Does charter school funding leave taxpayers holding the bag?

Regular Get Schooled blog readers know Cherokee businessman John Konop as an astute commenter on the economics of education. He’s also a great debater as he focuses on the facts and does not get carried away with politics or ideology.

And he posts under his name, which signals that he stands behind his comments.

Konop has sparked debate in Cherokee County over questions on the funding of a charter school there and who gets stuck with the bill. Konop raised these issues with the Cherokee County School Board at a recent meeting.

Here is a followup letter he sent board member Michael Geist:

Dear Mr. Geist,

According to a recent newspaper article, it seems you are still very confused about why you’re getting so much negative feedback about the lack of fiscal controls in the charter school amendment that you support. I will once again clarify the issues by explaining how the Cherokee Charter Academy (CCA) was funded and how the current charter school amendment fails protect tax payers.

• CCA’s owner/operators (a private company) were given over $1million of taxpayer money as start-up capital.

• CCA’s owner/operators receive a management contract that pays them close to $1 million a year (a rate that is higher on a percentage basis than what Cherokee County currently spends on our public schools). These funds are above and beyond the additional, regular operating money that charter schools receive from the school district.

• CCA’s owner/operators were not required to purchase a guaranteed bond (a form of insurance) that pays the school district in the event the CCA closes midyear (and dumps over 1,000 students back into the system).

If the CCA goes out of business — which looks increasingly likely — its owner/operators get to keep the $1 million start-up capital (and/or whatever assets they bought with it) and have no liabilities. You supported giving a private company over a million dollars, guaranteed profit, and NO downside risk.

This is a terrible deal for taxpayers. You should NOT support forcing taxpayers to capitalize private companies or give them no-obligation government contracts. As a public school board member, your duty is to protect the school’s assets, not look for creative ways to squander them.

The taxpayers of Cherokee County have already been burned with similar deals. For example, we may lose $50 million that went to fund a private recycler that went bust (leaving taxpayers again holding the bag). As you well know, taxpayers across the country have already lost massive amounts of money in poorly structured charter schools deals. For the record, I support charter schools and believe they play an important and positive role in our education system. What I do not support is officeholders like you that make foolish and emotional decisions with taxpayer money.

In closing, Mr. Geist, here are some questions that the taxpayers of Cherokee County would like your answers to:

•Please list all the other school district services that a vendor can perform where taxpayers provide free start-up capital and guaranteed revenue, all with no penalty for failure to perform. Assuming you can’t provide such a list, why did you support the private owner/operators of the Cherokee Charter Academy receiving such a deal?

• Why do you support a charter amendment that does not include the taxpayer protections needed to prevent CCA-like deals from happening again?


John Konop

–From Maureen Downey for the AJC Get Schooled blog

305 comments Add your comment

One Teacher's Voice

September 13th, 2012
9:23 am

So here are a couple of questions with the answer key provided.
For how long has Georgia had a Republican Governor?
Answer: For 9 Years
For how long has Georgia had both a Republican House and Senate?
Answer: For 7 Years
For how long has Georgia had a Republican Superintendent of Schools?
Answer: For 9 Years
Has your classroom become better or worse during this time? You know the truth to this one.

Do any teachers or their families vote for Chip Rogers (Woodstock-R)? Isn’t he the rep. who is always supporting charter schools and vouchers?

So before write anything else, the following should be noted.

I am not saying that he might be benefitting from charter and voucher funds.

And I am not saying that his friends might be benefitting from charter and voucher funds.

And I am not saying that he or his extended family members might be benefitting from charter and voucher funds.

However, maybe someone in Cherokee should start checking exactly to whom these funds are going and benefitting. Look into the list of names. Go into the employee listings to look for the people who are benefitting. And I am sure that neither Chip Rogers, his friends, or his family members (spouses or otherwise) will be affiliated with them.

But something is rotten in the county of Cherokee.

It would make sense if Cherokee was a really underperforming county, but it’s not.
2011 SAT SCORES out of 2400
Georgia 1,445 Woodstock High-1,529 (Chip’s High School District)
National 1,500 Woodstock High-1,529 (Chip’s High School District)
The other Cherokee County High Schools
Etowah-1,608 Creekview-1,586 Cherokee-1,559 Sequoyah-1,542

Does something not make sense here?

And again, I am not saying that Chip Rogers from Woodstock, supporter of charter school bills and vouchers has done anything wrong.

But why is he pushing so strongly for something at a state level that his local constituency doesn’t really need?

Why is Chip Rogers wanting charter schools and vouchers so badly then? I am sure he is not doing this for personal reasons or personal gain.

So why push for a diversion of funds from your public schools that are succeeding and exceeding?


September 13th, 2012
9:40 am

@OneTeacher… There is no diversion of funds. In fact it’s a net gain for each child that goes to a public charter. AND, if Cherokee is a stellar as you say, this amendment WON’T CHANGE THAT. By all means, keep it.
Also, one thing you omitted… No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001. Interpret that how you please.


September 13th, 2012
9:41 am

Go check the demographics of Woodstock from the last 10 years.

Maybe this is why so much push for separate schools is coming around.

One Teacher's Voice

September 13th, 2012
10:45 am

@CTR “if Cherokee is a stellar as you say”

I don’t say it. The numbers say it. I could somewhat understand this push for charter schools if you were in Coweta, APS, or in many counties south of Atlanta. But you’re not.

Cherokee exceeded in 2011 while state and national averages, scores dropped. That’s a fact.

Your school system isn’t failing. That’s a fact.

Every Cherokee high school exceeded state and national averages. That’s a fact.

If your school system is failing, fight for something different. But in fact, it’s not. The numbers that Charter School greed machines are touting so much are not working in your favor.

“it’s a net gain for each child that goes to a public charter”
Based on Houdini math? When your nirvana-like charter school goes into effect, and you start pulling money out of your local school, is it really going to help the local school perform better? I can carry the one and divide by 3.14 and spill some chicken blood, but it isn’t going to work. Those graphs and charts are not reality. They are pretty but are not the reality. I have seen the same websites that promote charter schools that you have, and they are Pixar great, but they are not based on facts. They are based on the desire to get millions from the state of Georgia.

“No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001. Interpret that how you please”
Teachers now focus on and worry about testing and subgroups…lots and lots subgroups. If three people from my school’s subgroup did not show up to take the test, my school failed AYP despite anything else that others did. States are burdened with federal mandates that state funds are being drained to implement (you know, the same funding that your charter businesses want to tap). Classroom sizes are massive. However, from what I hear, the cafeteria food has gotten better.

One of the first states to get charter schools was Michigan. Like you, many thought they would be the magic bullet for solving problems. Today, 80% of those schools are for profit locations, and they are not fairing any better than the local public schools. Check Forbes for this one.

If your local school is failing then you should be upset and arguing for something different.

Different doesn’t necessarily mean charter schools though.

Don’t drink the Kool-Aid until you have seen what it has done to others.

Seriously….look at the other states who first adopted charter schools 20 years ago to see how it has affected them. You will find some bright spots, but you will find much of the same in public schools.

I bet that many really good teachers in your county will also be retiring early or moving to a neighboring county with the 8 day furlough hanging over their head. That’s one of the highest in the state. But, it has nothing to do with the funding that charter schools won’t affect. Right?

My cold is getting the better of me now, and I am sure that there is a grammatical error that you will latch onto, but I will end here.

So here are a couple of questions with the answer key provided.
For how long has Georgia had a Republican Governor?
Answer: For 9 Years
For how long has Georgia had both a Republican House and Senate?
Answer: For 7 Years
For how long has Georgia had a Republican Superintendent of Schools?
Answer: For 9 Years
Has your classroom become better or worse during this time? You know the truth to this one.


September 13th, 2012
11:02 am

@OnTeacher… I do live in Coweta. My school system is failing and I like “the different” I’m fighting for. It’s benefiting my son greatly. Rather than demagoguery, go see Cherokee or Coweta County. Maybe we have different measures of what constitutes “failing”. And why must I wait till the school has failed my child, when I can prevent it and go to a charter. If charters were equal, if not worse, as you say, then parents (politicians aside) wouldn’t be fighting so hard for them.

Houdini math? No. The school keeps the local dollars despite not teaching the child. That’s nearly $4k they keep. Net gain.

Again, I’ve always said it’s not a Magic Bullet. Just a choice. I don’t subscribe to one size fits all solutions, but that’s what traditional public schools are, and trust me, they don’t fit my kid. If this amendment fails, locally approved charters remain. Charters are here to stay. So quit blaming 16 schools for furloughs and funding shortages. Georgia is in the top 10 for per pupil spending, so please stop using these 16 schools as scape goats.


September 13th, 2012
11:22 am

@CTR: Actually, if the Supreme Court decision was really that definitive there would be lawsuits already. How is it possible that we have continued to have State Special Charter schools in the year+ since the decision came down? No lawsuits filed since then.

Your school has already been operating without local funds if it is a State Special Charter, Mr. Deal replaced that money with state supplement money. There have been no legal challenges to that (at least not reported in the news or anything filed on Justia). HB797 funds the state special charters regardless of whether the referendum passes.

I would also like to know why we need a separate appointed State Charter Commission if the GA DOE has been servicing the State Special Charters. Is there evidence that they are impeding the expansion of charters in Georgia? If you are happy with your school and your school is being regulated by the GA DOE why do you need a separate appointed commisson?

John Konop

September 13th, 2012
11:26 am


In all due respect you should consider the following:
1) The cost to educate all students are not the same ie special needs, high school more expensive than elementary…….Cherokee Charter does not provide service for High School and is mainly elementary. Also Cherokee Charter does have the ratio expense of special needs that the public school has especially the most expensive students to educate requiring very low teacher ratios as well as highly trained teachers that cost more.
2) Lower income parents have a more difficult issues with providing transportation for students…..
3) We are creating duplicate overhead if not coordinated well the local school district
4) Cherokee County Schools has on line classes now and they are working on a home school/ public school option
5) Cherokee County also is rolling out stem schools that allow students to specialize by area ie math and science, arts and vocational. They have already started in the elementary grades for math and science.
6) Your business model does not consider fix cost tax payers already invested into infrastructure. It will cost tax payers more for under utilizing the current infrastructure. That is why I have been promoting increasing cross utilization not creating more infrastructure.


September 13th, 2012
12:03 pm

@3schoolkids… The state commission approved charters remained open because they were granted “special school” status which is allowed, not specifically special charter schools. That created a funding gap, hence Gov Deal providing the funding difference. That was a 1 time thing. The funding will not continue if the amendment fails.

If you check the court’s ruling language, it says “Under the current Constitution, which voters approved in 1983, local school boards have exclusive authority to create and maintain K-12 public education, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein writes for the majority. The Constitution only allows the state government to create “special schools.” This clearly invites future litigation challenging the State BOE’s charter granting authority. I think I’ve answered your questions as to why this is needed, I think we just disagree.

@Konop. 1) I see your point, although since I only have first hand knowledge of my son’s school, Coweta Charter has their share of special needs kids as well as highly trained teachers (to include ESL and special needs certified staff), which is why commission charters are willing to fore-go the local dollars.
2) Agree, but again, Coweta Charter is a Title 1 school, and yet these lower income families are willing to sacrifice to get their students to our school. That’s one reason I love the school, parent commitment.
3) Duplicated overhead in what way?
4) Considered.
5) That sounds great. I love this and magnet schools. These don’t conflict with the amendment.
6) How has the state’s infrastructure been under utilized by the creation of 16 commission approved charters?


September 13th, 2012
12:06 pm

Cherokee Charter and Coweta Charter: Governing Board is Georgia Charter Educational Foundation formed in FLORIDA in 2009 with offices in Florida and Canton, Georgia. Revenue for 2011 was over $2,000,000 with assets of $515,000. They are the “central admin” for these 2 charter schools.

Their sister organization-Florida Charter Educational Foundation had revenues is excess of $11,000,000 in 2011 with assets of over $7,000,000. Anyone who thinks a charter school doesn’t have “central admin” costs that don’t reach the classroom is fooling themselves.

This is the “governing layer” between the charter school board (principal, parents, community business leaders), and the Charter Schools USA management.

Anyone who thinks charter schools don’t have “central admin” costs that don’t make it to the classroom is fooling themselves.

John Konop

September 13th, 2012
12:27 pm


On a infrastructure and overhead has to duplicate buildings, administrators…… I have been advocating for lower the amount of administrators via waving teach to the a lot of the teach to the test requirements via the failed No Child Left Behind verse focusing on dropout rates, college placements and job skills. Also by coordination with the colleges, vo-tech school in high school and let the higher education set requirements for certificates and or degrees verse the state. Also we should be cross utilizing faculties with colleges, vo-tech schools at night with high schools before building more buildings. Also we should be coordinating volume purchasing with home school, private, charter and public.

I do think the Charter issue varies a lot by community and how the deal is structured. As I said I am not against Charter schools I just want the proper controls in place. If you want to run it like a business, it should be subject to normal business rules we all face every day. If not tax payers will end up getting the short end of the deal.


September 13th, 2012
12:30 pm

@CTR you need to study the issue just a little more. Who has told you the funding will not continue? Your Charter School? Please read HB797, the funding mechanism is already in place and took effect in July of this year. It stays in place regardless of passage of the charter referendum. The Supreme Court ruling calls into doubt the ability of the State to establish a state charter school and fund it with local funds. Yes, State Special Schools lost their ability to earn local funds with that ruling. However, HB797 establishes the framework to fund the schools using state funds only (no local dollars used). It stands regarless of whether the referendum passes.

There is a cruel irony here. Charter Starter, Too has referenced a state charter on this blog, Patuala Academy, which is succeeding in an area where the local public schools have not. They have little admin cost (no magement layer or separate non-profit governing board to run the school). They are a good example of what a charter school model can do. However, their long term success and funding is ironically being jeopardized by the charter interests backed by the corporate management companies and their “non-profit” governing bodies, like Charter Schools USA. They cannot separate themselves from that. The pro charter argument is “cronyism and central admin costs” of the local district boards and yet they fail to see why voters have a problem with shifting admin costs to a for profit company and it’s chain of “non-profit” governing boards.

And then there is the question of an appointed State Charter Commission authorizing these schools instead of the GA DOE. Why is that needed? No one is answering that question.

Why do we need that extra layer of management if the GA DOE is already serving the state special charter schools?


September 13th, 2012
1:09 pm

Yes I have read it. It says “to provide for funding for state charter schools”. Currently the schools have been granted “special school” status, but they are not “state charter schools”. So the funding they got for this year ends, it does not continue. So if this amendment fails, they can not be “state charter schools” so they can’t get the funding.

One Teacher's Voice

September 13th, 2012
2:23 pm

@CTR So you are in Coweta arguing about Cherokee’s issues?

“Demagoguery? Demagoguery? Demagoguery?”

I am stating facts.

So where does the funding come from to support charter schools?

Abracadabra sources?

State some facts where it will come from and supply the input as to how it will not come from the funding of Georgia Public Schools.

“Why must I wait till the school has failed my child, when I can prevent it and go to a charter?”

Why must your student not get taught by Stephen Hawking IN CASE he fails Algebra? If we are going to deal with “IN CASE” situations, we should be worried about a great deal more than just charter schools.

And am I blaming charter schools for funding shortages? No.

However, I am stating that they will and do add to the problem of funding. And if more are implemented, more funding issues will occur.

Abracadabra funding or real funding? Which is it?

Here is another FACT for you . The funding still comes from tax dollars, one way or the other.

So, what it really boils down to is that you like your child’s charter school and are an advocate for it.

I get it.

However, many like their public schools and don’t want their children to lose funding. You know the real money that the state has to provide instead of the funding that you don’t think matters.

Does your child go to one of 48 Charter Schools USA locations with over 40,000 students under its umbrella?

I am sure that the managing company isn’t in it for a profit and is doing it out of the goodness of their heart.

I am sure that they won’t try to make the most money from the state funding once they gain a large control of charter schools.

Educating kids should be a business after all.

But IN CASE they do take over the reins of schools, what happens if they don’t perform as promised?

But that won’t happen right, because then, we can simply hire another company to teach kids and hope for the best.

Let’s have a charter fire and police department as well IN CASE they are not doing well.


September 13th, 2012
2:39 pm

@OneTeacher… You say you don’t blame them, then go on to blame them. And yes, the funding does come from tax dollars. But that’s like saying that tax funds spent on roads takes away from schools, or better yet, any new school that is built, takes away from old ones. No I don’t need Stephen Hawking to teach my son, just a teacher who chose to be there, supported by parents who chose to have their children there, in an environment that is less about protecting power, and more about academics. And this is speaking strictly from the we left as compared to the school we chose. And while you may not like Charter School USA, again, I challenge you to attend either Cherokee or Coweta Charter and see what you think. I think they are definitely earning their keep. If the make a profit off of it, good, that way they can stay in business and keep teaching my kid. Trust me, the compensation they earn in exchange for the service they perform is worth the money, which is at a greatly reduced cost to the tax payer.

Ron F.

September 13th, 2012
6:45 pm

“So if this amendment fails, they can not be “state charter schools” so they can’t get the funding.”

If that’s the case, then they will need to reapply for a charter to fix that designation. If they have worked well and have established a good working relationship with their host districts, then there should be no problem getting them approved- provided there is money in the local budget to contribute to them. If not, then they can appeal to the state board, as was the case with FSA in Fulton, which appealed even though there were serious questions about financial matters that Fulton eventually uncovered. They were offered a five year charter by Fulton before the financial issues were discovered, which they declined and appealed to the state board for a ten year charter. The process worked as it is designed to work. Had there been a state commission to appeal to, then ultimately they would have become the final decision maker, which is yet another layer removed from true local control in my opinion.

I realize many local boards aren’t going to approve charters. Ironically, as the state legislature pushes for this amendment and says it wants schools to get approval locally as much as possible, that very body has cut education funding to the point that most districts, especially those beyond the metro area, will have no choice but to deny charter applications because they are barely making budget for the current system now. The legislature has no intention of restoring any of that funding, ever as far as I can tell, so what they really seem to want is for local districts to deny charter applications so they become the largest authorizer. This will give them direct control of what I believe will be a significant number of schools, and yet another excuse to cut traditional public education funding still more. Their intent, in my opinion, is to slowly starve even the successful systems out of existence so that everyone will be dependent on a state controlled system. This becomes an end-run around the constitution that stipulates local control, and allows them to bring in any management company(ies) they like. Unfortunately, the charter school movement may become a carefully controlled game for the state legislature to finally achieve one big step in its goal to privatize education.

And that is precisely why I will not vote for the amendment in November.


September 13th, 2012
7:31 pm

Hi RonF. I think your skepticism is warranted. Do you think if the amendment fails, the course you laid out will be averted? With the State BOE retaining their power to grant charters for the time being, as well as the locally approved charters, do you see education being truly reformed and the “privatization” as you describe it failing? You know, I’ve been called a skeptic as well, but I’m really skeptical about our one-size fits all traditional system in my county. And the fact is, we only have a commission approved charter here, and many many families are so thankful for it. In fact the local board sued our charter. And if this amendment fails, I have no delusions that it can remain open on the reduced funding. The tough thing is, there are really families caught up in this fight, and I’m sure that many that oppose this amendment would actually vote in favor of it if they were in our shoes. The way I see it, there is no way to avert the crisis our traditional public schools are facing, charter amendment or no.


September 13th, 2012
7:56 pm

@CTR: And what of the crisis in our state charter schools? Will it be averted or sped up by passage of the referendum? You are familiar with Odyssey Charter and GCA? Thousands of students whose education is in jeopardy because they could not remedy their IDEA non-compliance issues. Isn’t this a crisis? Or is it only a crisis if they don’t have somewhere else to go?

Pardon My Blog

September 13th, 2012
8:27 pm

@all – the comments have truly convinced me that the Charter School idea is just another way for people to profit from the taxpayers with very few benefitting from the so-called curriculum. Instead, if these individuals think they have a better way of doing things, then let’s listen to them and incorporate the ideals into the public schools. This should not be a back door private school. NO MORE CHARTER SCHOOLS!

Ron F.

September 13th, 2012
9:00 pm

CTR: Oh I absolutely believe the need for change in our education model isn’t going away, no matter what. In fact, I think regardless of what happens with the amendment, the push is on to reform education. If nothing else, the state funding reduction has forced many systems to a state of more realistic monetary management, and that isn’t all bad. But I also believe we’ve only seen the beginning of the funding battle, regardless of how much economic recovery we see in coming years. As a veteran teacher, I can’t wait to see public education finally make some substantive changes. I don’t think the plan currently supported by the legislature has anything to do with improving current public schools.

I know of numerous charter schools that are doing quite a good job. I’m not against them at all. I think they have an important role in helping to push reform in current public schools systems that parents and teachers have been looking for for quite a while. There are groups within the current system that can clearly benefit from specialties that charter schools can much more quickly and efficiently provide. I don’t want to shut down the former commission approved schools close if they are successful. They need to get busy getting the applications in so they can get approval to continue, and perhaps with better funding if they get local approval. I’m a committed public school teacher who works with at-risk and needy students. I see kids in all sorts of special designations that I would love to be able to help start a school or magnet program to help. Innovation HAS to happen, but I don’t think giving the legislature carte blanche to appoint a commission that will have the authority to approve schools without any voter input is the answer. As much as I question them, my intent is to understand, not to just naysay charter schools. I absolutely do NOT trust our legislature in sum total right now, and I firmly believe their intents are far from noble in wanting this amendment.

I’m not just a skeptic, I’m a flat-out unapologetic anti-politician at this point in life. I wouldn’t trust a legislator is he was blood kin at this point. And I really hate to see charter schools become another weapon in their arsenal to create a state-run system that touts local control while focusing more and more power for establishing them at the state level via an appointed commission that is as far removed from voters as they can make it. I think you should be able to keep your charter school, and if it’s working and the local board doesn’t support it, then the state BOE should and I believe likely will.

One Teacher's Voice

September 13th, 2012
11:45 pm

“the funding does come from tax dollars. But that’s like saying that tax funds spent on roads takes away from schools, or better yet, any new school that is built, takes away from old ones.”

No it’s not. Road funds come from a separate budget.

Education funds come from education budgets. It’s the same budget that charter schools are built on. I am not trying to be offensive, but your argument here is simply wrong.

New schools have to be built to solve growth and aging problems. Charter schools take away from education funds regardless of what the county needs with new facilities or staff.

The money for charter schools takes away from public schools that are already struggling.

“And while you may not like Charter School USA, again, I challenge you to attend either Cherokee or Coweta Charter and see what you think.”

I never said I don’t like it. What I recognize though is that they are a business. So I will give you a challenge that you can do at home with your computer in a minute.

Isn’t a corporation by its very existence designed to make money? While establishing itself, I think Charter School USA will go above and beyond to gain a foothold in the state.

It’s the down the road factor that should make people concerned.

They are about making money, and making the best decisions for kids will never be ahead of making a profit the company.

“the compensation they earn in exchange for the service they perform is worth the money, which is at a greatly reduced cost to the tax payer.”

Show me the facts on that last statement. Opening a new school, with administrators, teachers, utilities…etc. is more cost effective than utilizing the structure and staff that is already present? I am not an economist but this does not make sense. Hiring more teachers at a struggling public school to half the class sizes would be more economical I would think. No building issues, no administrators needed, no new utility bills, no new traffic issues and on and on.

Again, look at states who have had charter schools for decades. Charter schools excelling above public schools has not proven to be true over time. Google “charter schools STATE NAME test scores.” CTR…try something other than google for this too. If you have been on many pro charter school sites, google will personalize your search results to only show results on the first few pages with which you seem to want to see.

SO HERE IS A CHALLENGE: Find a recent news source (not a charter business website or charter support site) that shows the CHARTER SYSTEMS of Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Michigan, or even the vilified area of Chicago to be better than the public school systems that they replaced or compete with. These are some of the states with the most and oldest charter businesses.

Overall, they are not keeping up with the public schools, but don’t take my word for it.

Seriously CTR, research it before you quickly dismiss this as a bias of some crazy teacher.

I, like you and many others, was under the false impression that charter schools were better. After being made to do some open research for a college course, I had to retract my position. One school here or there is better. But overall, this is not the case.

It is apparent CTR that you are passionate about education, and I have to respect that. However, charter schools are being politicized along with school vouchers, and the facts don’t measure up to the rhetoric. It’s sad because while your kids are getting the bright spot of charter business, the data shows that those businesses that you support don’t keep that glimmer for kids that come later.

Mary Elizabeth

September 13th, 2012
11:54 pm

“Their (legislators’) intent, in my opinion, is to slowly starve even the successful systems out of existence so that everyone will be dependent on a state controlled system. . . .Unfortunately, the charter school movement may become a carefully controlled game for the state legislature to finally achieve one big step in its goal to privatize education.”

Please understand that this is not all legislators. This is a national Republican goal. Republican legislators, primarily, are the ones who have the “goal to privatize education.” Moreover, if you read the links I had suggested regarding “ALEC and Charter Schools,” you will have noticed that it is not simply Georgia’s legislature that is trying to privatize public education, but Republican dominated legislatures in states throughout the nation, often with ALEC’s encouragement and help. Thus, this is a much more political undertaking in Georgia than simply wanting more educational control at the state level over the local level. Republican legislators in Georgia are, evidently, coordinated with, and connected to, a national Republican agenda of privatizing education throughout the nation. ALEC has many corporations among its members. Privatizing education will, imo, ultimately lead to an educational industry that will be a means of greater profit to some corporations, and certainly much more so than is present within traditional public schools, which are primarily not based on profit.

If you wish to stop this privatization of public education, especially since there is so much power and money behind it, then I believe you must vote the Democratic ticket in November in elections in Georgia, as well as in the national election. Although some Democratic legislators in Georgia do support the Constitutional amendment, most do not. However, most Republicans do support it. And, many of them are members of ALEC, a national organization with national goals.

I heard the Chairman of Georgia’s Educational Committee (a Republican) say publicly, “We are going to pass this amendment bill,” before the vote was even cast. His mind had been made up as to the outcome of that bill, whatever citizens had to say in their public speeches to the House Education Committee, on that day of the Committee’s meeting during the last legislative session. Georgia’s Republican legislators, imo, are entrenched in this privatization of education movement. If you want to sustain and improve traditonal public education, then you must vote the Democratic ticket to have any real chance of turning this movement around in Georgia. We must change legislators. I do not believe that the present Republican legislators will change in this regard. Your vote will make the difference.

Traditioinal public education can be improved, but it must be better funded, and programs must be developed to improve it – with genuine commitment from Georgia’s leaders. Public charter schools, working with and through local school districts, can help in this regard. Former Gov. Zell Miller made a genuine commitment to public education and to public school teachers. As a result, under his leadership, legislation was passed that helped to improve traditional public education in Georgia.

Moreover, I do not want my tax dollars, that were previously used for public education, being used to enhance the profit margins of some corporations that have latched onto the “educational industry.” I imagine that there are other senior citizens, without school-aged children, as well as childless couples, and singles without children who, likewise, do not want their tax dollars – that had been meant for the “public good” through public education – used to enhance the profit margins of corporate interests of quasi-private “public” schools. If some parents desire to send their children to these quasi-private schools, then they should pay for them from their taxes, and not from the taxes of those citizens who do not have children in public schools and who, especially, do not support the gradual privatization of public schools, which will enhance the profit margins of private corporations.

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
9:27 am

Hello everyone! Excellent conversation over the last day amongst you. A few thoughts that stood out:

@ 3schoolkids – I really do understand what you are saying, but let me give you something else to consider. The districts never really cared about “local control” being taken away with the old state chartered special school model (state approved). They didn’t sue until money became involved. Their campaign argument now hinges on a couple of arguments: 1) loss of local control (which would not be any different whether it’s the state board approving or a Commission, as neither are elected) and 2) their claim that districts “can’t afford” it and the state charters will be taking funds they should have (which is also untrue because HB 797 prohibits this AND the supplemental state funds do not come from the education portion of the state budget.) I strongly believe the districts are waiting to see what happens with this amendment. If it fails, an expensive lawsuit will be a moot point. If we win, and supposedly the state board can “continue” to authorize schools… is this not in direct conflict with their campaign arguments about loss of local control and with respect to the funds…which, regardless of the amendment, the schools would still be eligible to receive. At this point, there will be a lawsuit. They have set precedent already – so they really don’t have any credibility when they say, “We won’t sue.” They have already sued schools (children) and tried injunctive relief (which meant stopping funding to these students.) Because you see, they didn’t care about the faces of the kids or teachers they were impacting, it was all about the money to them. It’s a power game.

I agree with you that schools affiliated with EMOs do have central office costs (which are the management fees.) One thing to consider is that these schools are STILL costing the taxpayer less to educate the kids than a district. If they are achieving, then it is a good return on investment and thus, a moot point. Folks forget that EMOs, as for-profit entities, pay taxes. CSUSA pays federal and Florida state taxes. Georgia benefits from the federal dollars paid by for-profit corporations. Plus, the folks they employ in Georgia pay our state employment taxes, property taxes, etc. They ARE putting money back into the system, versus a district that does not put anything back into the economy. I know it sounds like I’m hard core “for” EMOs. Honestly, I’m kind of agnostic as long as the kids are getting what they need. They just shouldn’t all be villainized because they, for tax designation purposes, choose to be for-profit.

Also, as you so astutely mentioned, charters NOT affiliated with management companies (which is the majority) are being shunted by those in opposition. In essence, you’re throwing the baby out with the bath water. A measure for EVERY voter on this should be: 1) Are kids achieving 2) As a taxpayer, is my money invested receiving a good return? Is it being used efficiently? The charters are achieving at higher levels than the districts they serve, so #1 is a yes. If kids are learning, it’s a good return on investment, and the state charters will be at 62% (regardless of independent or EMO affiliated), so therefore, it is being used efficiently.

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
9:41 am

@ Ron. F. – Hi, Ron!

Mary Elizabeth continues to bring up ALEC, as if it’s some kind of conspiracy. First of all, the legislature has not been driving this alternative authorizer agenda. They have picked it up from parents and community members, and yes, businesses tired of having an unqualified work force and have carried the ball because THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE ELECTED TO DO on behalf of their constituency. Hundreds and hundreds of parents have shown up to rally, talk with legislators, call, and write asking for support of charters. Honestly, before Mary Elizabeth brought up ALEC, I had never heard of them, which is odd, because I’ve been engaged in this movement for a very long time. Nonetheless, I found them online – here is the home website: Here is their mission statement: The mission of ALEC’s Education Task Force is to promote excellence in the nation’s educational system, to advance reforms through parental choice, to support efficiency, accountability, and transparency in all educational institutions, and to ensure America’s youth are given the opportunity to succeed. They have a board of legislators and a Private Enterprise Board of some of the largest corporations in our country: Corporations have a vested interest in education, given the need for work ready and capable employees. These corporations employee thousands and thousands of people and pay umpteen billions in taxes, which impacts the economy and all of us. Why is this such a big “conspiracy” with Mary Elizabeth? There is no difference with the legislators’ affiliation than with the teachers’ affiliation with NEA, GAE, or PAGE. They are organizations with a shared purpose.

It sounds so logical to say, “the state charges can just reapply and if denied, appeal to the state board.” And yet, we have 2 issues with that: 1) Some have and were denied. Case in point: Heritage Preparatory Academy reapplied to APS – is out of the box performing higher than the schools they serve…denied. Ivy Preparatory Academy was “adopted” for 1 year, and despite outstanding achievement, their charter was not renewed. So just go to the state in the future…right? Superintendent Barge said he COULD NOT SUPPORT MORE CHARTERS UNTIL OUR DISTRICTS ARE “FULLY FUNDED.” (Never mind if they are using what they have efficiently or not, but I digress…) It stands to reason, based on his statements, that the Department of Education, under his directives, will recommend to the SBOE denial of all state chartered special school applications. The only way to ensure at least a fair shot is to have a Commission that is not affiliated with Mr. Barge, who is deeply tied to the district superintendents and ALL of their associations.

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
9:48 am

@ One Teacher’s Voice – Good morning!

CTR addressed the diversion of funds point you brought up and he/she is correct. HB 797 prohibits any funds being diverted. And just to be clear, the supplemental state funds (which make up for the loss of local dollars) will NOT come out of the K-12 Education Budget. It comes out of the other 52% of the state budget. And, keep in mind, that any funding is subject to appropriation.

You bring up a fair point when you ask why we “need” Cherokee Charter Academy if Cherokee is doing so well. I have 2 answers for this. First of all, 100% of children are not meeting and exceeding or kids may not be reaching their full potential individually. You are speaking in aggregates, and charters are able to meet the kids that get lost in those aggregate stats. Secondly, Cherokee Charter received 2400 applications for a little over 700 slots for K-7th grade. The district has about 24,000 kids in K-8 in their district…which means that about 10% of the parents in Cherokee County, despite their high achievement and newer offerings, felt they wanted something else. It’s not always about achievement….it’s sometimes about community demand for something not offered.

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
9:57 am

@ John Konop – I agree almost wholeheartedly with your post about efficiency (i.e., group purchasing, using facilities taxes have already paid for more effectively by sharing, etc.) We are not far off at all. Here is what you need to know…

Charters for YEARS have been asking districts to share underutilized or unused facilities. Across the nation we see districts sharing facilities or allowing use by charters – but Georgia districts just wouldn’t. Districts have refused over and over and over. They stored materials, put professional development in there, part time programs, bus parking….anything but allowing charters to use a facility already paid for with tax dollars for the intended purpose. It took HB 555 to get the districts to even start thinking about doing this. And even still, it has taken the threat of lawsuits to get them to comply with that law (they like to use a really narrow definition of “unused” to apply for things like what I mention above). I will say that APS has been really great from the onset of HB 555 (but not before) with allowing use of facilities. DeKalb is FINALLY starting to open up. That’s it. Note, however, that charters stared by districts (i.e., Gwinnett’s Math and Science) were not only allowed to use district facilities, but were given MILLIONS for a state of the art one. That’s how it rolls with the charter sector. Districts take care of “their own” and to hell with the rest of the kids. They can be in substandard facilities without gyms or playgrounds. Sorry, but it’s true.

As for group purchasing – one would think that districts would realize the that allowing charters to go with them on group purchasing would lower THEIR costs. But again, that happens very infrequently. Most of the charters can purchase from district warehouses. Charters aren’t able to share the costs (usually) of speech therapists, OT, PT, etc. either, which would save EVERYONE money. The districts generally say no. Again, APS is better about this than most (giving credit where credit is due).

I want you to understand the real picture of what happens and why districts have a clear and present conflict with authorizing charters and why they not only frequently deny, but even when they approve, they treat them as step children and nearly starve them to death. It’s so interesting to me to hear districts crying about not enough money to educate kids, but charters are doing it for 74% of what the districts are WITHOUT economy of scale. How does that make any sense?

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
10:01 am

@ John Konop – I just thought of a really good example. Remember last year in DeKalb County when they had some schools that had lost a lot of enrollment and so they planned to shut them down? There was a public outcry at the closing of their community schools.

Parallel to this was International Community School, who was in a severely substandard facility (church with 2 very, very old modulars), straddling 2 campuses, etc. (and paying for this out of their operational…instructional funds). A PERFECT arrangement that would have been a “win-win” would have been for the district to put ICS in one of those low enrollment schools. The communities could have kept the traditional school they loved, and ICS would have had a decent facility.

This, of course, was not allowed by DeKalb.

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
10:04 am

@ Konop – Apologies. This should have said: Most of the charters CAN’T purchase from district warehouses.

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
10:17 am

@ Ron F. – One more thing.

A general problem that charters have in working with districts and getting a “fair shake” is that they are going up against a MACHINE. Totally David and Goliath. The districts really can create whatever rules they want, and despite laws that should protect the parents/community members trying to start charters, the parents/community members can’t even push the districts to comply with the laws.

Let me give you 2 very specific examples…

1. Cherokee Charter Academy was convinced the Cherokee County School District had some funny business going on related to their authorization….so…they tried to exercise their rights under the Open Records Act. The district’s attorney quoted them $324,608 and a 463-day wait to obtain the documents. Keep in mind, that it was over a period of about 3 months they were looking to acquire documentation from.

Here’s where Maureen covered that issue. And by the way, the State Attorney General got involved with that one.

2. FSA is another excellent example. I have said over and over that that school was a well orchestrated death between Fulton County Schools (Avossa and his charter staff) and the head of the Charter Schools office at the state. Funny, when FSA tried to get documents from Fulton County (for just the period related to their renewal), they were quoted for 4 separate Open Records requests by the school:


Think Fulton County School District might have something to hide…..

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
10:19 am

The above is “local control” working to its fullest.

Athens Girl

September 14th, 2012
10:38 am

Good heavens, CharterStarter,Too! Could you please not take over every blog/column having to do with charter schools? Especially CCA?

Besides, don’t you now have work to do at the Cherokee County school board?

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
10:40 am

Sorry – it’s been a few days since I’ve been able to get on and I was catching up. And I really care a lot about the charter sector, so I try to clarify as much as I can.

Not sure what you mean about Cherokee County School Board? I don’t live anywhere near Cherokee County.

Ron F.

September 14th, 2012
11:37 am

CS2- thanks for the examples. So you’re saying there was nothing wrong at FSA? I think that was proven a while back. Do you honestly think their demise was orchestrated by the school system?

I know charters haven’t been welcomed by local boards (for many reasons, some of which were just plain biased ignorance, IMO). I see that having another state level authorizer gives you somewhere to turn when the “establishment” is intractable. What I have to face, and you know, is that there is very little likelihood more than a just a few charter schools will get any local approval with the current financial situation most are in right now. It is, in my view, a perfect storm many of our legislators would like to see so that they can create a greater desire for the commission. That appears to me to indicate their desire for more, not less, control at the state level. Some may think that’s better than what we have, but long-term I’m not so sure. And nothing I read here is helping convince me. I know some legislators are good people, but unfortunately they don’t seem to be making as much of an appearance as the fools as far as I can tell. As I’ve said, I see how charters can be useful and perhaps better than some current schools, but I don’t see how having more of them set up under contentious circumstances is going to help. Ultimately, you guys need to convince local supers and boards the way you have the state legislature. It’s tough, but that would help you a lot.

As to ALEC, I’m sure their website says lots of nice things. Looking at their legislative offerings thus far nationwide, there’s obviously a very socially conservative agenda being pushed by them. That’s their right, and they certainly can lobby along with the rest. But actually writing legislation, some of which the state level folks “forgot” to take the ALEC name off of as they presented it to their legislatures, seems to be a big step beyond just lobbying. Their influence is clearly strong, and I’m not sure it’s heading in the right direction. We need reform, but rushing headlong after their plan isn’t the perfect solution either.

DeKalb Teacher

September 14th, 2012
11:52 am

Borrowing from Dwight Eisenhower, we have an “Educational – Industrial Complex” in this country.

Facts are the facts. 2+2 = 4 whether it comes from Charter Starter, Too (by real name or alias) or anybody else.

Mary Elizabeth

September 14th, 2012
11:58 am

“To date, 34 lawmakers from 12 states have withdrawn their memberships (in ALEC). One of the first was Rep. Mike Colona (R-MO) who said ALEC ‘is not the innocuous, bipartisan organization it purports to be…. I was a member and saw firsthand the sort of extreme legislation they push on state legislators around the country. I disagree with ALEC’s extremist agenda and encourage my colleagues in the Missouri General Assembly to end their affiliations with the group.’ ”

The above quote was taken from the article in the link, below. Please read the article and, especially, view the video, within. The AJC has written an expose on ALEC in the last couple of months, and columnist Jay Bookman wrote a column, regarding ALEC, during that same period of time.

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
12:15 pm

@ Ron F. – I believe that FSA had similar deficiencies to any other school in this state. Do I think that they were fairly shut down? No. Do I think that the “charges” trumped up were “proven?” Emphatically No. Here are a few reasons why:

1. The district offered to APPROVE them for 3 more years. Now, if they were THAT egregious, why would they have offered to do that? Plus, how did they go on for 10 years without the district ever raising these concerns? They had an independent audit every single year. They had to provide their staffing every single year. The district could have walked in at any time for any reason. Do I think FSA should have taken the 3 years – yes, but you have to understand that they previously had a 10 year charter, were a Blue Ribbon School, AND had a broad flexibility waiver. The district was actually offering less than the law even stipulates is a term for a charter.

2. The “audit” conducted was disputed by a national audit firm that was pretty forthright about how poorly conducted Fulton’s audit was and how outside of standards for forensic audits it fell.

3. The district’s own attorney acknowledged that FSA’s arrangement was NOT a conflict of interest. And indeed, if that arrangement was, then one must wonder how Robert Avossa can sit on the board of Metro RESA, pay tens of thousands of dollars in fees and services to them, and that not be considered the very same conflict?

4. FSA was very transparent – putting every single document on their website for the public to review.

5. The district never found any affiliation at all with the Gulen Movement, which was never stated outright, but was clearly an undercurrent in the whole situation.

6. Information handily got “leaked” to the media by Fulton County and the DOE…even before the school was notified.

7. Fulton County put up a $6M dollar barrier for anyone to prove they handled this situation unethically.

Now, let’s address the “financial situation” you continue to mention. I ask you this, how can you say that the districts don’t have “enough” to educate kids properly if they cannot substantiate efficient spending of what they have in state and local funds? Look at it this way…if I choose to purchase a $500,000 house and I was making $75,000 a year and got a 15% cut, taking me down to $63,750, I would not be in a very good position to argue with not having “enough” to cover my bills. I couldn’t afford to live in that $500,000 house to begin with, much less with a cut.


September 14th, 2012
12:32 pm

@ Charter Etc. Same old same old. Getting tiresome to have it repeated at great length on every blog to do with the charter school amendment. Athens Girl was right at 10:38 am.

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
12:34 pm

@ Prof – Then don’t read it.

Mary Elizabeth

September 14th, 2012
1:50 pm

I just read today’s AJC – the home delivery version. On page 1 was the article entitled, “Charter School’s Amendment, Money pushing for vote not local, Donors signal Ga. vote draws national interest.” Because many readers may gather their news online, rather than from a paper version, I wish to inform readers about this article, with some detail. Below are a few paragraphs from this article, which was written by Wayne Washington of the AJC:

“Almost all of the roughly $500,000 an advocacy group has raised to persuade Georgians to amend the constitution so more charter schools are approved has come from out-of-state donors, campaign disclosure forms show.

Families for Better Public Schools, which is leading the charge for the proposed state constitutional amendment, reported at the end of August that it had raised $486,750 in cash contributions. Of that total, $20,990 – just more than 4 percent – came from Georgia donors.

Vote Smart, a coalition of groups opposing the amendment, has raised $80,951, much of it from Georgia teachers, principals and superintendents.

The truckload of out-of-state cash highlights the fact that Georgia’s battle over charter schools has become a national focal point in the school choice movement.

Big-money donors dot the contributor list for Families for Better Public Schools. Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton of Arkansas has given $250,000 to the cause. Two contributors from Michigan have donated a combined $50,000, and an organization in Virginia has forked over $100,000. . .

“The eyes of the nation are on Georgia,” said Tony Roberts, president and chief executive officer of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, which backs the amendment.

Opponents point to the out-of-state money as proof that the push to change the state’s consitution is coming from outside forces that have an ideological stake in the debate or simply want to make money by operating charter schools in Georgia.

‘The question is, why are so many for-profit companies funding the Georgia campaign pushing this amendment?’ asked Tom Upchurch, campaign chairman for Vote Smart. ‘This isn’t about education. This is about money to be made and money to be paid.’ . . .

‘Public schools aren’t being funded at the full level now,’ said Doug Callahan, a math teacher at Glenn C. Jones Middle School in Buford. ‘We all know about furlough days. We’ve all had larger classes than we’ve ever had.’

Callahan, who has donated $300 to Vote Smart, said creating more charter schools and giving them scarce state money ’seems to be going in the wrong direction.’

With less than two months before voters go to the polls, Vote Smart is not well positioned financially to amplify its arguments.

The coaliltion reported it had $4,758 on hand at the end of August. Families for Better Public Schools reported it had $414,373 on hand.

The push for the amendment has drawn contributions from as far as as Washington state, New Mexico, Nevada, California and New York. Some of the donations are as small as $5, but there are larger donations from powerful firms and individuals, including some with ties to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Several donors are for-profit charter school operators with schools in Georgia. . . .

State Sen. Vincent Fort, an Atlanta Democrat who opposes the amendment, said he worries that opponents of the amendment will have their arguments drowned in money from well-heeled donors who back the amendment.

‘You’ve seen this before – folks using their megawealth to buy an election,’ Fort said. ‘And that’s what this is.’ ”

The article is more extensive than these few excerpts, which I have lifted from it. I encourage readers to read the entire article in today’s AJC.


September 14th, 2012
1:59 pm

Interestingly, I was just going to quote from this very AJC article, but I noticed something different to bring to people’s attention here. From p. 10, section A:

“Bert Brantley, spokesman for Families for Better Public Schools… said [the organization] won’t launch a statewide television blitz before the Nov. 6 vote. Instead it will use local or regional speakers to talk up the amendment.”

Is that why these blogs on the charter amendment are blanketed with CharterStarter, Too’s posts that all repeat the same off-topic points about charter schools, late into the night as well as all day long?

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
2:12 pm

@ Prof – Nope. I have 2 purposes on here:

1. To provide a balanced view of charter schools in this state and the Amendment at large.
2. To draw attention to the rampant waste, mismanagement, and poor achievement in public education in our state and to show the public why there is a NEED for this to be addressed AND how charter schools are ONE WAY to address the problem.

And why, pray tell, are the two of you on here as much as I am?

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
2:13 pm

Oh, and by the way, please go back in time on Maureen’s blogs and you will see that I have been active on issues related to education, particularly chartering long before the Amendment came about. Mary Elizabeth – I just noticed you on here since the Amendment….wonder why?

sneak peek into education

September 14th, 2012
2:15 pm

@Prof-I have often wondered if the bloggers who constantly post in a very dogmatic and desperate way in favor of charters (ie Charter Starter 2 for one) is being paid by those forces who are hoping to make a bucket load o’ money if the amendment passes. Maybe that’s what Charter Starter means when she describes herself as an “educator” and why she refuses to reveal her true self. Just a thought.


September 14th, 2012
2:15 pm

@ Charter, Etc.

No, I can’t beat your record!


September 14th, 2012
2:21 pm

@ Charter, etc. Donors to the charter school movement began contributing long before the amendment came about too.

I wonder why you keep picking on Mary Elizabeth? I can remember her blogging on issues here long before this amendment–most notably, a rousing debate about Thomas Jefferson’s real position toward slavery.

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
2:44 pm

@ Prof – Well, Ms. Mary Elizabeth is just as dogmatic on the other side as I am (and certainly just as repetitive – geez, she can take Thomas Jefferson across every forum!) Does that make her someone paid from the other side? Of course not. We both just care a lot about our positions and want to make sure that people have a balanced view to consider.

Sir, do you know how much money school districts have funneled into their advocacy organizations over the years – TAX MONEY? MILLIONS. It was over $2M alone last year. Please do not even begin to talk to me about money for advocacy. People in this state AND NATION are pretty tired of what is going on in public education. Not only did foundations put some money behind reform, but so did parents. Tell me what parents have paid to support the nonsense going in in the district’s efforts. Nada. Not one parent was on their list.

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
2:45 pm

@ Sneak a Peak – Your mom picked a very cute name for you. Bet you got teased a lot in elementary school.

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
3:12 pm

@ Mary Elizabeth –

Check out Vincent Fort’s donations for his election….looks like GAE gave him some moolah…

In 2010, Fort received $166,393 in campaign donations. The top contributors are listed below.[7]
[hide]Georgia State Senate 2010 election – Campaign Contributions
Top contributors to Vincent Fort’s campaign in 2010
AFSCME $4,800 (American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees – the government equivalent to ALEC.
Teamsters $4,400
Fort, Vincent $4,298
Georgia Federation Of Teachers $3,600
Georgia Association Of Educators $3,400
Total Raised in 2010 $166,393


September 14th, 2012
3:25 pm

@ Charter Etc. More argumentum ad hominem, I see.

sneak peak in education

September 14th, 2012
3:38 pm

@charter starter 2- ha ha. Your comment is hilarious and funnily enough, very infantile. Sounds like something a 6 yr old would say on the playground. Thanks for the ”teachable” moment. I think I hit a nerve very close to the truth.

CharterStarter, Too

September 14th, 2012
3:44 pm

@ Prof – Yep.