Charter schools amendment battle moves to court Wednesday. And Olens under fire for selective targeting of amendment foes.

Updated at 11 a.m.

The battle over the charter schools amendment escalated yesterday when attorney Glenn Delk, a longtime champion of vouchers and choice, filed a a lawsuit charging that Georgia school districts were illegally using taxpayer resources to oppose the amendment.

It will be interesting to see how the court responds given how many government officials and entities campaigned for the defeated TSPLOST. (It’s also interesting to note how much political activity and money are going into this charter schools amendment battle.)

Delk had already challenged the legality of even John Barge, the elected Republican school chief in Georgia, taking a public stand on the amendment via his office at the state Department of Education.

As the charter schools amendment battle has heated up, Attorney General Sam Olens issued a warning letter saying that a public agency — which would cover the executive and legislative branches of state government — should not use public funds to try to influence the outcome of a referendum.

It also raises the question — sidestepped by the Attorney General’s office when I asked last week – whether the Georgia Charter Schools Association, a trade group underwritten by tax dollars via school membership fees — also cannot lobby for the amendment.

The exact wording of the AG’s response to me: In the context of associations, our letter made clear that government entities cannot lobby voters indirectly through associations that are essentially extensions of the government entities. Whether a particular association is essentially an extension of a government entity is a fact-specific question that we can’t answer in the abstract.

But the governor and the Legislature often try to influence outcomes of votes in very open fashion. Gov. Nathan Deal and many lawmakers pushed hard for TSPLOST.  Governors and General Assembly leaders don’t write and send their own press statements. Their paid staffers handle those details. Nor do governors gas up their own cars and drive to press conferences.

There are often tax dollars at work when a top elected official takes a public stand in the hopes of influencing the outcome of a referendum. It will be interesting to see whether Olens presses this position in the future as he could have a full-time job writing letters telling elected officials they can’t use their office resources to influence outcomes.

My colleague Jim Galloway just posted on whether Olens is selectively targeting charter amendment opponents and ignoring the lobbying for proponents, including Nathan Deal.

Democrats have now demanded that Olens apply the same measure to Gov. Nathan Deal, an advocate of the proposed constitutional amendment to give the state another avenue through which to create charter schools – over the objections of local systems.

From a letter sent to Olens by Mike Berlon, chairman of the state Democratic party:

Based upon your legal conclusion, the actions of the Governor are clearly in violation of the law. Consequently, we are formally requesting that your office take immediate action against the Governor to ensure the proper enforcement …. It doesn’t seem reasonable or fair that the application of your opinion would not extend to the Executive branch of the government.”

Berlon noted that, on the governor’s official website, press releases are posted here and here in which Deal endorses the measure.

Back to charter schools:

According to the AJC:

The suit, filed in the Superior Court of Fulton County, alleges they and “the rest of the Education Empire are engaged in a coordinated campaign and conspiracy.”

Lawyers for the districts and Glenn Delk, the Atlanta attorney representing those filing suit, are scheduled to appear before a judge Wednesday afternoon. The judge has been asked to order the districts to stop engaging in political activity with taxpayer resources and “to disseminate factual information prepared by the plaintiffs.”

Instead of the typical ‘no comment’ offered in legal cases, Fulton County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa reiterated his position that his district did nothing wrong in posting question-and-answer material about the amendment on its website. That information remains on the district’s site, and Delk’s clients claim it is misleading and openly anti-amendment.

Avossa said parents have questions about the proposed amendment, which, if approved by voters in November, would guarantee the state’s power to authorize charter schools and establish a commission to consider applications for them.

“I get so many questions on this,” Avossa said. “We decided to put a Q-and-A together. Let’s answer the questions.”

Jeannie “Sis” Henry, executive director of the Georgia School Boards Association, said board members will not be intimidated into dropping their opposition. “This is no conspiracy,” Henry said. “This is not the Evil Empire. These are educators, and they’re opposed to this.”

Monday’s filing disclosed Delk’s clients, whom he previously declined to identify. They include Rae Anne Harkness, a charter school parent in DeKalb County; Kelley O’Bryan Gary, chairman of the Jackson County Republican Party; and Rich Thompson, founder and chief executive officer of 100Dads, a charter school parent group that supports school choice.

The charter school fight splits largely along party lines, with many Democrats opposing the amendment as a potential funding threat to traditional public schools and many Republicans supporting it as an alternative to parents whose children attend failing traditional public schools.

There are notable exceptions, including Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge, a Republican who angered many in his party by coming out against the amendment. In announcing his opposition, Barge released a 29-point statement, parts of which some districts have used in relaying information about the amendment to parents.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

92 comments Add your comment

William Casey

October 9th, 2012
10:21 am

Man, there’s got to be a LOT of money involved in getting this State Charter School thing off the ground.

Ron F.

October 9th, 2012
10:26 am

Talk about a cannon shot across the bow… while I was surprised by the one-sided nature of Olens’ original letter and statements, this is stunning. This is clearly a publicity stunt aimed at intimidating those who oppose the constitutional amendment. Notice I said the amendment, not charter schools as a whole. Like many, I support innovation and choice, but I adamantly do NOT support giving the state unilateral authority via a politically appointed commission to grant charters that may or may not be the wish of a majority of parents in a given district. That said, I see this as a clearly political move to try to make the opposition look bad and to scare them into silence. You only do that when you fear what your opposition is saying and know there is truth in it. If a judge doesn’t look at the law and realize that any and all persons or entities receiving state funds, either directly or through memberships paid out of state funds, cannot use those funds to campaign for or against this amendment, then the state of Georgia will have become the most corrupt, one-sided state in the union. Not to mention the taxpayer dollars now having to be used to fund this suit and the answer to it from districts. At a time when even charter schools are struggling for funds, can anyone afford the massive dollars this idiotic suit will cost? Do taxpayers really want yet another drain on school budgets to deal with this?

Just so everyone knows, I’m on fall break this week, so my responses are being typed from my home computer. Thus, I am not using any state-funded resource in expressing my opposition to this ridiculous, frivolous lawsuit and amendment.

Dunwoody Mom

October 9th, 2012
10:48 am

Bullying at its best!!!

sneak peak into education

October 9th, 2012
11:11 am

I think this may, in the end,backfire and help the opposition to the amendment. The bad press and obvious bully-boy tactics does not look good for the proponents.

VOTE NO in NOvember

Ron F.

October 9th, 2012
11:18 am

sneak peek: you gotta be standing in the mud to sling it, I always say. I think the publicity and obvious one-sided nature of this suit will, in the end, only make the proponents look like the bullies many of them are in this situation. A judge looking at the law fairly will have to gag everyone including the governor himself while on state time. That would make a lot of websites, meetings, and printed material on both sides suspect. What the proponents want is to shut us up and be allowed to continue their publicity via the management corporations. I have little doubt they’ve already lined up the ways they can continue to campaign that are “legal”.

bootney farnsworth

October 9th, 2012
11:23 am

the state using its power to harass, intimidate, and punish its opposition.

imagine.

RAMZAD

October 9th, 2012
11:24 am

It is really a gimme!

How can things in local academia get worse under local control? Accreditation suspension, $80 million theft and misappropriation, board members at each others throats, the Mother of all public school cheating scandals, one in five seniors who do not graduate, bullying to suicide, school mob beatings, board member pizza sales to high school football students boosters…. and the list goes on ad nausea. Can State charters be any worse? It does not take a geek to figure this out.

bootney farnsworth

October 9th, 2012
11:26 am

the state will do whatever it takes to destroy anyone or anything who opposes it.
with the amount of money and influence involved, this is gonna get ugly

bootney farnsworth

October 9th, 2012
11:29 am

wanna see how bad things can get if this passes?
outside of the fact what they want to do is legally dubious at best?

pit of hell ring a bell?

C Jae of EAV

October 9th, 2012
11:32 am

@William Casey – This battle over the hearts and minds of voters is so high pitched because the $$$ under the control of the educrats.

Hillbilly D

October 9th, 2012
11:41 am

As others have said, there’s obviously a lot of money riding on this, for somebody.

Old timer

October 9th, 2012
11:46 am

Ron F. Good comments. I, too, am for school choice, charter schools but, do not believe the amendment is the way to go.

Lynn43

October 9th, 2012
12:22 pm

Educrats??? I’ve seen you use that term before but don’t know if you are trying to be insulting or are talking nicely about my profession. If you are being insulting, could you, please, give me a “like” term for your profession because you evidently know little about mine as I’m sure I know nothing about yours.

Warrior Woman

October 9th, 2012
12:28 pm

@ Ron F. – Are you saying you’re OK with public agencies using tax dollars to influence elections?

Grizz

October 9th, 2012
12:37 pm

I’ll agree that intimidtion is a part of this, but I do believe the larger point is deflect discussion from what this bill will actually do and get everyone talking about the court case, thereby muddying the waters so voters will be further confused. Face it, when/if the full effects of this amendment are understood, it would go down in flames.

C Jae of EAV

October 9th, 2012
1:02 pm

@Lynn43 – For my part I’ve not used the term in an effort to be insulting. I have used the used the term to identify those who are either elected officials or polticial appointees with direct responsbility over public education goverance and public education fiscal management. Thus in my view it could apply to local school board members, State BOE officials & local superintendants as either of the 3 groups have direct influence over the aforementioned.

I’m happy to utilize another term if you or others would care to offer an alternate all inclusive descriptor to use as shorthand language.

Bottom line as it relates to my earlier post, those in control of the $$$’s allocated to run public schools want to maintain control over those $$$’s. Those in absolute control over the authorization of new public school institutions (as supported in the GA Supreme Court ruling) seem to want to maintain the level of control they presently enjoy. There is alot of gaming the system being done on both sides of this arguement, therefore its hard as voter to decipher the greater good. Although I support the concept of charter schools I’m stuck in the middle on how to respond to the ballot measure before us.

Becky Sayler

October 9th, 2012
1:03 pm

Ron F, thanks for pointing out that a vote against this amendment is not a vote against charter schools. That has been lost in a lot of discussions about this issue. The amendment wants charter schools to be approved by a non-elected board, which could end up being the desires of a few over the desires of many.

Ron F.

October 9th, 2012
1:12 pm

Warrior Woman: NO, I’m not saying that, if you read my posts. What I am saying, and will say again for your benefit, is that if it is in fact illegal, then anyone (including all of our elected and state-paid officials as well as those receiving funds through a charter school) will have to cease campaigning either for or against this. If the law is applied fairly, and that’s a BIG if, both side will be very limited in their campaigning. I’m not for spending tax dollars for OR against it. But it does need to be applied fairly to all parties concerned.

Ron F.

October 9th, 2012
1:16 pm

“I have used the used the term to identify those who are either elected officials or polticial appointees with direct responsbility over public education goverance and public education fiscal management.”

Don’t forget that charter school boards also oversee fiscal management of state funds. They have a vested interest in this ruling as it could affect their formation and funding also. I’m not defending the traditional public school leaders as many of them are as corrupt as can be. But if we’re going to look at all the parties involved and judge their use of state fiscal resources, then we have to step back and see just how many are realy involved.

C Jae of EAV

October 9th, 2012
1:57 pm

@Ron F. – Your extension of my use of the “Educrat” term is well noted as members of Charter School Boards would also be subject to the use of the term as I have previously coined. They too should be held responsible for the stewardship required of them.

Prof

October 9th, 2012
2:25 pm

I have always thought that “educrat” was short-hand for “educator rat.”

Mikey D.

October 9th, 2012
2:43 pm

@Maureen
Have you called Sam Olens and asked him for a comment to address the obvious double standard? Will you please post if/when he responds? (Not likely that he will, since politicians in this state pretty much get to make up their own rules.)

Ron F.

October 9th, 2012
3:07 pm

C Jae: this has been a hotly debated issue, and my concerns are as follows:

1. a constitutional amendment is a HUGE issue. Once amended, it’s difficult to change, and if the state charter schools commission doesn’t work as planned, then what?

2. Funds- the state has openly admitted to not meeting its legal funding obligations, set by the legislature itself in the 80’s, for education. That is a difficult record to explain, and makes any future obligations they enter into suspect at best. Also, at a time when state revenues are down with no appreciable increase in sight in the next several years, there are good questions about how funds for commission chartered schools will be found. Considering how austerity cuts have affected every aspect of state government, this is something that needs to be addressed. In short, they will have to take money from somewhere to pay for any schools they create, and the biggest line item in the budget is education. Seems obvious where the funds may come from eventually.

3. Politics- t his is becoming increasingly an issue of political power. The legislature, as partisan as it is, will be the sole appointer of member of this commission. There is an understandable concern as to how that commission will be formed and who will serve on it. The allegiance of that commission is also questionable when no direct voter input beyond legislator elections is possible. When you consider that, it seems worrisome that schools could, in effect, be created without any local input whatsoever. Supporters say that would never happen, but an appointed commission would have little actual accountability to local citizens.

I support charter schools where there is a need and support the right of local citizens to apply for them. While local boards have been resistant in some cases, upon further investigation, the resistance is understandable when you consider the amount of money a local system will commit to a charter school when approved at the local level. There have been legitimate questions about financial liability in the event the charter schools do not remain operative, and it seems in some cases that that liability may fall to taxpayers in a county.

This is an issue that needs to be explored carefully, slowly, and thoughtfully. An amendment to the state constitution does not, in my humble opinion, create that careful approach. The past commission did seem to be careful in its establishment of schools, but there is no guarantee of that in the future. I just can’t see allowing the legislature that much authority in the current political environment without some specific guidelines that haven’t been stated as of yet. We just don’t know enough yet about how this process will be managed, and that makes me very wary of voting for this amendment.

sneak peak into education

October 9th, 2012
3:33 pm

Ron F @3:17-I agree totally with your statement. I see it as a small part of the bigger picture of corporate reform/profiteers motives. Once this passes, it will open the floodgates for their next move to bring vouchers, remove the need for teacher accreditation, remove all due process from teachers contracts, etc…

It is clear when you see, in simplistic terms, as stated by Diane Ravitch on her blog:

“First, set an impossible goal, say, 100% proficiency for all students.

Second, say that there can be “no excuses,” no reference to social conditions in which children live.

Third, insist on accountability for schools, teachers, and principals. If they can’t meet the impossible goals, fire the staff and close the school.

Fourth, hand the school over to private management.

Mission accomplished!”

Sounds familiar.

jarvis

October 9th, 2012
3:57 pm

@Marueen, I’m against the Amendment…in fact I’ve already voted against it (absentee ballot), but your bias on this is even too much for someone that happens to agree with you.

Lynn

October 9th, 2012
4:05 pm

This is a very confusing amendment. Great arguments on both sides, I’m sure each one is leaving something out. The biggest thing I’m hearing in my community is the loss of local control. Personally I think it comes down to trust and frankly I do not trust my local BOE to make an informed decision. Board members look to the Chairman to read materials and tell them how to vote. That to me is local control at its finest.

Ron F.

October 9th, 2012
4:10 pm

jarvis: why? Either side one chooses on this predisposes a certain bias. I think Maureen has been more than fair to present both sides regardless of her opinion. This suit and earlier actions by AG Olens have clearly been strongly biased, and any discussion of the faults of either situation is going to come across as biased in the other direction. I don’t see bias in pointing out the facts of the case as it has been laid out. Maureen has been careful to contact and quote those most closely associated with the charter school amendment debate, and her access to those people has provided a great deal more insight than we would have ever had otherwise. And to be honest, Maureen’s taken a few jabs at teachers lately that weren’t exactly pleasant for me to read, but she brought up important questions in the process. At least all the issues are getting press time here, and that’s important in these contentious times, don’t you think?

Grizz

October 9th, 2012
5:16 pm

@Ron F

Let me take issue with one sentence in your post above:

“The legislature, as partisan as it is, will be the sole appointer of member of this commission.”

It’s my understanding that the governor appoints three members, the House Speaker appoints two and the Lt. Governor, acting in his Senate capacity, appoints two. These seven then are sent to another non-elected board (state school board) for confirmation.

Ron F.

October 9th, 2012
6:45 pm

Grizz: thank you for clearing that up. Either way, the commission is an appointed group with no direct accountability to voters. The governor is definitely not on my trusted list, the speaker is probably tied with him, and the Lt. gov. takes second place. In my opinion, that’s basically having 3 of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse appointing the commission. No chance whatsoever for Democratic legislators to have any input- exactly as the leadership wants it.

Ron F.

October 9th, 2012
6:47 pm

Well, actually the 4th horseman is the AG, who has definitely taken his role seriously here of late.

ChartersStarter, Too

October 9th, 2012
7:30 pm

Let me make it clear that NOBODY should be using tax payer funds to get this amendment passed. NOBODY. That is absolutely wrong, and if it is happening (by either side) it should stop immediately. My understanding is that even after the AG sent out the information, many school districts continued to be non-compliant. Therein lies the problem. They got a warning and didn’t heed it. Dr. Barge heeded the warning, and the governor did as well.

I don’t believe these parents who are suing are wanting to stop folks from expressing their opposition – they just want the districts and the associations with which they are affiliated and pay tax dollars to to stop using their positions and tax dollars to do it. As individuals, we are all free to express our views, and we SHOULD.

I know that we (those supporting charters and this amendment) have been trying very hard to plan panels with equal sides represented and we are having a hard time getting the opposition to engage. I won’t speculate on why, but they just won’t. I hope the judge stops the activity and states that any person/agency/district/association not legally allowed to use tax funds or position to influence a vote must ONLY be a part of information sessions where both sides are represented and must otherwise stay neutral on the matter.

The end goal, is after all, to ensure that voters are informed. It serves no purpose to have only one side give information and for anyone to expend dollars that should be going to classrooms, particularly given the economic climate we are living.

ChartersStarter, Too

October 9th, 2012
7:34 pm

@ Ron – do you believe the the Professional Standards Commission should then be dissolved since it has not “direct” accountability to tax payers? They certify every single teacher in our state.

Of course not! Our ELECTED officials are given constitutional authority to APPOINT agencies to carry forth the work of the state. That’s what you elect them to do – you can’t hammer them for exercising their responsibility or their authority just because you don’t like who ended up in office…

ChartersStarter, Too

October 9th, 2012
7:38 pm

@ Ron F. – Maureen has NOT been balanced in how she has presented this issue. If you go through the charter blogs she’s posted, they are almost all derogatory against the amendment and often against charters in general. Same goes with what the AJC in general has published over the last few months. Herb Garrett is a frequent guest writer. Disappointing, but not surprising.

prof. jess

October 9th, 2012
7:42 pm

It has been said , that Gov. Deal, has supporters that has purchased land for charter schools to be constructed on. Sunny,(former Gov.) became a wealthy man wheeling and dealing in land. Went into office middle class, left a multi-millionaier.

Ron F.

October 9th, 2012
7:58 pm

CS2- Maureen is under no obligation to be balanced, but I think she has presented both sides of the issue and allowed ample discussion/debate to take place. Her opinions have been muted and clearly open to discussion

PSC: nope, not the same thing. The PSC doesn’t have the power to create and fund schools. They are not part of this debate.

“As individuals, we are all free to express our views, and we SHOULD.” Yes, indeed we should. I’ve actually learned a lot from you, even if we don’t agree on this particular issue. My view of charter schools has been influenced quite positively by our discussions. But, this lawsuit and previous actions by AG Olens would seem to indicate that one side is upset with the other for expressing their views and is quite concerned about the impact that expression might have. Neither side should be using resources related in any way to state funds to express or try to directly or indirectly influence any voters. And both sides have done it.

“I hope the judge stops the activity and states that any person/agency/district/association not legally allowed to use tax funds or position to influence a vote must ONLY be a part of information sessions where both sides are represented and must otherwise stay neutral on the matter.”

You might want to remind the Governor of that. Even if you invite both sides to the table, you have to be careful. I don’t think the law allows taxpayer funds to be use to campaign, regardless of whether both sides are represented. It doesn’t matter if you invite them and they refuse to show. I don’t doubt the other side has refused to engage with you in debate. Their entrenchment is obvious- you and I agree on the problems with leadership in the current system. But that doesn’t excuse either side from using state funded resources. If one side must stop, then both must.

As I’ve said before, I’m impressed with some of our charter schools. I think the concept has at its core a genuine desire to meet needs. It’s sad that we’re all in the crosshairs of a political struggle that could threaten to undo us all. Please understand I support innovation and improvement, but I adamantly do NOT support the state government as it is having any more control over that. Parents, students, committed educators deserve better, but a constitutional amendment giving a very small number of state officials of questionable ethics power to create a commission that will have a fair amount of power is scary as all get out to me.

FBT

October 9th, 2012
8:03 pm

How can we see contributions both traditional and charter schools have made?

ChartersStarter, Too

October 9th, 2012
8:16 pm

@ Ron F. – But your argument was about “accountability.” On one hand you say we already have a state appeals process (and by the way, the state has always funded public education), and then on the other, you say that unelected officials shouldn’t be able to do either. I don’t understand the contradiction. That is nonsensical to me. The SBOE, will be the final authority on any schools that open (as it was pre-Commission when this was not contested) and the state will continue to fund schools approved.

I will not say that the charter related folks haven’t done it, BUT, no one has specifically identified how they have. Charters don’t have resolutions. They don’t have VOTE YES literature being sent around at faculty meetings or distributed on or through property. They aren’t a part of only vote yes panels. As for GCSA as someone mentioned, they haven’t published anything vote yes on their website (GSBA has). They don’t pass out vote yes literature (GSBA does). All they are allowed to do is inform. The vote yes side has a campaign group that does that, and they are funded by parents, community members, organizations, and businesses that support quality public school choice. If you know of a specific example I don’t know about, please share it. It shouldn’t be happening. We are not in disagreement there at all.

The interesting thing, Ron, is that the Commission was in place for two and a half years, and nothing “scary” occurred in all of that time other than 15 schools or so serving almost 20,000 kids opened and started raising achievement. If anything was going to happen, any egregious abuse of this “power” people fear, it would have happened then because there was no fear of recourse. But it didn’t. They implemented a rigorous approval process, affirmed the locals a majority of the time, and over turned those that were not treated fairly. That’s how it SHOULD work.

Please believe me when I tell you that NO charter WANTS to be a state school – it’s a last ditch option when there is no other. And given the funding model in 797, there is now a financial dis-incentive for charters to go to the state, as they will get significantly less money.

ChartersStarter, Too

October 9th, 2012
8:17 pm

@ FBT – what do you mean by contributions?

sneak peak into education

October 9th, 2012
8:20 pm

I really think that the negative publicity about this actually helps the NO camp. And remember, the NO camp falls into 2 categories

1. Those who are against charter schools in any form.
2. Those who support charter schools but are against the constitutional amendment because it creates a non-elected board that duplicates a process already available and increases the size of government.

According to many posters, it sounds like many fall into the latter category. I feel that the strong-arm move by the AG and Glen Delk absolutely helps to bolster the NO vote. People don’t like bullies and especially those who look like they are trying to take the voice away from a group of taxpayers for the benefit of others.

Please remember that the group behind this amendment, ALEC, is a policy writing group whose agenda is to privatize education with the hopes of making big bucks for their backers.

ALEC’s agenda is as follows:
1. Introduce market factors into schools, especially the teaching profession
2. Privatize education through vouchers, charters and tax incentives
3. Increase student testing and reporting
4. REDUCE THE INFLUENCE OF OR ELIMINATE LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND SCHOOL BOARDS

Please note the last point in particular; this is their way to reduce your democratic right to vote at the local level. Why would any sane person want to do this? This is not a conspiracy theory; it is already happening and at a greater rate in some parts of our country-see Louisiana for one to see the disaster that these policies mean for public education. Yes, the proponents will say “it’s about the children” but it’s really about big business getting their hands on taxpayers money. Don’t let them fool you.

I strongly feel that the opponents to this amendment felt that they would not see any opposition to this move and it would be an easy ride for them but the voters of Georgia have got to be smarter than that and realize that the amendment has been written to purposely mislead the public. They know it.

VOTE NO in NOvember.

Tony

October 9th, 2012
9:06 pm

As a public school principal, it is my deeply held belief that I must speak out against this amendment because it provides an alternate and preferential funding stream to a select few students. It does not address the underfunding of the schools that serve 95% of Georgia’s students. I will continue to speak against this amendment and I will do so as a private citizen who happens to be a public school principal.

Ron F.

October 9th, 2012
9:12 pm

“The interesting thing, Ron, is that the Commission was in place for two and a half years, and nothing “scary” occurred”

CS2- I know that, and I know a number of charter schools are out there doing what they can just as the rest of us are. But, I still don’t support a constitutional amendment to recreate that commission. Amending the state constitution is a big deal, and the evidence available doesn’t 100% speak to the potential success of such a move. I don’t trust the parties who will have the power to appoint this commission, and nothing will convince me to give them that authority. That’s no reflection on the work those schools are doing, but it is and will be an obvious reflection of the absolute distrust I have in anything they champion at this point.

Dr. Monica Henson

October 9th, 2012
9:29 pm

Ron F. posted, “Not to mention the taxpayer dollars now having to be used to fund this suit and the answer to it from districts. At a time when even charter schools are struggling for funds, can anyone afford the massive dollars this idiotic suit will cost? Do taxpayers really want yet another drain on school budgets to deal with this?”

Kind of like the hundreds of thousands of school tax dollars spent by Gwinnett, Bulloch, et al, to challenge the constitutionality of the original Charter Schools Commission to begin with, which we all know was about money and preserving it for local districts to control, regardless of the student achievement outcomes they generate.

For the anti-charter districts, it has always been about the dollars that public school students generate, first and foremost. They didn’t hesitate to expend huge amounts of money to preserve their hegemony, despite the clear and demonstrated fact that there are families living in their districts whose children are not well served.

Dr. Monica Henson

October 9th, 2012
9:40 pm

Actually, CS2 raises an excellent example the Professional Standards Commission, which is an appointed body that was created by the legislature. Prior to the creation of GaPSC, teacher certification was handled within GaDOE.

The PSC has more than fulfilled its “central responsibility for establishing a certification/licensure process that is streamlined, understandable, and flexible in order to remove barriers and to attract qualified individuals to the education profession. Specifically, the PSC’s major purposes are: to simplify and make more efficient the process of certifying educational personnel in Georgia; to attract the highest possible number of qualified personnel to become educators in Georgia; to promote the hiring of qualified educators from other states; and to improve the level of preparation of educators.”

The Charter Schools Commission will do the same for charter authorization. This is not to say that the Charter Schools Division does not do a great job, because they do. However, they are currently charged with indirect oversight of locally authorized schools as well as direct oversight of state authorized schools. As the number of schools grows, it will become cumbersome and unwieldy for the CS Division to continue to provide direct oversight of state schools in addition to its work in policy and governance.

The Commission will take on the responsibility of authorizing and overseeing charter schools that are not locally authorized, permitting the CS Division to resume the role of governance of the authorizers, both Commission and local, developing policy, and interpreting the State Board of Education Rules as they apply to charter schools.

Ron F.

October 9th, 2012
10:06 pm

So Dr. Henson: that justifies potentially millions more spent now on an obvious publicity stunt? Ooookay, that’s a bit flimsy logic in my opinion.This suit is clearly directed at one side of the debate, yet both sides are now encumbered with the cost of it. That helps who exactly how?

And when you consider that the state, by its own admission, has consistently underfunded its own legislatively mandated school funding formula for at least TWENTY years, who can blame school systems for fighting to keep from having more state control to establish schools that it will have to support? It isn’t about hegemony, it’s about being able to trust that the state will honor any legal obligation it has. The state currently funds existing school systems at an average of about 38%, yet they still maintain the right to decide curricula, performance standards, and educator evaluation systems. My but they do get a lot of control for that share of funding and consistently, even stubbornly, refuse to discuss any resolution of the funding formula that must be created to resolve the issue. They’ve violated the laws their own created, but you want us to believe they deserve ANY authority to create and fund anything, let alone schools they alone will have the power to deem worthy? How could anyone believe them at this point?

And when the data isn’t proving charter schools to be overall more effective thus far (and yes, there are notable exceptions), and while data suggests that some have attrition rates beyond their tradtional public counterparts, and while data also points out that some don’t fairly represent the population of the district(s) they serve, why would I even begin to consider giving the governor, lt. governor, and speaker of the house authority to appoint a commission vested with the power to create more?

We have big problems to fix, Dr. Henson, there’s no doubt about that. And I believe schools like the one you lead are an important part of the solution. But make no mistake, I uncategorically refuse to give the elected “leaders” any more power to decide what works and what doesn’t. Their allegiance is not to the kids, the communities, or the schools, no matter how hard they try to convince all of us otherwise. The politics surrounding this amendment speaks of power, control, and funding only what those in power deem worhty. That’s not a good position for your school or mine either. And believe me, my school is working just as diligently as yours.

Thomas Ray

October 9th, 2012
10:53 pm

Interesting info from the “Schools Matter” blog:

Top 10 Reasons For 1%ers to Support Charter Schools

INTRO: Based on comparisons from the Stanford CREDO study of 2009, only 17 percent of charter schools nationwide are performing better than matched public schools.
1. Urban charter schools require minimal public investment in physical plants, library programs, the arts, science labs, athletics, personnel, and transportation infrastructure.
2. Urban charter schools are cheaper because they depend upon an endless stream of young beginning teachers with few benefits, no retirement payouts, and no collective bargaining.
3. Urban charter schools make it easy to segregate based on race, economics, gender, and disability.
4. Urban charter schools allow for the exclusion or dumping of problem students whose abilities, behaviors, or test performance that could damage to the charter brand.
5. Urban charter schools make it easier to hide the problems of the poor by pointing to testing success by those who survive the charter gauntlet.
6. Urban charter schools allow for the imposition of cultural and psychological control techniques in urban areas that are not subject to public scrutiny.
7. Urban charter schools put decision-making and control into the hands of unelected executives with no oversight beyond hand-picked board members.
8. Urban charter schools (not for profit CMOs) allow corporations and wealthy donors to reap huge tax benefits for their generosity to corporate charter schools.
9. Urban charter schools (for profit EMOs) expand business opportunities for the education industry & testing-industrial complex.
10. Urban charter schools make it possible to take the state tax dollars saved from the forced choice of urban charters and use that money to enrich suburban public schools without raising taxes.

Dr. Monica Henson

October 9th, 2012
11:01 pm

Ron, I respect your right to your opinion and I admire your passion and the good work you are doing. We are both on the side of what’s good for children. I honestly don’t see the suit as a publicity stunt. It isn’t just in Georgia that the defenders of the status quo (meaning the school board association & the administrators association, et al) have hijacked school resources to advance their own political agendas and try to block reform efforts.

I watched in my native North Carolina as the NC Association of School Administrators and Democrat-controlled NCAE emailed talking points which were literally cut and pasted into email blasts sent out from school computers to parents, along with being printed onto school newsletters and placed in elementary schoolers’ backpacks. Those talking points were even more deliberately untrue than the misinformation spewed by Vote Smart Georgia’s propaganda. And the (Democrat) Attorney General wouldn’t issue even a slap on the wrist for it. It took the new Republican majority in the NC legislature to lift the cap on charter schools in that state.

I believe the Georgia AG’s action is merited, and I also believe that what’s good for the GSBA is equally applicable to the GCSA. The AG’s letter to Supt. Barge was disseminated by GaDOE’s charter schools division to all charter school superintendents, and it made specific mention of charter schools, not just school districts. The difference between GSBA and GCSA with regard to this amendment campaign is that the pro-charter side has been advocated, legally, by the Brighter Georgia Education Coalition, not by GCSA.

Thomas Ray

October 9th, 2012
11:26 pm

On the Georgia Charter Schools Association website, the Board of Directors for this “organization” represent several companies who may benefit greatly from the passage of this Amendment: Mosaica Education, Inc., Seamless Education Associates, Inc., TM Capital Corp..

ALL of this effort expended on Charter School while Georgia leads the NATION (2 years running) in child fatalities and injuries related to the School Bus Loading/Unloading zone – the school bus stop.

We are swallowing elephants and choking on gnats.

Thomas Ray

October 9th, 2012
11:40 pm

From the Charlton County Herald – Folkston, Georgia:
Excerpt from:
Charter school campaign isn’t going to end well
By Tom Crawford
Published:
Tuesday, October 9, 2012 12:41 PM EDT

K12 Inc., a company based in Virginia that operates online schools, has donated $100,000 to the charter amendment supporters. Charter Schools USA, a for-profit company based in Florida that contracts with charter school organizers to operate their schools, contributed $50,000 to the charter group.

National Heritage Academies, a Michigan-based company that operates 74 charter schools in nine states, contributed $25,000 to the charter amendment group; the company’s founder, J. C. Huizenga, contributed another $25,000.

It’s easy to understand why these out-of-state companies are so interested in the passage of a Georgia amendment: they see an opportunity to move into the state and boost their profits by grabbing tax funds that normally would be allocated to public schools.

Ron F.

October 10th, 2012
12:09 am

Dr. Henson: BGEC has as its supporters/funders Americans for Prosperity and Students First. Those aren’t what you might call “nonpartisan” in all fairness. That’s not exactly a convincing calling card, in my opinion.

Here’s an interesting tidbit I stumbled across today:

http://www.gacharters.org/careers/the-brighter-georgia-education-coalition-regional-coordinators-for-paid-internships/

That link is to a job posting by GCSA that demonstrates that GCSA did, in fact, employ interns whose job from July to November has been to travel and help promote charter schools throughout the state. If GCSA is supported by its member schools, then those interns are paid from state funds, and should stop. From the ad:

“Develop and produce presentations to support public charter schools. Training will be provided, and coordinators will be asked to personalize and localize the message.

Community Outreach: Develop outreach in an assigned region, with a focus on large civic, academic, faith-based, political, and business groups in that region.”

There is one way GCSA has directly worked to influence voters. Has that stopped or been discussed as a potential issue?

I didn’t particularly like, but had to grudgingly accept Olens’ letter (he was right, even if I don’t personally like the man). This lawsuit, on the other hand, has a hefty price tag connected to it at a time when few, if any, school systems can afford the legal fees they’re not forced to pay, even if only to have a lawyer present to represent them in the court hearing Wednesday. I don’t see the need for it in light of Olens’ letter. If there’s a violation of state law, let his office use its own budget to prosecute egregious examples. That would be a heck of lot cheaper, if not as attention-getting and publicity generating.

Ron F.

October 10th, 2012
12:13 am

Dr. Henson: I should correct myself immediately. The job posting I mentioned above is for a job with BGEC, but is listed on the GCSA website. I would suppose it might pass a litmus test for legality if BGEC is funding the job, but then why advertise it on GCSA website? Looks a bit questionable to me. What is the exact relationship between GCSA and BGEC?