Another view on charter amendment: Goal in Georgia ought to be cooperation, not competition.

Here is a piece from Jim Arnold, a frequent contributor to this space. Per my comment yesterday, I am going to start running more of the many commentaries that I’m receiving on the Nov. 6 charter school amendment vote.

Yesterday’s piece urged support of the amendment.  This essay argues the opposite.

Arnold points out something I learned after my first year on the AJC editorial board — people want schools to solve many varied problems. As the editorial writer who wrote about education issues for the AJC, I met with groups who wanted schools to teach character education, civics and the Bible. I met with folks who wanted schools to educate kids on head injuries, safe sex and allergies. I met with proponents of more recess, art, music, PE, drama and foreign languages.  I met with parents who wanted longer summers and shorter summers or longer school days and shorter days. I met with advocates who wanted to abolish pre-k or who wanted to expand it to 3-year-olds.

There was a logic to all their requests. If you want to teach America something new or change something wrong, start with its children.

But are we piling too much on schools on top of their already challenging core mission? As I noted in a recent piece, we decry the dropout rate today but we don’t consider that a generation ago, many students in the South didn’t progress beyond eighth grade. They were never in high school so they never appeared in the dropout statistics.

No one ever expected schools to educate all kids to college-level standards until now. Out of economic necessity, we have now shifted expectations. But have we shifted sufficient resources given the size of the task now facing public education in America?

By Jim Arnold

Drug abuse education, alcohol abuse education, parenting, character ed, special ed, gender equity, environmental ed, women’s studies, African-American education, school breakfast, school lunch, daily attendance, computer education, multi-cultural ed, ESL (ELL, ESOL), teen pregnancy, Jump Start, Even Start, Head Start, Prime Start, Bright from the Start, Kindergarten, Pre-K, alternative ed, stranger/danger, anti-smoking ed, mandated reporting, CPR training, defibrillator training, anaphylactic shock recognition training, inclusion, internet ed, distance learning, Tech Prep, School to Work, Gifted and Talented, at-risk programs, keyboarding, dropout prevention, gang education, homeless ed, service learning, gun safety, bus safety, bicycle safety, drivers ed, bullying ed, obesity monitoring, BMI (body mass index) monitoring, financial literacy, diabetes monitoring, media literacy, hearing and vision screening, on-line education, CRCT, EOCT, GHSWT, GHSGT phase out, SAT prep, ACT prep, dual enrollment options, post -secondary options, AP, honors, IB, STEM, STEAM, adult ed, career ed, after-school programs, psychological services, RTTT, CCGPS, CCRPI and oh yes – classes……………..shall I go on?

Wonderful ideas all, and each deserving attention – and all have come to be the responsibilities of our schools and teachers. On top of these (and other duties) we add furlough days, tight budgets, longer school days, larger classes, higher expectations, a political agenda that actively encourages blaming teachers for societal issues, the denigration of public education, market based solutions, teacher evaluations tied to student test scores despite all evidence to the contrary and a continued reliance upon standardized test scores as an accurate depiction of student learning and achievement with no substantive research to support such a position. No wonder teachers are discouraged. No wonder teacher morale is at an all- time low. So in the face of all that and more, is there a silver lining somewhere in that big black thundercloud?

Not really.

Add to that burden the daily diatribes blaming teachers for their failure to successfully raise and, almost as an in loco parentis afterthought, educate our country’s children and we begin to see the need for something to replace our outdated, shopworn, hideously corrupt, inefficient and failing system of public education. Hold on just a second…can that be right?

Is this a new phenomenon? Has public education deteriorated over the past 30 years or so to its current level, where the Mariana Trench seems a high point by comparison? Not by any stretch of a politician’s fertile imagination. In 1996 E. D. Hirsch called for a return to a traditional approach to public education in “The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them.”

In 1983, “A Nation at Risk” told us of the apparent failure of our system of public education. The Educational Testing Service discovered in 1976 that college freshmen could correctly answer only half of 40 or so multiple choice questions. In 1969, the chancellor of New York schools, Harvey Scribner, said that for every student schools educated there was another that was “scarred as a result of his school experience.”

Admiral Rickover published “American Education, a National Failure” in 1963, and, in 1959. LIFE magazine published “Crisis in Education” that noted the Russians beat us into space with Sputnik because “the standards of education are shockingly low.”

In 1955, “Why Johnny Can’t Read” became a bestseller, and, in 1942 ,the New York Times noted only 6 percent of college freshmen could name the 13 original colonies and 75 percent did not know who was president during the Civil War.

The U.S. Navy in 1940 tested new pilots on their mastery of 4th grade math and found that 60 percent of the high school graduates failed. In 1889, the top 3 percent of U.S .high school students went to college, and 84 percent of all American colleges reported remedial courses in core subjects were required for incoming freshmen. The list continues.

You see the harrowing cry “public education is failing” is not new. Sixty years ago, for the majority of the population in the United States, it was true. The reiteration of that cry in temporal terms does not, however, make it so. “To fall short; to be unsuccessful,” says Webster.

If 100 percent success is the only acceptable goal, mea culpa. If progress toward that goal is to be a consideration, then perhaps this data from the U.S. Census Bureau casts a new light upon that supposed “failure.”


While there most certainly are individual schools or systems with serious issues, to proclaim the entire system of public education as failing would seem to make as much sense as trading in your car because a tire went flat. Perhap,s it would be more accurate to say that a significant portion of our Legislature wants us to believe public education is a massive failure because they have something to gain from doing so.

I find it more than a little interesting that many of the same group of Georgia legislators who attempt to add significantly to the burden of public school teachers through legislative micromanagement, unfunded mandates and financial underfunding are also among the most vociferous supporters of the Constitutional amendment on charter schools. It would be easier for me to believe their efforts were altruistically based and less motivated by selfish considerations were their children enrolled in public schools.

Politicians have never let the truth stand in the way of getting what they want. The Legislature’s insistence on accountability for everyone except themselves would be laughable if the consequences were not so severe for students, teachers and schools working diligently every day to overcome the effects of poverty. They have proposed, through the constitutional amendment, a process that would dismantle the system that offers hope for many in the name of using public money to pay for the education of the privileged few as if public schools and students were only there to allow someone the opportunity to make a gigantic profit. The abandonment of public education will only serve to keep those dependent upon public education as a traditional lifeline as uneducated as possible for as long as possible.

See how well “market based” strategies have worked for schools in Florida. (Here is one example. Here is a list of many more.)

Once again, teachers and public education are not the problem, they are the solution. Sooner or later even legislators must see it’s not about race, it’s about poverty; it’s not about a test score, it’s about student achievement; it’s not about a standardized curriculum, it’s about good teaching; it’s not about the business model, it’s about personalization; it’s not about competition, it’s about cooperation. Vote smart – vote “NO “on Nov. 6.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled

53 comments Add your comment


September 25th, 2012
9:55 am

This reminds me of the story of the plow and the post hole digger. If you need to dig a trench, you can accomplish it with either. With the plow you go back and forth repeatedly digging deeper. The post hole digger can also get the trench dug by digging deeply in one spot, and then again next to it, etc. until you have a whole row of them making your trench.

The plow is the only tool available to the traditional superintendent. This is the business improvement model known as “incremental improvement” and must satisfy all constituencies simultaneously while submitting to the many rules that came into being due to past misbehavior.

The post hole digger is the business improvement model known as “re-engineering”, and chartering as a process is this model applied to public education.

Neither is morally superior to the other. One might argue that in the absence of rocks the plow might be more efficient because it has the “economies of scale”. But the post hole digger is sometimes the best tool in the presence of rocks because that plow just can’t get a rock out or dig any deeper at any point around the rock once it has hit one.

Do we truly want assign moral superiority to one exclusively over the other? Do we want the operator of the plow to be given exclusive rights to determine the quantity of gas allowed the post hole digger? Or is that legitimately the right of the property owner who needs the trench dug to his requirements on his land? and knows his own rocks?


September 25th, 2012
10:26 am

“it’s not about competition, it’s about cooperation.”

Who then shall hold the incompetent teachers accountable? Still don’t see anything wrong with competition from charter schools. You will need to do a better job convincing parents.

Mary Elizabeth

September 25th, 2012
10:27 am

The history lesson regarding public education was well needed for readers to be aware, and it was excellently presented by Jim Arnold.

Moreover, I urge readers to read the informational article from the link below, provided by Mr. Arnold.

Here is an excerpt from it:

“Florida charter schools: big money, little oversight, By Scott Hiaasen and Kathleen McGrory, December 10, 2011, Miami Herald: ‘Preparing for her daughter’s graduation in the spring, Tuli Chediak received a blunt message from her daughter’s charter high school: Pay us $600 or your daughter won’t graduate. She also received a harsh lesson about charter schools: Sometimes they play by their own rules. During the past 15 years, Florida has embarked on a dramatic shift in public education, steering billions in taxpayer dollars from traditional school districts to independently run charter schools. What started as an educational movement has turned into one of the region’s fastest-growing industries, backed by real-estate developers and promoted by politicians. But while charter schools have grown into a $400-million-a-year business in South Florida, receiving about $6,000 in taxpayer dollars for every student enrolled, they continue to operate with little public oversight. . .’ ”

I believe that, for the most part, Georgia’s Reublican legislators will vote in bloc so as not to become pariahs within their own political party, and that Georgia’s Republican Party’s interests have become synonymous with national Republican Party interests, especially regarding the educational agenda for Georgia. Georgia’s citizens should take notice that Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton of Arkansas has given $250,000 to the cause of passing Georgia’s constitutional amendment. That is very telling to me.

This constitutional amendment, imo, is designed to create more opportunity for public schools to become private ones, in the long run. Private schools exist for profit, for the most part. Those ideologues who are running today’s current Republican Party believe that private, captialistic enterprise is the answer for practically every state, national, and global problem. I just heard Mitt Romney’s speech, in this regard, at the Clinton Institute. I fear that way of thinking because it is so rigid and extreme, without balance, imo. We must maintain balance. Profit interests cannot usurp public, non-profit interests in this state and throughout the globe.

John Konop

September 25th, 2012
10:32 am

Is this what we want? Should the goal be to make it easier to set up a charter school?

….Florida’s charter school law, which makes it easy to open charter schools and difficult to monitor them, has spurred a multimillion dollar industry and a school boom — all while leading to chronic governance problems and a higher-than-average rate of school failure.

Nationally, about 12 percent of all charter schools that have opened in the past two decades have shut down, according to the National Resource Center on Charter School Finance & Governance. In Florida, the failure rate is double, state records show.

The bulk of charter school problems have surfaced in states like Florida that have “a large number of charter schools and rapid growth,” said Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University who studies the charter school industry. In many cases, Miron said, the agencies charged with oversight were underfunded.

Experts say some of the problems, both financial and academic, could be avoided if charter school authorizers were stricter in issuing school charters. (In Florida, local school districts and colleges can authorize charter schools.)

“Florida has one of the most liberal laws as far as establishing a charter school goes,” said Jeffrey Grove, a research associate for the nonpartisan Southern Regional Educational Board.

Florida law also is hands-off when it comes to existing charter schools, giving operators the power to run schools with little oversight from the state or local school districts. Districts can close a charter school, but only if the school is in extreme financial distress or chronically low performing. Other than that, there is little a district can do when academic, financial or governance problems arise.

Read more here:


September 25th, 2012
11:10 am

The “someone else is doing it poorly” argument doesn’t mean that that is destined to happen here. The GA commission allowed just 7 of more than 27 petitions the year I was attending the meetings of it’s set up and organization. (and yes they screwed up with Peachtree Hope–but then that was just deserts being visited upon Dekalb) The year before the legislation forming the commission passed there was not a single start-up charter approved in the entire state that was not an LEA start-up.

I know that this was intentional because Jim Mullen’s told me the year before that waive of denials that, after the legislature amended the funding formula to give charters a proportional share of the transportation funding, that they had “just gotten too expensive”. So I expect that it was simple push back because chartering was no longer structured in such a way that they were all doomed to financial failure anyway.

HS Public Teacher

September 25th, 2012
11:26 am

Charter schools and vouchers are simply a bad idea, period, and are not solutions to consider to improve education. They create many more problems than they supposedly solve – just look South to the State of Florida!

Are there problems in Georgia public education? Of course! But you don’t solve some problems by creating other problems that are even worse!!!


September 25th, 2012
11:56 am

Public school employees are opposed. Liberals are opposed. But according to polls, they are a distinct minority with a majority of voters in favor, and a whopping 25% undecided.

This amendment is going to pass, so cooperation makes a lot more sense.


September 25th, 2012
11:56 am

@HS then what is your solution for Dekalb?

I would gladly trade a vote against the charter amendment in exchange for a solution to what ails all my district schools. I don’t believe you have one.

The problem with blogs is that they are full of hypothetical arguments based upon idealized concepts of the “best of all possible worlds”, usually by individuals that aren’t personally faced with the muddy reality that is real misbehavior in real life.

Candide eventually stopped listening to supposed “experts”

We’re neither wise, nor pure, nor good.
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
and make our garden grow.


September 25th, 2012
12:02 pm

My eyes were opened when Gwinnett County school system closed down Ivy Prep….a charter school focused on helping the poorest move out of awful schools into an environment where learning was appreciated. It’s then that I realized that the local school systems will always view charter schools as competition, and look for any reason to close them…with the real goal being to recapture control of the money going to those charters.

As usual, it’s mainly about the money..and the local school systems can’t be trusted to “fairly approve” their own competition, any more than a fox can be trusted in the hen house.


September 25th, 2012
12:07 pm

“Politicians have never let the truth stand in the way of getting what they want. The Legislature’s insistence on accountability for everyone except themselves would be laughable if the consequences were not so severe for students.”

Jim Arnold is a clown. He wants to give bad teachers a pass yet states that elected officials are not accountable??? Jimmie, they are indeed held accountable – it is called the ballot box pal. And no mention of the clown teachers in Chicago who went on strike???


September 25th, 2012
12:08 pm

and btw….the author above seems to fail to mention (at least I didn’t see it) one hugely important fact….that 1) funding per pupil for public schools has increased dramatically over the past 20-30 years, and 2) Student performance hasn’t improved at all.

So, his point that performance isn’t any worse now that 30 years ago could well be true….but then we are getting NOTHING back for our huge investment in public schools, and if so, that money should be reallocated to other uses by the govt that will yield actual results….or given back to the taxpayer.


September 25th, 2012
12:09 pm

For-profit education led to Phoneix University and the like. Crap schools worried more about churning profit than they are educating folk.

I am a staunch capitalist, but two things that profits ruin are philanthropy and education. There can’t be two goals in either. You can’t focus on both helping people and making money. In the end, one of them has to slide, and a company can’t do the prior without the latter. Economically speaking, profit HAS to come first. The school can’t exist without the management firm making money.


September 25th, 2012
12:10 pm

@dc, adjust your numbers for inflation and get back to us.


September 25th, 2012
12:16 pm

Jarvis, the internet is a really cool thing….might try it:

1980 per student cost: 5,718
2008 per student cost: 10,441

1Constant dollars based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to a school-year basis.


September 25th, 2012
12:22 pm

@dc, did you read all of what you sent me? We’re you expecting the increase in interest payments to improve student performance?

mountain man

September 25th, 2012
12:28 pm

“Another view on charter amendment: Goal in Georgia ought to be cooperation, not competition”

Tell that to the local school boards who turn down every charter school except for the ones THEY create or the “mini-me”s that they control.

And for you people who say why don’t we fix public schools rather than create charters – you have had 40 years to do that and you have only made things worse, not better. Either fi them or get out of the way and let charters in.

mountain man

September 25th, 2012
12:30 pm

“1980 per student cost: 5,718
2008 per student cost: 10,441″

Too bad it can’t break it out further – it might look like this:

Regular students:
1980 – $5718
2008 – $7000

SPED Students:
1980- $5718
2008 – $30,000


September 25th, 2012
12:31 pm

Whether approved locally or by the state, there is significant risk with Charter Schools…

Consider what happens when a charter school closes mid-year and how disruptive it is to the children within the charter schools and those within the schools that must now accommodate new students. In the example below, can you imagine the challenges for the school district to hire qualified teachers to absorb the enrollment of student from three schools?

Here’s a News Flash from Broward County, FL:

Charter Schools Closing Effective Friday, September 14, 2012

Eagle Charter Academy, SMART Charter School and Touchdowns4life Charter Middle School will be closing their doors to students on Friday, September 14, 2012. The governing boards of these charter schools notified the School Board of Broward County, Florida on Thursday, September 13 that they are voluntarily closing their doors to their enrolled students. We welcome the students of Eagle Charter Academy, SMART Charter School and Touchdowns4life Charter School to attend their District “home” school. Parents and students can identify their District “home” school by clicking on the District’s School Locator.


September 25th, 2012
12:38 pm

unfortunately monopolies are never efficient in what they delivery, and what they charge for it. That’s true of the post office and public schools as well. They will seriously believe they are being efficient, but in reality there is little to no incentive to truly be, and all the pressure in the world not to be. Just how it is.

Competition is what makes America work. And it always helps the clients (in this case, students and parents). And charter schools that is under the control ofa local school system that views the charter as sucking money away, is not valid competition.


September 25th, 2012
12:54 pm

Unlike many other states, all start-up charters are governed by a non-profit board. The question becomes whether that is a puppet shell or a real board. Exactly the same problem as traditional local boards that are often populated with individuals that-while voted by the public–typically are friendlier with the superintendent and staff and vote accordingly.

So you have the elder brother recommending to the mother whether a new baby should be “approved”. Then to give it half the elder brother’s toys and have it grow up under the elder’s brothers direct care, only to have the new baby probably supplant him in his mother’s affections.

Cain’s reaction to Able was not a aberration. Why be surprised that the envy about new baby public schools is most vocal from superintendents and their best buddies–sitting board members that have forgotten their responsibilities to the taxpayers, parents and children.

John Konop

September 25th, 2012
1:17 pm

The issue is fairly simple. Charter can be very good tool for some areas and or offer other options. But, let’s get be real about the results and not spin the numbers. Also, tax payers cannot afford a 24% failure rate when the results on a macro are not much different. That is why we need real controls and local accountability.

……Charter and traditional schools must give all students an equal opportunity to attend the school. However, charter schools can limit enrollment and turn away students if the school doesn’t have the services to meet a child’s needs. This often pertains to students with severe learning or physical disabilities.
“A traditional public school must educate everybody,” Collier chief instructional officer Beth Thompson said…….

………Bette Heins, education professor at Stetson University in DeLand, said the major determining factor of a student’s success is socioeconomic background, not whether the student attends a charter or traditional public school.
In both Immokalee and Highlands, around 95 percent of the students are economically needy.
“Both traditional and charter are performing about the same in most of those categories when you incorporate demographics,” Heins said…..


September 25th, 2012
1:18 pm

Drug abuse education, alcohol abuse education, parenting, character ed,[.....]psychological services, RTTT, CCGPS, CCRPI and oh yes – classes……………..shall I go on?

That was an awesome opening.

Teacher Reader

September 25th, 2012
1:39 pm

Our schools need competition to improve and get and stay better. Having worked at a start up Charter School that the school district did not want outside of Pittsburgh, I saw what competition did to improve the quality of the public schools that the children came from to attend the Charter School. The kids that attended the Charter School were mostly children whose needs weren’t met at the public school. Some of the kids had special needs. While others simply weren’t taught well. They were never challenged and were able to pass on with few skills and little discipline. I remember the local school administrators coming to watch us teach, trying to find flaws and get the charter taken away. They couldn’t find anything. Teachers were able to teach. Teachers had power to teach until the children understood and make necessary accommodations to meet the children’s needs. I truly worked hard here as a teacher, longer hours, but I had more responsibilities and was able to control the outcome of helping my students to obtain a superior education. I knew that if my kids didn’t learn, it was because of me. I also knew that my contract wasn’t a guarantee from year to year. I worked with awesome teachers here. We worked together to help each other get good outcomes. We all worked hard, loved being teachers, and were happy despite not making any more than the average public school teacher in the area, but being expected to work much harder, for more days, and being held responsible for the outcomes of the children.

Every child deserves to have an opportunity to a quality school, and many public schools simply aren’t providing this for the children in which they serve. Charter Schools are a great way to give competition to our public schools. Charter schools offer ALL parents a choice in where their child is educated. Competition is a great thing, and our public schools have a monopoly long enough.


September 25th, 2012
2:01 pm

I keep reading about Ivey Prep so I decided to do a little research. This charter school has an enrollment that is 84.4% black and offers little or no diversity. The two public schools located in the same area are much more diverse and have much better student to teacher ratios. Is the idea that more charter schools that are less diverse and segregated will be better for a workforce that is totally diverse? Are the supporters of this amendment ok with charter schools that will be 85% white or 85% hispanic or 85% asian? This is the end-game? Sober-minded and honest people know the truth behind this amendment. Will there be a charter school for all the special education students too? We do not need competition to improve our public schools, we need parental involvement and the state government to honor their commitment to our educators and fund the public schools at the level they promised. Local schools boards are doing a good job creating charter schools when there is a legitimate need and a fiscally sound business plan.


September 25th, 2012
2:25 pm

I support choice of schools as long as it does not add one red cent to our property tax bills, better yet if choice lowers property taxes. As for all the special interest groups who want their particular sacred cow taught in school, most can be covered via the assigned reading list, say put one hundred books on the list, and the child is suppose to select and read at least 20 per semester. No, I do not support the teacher giving a lecture on each topic, indoctrination is not the job of the schools, especially since they are funded with my tax dollars. A little competition would be good for the public school hangers on.


September 25th, 2012
2:33 pm

Ahhhh competition. One writer said a few weeks ago…..and I apologize I can’t give credit where credit is due, that allowing school systems to approve or deny charter schools in their district is akin to asking McDonald’s to decide whether a Burger King should be allowed to move in down the block. Isn’t that wonderful? Why would they want the competition?

They should embrace the cooperation part and allow these smaller schools of innovation to try something new that might be replicated across the system. It’s happening in other states but not here. We just want to squash the idea of reform and slap each other on the back for keeping things the same and remaining number 48 in the country.


September 25th, 2012
2:34 pm

Somebody…somebody..somebody please tell me what you think makes charter schools better? Choice? We already have public, private, home, magnet, local approved conversion charters and state approved charters. What will one more choice of a state commission approved charter do differently to “improve education.” As to the funding issue, 90% of education funding is salary and benefits. State sets salary scale. We could go back to chalk board, erasers, no transportation, take out health, PE, nurses, SRO, NO TECHNOLOGY and still could not go back to 1980 expenditures. I am grateful I have 2 children now in the health care field who both were educated in public schools and took advantage of opportunities.

Mortimer Collins

September 25th, 2012
2:38 pm

Uh NO! Its about competition, which will make those who rely on co-operation become compeitive, get off their lazy behinds and do something…anything…


September 25th, 2012
2:42 pm

Interesting that the author links to a Miami Herald article about the Academy of Arts & Minds. No doubt that school has had financial governance and oversight issues, but why did the author fail to mention that this charter school is an A-RATED school and one of the best high schools in all of Dade County? I would imagine it’s a better scenario for a parent to have to deal with financial malfeasance when your kid is getting a world-class education. It has to be more difficult, in say Dekalb County, to deal with financial failure and educational failure occurring at the same time.

I actually think the author presents a very good argument as to the state of public education and the plight of teachers. The problem really is that he is making the argument for and against charters/vouchers at the same time. In explaining the difficulties of public education with the “laundry list” of distractions and initiatives that have bogged it down, he is essentially illustrating the world from which the charter parent is looking to escape.

This charter amendment in your state is going to pass. I bet it passes by a comfortable margin too. After that, there will be more laws & amendments that are similar approaching from over the horizon. Public education is too monolithic and politically inept to be able to compete in this new landscape. Motivated parents(voters) want options, they are fed up with legacy failures/excuses and they are more than willing to march into the unknown in pursuit of something better. Even if it turns out to be a mistake, even if the outcome is worse; the attempt still has more value to them than investing in the status-quo.

This is what public education fails to grasp. You have already lost the message/perception war in so many areas. You’re not losing it, you have lost it. People want options inside public education. If you can’t provide them with OPTIONS, they are going to undo you. This is an insurgency. The forces aligned against public education know they can’t defeat the giant with a frontal assault, so they are going to constantly test the edges and attack at the soft spots. I’ve said it before, the battle between public education and its “foes” reminds me of the wildebeest being chased down, worn down and eaten by the lions.


September 25th, 2012
2:43 pm

@MAY, Because McDonald’s money won’t be used to fund the new Burger King.
Right or wrong, they see the Charters as a drain on their fuding.


September 25th, 2012
3:00 pm


State special charter schools will not lower your local property taxes as state law requires the local funding for that student stay in the district whether they are there or not. This is why the pro amendment backers are arguing that these schools will free up more local money for the local public school. There are consequences to this referendum no one is asking questions about.

Here is a scenario for you. State Charter opens in your neighborhood and enrolls 200 students previously enrolled in your 4 county schools. The local funding stays with the district, so there is no savings to the taxpayer (of the 200 students, 50 went to each school and were spread out among 6 grade levels so the impact to the physical operation of the school is minimal). Your state tax dollars are going to fund the State Charter school (from where we don’t know yet). However, the State reduces state level funding for education yet again (more austerity cuts), but it impacts the State Charters less because the State has offered grants to them to make up for the lost money. The county is forced to raise property taxes to fund some of the gap. Now you have higher property taxes and a State Charter System that also must be funded-from some yet unidentified pool of money. Sound good?


September 25th, 2012
3:16 pm

@John Konop brings up a valid point but is slightly off target. State Charter schools approved by the commission are their own LEA’s so they do not have the option of denying services or gently nudging a special needs student back to the county school for better services. They either have to contract with the county to provide services (and the county would have the right to say no) or provide the services on their own. Some do a better job than others. Georgia Cyber Academy has been in “deep doodoo” with the state since November 2009 for being out of compliance with parts of IDEA. That did not stop them from getting their charter approved by the State Charter Commission in 2011, along with an increase in funding.

damage control

September 25th, 2012
3:29 pm

@jarvis, thank you for pointing out the obvious to May’s flawed analogy

damage control

September 25th, 2012
3:38 pm

How does competition work?

1) Competitors are each given a task.
2) Better performance in the task results in rewards (tools, money, employees) to help to do the task.
This feedback loop (see Darwin, Charles) is the basis of our mantra that competition will select the best performers for a task.

In the Charter vs. traditional public school competition, there are no ‘rewards’ in place to either set of competitors; therefore, there is no feedback loop, and the assumption that competition will yield better performers is, in this case, extremely questionable.


September 25th, 2012
3:46 pm

@jarvis and @damage control… The flaw with your analogy of McDonald’s money being used to build the Burger King is that it is NOT McDonald’s (traditional public schools) money to begin with. It’s this sense of protect your turf (or money) that’s contributing to the mess. Should traditional public schools feel entitled to this money?


September 25th, 2012
3:56 pm

@CTR, Should they? Why not ask a hypothetical around whether or not a dog should bury a bone? I suppose that depends on who you ask.

“Should”… “fair”….is a childish concept.

damage control

September 25th, 2012
4:09 pm

CTR: Public schools should at the very least feel entitled to the public funding that is REQUIRED to be given them by state laws and mandates. As Supt. Barge has pointed out, they are not even getting that at the moment, so it’s valid to suggest that be no further attempts to squeeze blood from the public schools’ turnips.

Mary Elizabeth

September 25th, 2012
5:13 pm

Time to repost two of my previous concerns (besides the profit motive) regarding state charter schools:

(1) 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?

(2) 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? Georgia’s 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, relative to the consistently cohesive delivery of instruction to students throughout Georgia.

another comment

September 25th, 2012
6:38 pm

We are all missing the whole point here, Georgia is so out of step with the rest of the nation. Top Performing States do not have State Constitutions which limit the number of Public School Districts. Having huge County wide School Districts is a sure thing set up for failure. How does a 100,000 student compete against a 500 student charter school. Of course it is alot easier to make an impact with one Charter School . When are we all going to remember that our own Woodward Academy is the largest private k-12 school in the country with only 2,500 students on its 3 campuses. Most private schools max out at 1,000 students. There must be something to that. Instead our Public Schools have become administration heavy empire districts with 100,000 students.

First lets have a constitutional amendment to change the number of districts. Lets allow each city to have it’s own district. Then lets have Vouchers, that pay at least $8,000 the amount the state is willing to pay the for profit charters. Let the vouchers be goood for either a public or private school with no limit to income.

Mary Elizabeth

September 25th, 2012
7:18 pm

As a retired teacher, with no children in public schools, I do not want my taxes going to support private education. I want my taxes going to support genuine public education. I do not agree with vouchers. This constitutional amendment is the first step toward vouchers, imo.

Becky Sayler

September 25th, 2012
7:40 pm

As Diane Ravitch pointed out in “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” the original purpose behind charter schools was to serve as a laboratory- a testing ground for what might be replicated on a large scale in regular public schools. They were not intended to be competition for regular public schools. It’s hard to believe that results between charter schools and regular public schools can even be compared, since charters often do not offer the range of services required by traditional schools. Mr. Arnold lists out many of them in the first paragraph; it’s overwhelming! Charters are known to underserve ESOL and special ed students. Well written article; thanks for sharing.


September 25th, 2012
7:49 pm

Mr. Arnold, this is one impressive piece. My hat is off to you.

@dc, While your eyes are opened, look some more. GCPS did not close Ivy Prep; the BOE refused to renew the current approval based on what Nina Gilbert submitted. The state refused to approve the same application. You don’t need to look all that hard to know Ivy Prep was running a crushing 27 percent administrative expense. They had to create a plan to fix that before the state would approve them.

Also, New Life Academy of Excellence is a very successful independent startup charter school that Gwinnett’s BOE approved back in 2006. I was at the meeting when the BOE approved changes to this school’s charter to accommodate a special needs student. They could have left this charter school hang out to dry, but they worked with them to find a solution that helped them to succeed.

Don’t tell me that Gwinnett hates independent charter schools because I was there and I know better.

bootney farnsworth

September 25th, 2012
8:11 pm

I am completely over the Charter Issue..
its like educational abortion, nobody is changing anybody’s minds, just throwing snark

let me know when something new comes up.


September 25th, 2012
9:48 pm

I received an email from a parent who wanted my vote to support a charter school. She said:
1. She did not want her child going to school with children whose second language was English,
2. She did not want her child in the room with children who IEPs.
3. She did not want her child in the room with children whose parents were or had been in jail.

This tells me exactly why parents want charter schools. They want to separate their little darlings from children who they think are not good enough to be in the same room as their children. This woman could have afforded private school, but she wanted taxpayers to pay for her bias.

Ed Johnson

September 25th, 2012
9:56 pm

“Still don’t see anything wrong with competition from charter schools.”

Why, of course. As the late Stephen Covey said: “Fish discover water last.”


September 25th, 2012
11:07 pm


Why do parents create charter schools? Read here:

Parents want their kids to have a good education in a safe environment. You can go on and on all you want about working within “the system” but when “the system” allows major disruptions of learning and threats to safety, it’s not a “bias” to want something else.

That said, I am still of mixed mind on the amendment. There needs to be a greater check on the power of local school boards to deny charters. Too often the reasons are simply because the local school system has a vested, financial interest in keeping the money that follows the child (even if not all of it follows him or her to the charter). That interest, sometimes extending to Board members, is often the continued use of funds for, as we say in DeKalb, the friends and family, not for education. For this reason I feel a state charter commission needs to be in place to review and potentially overturn local decisions against charters–in the same way higher courts overturn (or not) the decisions of local courts.
However, the amendment is deeply, deeply flawed in that it does not rule out for-profit charters. The folks in the Gold Dome can be just as venal and money-hungry as any local school board member.

Yes, there are some people who want their kids in charters for the wrong reasons–to not be with “the other.” Frankly, charters that don’t admit “the other” should never have received a charter in the first place. But wanting your son or daughter to go to school to learn in a safe place is not a “bias.”

One Teacher's Voice

September 26th, 2012
12:19 am

Foolish Teachers and Parents…You keep voting for them…..I did too…but never again….

Here is what your Republican government reps. have done to ‘make education better’ for the past ten years.

1. Take more money out of the public schools. That will make them better.

2. Increase the class sizes of public schools. Those test scores will go up and education will improve.

3. Have more testing. Those tests will make the teachers better, and who needs to teach when we have day after day of testing, meetings about testing, and test preparation.

4. Add laws and rules that make the public schools worse and then blame the teachers when students don’t perform well on the tests that they want to use for a basis of pay and school performance.

5. Use those same scores to explain failing schools to usher in charter schools.

IT’S BRILLIANT! They are heading towards the outsourcing of teachers and public education by the decisions that they, your Republican representatives of Georgia, have made for the past ten years.

We keep voting for them, and they keep damaging the classrooms of our kids.

I voted straight Republican in the last election as I have for every election, but it will never happen again.

We are being duped by the Republicans WE are voting into office.

Pride and Joy

September 26th, 2012
10:52 am

Yallowme is right when he or she says “it’s not about competition, it’s about cooperation.”

Who then shall hold the incompetent teachers accountable? Still don’t see anything wrong with competition from charter schools. You will need to do a better job convincing parents.”
I am a parent and I am not convinced. My child’s teacher could not pass a third-grade grammar test. She/he teaches by example and my children learned poor grammar from him/her.
We MUST hold teachers accountable. We MUST hold our government accountable.
Public schools ARE government. We hold police accountable and politicians and other government officials. Public school teachers need to understand they are government officials and school administratin needs to understand the same.
They cannot take tax payer money without accountability.

C Jae of EAV

September 26th, 2012
3:01 pm

@Frank Stuff – Do you have an example of a start-up charter school in GA closing mid-year? I’m not aware of any the ATL metro area, but I’m aware of many closing between school years. I think the concern you raise while plausible hasn’t been proven to be of such significant concern in manifestation. Thus for you to raise it is yet another example of the kind of distractionary retoric that stymies the debate around this topic.

I would counter your point by suggesting that keeping a close eye on student population trends as means of determining how to right-size your organization and determine its operational viability is a CORE responsibilty for any local school district or charter operator. If those accountable for institutional governance are doing their jobs there would be no hidden gotcha’s. Charter school operators in particular should intelligently and thoughtfully consider the impact upon students & families when evaluating their ability to operate for a given academic year. Local districts should be providing the oversight they are expected to do in order to ensure the same (and trust me they know when a charter operating in the district is stuggling to operate). Don’t open the doors unless you can ensure 100% your ability to keep them open for the entire school year (barring some unforseen catastrophic event)

C Jae of EAV

September 26th, 2012
3:42 pm

@3schoolkids 09/25 3:00 pm – Your example helps to frame the concern very well. It would seem to me that state austerity cuts would impact the local district regardless to the presence of state charter school in the district. Therefore, the gap you spoke to in your example would need to be covered anyway. So explain to me again how the raising of local property taxes to cover the gap created by state level cuts is driven by the state charter school opening?