the the doddering high school department chair insisting, “These young punk new teachers can’t possibly teach those incredibly difficult AP classes. We veterans have our lesson plans laminated from 25 years ago. We’ll keep our chokehold on those AP classes until we retire.”

**”We have seen how students can get “lost” in the system through how difficult it has been to track the whereabouts of students who end up dropping out of school.”

This is precisely the indictment that many parents have made against large school districts in pulling their kids out and enrolling them in charter schools. You have substantiated the position that negates your own argument.

The idea that innovation in public education ought to be limited to school districts interacting with locally chartered schools that they completely control is the very definition of “inside the box” thinking. Let’s stifle innovation and restrict only to those institutions that fit inside the box that was built decades ago. This is short-sighted and protectionist in the extreme. Apply this logic to the postal system: We’ll allow the USPS to tinker with the concept of overnight delivery of mail, but only post offices operated by the USPS will be permitted to do the tinkering. These upstarts like FedEx and UPS will be barred from delivering any packages, because they might do a better job of it and attract customers that otherwise would be hostage to the USPS monopoly.

I have enjoyed the opportunity to answer questions about the finances of Provost Academy Georgia. The debate is beginning to become tedious, though, with the repetition of positions that are simple conspiracy theory, in my view. I wish you all the best, Mary Elizabeth, and I thank you for your years of service to public education.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 27th, 2012
11:24 pm

Enter your comments here

Dr. Monica Henson

August 27th, 2012
11:26 pm

:) It’s too late to be a-bloggin’, clearly!

Mary Elizabeth

August 28th, 2012
2:21 am

@Dr. Monica Henson, 11:19 pm

“I cannot read this statement without laughing out loud. Pure absurdity that speaks for itself. This brings to mind the the doddering high school department chair insisting, ‘These young punk new teachers can’t possibly teach those incredibly difficult AP classes. We veterans have our lesson plans laminated from 25 years ago. We’ll keep our chokehold on those AP classes until we retire.’ ”

“This is simply ridiculous. State-chartered schools report directly to the Charter Schools Division of GaDOE. . .”

“I will remind you, ma’am, that PAGA is a PUBLIC school. We are entitled under the law to public funding. Tax monies meant for the the public education of all the students in Georgia are not the property of the school district fiefdoms. . .”
=================================================

Dr. Henson, I am sure that you have heard that when a person has to resort to insulting to make his or her case, that their argument has been forfeited. I will address the factual elements regarding your statements above, but first I must point out to you and to readers that your statements are not indicative of either enlightenment or courteous civility, but of using intimidation through mockery to win an argument. However, you do not intimidate me with your style. I have been around quite awhile and I have seen others use that harsh style to undermine or to intimidate. I simply see through what you are attempting and I what you are about. I will tell you this, if that harshness is the style you use with your teachers, I would never be a teacher in your school. That style, in my opinion, lacks compassion and a sensitive humanity toward others. Moreover, it does not speak well for incorporating a business model into the public domain for education. This is why, precisely, I do not think a business model is good for public education. It creates stress and intimidation and that is not good for teachers or for students.
.
I was told by someone who reads this blog to expect the exchange with you to make a turn for the worse in terms of civility because I was approaching the heart of some sensitive areas where your school is concerned, and I now see that person was correct.

Now, to address your points.

Taking your last point first, I had suggested that “if you expand significantly” you should consider receiving funding from corporate grants because I do believe there is a profit motive behind what you are attempting, in that Edison Learning, Inc., which works very closely with you, is a profit-based corporation and it will accrue more profit as it expands along with Provost schools. And, Edison Learning, Inc. is already marketing to expand Provost schools in Georgia through its Apple iPad promotion. That is a business model, and as a business instead of a public not-for profit model, I do not think that your growing schools – which serve only a relatively few students – should be depleting an unproportional amount of educational money that the state has to deliver for the public education of all of the students in Georgia. I have already pointed out that, if the DeKalb School System were to incorporate your model completely to serve all 102,000 of its students, that it would cost the taxpayer two and a half times the amount that they currently pay in taxes.

Moreover, it is my opinion – from statements that you have made, including some of the ones quoted above – that you do not have any intention of working with traditional public schools to help improve them as you deliver to students in your school. In fact, it appears that you are working against traditonal public school. In addition, I do not think that you should be using public tax money, which is meant for educational purposes, to market your school’s private business model for education, i.e. making a profit from the students’ enrollment via Eidison Learning, Inc. If you want to do make a profit for Edison Learning, Inc., then I think that your school should be using corporate money, which models your bellefs and your style, rather than taking away from public education which does not endorse making profit from students’ enrollment, and does not, overall, endorse your heavy-handed style with others. These are the reasons why I suggested that – if you intend to expand – perhaps you should consider using more corporate grants to do so.

Regarding your other points. Because your manner has contributed to an elevated blood pressure for me this evening, I will answer your other concerns within a composite response for my own health. The already built in mechanism for delivery of records between traditional public schools to which I was referring is that middle school teachers visit in the high school building with the oncoming high school teachers of the same students. Middle school counselors talk with high school counselors and teachers converse together between schools about the best plans for the receiving students. It is not simply a dry delivery of records, as your post indicated.

Moreover, there are over 100,000 students in the DeKalb County School System alone. There are 180 school districts in Georgia, with 2, 607 public schools serving 1.667,685 students. To think that the state Board of Education could monitor as closely even a part of that huge number of students (if charter schools were to become a growing phenomenon in Georgia ) as readily as individual county districts can monitor the students within there districts is not looking at the reality of the numbers or the situation.

Also, it is not simply a matter of monitoring numbers on a sheet of paper or a computer printout. I mentioned team teaching within schools based on this communication between schools that know students firsthand, and also the public charter school connected to the district would, hopefully, begin to work closely with districts regarding the students they work with in conjuction with the teachers in the traditional schools in their district. These teachers monitor their students through knowing them firsthand, as well as through paperwork, and they can compare techiques of success for students among themselves.The state DOE, good as it is in its areas of expertise, does not monitor students’ progress of those that they know firsthand. The numbers throughout the state of Georgia are too great for that to happen.

Moreover, Provost Academies and Ivy Prep among others, of course, would not be the only state charter schools if the Constitutional Amendment passes; state charter schools would grow in numbers and, as they would expand, and I do not believe that individual state charter schools will be working with one another to enhance student growth – among each other – in the same manner which I just addressed between the staff of receiving high schools students with the staff of the sending middle schools. I see state charter schools as being more autonomous than that in purpose.

These are all ways that traditional public schools give cohesion and coordination of students’ placement and progress in a way that has been developed already over decades, and it includes the humanity and care of interaction for the students’ growth. Mock that as you will. That part of public education is both humane and cohesive.

CharterStarter, Too

August 28th, 2012
6:30 am

@ Mary Elizabeth – are you truly suggesting that our school districts, many who have had failing students and abysmal graduation rates, can monitor better than the state, which now has a new longitudinal data system? We have some districts with over 30k students…

You did not respond regarding the abominable example I gave of Baker County. Should I provide another?

Mary Elizabeth

August 28th, 2012
10:50 am

Correction:

The second “and” in the following independent clause should have been deleted, for clarity.

As was posted at 2:21 am, this morning:

;state charter schools would grow in numbers and, as they would expand, and I do not believe that individual state charter schools will be working with one another to enhance student growth – among each other – in the same manner which I just addressed between the staff of receiving high schools students with the staff of the sending middle schools.
==================================================

Corrected version, with the removal of the second “and”. See below:

” ;state charter schools would grow in numbers and, as they would expand, I do not believe that individual state charter schools will be working with one another to enhance student growth – among each other – in the same manner which I just addressed between the staff of receiving high schools students with the staff of the sending middle schools.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 28th, 2012
11:06 am

Mary Elizabeth, I am not trying to insult you. I am simply exasperated with your insistent repetition of arguments that are irrational.

District public schools, charter public schools, private schools, colleges & universities, and nonprofit organizations ALL operate under a “business” model, or they bankrupt themselves. You still haven’t addressed the fact that thousands of public school districts receive “corporate-based” funds, that they employ similar promotional strategies in student fund-raising, and that they sign licensing agreements with corporations, especially with regard to interscholastic sports. It’s as though you just refuse to see the paradoxical nature of your criticisms.

We have already begun an outreach program to school systems across the state, so your accusation that I don’t want to work with traditional public school districts is, quite simply, nonsense. At one of our summer community outreach meetings, a district sent a representative to ask why we are not going to put a Magic Johnson Bridgescape center in their city, because they would like for us to do so and work with them to identify students who would benefit–we have now moved that city into Year One of our strategic expansion plan rather than waiting until Year Two. Another district, a small rural one, contacted us to see if they could transfer their very small number of homebound students to PAGA because it would be less expensive for them to forego the FTE dollars those students would generate than it would be for them to hire a homebound teacher and pay that person’s full-time salary and benefits.

As for communication among educators regarding their students, our Teachers and Advisors are in constant contact with each other. Every single student we enroll, regardless of whether they are special needs, alternative education, at-risk, or honors/advanced, has a Learning Team composed of the Advisor plus the Teachers assigned to him/her. Teachers collaborate to create multi-disciplinary assignments for students. The idea that our delivery model is nothing more than a “dry exchange of records” is utterly inaccurate.

I honestly do respect your sincerity and admire your many years of service to educating kids. As I posted previously, I read many of the same publications you reference on a frequent basis. I’ve also been in this “business” of public education for quite a long time. I have several years’ experience managing the finances of public charter schools, not just the academic programs. I am sharing all of this information about PAGA’s finances (1) because it’s public record and if a citizen asks for it, I’m happy to provide it, and (2) because I think it clarifies reality for the readers of this blog. I fundamentally disagree with your premise, but I don’t mean for my disagreement to reflect a lack of respect for you as a person and as an educator.

CharterStarter, Too

August 28th, 2012
11:09 am

@ Maaaaaaarrrrrrryyyyyy Eliiiiiiizabeeeeeeeeth – are you going to answer regarding Baker versus Pataula?

You are sharing what you believe to be true, which I can respect. I am sharing what I KNOW to be true.

Mary Elizabeth

August 28th, 2012
1:15 pm

Charter Starter, Too, 6:30 am

As I have stated already, the DOE does monitor Georgia’s students – but from a distance and only with paperwork – and not with a first hand knowledge of specific students within a particular district. That is as it should be. The DOE is charged with monitoring the full 1,667,685 students in Georgia’s public schools. Again, that is well over 1 and 1/2 million students. Even a large metro school system, such as the DeKalb County School System, has only 102,000 students in comparison to the states 1,667,685 students. DCSS’s students in total are only 6% of the total students in Georgia of over 1 and 1/2 million students, which the DOE is charged with monitoring. Moreover, the DCSS has 83 elementary schools, 20 middle schools and 22 high schools, or a total of 125 schools. On the average that would mean, 816 students per school. (I realize that some high schools have more students, and that some middle and elementary students have less students than 816; however 816 is the average number of students, and that is the number with which I will work with to make my illustrated point.)

I certainly think that teachers, in a given school’s population of 816 students, can know those students personally and can share human ancedotes about those students with the receiving school’s teachers. They will also be bringing over all students’ records to the receiving school’s counselors when they visit in the receiving school. Teachers of these students, in district schools, are able to share information about students of more detail than simply will appear in cold records. They will share the records, but they will also be able to discuss students’ varied styles of learning, personality needs, etc. (When I had functioned as an Instructional Lead Teacher, I had monitored all the students in our elementary/middle school, and that total school population was over 700 students, at times. Part of my job function was to have discussed plans for specific students with their teachers, in terms of the best instructional group to assign specific students in point of time within the multiaged unit of 150 students. I also suggested additional instructional materials (outside of the normal curriculum material) to teachers for students who needed enrichment work, as well as for those students who needed remediation. That is the type of quality sharing and communication that I am referring to when I mention records.)

This type of humane coordination is not expected to be forthcoming from the DOE to all one and a half million students in Georgia. Student data is expected to be forthcoming from Georgia’s DOE. At the present time, there are relatively few state charter schools in operation, but if this movement increases through the re-creation of the state Commission of Charter Schools by the passing of the Constitutional Amendment in November, then many newly created state charters would report directly to the state’s DOE, not to a specific district school system. Again, the DOE does not generally know students firsthand, the way that teachers do – who communicate and share data among one another regarding students’ progress – in district level public schools.
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Now, to address your concern that I did not compare “apples to apples” but “oranges to apples” in analyzing the percentage of Cobb County’s School System’s overall operating budget that was used in hiring the for-profit managing company, Ombudsman, in 2011. I did call the CCSS this morning. (I could not call them over the weekend when I posted my original results.) In talking directly with Cobb County School System’s Budget Director, I learned that the operating budget for the CCSS for 2011 was $819, 376,569. When one takes the cost to the CCSS of hiring the for-profit services of Ombudsmand in 2011 for the amount of $2,555,587.50, one finds that the percentage of the overall budget used was .3%. That is exactly the same amount gathered when I had analyzed using the only operating budget available to me over the weekend, which was the operating budget for 2013. In other words, the amount is still the same of .3% – even when one compares “apples to apples.”

This was no surprise to me because I do have some understanding of mathematics, even though I functioned as an English/Reading teacher. However, what did surprise me was the duplicitous way in which you had parsed my words from my post, in which I had acknowledged – fully – to the reading public that I was going to use the figures for 2013 for the overall budget (because they were the only figures available to me over the weekend) with the 2011 cost of Ombudsman to the CCSS in order to give some rudimentary figures for thought.

Again, that the percentage results were exactly the same ( .3% ) using either the 2011 overall budget or the 2013 budget came as no suprise to me. As long as I gave full disclosure – which I did – there was nothing unethical about my weekend comparison. What was unethical, in my opinion, was your post which made it appear that I did not make full disclosure of the “apples to oranges” comparison, because you did not post my full remarks, and you had deleted that part of my post in which I had given full disclosure to the reading public. That was wrong for you to have done, imo.
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About your inquiry of me regarding both the Pautaula Charter Academy and the Baker County Academy, your question to me was this: “I ask you, does this look like a good return on your investment?”

My answer is “No,” it does not appear to be a good return on the investment. Everything is relative. I had previously compared Dr. Henson’s Provost Academy’s expense for the 269 students in her school, with an estimated 5 million dollar annual operating budget, to the DeKalb County School System total operating budget of $774.60 million dollars for 102,000 students, and I had found that the cost of serving her students would be approximately 2 and 1/2 times greater (actually 2.4 times greater) if all 102,000 students were served with the same small charter-like format which Dr. Henson’s school uses to serve their students.

That compares to your figures for Baker County Charter School, which (as I understand) would be an operating budget of $4,804,584.40,( i.e., 332 students X $14,471,64. per pupil funds received = $4,804,584.40 annual operating budget). It is interesting that (with the exact same enrollment of 332 students) the overall operating budget – for those enrollment numbers – of Baker County Charter School is just under 5 million dollars, similar to Dr. Henson’s school’s estimated budget of 5 million dollars for the year. Baker’s Charter is just under 5 million dollars for 332 students and Dr. Henson’s estimated budget was approximately 5 million, and her enrollment is presently also 332. However, the difference is that Dr. Henson has stated that Provost Academy would be receiving $6,400. in per pupil money (up from $4,440. per pupil money if the Magic Johnson Centers are made operative in conjuction with Provost Schools). Yet, Baker Charter Schools receives a full $14,471.64 in per pupil money to account for an almost 5 million dollar annual budget. Dr. Henson’s school would receive $6,400. in per pupil money. Why, one wonders, is her school projected for a 5 million dollar budget with only a maximum of $6400. per pupil money received? Doing the equivalent math – which I just did for Baker County Schools – that would come to an annual budget of $2,124,800.,( i.e. $6,400. per pupil money X 332 students for her school = $2,124,800.) I must say, I do not understand from what you are sharing here, why Dr. Henson would need an estimated 5 million dollar budget to serve her 332 students in Provost Academy. Of course, she has not yet disclosed the exact amount that her school will be paying Edison Learning, Inc. to manage Provost Academy’s schools, and there may be other factors of which I and the public are not yet aware. Moreover, I believe Dr. Henson had mentioned that she is expecting her school’s enrollment to increase to 750 students, but that has not happened yet.

All of these charter schools serve a relatively very small population of around 300 students and the results achieved on their standardized tests would need to be compared with their standardized test scores BEFORE they entered these charter schools. For instance, Pautaula Charter School had reading and math scores at the 90.5 %ile level. However, if last year, the scores of these students, individually, and as a composite, was at 92.5%, then it would appear that Pautaula did not perform as well as could be expected, but if their students scored 88.5% last year, then one assumes that Pautaula served well her population of students. Just as one must compare % of cost relative to hiring a for-profit company with the school’s (or school system’s) overall operating budget to analyze with validity, so one must also compare what students scored on standardized tests in a given charter school for the year, with the results of previous year’s scores, for that same body of students, to have a valid assessment. (One also needs to consider students’ potential, or IQ scores, but that is another topic for another day.)

I continue to maintain, if Georgia’s politicians attempt to dismantle (over time) Georgia’s public school districts and try to create, in their stead. an overabundance of these very small charter schools, then records in Georgia’s schools will be harder to keep cohesive, not only in analyzing financial undertakings, but also in analyzing academic achievement results. We must not dismantle our traditional public schools, we must help to improve them, by encouraging charter schools to work in collaboration with our traditional public schools, for the benefit of both. Otherwise, we will have a state of many disjoined small charter schools, without a refined, cohesive means to have full accountabilty, with depth and full validity, for what each is doing – both financially and instructionally.

Mary Elizabeth

August 28th, 2012
1:30 pm

P.S. relative to my l:15 pm post

I had assumed that Baker was a county charter school, because it had an enrollment of only 332 students.

I have done enough analysis for today, accomplished with great detail. I acknowledge my error regarding the fact that Baker is not a charter school, but is instead a traditional public school. However, I think that reasonable people will still be able to learn much from my 1:15 pm post, and that my post will help to generate more thought regarding charter schools and traditional public schools.

I have spent much time on this issue on this blog in the last few days – to the detriment of my own health – and I do not intend to post any more comments on this thread, or other threads, for a few days, at least.

My best regards to all readers.

CharterStarter, Too

August 28th, 2012
2:29 pm

@ Mary Elizabeth – so you are suggesting that larger district offices like DeKalb and Gwinnett oversee students on a more….personal….level. I think they are probably very aware of individual students, say a SPED student, whose parent may be about to sue, or parents calling county office to address issues that their principals haven’t addressed. But if you are saying these districts have greater oversight ability for 30,000 or more kids and a way to look at these kids individually, I would say that’s not only improbably, but impossible.

You are right that the DOE as a whole institution cannot oversee every child in Georgia – it only oversees larger institutions, like districts, and like it would with the Commission. Which is why we need a Commission that can oversee more personally, like a district office might, their individual charter schools. Thank you for reinforcing the need for this office. I agree wholeheartedly.

Best regards for improved health with a rest for you over the next few days.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 28th, 2012
9:15 pm

Please note, Mary Elizabeth, that my estimated $5 million annual operating budget forecast is based on a projected 750 FTE, with 350 of those students in Magic Johnson Bridgescape centers. As we are currently at 332 students, all of whom are virtual learners at home, our actual annual operating budget projection is substantially lower. Our School Operations Manager will make monthly adjustments as enrollment grows, always reflecting the reality of current enrollment and whether students are virtual or brick-and-mortar attendees.

I appreciate the time and effort that you are putting into trying to analyze the finances, but it is completely inaccurate for you to state that PAGA has a $5 million annual budget for 269 or 332 students.

Mary Elizabeth

August 29th, 2012
10:00 am

@Dr. Henson, 9:15 pm, August 28, 2012

My analysis was based upon the below remarks which you had posted when I requested to know how many students you served and what your annual operating budget would be:

On August 23, 2012, at 9:22 pm, on this thread, you had stated this response to my inquiry:
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“Mary Elizabeth, everything you ask for is public record because we are a public school. Our enrollment as of today is at 269 students. We have a goal of 750 students for School Year 2013 and will accept students all year-round. If we have more then 750 enrollees, then we will happily accept them.

We currently employ nine Georgia-certified teachers and five degreed advisors, all of whom have either teaching or counseling certificates, some also with social work licensure, and several with graduation coach experience. We also employ three administrators, including me, a community outreach manager, an administrative assistant, and a data owner (more commonly known as a registrar).

Our state funding is approximately $4,440 per pupil. We won an Implementation Grant in the amount of $600,000 from the State Board of Education. This grant is part of a federal block grant for charter schools from the U.S. Department of Education. As a public school, we are eligible to draw Title I, Title IIA, IDEA (special education funding), and funding for alternative education for students who present at high risk. We are in the process of finalizing the specifics, but I anticipate our operating budget to be in the neighborhood of $5 million for this first year of school.”
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Based on those remarks, I believed that your budget (which you had additionally stated needed to be finalized by the end of the week) was for your present enrollment of 269 students. I had assumed that your budget would increase, if your enrollment actually climbed to 750 students.

I will certainly, now, correct my assessment that the DeKalb School System would need a budget 2.4 times its present budget to serve 269 students in 380 charter-like schools, similar to yours. Since your estimated annual budget of 5 million dollars is based on an enrollment of 750 students (rather than of 269 students), then the DCSS would need only 136, not 380, charter-like schools (similar to Provost’s) to serve its 102,000 students. That would mean that it would cost the DeKalb School System less money, not 2.4 times more money, to serve all of its 102,000 students in charter-like schools, similar to those of Provost Charter Schools.

One financial element, however, remains nebulous, imo, and that is whether or not the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Centers would be receiving additional educational tax money.

CharterStarter, Too

August 29th, 2012
11:18 am

@ Mary Elizabeth – Thank you for reassessing your numbers. It is much appreciated.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 29th, 2012
11:27 am

Students who attend the Magic Johnson Bridgescape centers would allow the school to draw down brick-and-mortar funding, which will be $7,409 per pupil. Virtual students working from home allow us to draw down $4,706 funding per pupil. I anticipate that the majority of kids enrolled at the MJB centers will also be classified as alternative education, which is weighted higher than regular education for per-pupil funding purposes. I have no way of predicting how many of those kids will be special education and/or limited English proficient, which allows to draw down federal funding for educating them.

I still would like a response from you on the issue of district public schools receiving corporate grant funding, using corporate promotions for fundraising & sports sponsorship, and doing business with corporations via licensing agreements on software, purchases of textbooks, technology, custodial supplies, and other items used in the operation of schools. Also, many public schools have created their own nonprofit foundations that accept donations of money from businesses, other nonprofits and private citizens–should they be required to give up the amount of public funding equivalent to the funds they raise in these foundations?

Are you also willing to acknowledge that there is no such thing as a dichotomy between a business model and an educational model for operating schools? In other words, a nonprofit entity must operate in such a fashion as to break even financially, and some nonprofits market their services in a manner that brings in surplus funds, such as CISGA marketing its Performance Learning Center model and then holding periodic training events for the staff of PLCs to pay district public school funds to come to Atlanta and be trained by CISGA staff. I am curious to see how you make this distinction in your own mind.

Mary Elizabeth

August 29th, 2012
12:55 pm

@ Dr. Monica Henson, 11:27 am

(1) “I still would like a response from you on the issue of district public schools receiving corporate grant funding, using corporate promotions for fundraising & sports sponsorship, and doing business with corporations via licensing agreements on software, purchases of textbooks, technology, custodial supplies, and other items used in the operation of schools.”
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I do not think that it would be prudent, or wise, for me to try to respond to your request in detail because my background has been instructional, not financial. I do acknowledge, however, that the elements you mention, above, probably do exist within public school systems. However, what one must also analyze – in addition to simply recognizing that these elements exist within the public school arena – is what the PERCENTAGE (%) of the overall budget in public school systems has been spent toward “doing business with corporations via licensing agreements on software, purchases of textbooks, technology, custodial supplies, and other items used in the operation of schools.” That is a very important aspect to analyze. It is a matter of degree, in other words.

I explored one example for the public’s awareness, and that was the percentage of the Cobb County School System’s overall budget (which serves a large number of students) that was spent for hiring the for-profit managing company, Ombudsman, in 2011. Based on CCSS’s operating budget for 2011, and the amount spent to hire Ombudsman in 2011, that percentage of CCSS’s overall operating budget to hire Ombudsman was only .3%. That was less than 1%.

Dr. Henson, would you be so good as to post, in dollars and cents, what you are actually paying Edison Learning, Inc. for their for-profit services to your school this year? Based on that amount, as well as on the final amount of your operating budget for the year, what is the percentage of your overall operating budget for this year that you will have spent for the for-profit services of EdisonLearning, Inc.?

Much of the corporate involvement, financially, which you have described in public schools appears to center upon sports events, i.e., “receiving corporate grant funding, using corporate promotions for fundraising & sports sponsorship.” Sports are separate from academic instruction, and are often centered upon the making of money. Unfortunately, because of the sports’ arena’s intense competition for “winning,” interest in sports’ events can sometimes create sad situations, such as was discovered this past year at Penn State University.

(2) “Are you also willing to acknowledge that there is no such thing as a dichotomy between a business model and an educational model for operating schools?”

No, I am not willing to acknowledge that there is no such thing as a dichotomy between a business model and an educational model for operating schools. The dichotomy, or difference, consists of the degree and of focus given to each model within the school. When a school’s focus is primarily on expansion and marketing to achieve that expansion, then to that extent, students have not been as well-served as they might have been, imo, because the students’ growth has not been the primary focus. Moreover, intense competition to expand fosters a certain type of individual who becomes focused on winning (and dominating) rather than upon enlightenment, imo.

Teachers of my generation were given contracts that literally said, “You focus upon the students, and the TRS will focus upon generating financial soundness from your contributing retirement payroll funds to ensure that you will have financial security after you retire.” That allowed me to focus upon spending many hours after school developing instructional materials and programs for the betterment of all of the students in my schools, instead of using those hours to expand my own personal, financial portfolio.

Again, the differences between a business and educational model would be a matter of degree and emphasis (schools need both). Only an auditor (not me), working in conjunction with an instructional expert, would be able to ascertain to what extent that degree of emphasis is placed on business or instruction, in various schools. I will, however, always advocate for emphasis being placed on instruction and on the student’s growth, more than on a business model of marketing and expansion that may even generate profit for some.
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I will further state that, imo, those who focus on wealth, winning, dominance (such as in sports) are not seeking to perpetuate the highest values that education can offer to our nation’s evolving consciousness. Please read the following from my blog “Mary Elizabeth Sings” on “Competition vs. Cooperation” in society:

“Perhaps, as citizens, we should begin to consider what degree of competition versus what degree of cooperation we wish to perpetuate within society. Perhaps, it is time to question whether the more ‘muscular’ concepts of power, dominance, winning, and wealth (which football brings to colleges and universities) are the values most to be sought within our nation, as opposed to the values of collaboration, cooperation, egalitarianism, and intellectual and spiritual development.”

http://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/competition-vs-cooperation/

CharterStarter, Too

August 29th, 2012
1:32 pm

@ ME – You raise some good points above. There are 2 things to consider:

1. The management fees to corporations generally include the costs for management positions (salary and benefits) that would typically be at central office handling things like payroll, finance, reporting, etc. Secondly, depending on the contract’s structure, sometimes all salaries for running the school are include, so it makes it appear that the management company has a higher percentage. I hope that makes sense.

For a one to one comparison, you would really have to pull out the central administration and all of the instructional positions and expenses generally covered at a county office and put those up against the management company’s piece of the charter budget. I can’t really qualify this without having a district budget and a charter budget and management contract, so I will refrain from making any statements further, but I did want to give some context.

2. I mentioned before that if you are going to compare Ombudsman to say, a Provost, you can’t divide Omsbudsman by the whole district budget. Ombudsman pretty much stands alone like a school and serves a very specific population of students. In some school districts, Ombudsman is being paid for their fee (which includes staff and related instructional costs), but sometimes there is also facility funds allotted. This is a very similar structure as a management company for a charter. I have run the numbers in a school district – all you need to find out is enrollment. Then you can see what the per pupil amount going to these students is compared to the district average. I encourage you to run the numbers. I think you will see that the per pupil amount allotted is higher than the district average and significantly higher than the charters’ per pupil average in the district. I don’t necessarily take issue with that fact, as it is a specialized population that the districts’ have determine Ombudsman can serve. I just wish others would respect the same type of decision making with the charters – particularly given that the charters have a finite amount of funding to utilize and the districts have a large pot to allocate in various ways, particularly given the recent dissolution of the 65% rule.

CharterStarter, Too

August 29th, 2012
1:32 pm

@ ME – You raise some good points above. There are 2 things to consider:

1. The management fees to corporations generally include the costs for management positions (salary and benefits) that would typically be at central office handling things like payroll, finance, reporting, etc. Secondly, depending on the contract’s structure, sometimes all salaries for running the school are include, so it makes it appear that the management company has a higher percentage. I hope that makes sense.

For a one to one comparison, you would really have to pull out the central administration and all of the instructional positions and expenses generally covered at a county office and put those up against the management company’s piece of the charter budget. I can’t really qualify this without having a district budget and a charter budget and management contract, so I will refrain from making any statements further, but I did want to give some context.

2. I mentioned before that if you are going to compare Ombudsman to say, a Provost, you can’t divide Omsbudsman by the whole district budget. Ombudsman pretty much stands alone like a school and serves a very specific population of students. In some school districts, Ombudsman is being paid for their fee (which includes staff and related instructional costs), but sometimes there is also facility funds allotted. This is a very similar structure as a management company for a charter. I have run the numbers in a school district – all you need to find out is enrollment. Then you can see what the per pupil amount going to these students is compared to the district average. I encourage you to run the numbers. I think you will see that the per pupil amount allotted is higher than the district average and significantly higher than the charters’ per pupil average in the district. I don’t necessarily take issue with that fact, as it is a specialized population that the districts’ have determine Ombudsman can serve. I just wish others would respect the same type of decision making with the charters – particularly given that the charters have a finite amount of funding to utilize and the districts have a large pot to allocate in various ways, particularly given the recent dissolution of the 65% rule.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 29th, 2012
3:05 pm

Interesting that you don’t feel qualified to comment on public school activity with corporate support because of your instructional background as opposed to school finance, yet you feel qualified to analyze an annual operating budget. ;)

PAGA pays EdisonLearning, Inc., $250,000 annually (regardless of our enrollment numbers) as a fee for professional services. They do not “manage” our school–that is my job, along with my two fellow administrators. We have a five-year contract with EL during which time our annual fee for services will stay level. If we meet our FTE goal of 750 students and a $5 million annual budget, then our fee will constitute 5% of our total operating budget (less if we exceed our enrollment target, more if we don’t meet it) in FY 2013.

5% may sound like a lot compared to what DCSS spends on its contract with Ombudsman. However, it’s deceptive to view a single cost in a vacuum.

For example, we do not spend a single dollar on textbooks, which can range anywhere from $25 to more than $150 annually per pupil in the U.S. in a brick and mortar school. High school textbook costs are far more than an elementary school’s, for obvious reasons. Let’s say for purposes of illustration that a brick and mortar public school district in Georgia spends an average of $88 ($25 + $250 divided by 2, to get a reasonable estimate of an average textbook expenditure) per student on textbooks and serves 750 FTE high schoolers, and $5 million is the high school’s annual operating budget. That expense amounts to $66,000 annually, or 1.32% of the operating budget. PAGA spends $0 on this line item.

A better point of comparison is in salaries & benefits, and it is here where the advantage of an education services contract becomes apparent, as well as the ability to leverage technology to individualize instruction and remove “class size” from the equation. So let’s compare PAGA to an example small high district school.

Our example high school probably would have an experienced principal (estimated $85K salary) and an assistant principal (estimated $60K salary). The district’s central office employs a superintendent (estimated $100K salary), probably an assistant superintendent of finance (estimated $75K salary), a director of curriculum and instruction (estimated $75K salary), a director of special education (estimated $60K salary), and a personnel director (estimated $70K salary) to service the schools.

Let’s assume it’s a small district with three schools, an elementary, middle, and high school. For simplicity’s sake, let’s divide the central office administrator salaries by three and add those to the two building administrators’ salaries. So we have $145K in building admin, and $380K in central office admin divided by 3, or $127K. $145K + $127K totals $272K in administrative salaries alone. Let’s assume that benefits run about 25% of salary. So our mythical high school is funding in the neighborhood of $340K in administrative salaries & benefits, or 6.8% of its annual $5 million operating budget, of which $158750 is admin salaries & benefits ($127K for salaries plus 25% of $127K for benefits).

This high school that has 750 students, if it observes class sizes of 30 kids, employs at least two dozen teachers, each at an average annual salary of, let’s say, $50,000. That’s a teacher payroll of $1.2 million without benefits, which would add an extra $300K. So we’re spending $1.5 million on instructors in this mythical high school. We won’t add in guidance counselors, graduation coaches, custodians, cafeteria employees, or administrative support staff, to keep things simple.

EXAMPLE DISTRICT HIGH SCHOOL
Administrative salaries & benefits: $340K for 2 building administrators & 1/3 of 5 central office administrators
Instructor’s salaries: $1.5 million for 24 teachers
Textbooks: $66K for 750 FTE students
Education Services Fee: $0

TOTAL: $1,906,000 = 38% of $5 million annual operating budget

PROVOST ACADEMY GA
Administrative salaries & benefits: $270K for 3 administrators
Teachers salaries & benefits: $730K for 13 teachers
Textbooks: $0
Education Services Fee: $250K

TOTAL: $1,250,000 = 25% of $5 million annual budget

Dr. Monica Henson

August 29th, 2012
3:09 pm

Please note that our average teacher salary is $45K compared to the average district salary of $50K. I used a higher average for the district public high school example because they would be dealing with tenured teachers, many of whom would have been employed for more than ten years.

Mary Elizabeth

August 29th, 2012
6:09 pm

Charter Starter, Too, 11:18 am

@ Mary Elizabeth – Thank you for reassessing your numbers. It is much appreciated.
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And, thank you for your words to me, above, CS2. I wish to apologize to Dr. Henson, and to the readers of this blog, for my unintentional error.

I will have a few brief, closing comments tomorrow regarding the charter movement, in general, in Georgia. I hope that all will have a good evening.

Dr. Monica Henson

August 29th, 2012
8:24 pm

I am delighted to report an additional 38 enrollees this week, bringing PAGA’s total enrollment to 370, almost halfway to our goal of 750 FTE by October 2! :)

CharterStarter, Too

August 30th, 2012
9:06 am

You know, it just struck me (sigh, days late) one of the things that Dr. Barge said in his survey:

He agreed with this statement: “I support allowing the local boards of education, the state board of education and the Georgia Charter School Commission to approve and monitor charter schools.”

His comments said this (emphasis added): “However, I find it greatly disappointing that we NEED another administrative body to do something that the local, and ultimately, the state Board of Education, SHOULD be able to do.”

The man DID flip (and no, Catlady, it wasn’t just a hop – it was a full bodied FLIP). At the time he was running, he recognized that we DO need another body because the current authorizing structure is not doing what they should be able to do.

It remains interesting to me that Dr. Barge published a whole lot of data that is absolutely refutable, as it is contrary to what the DOE has published on its own website (funny, funny that the Report Card and demographic reports always available before on the website are not working right now….)

The information he provided goes contrary to actual data on authorization of start up charters. He and others like to plump up the charter numbers by adding in district charters like conversions, LEA start ups, and system charters). He likes to say we have over 200 charters. In actuality, we have about 60 independent charters that meet the federal definition of a charter school. He cleverly failed to provide the start up charter authorization trends and the abysmally low approvals over the last 10 years of independent schools.

He failed to publish academic data in the same manner that district schools are published – the AJC itself publishes grade levels and subject area meets and exceeds rates, but Dr. Barge didn’t bother to show THAT. He showed only AYP rates which are being phased out an no longer used. He didn’t even bother to mention that 11% of our Title I schools show up on the alerts, priority, and focus lists now used for accountability and only 3% of charter Title I schools are on the lists.

He failed to show the financial data that his department published that demonstrates our charters are NOT financially in the hole, as they have a small surplus. The are staying afloat despite last year earning under $5000 per pupil on average.

He failed to report the successful audits of these schools.

He failed to report the enrollment, wait lists, and demographic information of these schools.

Dr. Barge failed this state by flipping his stance (and denying doing so) and purposefully masking and positioning data to suit his political stance.

He, and the other Superintendents and boards, are pushing a political agenda using state resources including the use of department personnel, technology, and other resources, which is patently unethical and, by some legal experts’ opinion, illegal.

He represented his opinion as the opinion of the Department and the State Board of Education and still, to this date, has not put in writing that his opinion is his own and that others in the Department and on the State Board, as one board member put it “vigorously disagrees.”

Dr. Barge is representing his buddies in the Establishment. He is not representing kids. The district superintendents and boards are protecting the bureaucratic structures they have erected. They are not representing the needs of teachers or kids. If he or they represented kids and the public that voted them in, they would wait the public vote on the issue rather than trying to influence the vote.

Mary Elizabeth

August 30th, 2012
9:33 am

The below are a few closing remarks that I have regarding charter schools in Georgia, as these schools increase in numbers, over the next months and years.
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(1) As an introduction, I want to highlight “HS Public Teacher’s” remarks on this blog, August 28, 3:55 pm:

“If you want to look into the future of GA education according to how things are going, you only need to look south to Florida.

Florida has the Charter schools. Florida has the vouchers. Florida education has been on the fast-track of declining ever since these things were implemented. In Florida, the teacher union (the REAL one and not the so-called ‘professional organizations’ we have here in Georgia) has been neutered by the republican governors.

So then, Georgia is really simply following in Florida’s footsteps. It is sad – very sad!”
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(2) Follow the money. I want to highlight these remarks from the Sarah Knopp’s article on the charter school movement in America, which I have cited, previously. Link below.

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

The profit motive drives business…. More and more, it’s driving Florida school reform. The vehicle: charter schools. This was not the plan. These schools were to be ‘incubators of innovation,’ free of the rules that govern traditional districts. Local school boards would decide who gets the charters, which spell out how a school will operate and what it will teach. To keep this deal, lawmakers specified that only nonprofit groups would get charters. But six years later, profit has become pivotal…. For-profit corporations create nonprofit foundations to obtain the charters, and then hire themselves to run the schools.34″

http://www.isreview.org/issues/62/feat-charterschools.shtml
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(3) Politics in Education. One has to question why the proposed Constitutional Amendment to re-create a state Commission for Charter Schools has become so political in nature? Usually, when educational matters become heavily political, someone has something to gain. I would urge citizens to look as deeply as possible into reasons for this proposed amendment having become so political.
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(4) The resegregation of schools. As the charter school movement grows in Georgia, conscientious citizens must be concerned about those students who will be left in the traditional public schools. Will those remaining students have access to equal quality of their educational delivery? In creating increasing numbers of autonomous charter schools, will Georgia’s citizens, inadvertently, be resegregating society, if not by race, then by class and by wealth/status?
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(5) Lack of cohesion and coordination. Will the increased numbers of charter schools – away from monitoring by the close-at-hand traditional public schools within their districts – create, inadvertently, a large number of relatively disjoined charter schools that might lack the coordination with one another that would bring an optimum level of cohesion to Georgia’s instructional delivery for all students in Georgia? (I had addressed this concern earlier in this thread, but the discussion became focused on how individual charter schools coordinate instruction within their own schools. My concern is for the statewide cohesion and coordination of instruction between schools in Georgia, not simply within separate charter school units.) Georgia’ students will, no doubt, continue to transfer from one educational setting to another in our highly mobile society. The relatively disjoined nature of state charter schools to one another concerns me, in this regard.

I, also, have a concern that the relatively disjoined nature of state charter schools, as they grow in numbers, could create a situation in which the finances of these schools might not be monitored with as close a focus to detail, for each school, as would be desired.
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(6). Concerning the profit motive in public schools – traditional and charters.

I recommend that independent auditors monitor closely traditional public schools and charter schools to determine the proportion, or percentage (%) of each school’s, or each school district’s, finances which are allotted to for-profit agencies, for services rendered.

It would be helpful if a comparison could be made, for public knowledge by independent auditors – and especially if some limited analysis could be accomplished in this regard before the November election – as to whether traditional public school districts, or charter schools, use a greater percentage of their educational monies for services by for-profit companies.

I would alert the public to watch very carefully the profit motive for those state charter schools that place a major effort toward the expansion of their schools. Each school, functioning as relatively autonomous units, could have a different intent, in this regard.