Charter school battle turns ugly as legal arguments heat up

Proponents of the November charter school amendment have protested state School Superintendent John Barge’s public stand against the amendment on the DOE web site, which led the state Department of Education to take down a 29-point position paper highlighting the reasons. A link to that paper was on the Georgia Department of Education’s home page.

Today, Attorney General Sam Olens notified Barge to alert local school boards that they “do not have the legal authority to expend funds or other resources to advocate or oppose the ratification of a constitutional amendment by the voters. They may not do this directly or indirectly through associations to which they may belong.”

But Atlanta attorney Emmet Bondurant says Olens — who cited a Bondurant case in his letter — cannot stop elected officials from protesting the amendment.

He says:

I represented the plaintiffs in McKinney v. Brown, one of the leading cases cited in the AG’s opinion..

While the AG is right that a public agency (including the governor and the Legislature) should not use public funds to try to influence the outcome of a referendum, it does not follow that John Barge, as the elected State School Superintendent, or local School Superintendents or members of local School Boards are also prohibited from speaking out and advocating the passage or the defeat of a referendum.

They have the same First Amendment rights as any other citizen to speak out in opposition to a constitutional amendment. The fact that their position may be contrary to that of the Governor and the Republican administration is of no consequence.

The opinion states only that they may not spend public funds or resources to influence the voters’ decision. The same principle applies with equal force to the Governor, the Speaker and other public officials. They should not use public funds, or public resources, (including staff time and public email and web sites) to support ratification.

What’s odd to me about this issue is that it can cut both ways. I have seen charter schools bring their students to the Legislature and to rallies to support the amendment.

Is that also illegal due to the public costs of bringing teachers and kids to the Capitol during the school day?

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

123 comments Add your comment

DeKalb Inside Out

October 6th, 2012
5:26 pm

John,
You are correct that “the shenanigans” of business leaders resulted in much marketplace mayhem of the financial sector. These corporate crooks were also aided by politicians and bureaucrats along the way. Similar corrupt practices happen in other markets as well. Corruption and collusion are not arguments against capitalism. They are arguments for transparent and deregulated free enterprise. Make the playing field fair and let the participants engage in trade. That is the call of Adam Smith and more recently Milton Friedman and the entire Chicago School of Economics with all those Nobel Prizes.

In education we currently have the worst of all worlds. We have government bureaucrats choosing how to allocate resources for education. This includes how they pay themselves and their staff. (Didn’t you see the story on 11 Alive about the car allowances and drivers?) Adam Smith and all economists start from the premise that all individuals are self interested. They are seeking to maximize their personal utility frontier. If you are an educrat sitting at the top, there is very little marketplace constraint on you “maximizing” your “utility” with the public’s dollar. The set up is very favorable for bureaucrats to collude with themselves and board members.

Just like with the military, the education industry is vibrant and encourages a constant rate of change and trendiness in education. It isn’t a mystery how to teach reading or math but somehow we find the need for new books and new techniques. It’s a cozy industry. Superintendents and educrats can find a sweet job waiting for them after they give a lucrative contract to this or that edu-company. Keeping our current public system in a state of chaos and with unfulfilled promises, is a terrific technique for continuing to extort more money from the taxpayers because “it’s for the children”.

Imagine, if you will, a more flexible allocation of resources that doesn’t depend on a command, bureaucrat-controlled system. What if consumers go into the educational marketplace and choose the product that best fits them? This concept has a lower probability of producing waste, fraud and collusion because it minimizes those parties that would benefit from such a framework.

Surely you realize that the Justice Department has an “anti-trust” division. There are also other regulatory entities that should watch over market places and make sure they are fair. Unfortunately, when you have too much regulation, too many in government profiting from an endeavor and when power is concentrated in too few people, that is the petri dish where trouble breeds. Letting the resources be controlled by parents, by smaller groups of people, reduces the risk that a marketplace will be tainted.

Get Schooled editors, feel free to use this comment as a post.

John Konop

October 6th, 2012
7:27 pm

Dek,

You once again are missing the point! Public/private transactions are ripe for corruption. And the person who came up with concepts of free market economics was clear as bell that you cannot apply his theory to private/public transactions. Sorry but you sound foolish to anyone who understands economics. If you are advocating a socialist view of economics you could make your points. That was the joke when you called me comrad!

You name the bet and we will meet with Dr Jester and trust she will say, you are flat out wrong. Once again you can advocate what you want, but using Adam Smith theory of economics to rationalize your views is wrong end of story!

C Jae of EAV

October 7th, 2012
8:35 am

@Dekalb Inside Out – As I read your comments they seem to argue both for and againest the privatization of public education at the same time, which is quite remarkable.

I believe your observations lean in a direction that suggests privatization of public education would go the way of derivative market. Personally, I believe the majority tools goverance exist to effective manage the situation. Further I don’t think the question is one of fiscal scarcity, as much as it involves the mind state of those appointed as custodians of the public trust have simply failed in their duty in many cases.

John Konop

October 7th, 2012
9:54 am

Cjae,

Your last point is what Adam Smith warned about via conflicts of interest overriding the best interest of the public. That is why if we do deals with private/public transactions we need real controls!

DeKalb Inside Out

October 7th, 2012
12:18 pm

C Jae of EAV
I am unequivocally in favor of markets rather than the bureaucrat, central control that we have now. John was arguing that you can’t/shouldn’t have interactions in a market place with public and private components because that leads to collusion and corruption. My point is that there are always individuals in all markets (and control systems) that cheat. That isn’t an argument for not having markets. You must have markets with transparency and non-onerous regulation. Markets let people choose. In education, this would mean that parents would be able to choose their child’s school rather than giving that power exclusively to a bureaucrat. Those bureaucrats have little incentive to do anything other than “fail in their duty”. The beauty of the market is that individuals making their own decisions for their own children have the right incentives to maximize the return on their child’s education while being provided the opportunity to finally do so.

John said
The person who came up with concepts of free market economics was clear as bell that you cannot apply his theory to private/public transactions.

John, No Sir, it is you who are missing the point. There are opportunities for corruption within all transactions be they private/private, public/private, public/public. Again, the fact that some individuals cheat, is NOT an argument against markets. Please hear me on this – I’m arguing FOR markets. We currently do NOT have markets. We have a system controlled from a central authority. I want power dispersed among the various buyers and sellers of the product so that the market can create an efficient (in the strict economic meaning of the word efficient) outcome. Right now we have central control and it is not efficient nor will it ever be. Having a market-based industry is the opposite of socialism.

Email Dr. Jester, ask her yourself, and let us know verbatim what she says (I know for a fact you won’t). In addition to being an economist, she’s on the Board of Education in DeKalb and is VERY responsive to emails.

John Konop

October 7th, 2012
1:02 pm

Dek,

Nice spin but face it you caught you are falt out wrong! You cannot compare free market concepts to private/public transactions. And if you do private/public transactions unless you have very strong protections it will lead to the abuses we have seen.

The point I am making has nothing to do with what Dr Jester supports……. As I said I would bet she would tell you that I am right about the errors in your logic about free market concepts taught by the father Adam Smith. She would tell you are advocating a form of socialism. Which is why you sounded foolish in calling me comrad for anyone who has studied economics. You can debate the need of public/private transactions, but it is what it is no matter how much you spin.

DeKalb Inside Out

October 7th, 2012
1:45 pm

John,

1. Would you agree I am advocating for a market as stated in the first sentence of my last comment: I am unequivocally in favor of markets?

2. Would you agree you are opposed to a market in areas that you say don’t need one as indicated in your statement As far as charters I would have no issue helping one in an area that needs one.

Simple questions.

John Konop

October 7th, 2012
2:42 pm

No , that is flat out wrong! I have no issue with private schools in fact my wife and I used them. Private schools are not public/private partnerships. I have no issue with charter schools run by parents as long as they meet proper requirements. What I am not for is charter schools amendment that does not have the proper controls in place, to stop conflict of interest deals, with private management companies getting insider deals, with tax payers left holding the bag.

We already know the end result of what will happen when you guys play fast and loose with our tax dollars, with private companies…….You sound like a fool when you claim the insider deals you promote with a lack of controls has anything to do with free market principals. And you sounded even more foolish when you did not even understand that what you are advocating was a MAJOR RED FlAG form the father of the free market system!

DeKalb Inside Out

October 7th, 2012
3:25 pm

John,
I can’t tell if this last comment was in response to my simple questions. Assuming it was …

I didn’t say anything about private schools, public/private partnerships, tax dollars …etc … I asked two very simple questions. It would help me to know your understanding of said questions … Thanks! I’ll repeat the questions.

Question 1. Would you agree I am in favor of markets?
I stated I am unequivocally in favor of markets a few comments ago.

Question 2. Would you agree you are opposed to charters in areas like Cherokee that you say don’t need one?
Here are some of your comments in this thread that support that:
* As far as charters I would have no issue helping one in an area that needs one.
* Can you understand the frustration of people in Cherokee county being forced to have a charter school when we have the highest SAT scores in the state

Pretty simple questions.

John Konop

October 7th, 2012
5:24 pm

1) Not if you think public/private transactions fall into free market concepts.

2) You are cherrying picking comments. I also said I am for charter schools that meet the needs of our area. Once again put the dots together, if Cherokee Charter was not a public/private transaction with issues surrounding conflicts of interest from who owns the propert, board member claiming the private Charter company was and or is a client that got a contract worth close to a million dollars a year……..I would have a diferent view.

Yes voters are frustrated that we have a private company given a sweetheart deal at tax payers expense and we take majority of risk, when we have the highest SAT scores in the state.Many of us are frustrated by people like you who for manipulative reasons or ignorance claim the above is free market when it is crony capitalism.

John Konop

October 7th, 2012
5:39 pm

WHAT PART OF THIS DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND? As I said you are just cherry picking……

…………..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?…………

Bastiat

October 7th, 2012
6:03 pm

John K, It would help if you didn’t call people names. Really. It is unnecessary and makes it seem like you aren’t making your point well.

DIO seems to understand econ the same way I do. DIO says the same kind of things Milton Friedman said. I keep wondering why you keep thinking that we don’t have a system that already is “ripe” for corruption. There are several companies out there that have sweet deals with districts and grow more powerful in the whole scheme of the education industry daily. One in particular comes to mind. If you are paying attention, you know the company. What do you think happens every day at the Dept. of Defense? I would rather have more groups making independent, smaller decisions across a market. While some will make bad decisions, there is less corruption because they are more locally accountable. When there are bad eggs, they can’t steal as much money. It’s like what diversification does for your portfolio.

DeKalb Inside Out

October 7th, 2012
6:39 pm

John,
Name the bet

OK. I have the bet, as you asked me to do. Email Dr Jester (nancyjester@gmail.com) and me (dekalbinsideout@gmail.com) and ask her. We will publish her comments right here. Or send me your email address and I will be happy to email her.

The Concept in Question
“Adam Smith, who came up with concepts of free market economics, was clear as bell that you cannot apply his theory [of free market economics] to private/public transactions”

I say he did not and you say that he did. If it’s clear as a bell then it should be cut and dry.

The Bet
If Nancy agrees with me, then I may refer to use as “The Moron” John Konop with impunity from you. If Nancy agrees with you then you may refer to me as “The Moron” DeKalb Inside Out with impunity from me.

You are very confident in your stance, allegedly. Let’s see if you really mean it … or anything else you say.

John Konop

October 7th, 2012
7:14 pm

Dek,

There you go again cherry picking……but in the context of this debate I am right, you set up a meeting and present all the facts she will tell you are wrong. And I would guess laugh when she hears you called me comrad in this debate.

Bas,

So when Dek calls me a communist which started this debate you are fine with that? Your logic instead of creating more fixes to stop corruption, we should open up more doors with less controls? After reading the logic of some of you no wonder this country is so far in the red!

DeKalb Inside Out

October 7th, 2012
7:48 pm

Cherry Picking? That comment was the cornerstone of your debate and has been brought up over and over. OK … What concept is in question if not that one?

Let’s agree on the concept first. Then post our statements that we will give to Dr Jester.

I hardly doubt Dr Jester has the time to meet with us and settle this childish squabble. Once we decide on a concept and you put your facts together, I will email you and Dr Jester said concept and statements from both of us. I will ask her to reply back to us.

I liken you to a blog troll that spouts out nonsense and hits the eject button when the rubber hits the road. Please prove me wrong and come up with a concept. Email me an email address I can use to CC you when I email Dr Jester.

Don’t be a blog troll.

John Konop

October 7th, 2012
8:06 pm

Dek,

I am done with you and your………you can put down my education, call me a communist and spin bs all day, but it does not change the facts. Any objective person can see how every time you got caught spewing bs you just cherry pick and or move the goal post……

Years ago I warned people about what happens when you do not have proper controls with tax payer money with banks. And the selfish like you used the same spin…….but at the end it did not stop what happen. This system will end up blowing the budget up while private companies will laugh at us as they are cashing tax payers checks from the government.

Obviously you could careless like most Americans. And when it blows you will blame everyone but yourself. The reason we have so many problems with our country is to many like you cannot see past your nose. You will pay the price! It may be helping you on a personal level, but trust me it will show its face to you in the future. The real question is will you even care when you screwed over future generations?

This debate is not stupid, it is about the future!

DeKalb Inside Out

October 7th, 2012
8:48 pm

John “The Blog Troll” Konop
If you believe in this debate so much then let’s contact Dr Jester, otherwise you, sir, are a Blog Troll. The rubber has hit the road and I have called you out. Your response …

EJECT … EJECT … EJECT (tail between legs)

You have asked repeatedly that we contact Dr Jester, so let’s do it!!!! Until you stand by your statements I will refer to you as John “The Blog Troll” Konop and the link on your name will take you directly to the comments where you challenged me and proceeded to cower out the back door when I accepted.

Prove me wrong Blog Troll.

Prof

October 8th, 2012
9:49 am

@ DeKalb Inside Out. John Konop is no blog-troll. For several months, he has contributed concerned, knowledgeable posts to “Get Schooled.” Just this September 10, his letter to Maureen Downey was featured to lead the blog discussion on the thread, “Does Charter School Funding Leave Taxpayers Holding the Bag?” This obviously involved economic considerations. Equally obviously, she does not consider him a troll.

Your name-calling sounds like nothing so much as a grade-school student’s taunt in the playground. It negates any point you are making.

Prof

October 8th, 2012
9:52 am

P.S. @ John Konop. I hope you have enough sense not to send your email address to Dekalb Inside Out as he/she demands!

John Konop

October 8th, 2012
10:55 am

Prof,

Thanks, as I said what I posted is clear. No I did not send my e-mail for……….

……..In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith warned, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” The shenanigans of business leaders over the last year, which led to a serious loss of faith in markets and a call for more government intervention, sadly proves Smith’s point. Unfortunately, the problem runs deeper than Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Merrill Lynch, AIG or whatever company has grabbed the headlines of the day.

Smith, who published >his landmark work in 1776, warned of corporate collusion, but we’re experiencing something much more insidious — not just businesses, but business and government and a host of others all meeting, and colluding, at the posh Swiss resort town of Davos. It is Adam Smith’s nightmare……

http://www.acton.org/pub/commentary/2009/03/25/davos-capitalism-adam-smiths-nightmare

…………..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?…………

DeKalb Inside Out

October 8th, 2012
11:33 am

@Prof
I hear ya. On this very thread on 10/4 @ 3:40pm I said this of John “TBT” Konop
You have been commendably involved with education for quite some time. I wish we had hundreds of more people like you around the state.

As the conversation went on, TBT lost it. Given my educational background and experience, the debate on economics and free markets was admittedly unfair. I just wanted to see how long he could keep up the charade. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but in my humble opinion he was blogging like a troll.

DeKalb Inside Out

October 8th, 2012
11:55 am

@ TBT
Mr Geist? I was wondering why you keep asking Mr Geist questions. It just occurred to me … you think I’m Michael Geist. That’s a negative ghost rider. I’m a DeKalb resident and not personally involved in politics.

Then again, maybe you are trying to ask Michael Geist via this forum … I’m confused about the reference to him.

Even though the subject matter is serious, this squabble is childish. I’ll catch you on the next thread and engage you on subjects a little more up your alley.

[...] a ruling a few weeks ago, the Georgia Attorney General said that school systems could not use public resources/funds to either oppose or support the charter schools amendment on [...]