New AJC analysis: Fewer poor kids attend charter schools in metro area. Does that matter to you?

A new analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution finds fewer low-income students enrolled in metro area charter schools.

Whether these new findings alarm you will depend on whether you believe charters ought to focus on areas with high poverty and low opportunity or whether they ought to be an option even for parents in areas with high performing public schools. The trend nationwide is for charters to open in middle-class communities where parents want more specialization for their kids.

Having watched this movement from the very start, I can attest to the shifts in both goals and definition. I attended a charter school conference 20 years ago where the purpose was defined as creating good options for kids who didn’t have any. Charters were seen as an antidote to failing inner city schools.

Now, charters are seen as a way to create different options for parents who may prefer their children in a school that focuses on math, offers Mandarin or is single gender. Charters have become a way to give more parents more choices, even if they had good choices to start within their local communities. And many people feel that choice, no matter how it is delivered, is always good.

Where do you fall?

Here is what the AJC is reporting: (Look at the story for more detailed data.)

Charter schools educate a smaller proportion of metro Atlanta’s impoverished students than the public school systems in which those charters are located, a new analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.

It’s widely accepted among education researchers that academic outcomes are linked to demographics: Schools with more students from low-income households tend to perform poorly compared to schools with more well-off students.

One solution, some argue, is charter schools — independent public schools that operate free of some state restrictions as long as they meet performance goals. Proponents tout them as a superior alternative to traditional public schools, especially for children from low-income families stuck in failing schools and unable to afford private school tuition.

The AJC’s analysis, though, indicates many low-income families have yet to tap into that alternative, even as Georgia voters weigh giving the state clear authority to create more charter schools.

The newspaper compiled data from the Georgia Department of Education for every public school in the five major metro Atlanta jurisdictions. The data, which show the number of students eligible for free or reduced price lunches, are commonly used as a measure of poverty. Schools with enough students in that category qualify for federal aid.

The AJC’s analysis calculated poverty averages for Atlanta and for Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties. With the exception of Fulton, the data revealed disparities in all jurisdictions regarding the percentages of impoverished children in traditional public school systems versus those in charters.

Anecdotal evidence suggests charter schools present challenges some low-income households may find difficult to manage.

One issue is transportation, specifically a lack of school buses.

Rae Anne Harkness sends her 13-year-old daughter to Ivy Preparatory Academy at Kirkwood, a state-chartered, gender-separated school in DeKalb County whose poverty rate about matched the local school system’s average of 73 percent last year.

Harkness has heard students are out of control at her neighborhood school, Columbia Middle, where the poverty rate was 87 percent. “My zoned schools are not an option for me,” she said.

But the single mother of two said she sometimes must choose between buying food or the gasoline she needs to drive her daughter to school because Ivy Prep has no buses. “That’s how important it is to me,” she said.

Volunteerism is another consideration that may limit who chooses charters.

For instance, the Museum School of Avondale Estates requires parents to volunteer 10 to 30 hours a year. That requirement probably discourages parents juggling multiple jobs — single parents in particular — from considering the school, principal Katherine Kelbaugh said, although the school is flexible and allows volunteering outside of regular work hours.

The Museum School reported in 2010 that 15 percent of its students qualified for free or reduced price lunches. (The state had no data for the school last year.) “That is not our preference,” Kelbaugh said, noting that the school does not screen students based on parental income.

Cindy Eldridge, the mother of a 6-year-old at the Museum School and a younger boy who will eventually go there, said she doesn’t mind volunteering. But she has the benefit of a spouse and a flexible schedule as a freelancer. She and her husband chose the Museum School over their neighborhood school, Avondale Elementary, not because Avondale’s poverty rate was 89 percent, but because of the way children are taught there.

“At Avondale it was all about the test scores,” Eldridge said. “Learning here (at Museum) is individualized.”

A vote Tuesday on a proposed amendment to the state constitution could affect the number of charter schools created in the future.

If voters support the change, proponents say it will assure that the state can give parents a public alternative to failing schools. Critics say it will establish separate and unequal school systems.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

97 comments Add your comment


November 3rd, 2012
12:06 pm

I have a better question.

If this ammendment is passed, then after a year or two, what will Charter schools be like in Georgia in terms of enrollment and how science is being taught?


November 3rd, 2012
12:18 pm

Gee, I wonder how the editors and reporters at the AJC will vote on this issue. At least this blog occasionally posts the pro side of the issue.

Since the AJC has little influence outside the perimeter anymore, the bias has little impact state wide – and may actually have a reverse effect in Atlanta suburbs as the “them against us” mentality both ways is an AJC mainstay.


November 3rd, 2012
12:27 pm

I don’t see why this is news. Of course there are less involved parents in lower income neighborhoods. On a separate but related note, the sky is blue. Again.


November 3rd, 2012
12:29 pm

If Charter Schools are a hot topic in this election season, it’s best to take the safe side and vote it down.
*Poverty should not be a prison for delapidated quality in public schools.
*All parents (poor or not) should have the facts on the pros and cons of having their kids in charter schools. THEY (the parents) should have a choice.
* The general public should have better access to information affecting finances and programs for our schools.
*The state is already entrenched to a troubling degree in controlling our public school system. Be careful how we cede power; once we lose it, it’s GONE as if the power of local communities to affect change.

The safe vote is “NO” for now until this measure is further discussed and better understood by ALL stakeholders.

Old South

November 3rd, 2012
12:30 pm

There the national debate, but then there is what the state of Gerogia does. No one follows what Georgia does because it always seems to do the wrong thing. That’s the history anyway, so I would look at other states as a guide.

Mama S

November 3rd, 2012
12:32 pm

Indigo: I suggest you go to an accredited private school already operating in Georgia and ask to see the science texts and curriculum. Most “religious” schools don’t teach creationism alone — Christians believe in dinosaurs too. There may be some “flat-earth” charter schools, but there will likely be more that are science/math/computer focused. At least, parents will have a choice and so will the kids.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

November 3rd, 2012
12:41 pm

Inarguable is the fact that many poor kids attend GA schools whose climates are characterized by disorder, disrespect and detachment. Inarguable I would also assert is the premise that all these kids can become responsible, contributing citizens with instruction fitting their needs.

Of course, arguable are the methods by which these untenable school climates are remedied. But it is an argument whose time has come.

Might I paraphrase Columbia County BOE Chair Regina Buccafusco: Out of these campaigns to approve or disapprove the proposed charter school amendment, let’s hope that we have turned Georgians’ focus upon the task of improving the public school educations all our kids receive.

Hear, hear, Regina.


November 3rd, 2012
12:46 pm

Mama S

I said AFTER this Ammendment is passed.

Some reading comprehension, please.


November 3rd, 2012
1:03 pm

Given that metro low-income students are more often African American or Hispanic, I can see why Rev. Lowery stated that passing Amendment One allowing the state to approve charter schools would mean returning to the old segregationist days. Such passage will lead to a situation where public schools mainly educate poor children, ELL learners, and Special Education children….and their state funding will have to be shared with the new middle-class state charter schools.


November 3rd, 2012
1:04 pm

why shouldn’t all parents have choices for their kids? why is it supposedly bad for parents with ‘good’ schools to have other choices? GA has ONE way of doing things and if it doesn’t work for your kid, too bad. So parents are looking at different choices for their kids – why does that have to be a bad thing? I don’t understand.
Charter schools may have been created for a reason – but it doesn’t say in the law that it is only for parents/kids in poor areas – charters are for EVERYONE.


November 3rd, 2012
1:20 pm

I’m for the charter school amendment, but I expect that many of the schools eventually approved will be deliberately located as competitors to the worst schools in all of greater Atlanta’s districts. Very poor children are those most in need of alternatives.

I would assume that Republican officials are notice that their ability to recruit the next generation of minority voters — and therefore secure their future dominance — is dependent on their championing of initiatives that clearly benefit minorities. Otherwise, demographics are working against them.

It’s not in the interest of Republicans over the long run to screw this up. If they show signs of this, then some good swift kicks to their “shins” are in order.

Thomas Ray

November 3rd, 2012
1:23 pm

Does this concern me? Yes – and I’m not even a parent but my tax payments support schools all the same.

With that said, I appreciate and respect a parent’s desire to have their child receive the best education possible – no doubt. I find it interesting that some charter schools require volunteer hours from parents…but I wonder what would be possible if those volunteer hours were used to attend School Board meetings and insist Public School Officials and School Boards improve the failing schools.

We hear a great deal about how important it is to maintain our “Infrastructure” for Transportation, Water, the Electric Power Grid – but I’m most concerned with our collective efforts and focus on our “Human Infrastructure.”

My sister (who also has no children) and I have started an advocacy movement to improve pupil transportation safety in a local metro Charter School system AND in Georgia – and obtaining parent interest is a challenge. (

I find it disheartening that so much effort is being expended upon cyber-bantering on the Charter School Amendment when the State of Georgia – for 2 years running – LEADS THE NATION in Child deaths and injuries relative to the “loading/unloading zone” @ the School Bus Stop.

While some parents spend their time thinking about which school offers Mandarin for the individualistic development of their child, my sister and I will continue our work to hold State & School pupil transportation officials and BOEs accountable – for ALL of Georgia’s K-12 children who have no choice but to take the School Bus.

Beverly Fraud

November 3rd, 2012
1:29 pm

Even if Satan himself is pushing this amendment, when GAE, PAGE, and the rest of the status quo need a reason to analyze why they lost (if they indeed do lose) they can look to one source:


Why did it pass?

It was the DISCIPLINE, Stupid!


November 3rd, 2012
1:38 pm

This sort of pulls the rug out from under the arguments of your colleague, Kyle. It merely proves what many have been saying all along—among other things, this proposed Amendment would be a vehicle to de facto re-segregate the public schools through the guise of economic segregation. This may not be the intent of many parents but it is now proven to be the effect. I at least wish the pro folks would stop the propaganda canard that the purpose of charter schools is to rescue poor black kids from failing inner city schools. I might add that the same propaganda spin was used for the private school state income tax credit program. Yes, yes, class warfare and we know which class is winning. Redistribution of wealth, too, from the bottom up. What hypocrisy.


November 3rd, 2012
1:49 pm

This is a point that should matter to everyone. It is evidence of the resegregation of our schools.


November 3rd, 2012
1:52 pm

This amendment is not about whether Georgia has charter schools.

It is not about whether charter schools are “better” than traditional schools.

It is about money and power, and whether those remain in local hands or move to an unelected group of appointees with no education background who do not reside in the charter area, do not have children who are affected and do not work or pay taxes supporting the schools they create. They (and their legislative sponsors) will, however, have the ability to choose real estate, construction, for-profit management, curriculum, no-bid suppliers and every other purchase decision. This is why 96% of the money supporting the amendment comes from outside Georgia, and most of that comes from “education management” corporations eager to bribe our officials and get access to Georgia’s public school money, without any local oversight or accountability.

THAT is what this amendment is about. ONLY that. NOT about the relative strengths of chartered vs. traditional public schools, or about how many Georgia has.

Do you really want another set of Deal appointees like the “public relations consultant” who now runs the GaDOT, the woman with no lottery or gaming experience who now runs the Georgia Lottery and the wife of Deal’s COO who now sits on the Workers’ Compensation board (at $150K of our tax money) to select unelected people to determine Georgia students’ education?

You’d have to be either crazy or in line for the pay off to vote for this.


November 3rd, 2012
1:54 pm

Private schools, magnet schools, charter schools, vouchers, etc, etc are simply an attempt by parents who give a crap to distance their children from those that don’t give a crap.

But, the traditional public schools will ignore the wishes of the parents and throw everyone into a “balanced classroom”, which really means they ignore the high achievers and try to get the room temperature IQ students to pass a simple multiple choice test at the end of the year.

They’ve been doing this for forty years. Why should we expect anything different? They would mindnumbingly drive the school bus off a cliff if that is what the rulebook said to do…


November 3rd, 2012
1:58 pm

Given the fact that many of the schools in APS, Clayton, Dekalb, Cobb, Dougherty, Richmond, etc, etc are 80-100% black, I don’t think the “resegregation” argument holds water.

Kris (vote NO )

November 3rd, 2012
2:12 pm

Another reason to vote No on the charter school boondoggle…(A shady DEAL for our children and grand childern).

Restore funding to our public schools (trim fat at the top Admin.).(APS run DAVIS out on Reeds Rail system, or at least in a ditch.

FIX the system we have!

IMPEACH DEAL (cronyism and corruption).

Vote NO to Amendment 1

Beverly Fraud

November 3rd, 2012
2:16 pm

“It is about money and power, and whether those remain in local hands or move to an unelected group of appointees with no education background who do not reside in the charter area,”

EXACTLY. Do we want to vote Yes and give money to the Somali pirates (who will challenge the monopoly) or have in remain in the hands of North Korea bureaucrats (who will maintain the status quo)?

But hey, at least Georgia’s got FISHIN!

Mary Elizabeth

November 3rd, 2012
2:30 pm

This amendment is about privatizing public schools. If parents simply wanted more specialized school settings for their children, such as those with more math or Mandarin or with same gender settings, then they could present a case for forming more magnet schools in school districts or for forming more “schools within schools,” such as a 9th Grade Academy, within an overall public school setting, for insuring these various educational needs. They could, also, form charter schools approved by their local school disricts for the same purposes.

This is about the privatization of public education. There is much money and power outside of Georgia behind this effort in Georgia. Part of that privatization agenda will entail, in future legislative sessions, the effort to create bills which will remove teachers in quasi-private public schools from the Teacher’s Retirement System of Georgia. There are long-ranged, and societal transforming, goals within this national Republican agenda regarding the privatization of America’s public instiutions and of America’s public programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Don’t be fooled and do not fail to see into this long-ranged agenda, even if it is not as blatantly stated as it should be for citizens to weigh without propaganda. Vote NO on NOvember 6 for Amendment 1.

A Teacher, 2

November 3rd, 2012
2:34 pm

I am already wondering what the next push will be when everyone figures out that charter schools are not a magic bullet. Vouchers? Remember vouchers could backfire. What if all of the high schools in the state could turn down the vouchers of the 5% that cause 95% of all the problems in the school? What happens when everybody turns them down? If we could do that, vouchers may not be such a bad idea!


November 3rd, 2012
2:55 pm

@ Lee. Please see Shar’s post just before yours. The issue in the amendment is not whether or not charter schools are superior to public schools, but whether we should add a state board to approve charters whose seven members are politically appointed, not elected. There is already a mechanism in place to approve charters that are locally run and locally desired.

This new state board could allow specialty charters with only a very limited district appeal (charters only for children who reside in the Sea Island resort areas–I believe there is one such now on Tybee Island only for Tybee residents), or for-profit charters without any sort of financial accountability in place that pay huge sums to its executives, or charters run by foreign nationals who simply want a good way to get green cards and stay in this country. (China has a lively industry in American charter schools for this reason, as exposes have shown.)

And these new state-approved charter schools along with all the other charter schools would receive taxpayer funds from the small pie that public education also shares. The fear many have (including, I think, Joseph Lowery) is that in a short time the only students in metro Atlanta public schools will be the poor (read, African American and Hispanic), the illiterate immigrants, and those in special education.

I suppose one could say that the resegregation will be along socio-economic lines as well as racial/ethnic lines. But I too can see it happening if Amendment One passes. That’s one reason I voted NO.


November 3rd, 2012
2:58 pm

Ole Guy

November 3rd, 2012
3:00 pm

It’s all about giving a damn…let’s not go on with the “poor folks don’t have the time to consider the benefits of education” mantra. It doesn’t matter weather the school’s status is charter, high performing; low performing, or whathaveyou. Let’s not even suggest that…(so-called) poor folks (insofar as being caring vs non-caring parents) should even be considered an issue. Everyone knows the difference between a good education and a…”not good” education. This is NOT a poor kids vs affluent kids issue; let’s not make it one.

Private Citizen

November 3rd, 2012
3:11 pm

Overview / perspective: I think if you made a list of ten things to do to improve K12 education for children in Georgia, charter schools would be one of them.

Thomas Ray Thank you for the information. I learned something from you today. And thank you for your love and concern and insight and keeping it real.

As far as the charter school movement / amendment, I just leave this Easter egg here:

Thank you for addressing required parent volunteer labor from parents as a condition and requirement for a student to attend a charter school. I think this is a bad idea and could be viewed as ethically dubious, or in another words capricious, not unlike the capricious actions from Mr. Davis and those who directed him. It just seems like some condition that someone thought up and then made policy. It is clearly impractical for working parents. And it is especially impractical for high end professional parents. As I type my comment, I can appreciate this being used as a stop-gap for parents just enrolling or dropping their kids off at a school as if they have no involvement and the school is a daytime storage location for the child. I do not know what the answer is. I know the last thing in the world that I would personally want to do is volunteer at a school. I’ll volunteer for a lot of things, or do good works, but schools have budgets and personnel and should be capable to do their work. Part of my perspective is that in my own schooling, never not once not ever was their much parent involvement and I sure liked it that way. As a kid, school was my little kingdom and home was my parents little kingdom. I sure did not want them at school. It might just make more sense for a charter school to be able to throw a kid out on his head if there is repeat trouble making. That’s the point about school choice, if a student or family doesn’t like a school or wants to malign the school or disrupt the school, they can go find somewhere that they want to be. Requiring volunteering is basically a form of charging tuition. Labor / time = money. Let’s not gloss over it. If I was a lawyer with a thousand tentacles, this required volunteering is something might be crushed on legal grounds and discarded. Why complicate things? And it is certainly deterministic for working parents, or maybe parents who value their own time and do not allow people to make deals with them or otherwise tell them what to do?

Just think if the funding money followed the student. No one would be requiring volunteerism then. In closing, I think it is true the saying that there is strength in diversity.

Hey, does anyone know anything about retirement age teachers get penalized 3% of the their retirement savings if they do not retire?


November 3rd, 2012
3:17 pm

For-profit charter school management companies will open schools only in areas where they can make a big profit. Before you vote “yes” because you think your child will be able to attend a school without “those” other students, calculate whether or not big profits are possible in your area. If not, then the pot of money that funds all schools will be diminished in favor of a charter school and its students in another part of the state.


November 3rd, 2012
3:27 pm

Coming from wisconsin, I can tell you since they have had the longest running charter schools in milwaukee.. that it was the intent of the legislation to bring equity to poorer, disadvantaged, fewer opportunity kids to go to higher achieving schools because they have smaller class sizes and more opportunities for good interventions. They get more attention and don’t get lost in the system. Lower achieving schools and those in bad neighborhoods, per say, have teachers who are newer or have teachers who have had issues. Newer teachers haven’t had the experience yet to know what to do yet.. its something you have to learn how to deal become a master teacher. So vouchers were created to help those kids to be successful, but now its expanded to where anyone can use it. They saw real gains in some portions of those populations, but like all good things it gets ruined because someone thinks they should get something that someone else has. Now funding is stretched thin and you have 40 kids in a classroom in public education.. and now class sizes in voucher schools are growing.. and now there really is no difference again.. as far as achievements.. and now schools get selective with who they take… poorer kids do have more issues and don’t have the same access to things that those who do have.. for example educational toys… parents who have to work two jobs and dont have time to check to see if homework is done.There are many issues related to this, but I think it needs to be a priority to bring equity to all kids so they can get a good education.

Private Citizen

November 3rd, 2012
3:34 pm

I’m hardly a neutral party on volunteerism.I haven’t seen it, I do not know. The only volunteerism I know of was I had one student who would throw objects at other students and start trouble and then go home and wind up their parent telling the parent that they had been bullied. The parent would then threaten to sue or otherwise malign the teacher through any means available, meaning to try and get the teacher maligned with greater administration. And then kid would come back to school and keep doing the same things. So my idea of “parent volunteerism” was to call the family and request that a member of the family come and sit with the student in class for the entire length of the class. After about three days of this, the student was okay for a while, but after 3-4 months would start up the same process. There’s some parents too that belong in an insane asylum, not volunteering in the school house, so yes I am not a neutral commentator. Any teacher working with the public maybe knows of some parents who consider their kid’s classroom to be just another stop on their roulette wheel of mayhem. (a generalization). The best part is when the building manager / principal blames the teacher for some insane parent who manages to get past the office, to the classroom and pulls some stunt. And then the principal blames the teacher. Just got to love it…. Just Got To Absolutely Love It. No books. No budget. Expected to take responsibility for the motivation of others, and then expected to own the actions of another adult. Talk about poor boundaries? I guarantee you use the word “boundary” with a Georgia government school administrator and they will look at you with BIG QUESTION MARK. Maybe in part because it does not fix the box of ten words that they are being brainwashed with directly from the state.

When I was 17 years old, a Wendy’s manager asked me if I wanted to be a Wendy’s manager and I thought to myself “there’s no way you’re going to do to me what I see you doing to them (the manager).”

Private Citizen

November 3rd, 2012
3:38 pm

i.e. 80 hours a week on a salary paid for 40 hours. Well, I guess was wrong about that.

Bruce Kendall

November 3rd, 2012
3:43 pm

I hope that Dr. Craig Spinks of Georgians for Educational Excellence, paraphrase of Columbia County BOE Chair Regina Buccafusco comments occur.

So often when I try to talk or write about Henry County education issues, Georgian’s cannot separate our issues from those in other states and other school districts within Georgia.

The Deal

November 3rd, 2012
3:56 pm

There’s no such thing as resegregation in a school system that is almost 80% black. Stop being the victim. The true victims are all DCSD kids stuck in a school system that has no intention of educating them, only pulling in the property tax and SPLOST cash to pad their own pockets. I would rather potentially pad the pocket of a for-profit educational company than definitely pad the pockets of Queen Cheryl and her court.

Bruce Kendall

November 3rd, 2012
4:13 pm

First, I support charters as a parent choice, but I have seen other issues that concern me as well. I was compelled to look at the data for the Neighborhood Charter School when two of its founders penned this article.

“Why we will vote FOR the Georgia Charter School Amendment,” found at

For a lark I decided to compare Neighborhood Charter with the local elementary school, serving their common community. The Atlanta Public Schools web site indicated that Parkside Elementary, and Neighborhood Charter School served the same community. What I found does not appear to be from the same community:

Title one school.
Neighborhood Charter – No
Parkside Elementary – Yes
Students qualifying for Free or Reduced Lunch.
Neighborhood Charter – 13%
Parkside Elementary – 73%
Ethnic enrollment.
Neighborhood Charter – 18% black
Parkside Elementary – 81% black
Charter, public school;
Neighborhood Charter – 68% white
Parkside Elementary – 8% white
For a school that uses a lotto system for enrollment, it appears to be a statistical abnormality.
Can anyone tell me what is wrong with this picture?

Dr. Monica Henson

November 3rd, 2012
4:14 pm

Prof posted, “Given that metro low-income students are more often African American or Hispanic, I can see why Rev. Lowery stated that passing Amendment One allowing the state to approve charter schools would mean returning to the old segregationist days. Such passage will lead to a situation where public schools mainly educate poor children, ELL learners, and Special Education children….and their state funding will have to be shared with the new middle-class state charter schools.”

With all due respect to Rev. Lowery, I’d like to point out that my state-chartered virtual high school, which now serves more than 750 students in more than 160 cities and towns, with the majority clustered in the metropolitan Atlanta area, has enrolled more than 70% low-income students, more than 60% minorities, and more than 16% special education students. Where’s the segregation? We are a PUBLIC SCHOOL educating poor children and special education children right alongside advantaged children whose families wanted a choice other than their zoned school.

We have done substantial outreach in the inner cities of Atlanta, Macon, Savannah, and Augusta and are starting to develop clusters of enrollment in Columbus and Albany due to word of mouth. We have several regional small clusters of rural students, from northwest Georgia bordering Tennessee all the way to south Georgia along the Florida line.

We are educating ALL the students who come to us, and we are by no stretch of the imagination a “middle class state charter school.” Parental desire for a better education for their children knows no social class, race, or geographic boundary. It is racist in the extreme to presume that black families in the cities don’t care about their kids’ educations. It is inordinately condescending to presume that low-income families of any race in rural areas don’t know enough to discern whether their local board of education is doing what it needs to do to ensure that all students graduate from high school. It is willful ignorance of the economics of the low-income family to presume that a parent who doesn’t volunteer in his/her child’s school building during school hours doesn’t care about his/her child’s education.

Some of the laziest, most apathetic parents I have ever encountered in my career have been middle- and upper-middle class white suburban people who treated the local public high school as free day care for their lazy, apathetic, dope-smoking, pill-popping, expensive car-driving teenagers, all the while demanding that Skip and Muffy be placed in all honors and AP classes and guaranteed As no matter what their actual performance and work ethic produced in the way of grades.

Every child in the United States deserves a quality education. It is the mission of the public schools to provide it. The fact of the matter is that many schools fail miserably. Even within districts, there is wild variation of school quality. School choice allows families the ability to select better and different options for their children, which in turn forces the local district schools to examine their own practices and start competing to retain students. It has been demonstrated time and again that the mere suggestion of a charter school will spur a local board of education to start looking at how to introduce innovations that will make the district schools more desirable to families.

I believe that school dollars should follow the child, whether the destination is a local district public school, a public charter school, a private school, or a religious school. Families should be treated as customers, not hostages. For far too long, district schools have had captive constituencies.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 3rd, 2012
4:16 pm

Dr. Craig Spinks quotes “Columbia County BOE Chair Regina Buccafusco: Out of these campaigns to approve or disapprove the proposed charter school amendment, let’s hope that we have turned Georgians’ focus upon the task of improving the public school educations all our kids receive.”

Absolutely correct! Well said, Regina.

Bruce Kendall

November 3rd, 2012
4:16 pm

Please forgive the line “Charter, public school;” I was in a rush and failed to edit it out.

Let's Be Real Here

November 3rd, 2012
4:26 pm

There will never be change in black neighborhoods and in black schools until this violent, hip hop culture is addressed. It’s is ingrained in these kids heads to disrespect authority, act tough, never smile in pictures and god forbid if you actually try to do good in school you get ridiculed for trying to “act white.”. Everyone knows what the problem is, why won’t anyone come out and say anything? Why don’t you people march and protest change from within?


November 3rd, 2012
4:28 pm

@ Private Citizen, November 3rd, 3:11 pm. “Hey, does anyone know anything about retirement age teachers get penalized 3% of the their retirement savings if they do not retire?”

It depends on your retirement plan. If you’re a member of the Teachers’ Retirement Service (to which all Georgia public school educators must belong), TRS has no such rule. Once you’ve been vested 40 years, you can’t contribute any more, but you can teach until you keel over. I don’t know about the others.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 3rd, 2012
4:30 pm

Shar posted, mostly incorrectly: “It is about money and power, and whether those remain in local hands or move to an unelected group of appointees with no education background who do not reside in the charter area, do not have children who are affected and do not work or pay taxes supporting the schools they create. They (and their legislative sponsors) will, however, have the ability to choose real estate, construction, for-profit management, curriculum, no-bid suppliers and every other purchase decision.”

I’d hardly characterize Dr. Charles Knapp, a member of the original Charter Schools Commission and former president of the University of Georgia, as someone with “no education background.” Mark Peevy, former executive director of the Commission, has three children, all of whom attend district public schools where he lives, works, and pays taxes.

The Charter Schools Commission did not, and would not if it is reconstituted, make a single purchase decision for any of the schools it authorized. Likewise, the State Board of Education makes none of those decisions for the local public school districts it governs. Purchasing is the purview of the local board of education, and for a state-chartered school, its nonprofit board of directors is its board of education and makes its purchasing decisions.

The idea that a state-chartered or Commission-authorized school would have “little or no oversight” is ludicrous. These schools report directly to their authorizers at the state level and are subject to the IDENTICAL financial reporting requirements to GaDOE to which all public school districts must adhere. Furthermore, if these schools mismanage their finances, award no-bid contracts, and otherwise abuse their fiduciary responsibilities, they will be SHUT DOWN, a fate that is not faced by their district counterparts.

The only correct thing that Shar posted is that it is about “money and power.” Yes ma’am–it’s about the desperate fight by the education establishment to keep its clutches on both, regardless of the student achievement outcomes they produce.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 3rd, 2012
4:48 pm

Lynn43 posted, “For-profit charter school management companies will open schools only in areas where they can make a big profit.”

The majority of charter schools in Georgia are clustered around Atlanta, for the simple reason that the per-pupil funding is higher in the metro area and most Georgia charter schools seek local authorization. Locally-authorized charters benefit from local funding in addition to state QBE allotments. This is true whether or not the school works with a for-profit management company.

Three of the for-profit education management and service providers–K12, Pearson Connections, and EdisonLearning (my school’s partner)–work with the nonprofit boards of state-chartered schools that serve students all over the entire state and draw down state dollars only. Charter Schools USA manages Cherokee Charter Academy, which is a state-chartered school and draws down state dollars only.

Where are the areas where you see for-profit management companies raking in big profits? I’d argue that the textbook publishers selling to Atlanta Public Schools, DeKalb, Clayton, Fulton, and Gwinnett probably bring in equally high, if not far bigger profits than any educational management organization. I don’t hear any public outcry over the incredibly wasteful education boondoggle that is the public school textbook contract. And the last time I checked, textbook publishers are–you guessed it–private, for-profit corporations.


November 3rd, 2012
4:56 pm

Poor kids are poor for a reason. We need to stop sucking up to the losers.

Private Citizen

November 3rd, 2012
5:07 pm

average last time I was in Milwaukee I stopped in at the Roman Coin on Brady Street and the people there said the city was trying to destroy independent small business and was taxing their businesses heavily to the point that it was not rewarding to run small business.

A few days ago I was speaking on the phone to a retail person in Wisconsin and they said “Too bad about what is happening to Milwaukee.” And I said, “What do you mean?” They said high crime and lots of vacant houses and buildings. I was surprised as the town was so robust and full of personality in prior times – location of the first and maybe only socialist mayor in the USA. Hey, let’s honor him. Here’s a video. We might learn something.

PS your comment reminds of a lot of instability I have seen / experienced. Seems like a school will get a good program going and five years later it gets totally messed up. The Davis move to karate chop the IB program at NAHS is a good example. Just push it off a cliff and “move on.” I’d give a dollar to be at the table at IB headquarters in Switzerland when they got the report of that.


November 3rd, 2012
5:26 pm

If the charter bill passes. YOUR taxes will go UP!
You can bet on it!

Private Citizen

November 3rd, 2012
5:28 pm

PS The only thing “socialism” does is provide services for the public. Any media that tells you “socialism” = “communism” is misinformation. The corporatists who say socialism = communism want to subvert support services so that these can be exploited for profit. The result is caste system, patchy delivery of services and bankruptcy for many people who get sick. Countries with a concept of “socialist” support services have some degree of ruler-flat services available to citizens = healthy and able populace = productivity in private industry.

Private Citizen

November 3rd, 2012
5:33 pm

Dr. Henson, you make excellent consistent support for the good things of charter schools. The one critique that gets my attention is statistical evidence that charter school tend to heavily hire twenty-something year old teachers and this is statistically supported. One interpretation of this is to get young hirees, no concerns about retirement pay and maybe do some “use and discard” or “churn and burn” as far as the staffing. Only time will tell how these charter school teacher employees fare 15 years from now, but at present it appears that there is significant emphasis or statistical evidence to state that the main charter service providers have a strong proclivity to hire teacher labor in the 25-30 year old age group. It is so pronounced, it seems like a management theme of sorts, part of the concept package.

Atlanta mom

November 3rd, 2012
5:41 pm

Carlos, you stated: I’m for the charter school amendment, but I expect that many of the schools eventually approved will be deliberately located as competitors to the worst schools in all of greater Atlanta’s districts.
Do you really believe that? While that was the original intent of charter schools that has nothing to do with this amendment .

Private Citizen

November 3rd, 2012
5:44 pm

Atlanta mom with the minimalist and open ended language of the amendment, the public is sort of left with nothing but air between the legal code (wording – text) of the amendment and the reality upon implementation. It most certainly has the appearance of the golden Trojan horse being rolled into the town square! (and inside the horse contains the military that will spring out and attack / take over the town).

Private Citizen

November 3rd, 2012
6:03 pm

The terrible truth is that the same folk behind RTTT and saturation testing are the same folk behind charter school amendment. So really, what does it matter?

It may be interesting in the long run to see which charter schools are of the super-corporate ilk and which are independent. in other words, in the long run, -and this is a rhetorical question – what exactly is a “charter school?” Can Private Citizen open up “Private Citizen’s Academy for Trade School Arts and Math-Based College Engineering Prep” and demonstrate competency once a year blowing the top off the annual standardized test scores, and otherwise Please get out of my hair and leave my academy alone so that we may work in peace and have diginified lives instead of being forced to run on your hampster wheel or does it mean that the state is in your business with lots or requirements for ritual and paying some of your valuable operations money for intrusive additional testing and who knows what unpredictable rituals? In other words, will charter schools have the autonomy that private schools have?

Former Fulton Employee

November 3rd, 2012
6:24 pm

Maureen, does it really interest you to know the research on charter schools? If so, there is real academic, peer-reviewed scholarship out there that is not beholden to the corporate interests driving the charter school movement. Review Dr. Kristen Buras’ (GSU) scholarship on the charterization of New Orleans’ schools post-Katrina. You can view Dr. Buras’ debate at Harvard University with Sarah Newell Usdin, founder and CEO, New Schools for New Orleans. I am sure that you will find the debate illuminating. People have to ask themselves whose interests charter schools really serve. In many instances, it is not the children’s interests.


November 3rd, 2012
6:40 pm

I know of a charter school in Dekalb county that must be the school the ajc left out of this article. They are a title 1 school, student population is 99% minority and over 90% qualify for free and reduced lunch. Even with these statistics, they are considered one of the highest performing middle schools in the state.

I will support this amendment because our current BOE systems are disfunctional. If they were functional, we wouldn’t have sacs investigating multiple school systems in Atlanta specifically for BOE issues.


November 3rd, 2012
6:53 pm

“That is not our preference,” Kelbaugh said.

Maybe not, but the fact remains. Over time, it may very well result in re-segregation. Facts have a funny way of screwing with intentions. The law of unintended consequences will not be denied.

mountain man

November 3rd, 2012
7:01 pm

“Can anyone tell me what is wrong with this picture?”

Hate to sound so racist, but is sure sounds like most blacks don’t care about their kids and most whites do.


November 3rd, 2012
7:07 pm

That’s because of all the white people blogging with their stereotypical opinions.

mountain man

November 3rd, 2012
7:07 pm

Some of it is also that poorer blacks have more issues with providing transportation for the kids.

The alternative to charters is to fix the current traditional schools. So where is any EFFECTIVE plan to do that?

Snarky McSnarkster

November 3rd, 2012
7:14 pm

School choice for upper middle class white kids!

Ron Johnson -JCP

November 3rd, 2012
7:18 pm

Bullseye Marie -

Charters have become a way to give more parents more choices

Its all Retail – shoes – tops – computers – the traffic lane you drive in…………… truly is – “all about choices”

As a group use to say – “Guess you made a bad choice” – ……… it plays out………..etc

Off To The Races

say what?

November 3rd, 2012
7:23 pm

Many of these comments are fixated on what is currently occurring. This is a constitutional change to affect more than “current” students. This is a lifetime change, because as soon as these for profit management companies begin with the larger profits, well, you have to know that student achievement will equalize to that of the regular poor kids left behind in the public school systems.

dr. henson prides herself on HER ability to substantiate a virtual charter school, HER beliefs, HER relationship with the for profit company that SHE allows to work with HER. But until HER school has to deal with building maintenance, lunches, transportation, paying higher wages to highly qualified teachers, paying into TRS, having to have a real support staff, then of course, HER virtual school is the best thing since the first school bell rang in GA.

Dr. I am sure you have a passion for education, and you would love to see children succeed, but supporting an amendment change that increases your business’ income, is your job.

Until these schools have the same mandates as all public schools in this state, there is no need to provide more money, only less.

To the parent in the article regarding Columbia MS.Partially Out of control the past 6 years was correct. Totally out of control with students high fiving the transferred principal, calling him by his first name, as they did at his last school. If this was the only example of out of control, then we would all have our kids enrolled in Dr. H’s virtual school.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 3rd, 2012
7:29 pm

Private Citizen posted, “The one critique that gets my attention is statistical evidence that charter school tend to heavily hire twenty-something year old teachers and this is statistically supported. One interpretation of this is to get young hirees, no concerns about retirement pay and maybe do some ‘use and discard’ or ‘churn and burn’ as far as the staffing.”

You are right on the money, and this is what happens when the motive becomes keep the costs as low as possible in order to maximize profits (in the case of private management). It also happens when the motivation is to try to “mold” new teachers into what the charter founders believe a teacher should be, which is not easy to do with an experienced staff. This approach is fallacious, because it presumes that there are “new and different” ways to teach effectively that cannot have been learned while teaching in a district school. It also presumes, falsely, that district veterans are not innovative and effective in educating children. There are many who are. Finally, it doesn’t take into account the intensive nurturing and development that a new teacher requires in order to develop into a strong teacher. Charter school administrators, especially those not supported with a central organizational structure, frequently do not have or make the time needed to nurture new teachers, hence the high burnout rate.

Hiring very young (read: cheap) also happens when a school focuses on physical plant and the desire to buy or build a facility–keeping staff costs low frees up dollars to spend on other priorities.

One thing I bring to the table is that I was a National Board Certified Teacher in high-need schools before I became an administrator. I also was a college instructor for preservice teachers and a trainer for The New Teacher Project. In order to get a startup school open effectively and getting strong academic results in Year One, you cannot staff your school with 24-year-old kids fresh out of college. For that reason, I did not hire any new teachers. The fewest number of years of experience on my faculty is eight, the most 22.

I was provided by our education service partner with a staffing model that called for more than teachers than I ended up hiring, at lower salaries than I ended up paying. My board had the eminent good sense to negotiate a service provider arrangement, NOT a management contract, so the call on personnel is mine and my board’s. I made the decision to deviate from the recommended model and hire fewer teachers, but pay them higher salaries, and I recruited veterans with experience in district high schools, Title I schools, charter schools, and alternative schools, as well as online instruction.

This is our “secret weapon,” and it’s certainly not rocket science. With a broad Title 20 flexibility waiver, we are not restricted to hiring only certificated teachers–but that’s exactly what I chose to hire. Without a requirement of a district salary schedule, we are not bound to pay market-rate salaries–but that’s exactly what we chose to do. The result is that I have a faculty made up of former Teachers of the Year, National Board Certified Teachers, and former department chairs and RTI coordinators. My teachers could teach in any high school in Georgia, public or private, and qualify to be the department chair.

It is the strength of our teaching that will generate the outcomes needed to prove our worth as a public charter high school. We have all staked our professional reputations on it. The research demonstrates that strong teachers have a bigger impact on student achievement than any other school-based factor, and strong principals attract strong teachers. I don’t believe it’s possible to be a great principal without having been a great teacher yourself. I’m not bragging, simply stating what I believe to be one of the unspoken truths in education.

We have an advantage in that we don’t have to pay the kind of facilities and transportation costs that a brick and mortar school pays. We have a tremendous economy of scale in purchasing, HR, and business services that we enjoy because of our partnership with our service provider. But the bottom line is, our school is run by knowledgeable, experienced public school administrators, staffed by accomplished, experienced public school teachers, and governed by an objective, thoughtful board of directors. THAT is the recipe for success in a charter school…and in a district school.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 3rd, 2012
7:39 pm

say what? posted, “But until HER school has to deal with building maintenance, lunches, transportation, paying higher wages to highly qualified teachers, paying into TRS, having to have a real support staff, then of course, HER virtual school is the best thing since the first school bell rang in GA.”

We have a physical plant in Atlanta and are getting ready to open others in Macon and Savannah, with Augusta and a second Atlanta location coming. We had to meet all of the facility requirements that GaDOE puts on any public school with the exception of square footage per student, which is waiveable under Title 20. We provide transportation to our learning centers for at-risk kids, which is funded out of our state QBE allotment. We will be participating in the federal school nutrition reimbursement program so we can offer breakfast and lunch to the students in the centers. In order to participate, we must meet all of the federal requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

All of the school’s employees, including me, are members of TRS. We pay market-rate salaries to our teachers and are exploring ways to create a salary structure that will allow us to pay them higher salaries as the school grows. Every single member of our certificated staff is highly qualified and approved by the GaPSC. We have an administrative support staff in our central office (community outreach manager, registrar, clerk, administrative assistant) and are in the process of hiring paraprofessionals to support the work of our teachers in the learning centers.

We are required to meet every single state and federal accountability mandate that every other public school in Georgia must meet. Every public school in Georgia has the ability to request a waiver of the same provisions of Title 20 that charter schools can request. Most of them simply don’t, except for class size.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 3rd, 2012
7:46 pm

Not sure why my original response to Private Citizen didn’t get posted, but here goes again, with apologies if it double-posts later, as sometimes happens.

Private Citizen posted, “The one critique that gets my attention is statistical evidence that charter school tend to heavily hire twenty-something year old teachers and this is statistically supported.”

You are absolutely correct, and that’s one of my own criticisms of charter schools. I have deliberately set out to prove that a charter school that hires experienced teachers with proven track records of student achievement will outperform not only its district counterparts, but its charter counterparts as well.

The fewest years of experience on my faculty is 8 years, the most 22. All of them are GaPSC-certified and highly qualified. I hired fewer teachers at higher salaries than the staffing model proposed by our service provider partner specifically because of the fact that “churn and burn” of young, cheap teacher labor has been shown to be an issue in charter schools.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 3rd, 2012
7:58 pm

The “churn and burn” model also reflects the corporate emphasis on profitability, which is naturally at odds with the service mission of public education. For that reason, it needs to be carefully controlled. This is why our board of directors set up our relationship with our service partner as a contract for services, NOT as a management agreement, to preserve the decision making authority of the school administration, which is independent of the service provider. I am employed by the board of directors, not the service provider, and I am the ultimate decision maker as to the operation of the school. Otherwise, if I was the employee of the service provider and they managed the school, my recommendations on staffing and anything else would be subject to override by the corporate decision makers, whose focus is of course the profitability of their company. Their decisions might be the same as what I recommend, or they might not.

In the corporate world, an employee who comes in with a degree and qualifications can reasonably be expected to get up to speed in a pretty quick amount of time and do the work competently. In teaching, it can take two to four years to develop a teacher’s skills sufficiently to rate them as truly competent. In a public school that serves as a high a percentage of low-income and minority kids as ours, we simply cannot afford the learning curve time right now that it would take to develop new young teachers. Starting off with a more expensive, more experienced, proven faculty will enable us to generate the outcomes we will need to keep our charter in existence.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 3rd, 2012
8:03 pm

say what?, the amendment will not increase my school’s income if it passes. We are a state-chartered school and will remain under the oversight of the State Board of Education. We have no plan to apply for a Commission authorization at the expiration of our state charter–we will apply for renewal by the SBOE.

The reason why I support the amendment is because I believe we need a single-purpose authorizer to take over the authorization of new independent start-up charter schools that are rejected by their local boards of education. Many other states have single-purposed alternative authorizers. Such agencies promote best practices in authorization and oversight, and that’s good for public education.

I liken the Charter Schools Commission and its mission to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, which was created by the legislature as an appointed body to remove teacher certification from the Georgia Department of Education and put it into a single-purpose agency. Teacher certification and renewal are much more efficient now that GaPSC handles it, enabling GaDOE to focus much more on policy. The same will happen when the Charter Schools Commission is reconstituted.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 3rd, 2012
8:05 pm

I also am concerned by the language in the minority opinion of the Supreme Court that ruled the original Commission unconstitutional. I believe that a legal challenge to the state’s authority to create state-chartered schools would inevitably be mounted by the education establishment, and the amendment would close that door.

Private Citizen

November 3rd, 2012
8:11 pm

Former Fulton Employee What are you crazy? That video is more than an hour long. I guess it is made by the people at Harvard who are other than the 47% of Harvard graduates who then go to work in finance. Hey thanks for the video – for a number of reasons. ala the replay

Oh wait a minute, that was the wrong link. Here’s the Harvard Education video New Orleans Education Reform: PASS or FAIL?

Private Citizen

November 3rd, 2012
8:37 pm

Dr. Henson, Thank you for your excellent and complete reply. Good luck with the many responsibilities you are coordinating. You’re certainly a unique voice with your experience and interest in clearly addressing the charter school issues. You do so with integrity. I imagine that the places where you are setting up shop, or physical plants as you call them, will welcome the resources and support for struggling students, some of who may need a different and more personalized environment to personally succeed and complete their K-12 schooling. It is a noble and important mission. It sounds to me like you are providing an environment that can be productive for students who need a little extra support or require to work outside of the traditional structure. I’ve seen some comments that refer to “bad kids” and “bad families” but I do not think there are any bad kids. There are some that are way out there and they need help, and many of them need some dignity.


November 3rd, 2012
8:47 pm

This is totally crazy!! Most of the comments here are from people who have no clue! How many of these people actually have a child in a PUBLIC charter school or know someone who does. Two of my children attend a PUBLIC charter school. It is a public school…just in another way. They have a public school curriculum. They have to abide by the same attendance and immunization policies. In essence, we do everything the same as the neighborhood schools. I hate how people have made this a black/white and rich/poor issue. Whether or not a low income child is not attending a charter school is simply because they were not aware of the choice! Not because they are not offered the choice! I took the initiative to find out my options for my chidren. THERE IS NO SEGREGATION being created from charter schools!! I am an African-American. We are a LOW income family. This article is inaccurate and seems totally biased. Public charter schools take nothing away from traditional public schools. I personaly know of people in other states who would love to have the educational options that we have in Georgia… yet we are ready to give it up for a bunch of lies and misinformation!

Jim Tavegia

November 3rd, 2012
9:04 pm

Maybe it is lazy students who bring the the quality of education down. Stop ignoring the obvious. A baseball player that hits .150 can’t blame the coaches as he is the only one in the batter’s box. Get real AJC.

mountain man

November 3rd, 2012
9:07 pm

“Fewer poor kids attend charter schools in metro area. Does that matter to you?”

Why should that matter to me? The whole idea of state-chartered schools is to give an option to parents who care about their kids; an option their local BOEs do not want them to have. Charter schools are open to any who apply and are willing to play within the rules. If less poor people are willing , then they are “self-segregating”.

The alternative (I know I sound like a broken record) is to actually address the issues at traditional schools, but no one seems to be doing that. At least with charter schools, SOME students get saved. Opponents of charter schools seem to want EVERYONE to fail equally, so that it is FAIR.

mountain man

November 3rd, 2012
9:10 pm

The opponents of charter schools remind me of a rescue boat approaching a large ship that is sinking. The rescue boat can only take on 100 persons, but the ship has a thousand people who are in danger of drowning. The opponents say ” since you can’t take everyone, just let everyone drown”. That way it will be fair.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 3rd, 2012
9:17 pm

Private Citizen, thank you for your kinds words. It is interesting to note that we are already being approached by district high schools, in response to our statewide mailing to high school guidance counselors, requesting expedited processes for them to transfer students directly to us before they drop out. We have three high schools now, two in the metropolitan Atlanta area and one in a rural district, that have set up their own enrollment pipelines with us. They have customized fax cover sheets to go with their enrollment packets.

What we hope to do, in the long term, is demonstrate that there is a better way to educate “square peg” students who for a variety of often highly disparate reasons don’t find success in traditional environments. We want to show that it can in fact be done in the context of a public school district. We don’t do anything that can’t be replicated in a district high school. For example, we don’t cap our enrollment or close it after a specified time frame until the next semester or next year. We don’t “screen out” eligible students. We believe that if a district high school has to cope with a factor, then so should we, if we want to be able to demonstrate the capacity for district schools to evolve and be able truly to educate all students.

One example of our evolution has come from our study of virtual schools in general, which tend to attract a high percentage of academically needy students. That’s why we have incorporated the learning center concept–to provide a “high touch” aspect for kids who otherwise might not be able to structure their time effectively from the outset and manage their own learning progress.

Another evolution has come from our observation of the Performance Learning Center model, which on the surface is similar to our Magic Johnson Bridgescape learning center model. The difference is in the engagement capability of the curriculum, and the fact that we don’t limit access to the centers. PLCs that implement the Communities in Schools model with fidelity require that students be currently enrolled in school, that they read at least at the 8th grade level, that they present without previous disciplinary issues, and that they do not have IEPs. Those criteria eliminate thousands of kids who really could benefit from the center and guarantee success in academic achievement among the cherry-picked students who qualify. We don’t use any screening or eligibility criteria, other than legal age and residency requirements prescribed by Georgia statutes for public high schools. We have actively recruited a number of dropouts who want to re-enroll before they age out of high school eligibility.

I agree that there aren’t bad kids. There are NO throwaway kids, as far as I am concerned. Every child is worth saving. We at least have to try, and what’s being done in district public schools is not saving enough children. There are better ways, but often it is impossible to break through district gridlock to implement them. Moving outside the confines of district control and essentially creating our own district via a state-chartered school was the mechanism that my staff and I have chosen to demonstrate our work. We like to say that we don’t think outside the box–we are building our own box.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 3rd, 2012
9:20 pm

mountain man, I have posted this sentiment before, but it’s worth repeating. Attempting to change traditional schools from within the district system is like trying to steer the Titanic away from the iceberg, except that most of the staff of the ship are fighting you to stay on course straight for the crash.

Edward Lindsey

November 3rd, 2012
9:27 pm

Maureen: I find it curious that you excluded from the article posted on your blog the following from the article:

“Charter proponents say the amendment will offer more parents — particularly the poor — a choice, while forcing competition on traditional public schools.

Mark Peevy ran the state commission that authorized the Museum School before the Georgia Supreme Court ruled the agency lacked authority under the state constitution, triggering the current amendment fight. He observed that most of the handful of schools the commission approved in metro Atlanta had higher poverty rates than charter schools established by local school boards. The commission was sympathetic with parents in poor neighborhoods, he said.

“Those parents were not happy with the schools they were in,” Peevy said. “The schools were struggling, and that’s why the parents wanted different options.””

Data from the Georgia Department of Education confirm what Peevy asserted. Fifty nine percent of children in state charter schools come from low income households and 56% of the students are racial minorities. Therefore, state commissioned charter schools have a solid record of assisting our neediest students and promoting diversity.

Maureen Downey

November 3rd, 2012
9:30 pm

Rep. Lindsey, I typically excerpt only a portion of the story so folks will follow the link and look at the entire story and, in this case, the accompanying charts.


November 3rd, 2012
9:31 pm

No, it does not matter to me.

teaching taxpayer

November 3rd, 2012
9:36 pm

An ELECTED charter commission would give voters true choice about who spends their TAX dollars. But no. Our state legislature has given us an amendment with Nathan Deal’s cronies APPOINTED to unaccountable positions of authority. Vote NO to Deal’s cronies, and demand a better amendment in 2014!

Beverly Fraud

November 3rd, 2012
9:58 pm

Rep. Lindsey, why has the party that touts “personal responsibility” and “rule of law” done NOTHING to support public school teachers in matters of DISCIPLINE?

You CLAIM these are your values, yet your party has done NOTHING to give the teachers the authority to enforce academic and behavior standards that reflect those values.

Just where ARE these values your party CLAIMS to embrace????


November 3rd, 2012
10:49 pm

I refuse to bring my children up to the sacrificial alter of “The Greater Good”. Funny thing is, so does anyone who has the choice, or the incentive. I work my butt off, and so does my wife. We have had two vacations with our children longer than a long weekend in 8 years. We pay our property taxes of $7,000 per year, and $20,000 for private school for 2 children, which isn’t exactly Westminster. We have both discussed the fact that even though it isn’t our style, we could purchase a top of the line Mercedes or BMW every three years and pay cash. We could even drive the old one off a cliff or into a river, because we wouldn’t need the trade in money. The only satisfaction I get from my effort and my money, is well adjusted and happy children, and the ability to sit back and listen to all of you argue over the minutia of nothing. Who is John Gault?

Dr. Monica Henson

November 3rd, 2012
10:50 pm

teaching taxpayer, would you argue that the State Board of Education also then needs to be an elected body, rather than appointed by the Governor as it is currently?

Private Citizen

November 3rd, 2012
11:16 pm

You know, Beverly Fraud, you really are going to have to invent a more contemporary user name. Hows about you base one on Mr. Davis? But it is really tacky and I know you have a plentiful creative imagination.

If you do not mind, as a person on the receiving end of the “discipline guidance plan” (my own off the cuff term) from the state, I found it really unpleasant. I am steamed like a fish kettle regarding whoever came up with the “Focus Schools” designation and arbitrarily mixed up calling out a school under this name and labelling it from afar to flown up a flagpole for scrutiny based on “low graduation rate” and “having too high a difference between high and low test scores.” These are completely unrelated concepts and real full-service community will have both severe needs kids and high performers in the same building, so someone at the state redelivered this concept and then publicizes and calls out a school state-wide based on this arbitrary and artful combination to stigmatize and otherwise destroy a high performance program within a school. On the receiving end, we do not even know where it comes from. It has no name on it. It could be from Arne Duncan or Gates Foundation or from the state. We are completely uninformed as to the other of who just stigmatized the high performing program and literally just punished us for hard work and excellent results. Obviously I have some pretty strong emotion about this action from the state.

As far as you asking Mr. Lindsey where his goods come from, I would guess he has nothing to do with it and these various categorizing and control modes that are redelivered by our own state government, we don’t know where they come from, but I think they come from somewhere far away outside of the state of Georgia and are just redelivered, except now with the force of law upon the school districts. I’m still smarting from the “Focus Schools” punished for genuine hard work and documented performance, just when everyone claims they want results. And I’ll just go ahead and say it. I got a telephone call from a colleague today with the news that three veteran teachers are going to walk, walk away from the same high quality program I reference. I guess they don’t like getting punished for good work any more than I do. That’s three top tier core talent teachers, best of the best for results had enough of this. My report is that the recent go-around of state meddling is insulting and destructive and a lot of us are not going to take it. The three I reference from today will not be coming back. And add to that three top tier science teachers who left at the end of last year to get away from the Georgia system.

Back to your comment, school discipline is not a simple matter. The first priority is to keep kids off the street. Looks like private charter schools are filling in now to serve as alternative environments, so that kids removed from the general population with go to “Success, Inc” instead of the not-nice place with the fence around it. This is probably a good thing. I agree with you that currently if a kid wants to push the envelope, they can maintain a position of having more power than the teacher and the teacher basically has to eat it and deal with it and try and get very creative at managing the errant behavior artist in the classroom. This is extremely resource consuming for the teacher and it true that in current conditions a determined attention-seeking student can obstruct the classroom and has the political power to do it.


November 3rd, 2012
11:27 pm

vote for charter schools—more choice, more efficient, better run schools! current school systems–”run” by corrupt, incompetent school boards, with overstaffed and overpaid “administrators” throughout the system. Something has to change–Ga schools are ranked near the bottom. Vote for change!!!

Private Citizen

November 3rd, 2012
11:37 pm

By the way, I am talking about the caliber of teachers whose spouses are executives and / or persons who know presidential families. Highly educated, highly determined, serious high performing individuals. We’re not dumb and there is a limit to how of much of this stuff you can dish out without having people simply wanting to get away from it. These caliber persons do not depend on you and have absolutely no reason to be dictated to and stigmatized. We don’t need you and do not need to spend our time, personal levels of education, and serious work under these circumstances. I’m not married to an executive or independently wealthy but I’ve said I’d rather go sleep under a bridge than do honest hard work, deliver results and then be punished for it. I can say that I have put in some real show leather getting my training, probably more so than many of colleagues. The real workers go the extra mile, go to the distance, put themselves out there on a world level and then get tooled around by local people who go to school close to home and then tell people what to do close to home. Many of these have not gone anywhere, have not put themselves out there, having the most convenient route themselves close to home and then they go and use the force of state law to dictate a bunch of arbitrary conditions on the real workers to point of and including making teachers write their badly written jargon on the classroom boards every day. And then the work review person comes in and says “Did you write down the chopped up sentences that don’t even make any sense from the state, do you have them written on the boards?” It’s one thing to plagiarize. It’s entirely another thing to be made to plagiarize something that is badly written. Well, that’s the nature of things when I crossed the world to get myself educated within my limitations. It would nice if you had a sense of yours. It would be real nice is you had the sense and class to not try and force people to be parrots of your whim. Another very talented soul who got completely displaced I will now quote: “The uneducated are telling the educated what to do.”

teaching taxpayer

November 3rd, 2012
11:59 pm

@Dr. Monica Henson, you betcha!

Private Citizen

November 4th, 2012
12:13 am

The real problem in Georgia is the plantation mentality. It sounds like a joke. It’s not. More so than not, the persons dictating state education law are mainly interested in telling other people what to do and then counting the results like bales of cotton. It goes all the way down the line once the plantation master has spoken. Today the plantation masters do not even have their own thoughts, they have outside thought-masters handing them their plans. The plantation system is evident in that Georgia teachers have absolutely no voice and are allowed no worker representation, none other than the fraud that is the professional organizations that exploit teachers for money due to requiring a liability insurance policy and I’ve never heard of it being used once. So this makes a lot of sense, you expect people to competently teach math and science and humanities but you expect them to due to so under a system of plentiful arbitrary demands and then come back around and do 360 degree examinations of the workers. Well, you’re not bending over at the correct angle to pick cotton. No more water for you. Here, hold this sign on your forehead with one hand while you’re picking cotton with the other hand. Oh wait, stop everything you are doing. Master is coming to count the bales. Oh, wait, better get back to work. Oh, master cancelled their visit today but they’ll be back. You better be prepared for Master. Now where’s that sign? That’s right, hold it just like that. Wait, turn it a little. Oh, Good! We’re so happy with you. Good luck with that.

long time educator

November 4th, 2012
7:00 am

The new segregation is happening in charter schools: parents who value education and those who don’t. It should produce results, because it is the dividing line between successful students and failing students in the public schools. Whether the choice is private or charter, parents who care want to separate their students from parents and students who don’t care and disrupt the learning environment for everyone. I work in a highly successful public school with a long waiting list to get in out of zone Teachers would like to take credit for making the difference and we work very hard because expectations are high. BUT what really makes the difference is the school population of parents and kids who care about education and support the teachers in their efforts. We are not Title I and hurt for money, but our PTO is phenomenal, and our test scores are the best in our county and have been for years. Parents who care are drawn by the reputation and then help make it happen. This is the secret to a successful school.

Private Citizen

November 4th, 2012
10:29 am

Former Fulton Thank you for the reminder to watch the “New Orleans video” from Harvard Graduate School of Education. I’ve got it now, just need to, as you say, find the time (or moment). Maybe after I do a little work today, I can take a pause and soak up this video. I look forward to posting to you on the particulars.

Private Citizen

November 4th, 2012
10:34 am

ha the weblog software is rearranging the comments. Not sure how Former Fulton’s comment is time stamped “11:14 am” when it is 10:31 am EST right now. Anyway, looks like the order of comments in based on time stamp. hmmm if I removed the source code from my browser page and determined what the software is… I could figure out how the time-stamping is done and answer this question…

Maureen Downey

November 4th, 2012
10:56 am

@Private Citizen, Just went in and manually changed to reflect the time change today. So, that is the culprit.

Former Fulton Employee

November 4th, 2012
11:14 am

At Private Citizen, one hour is too much to invest in a debate about the charterization of schools? The problem with the amendment is its innocuous language on the ballot. So, the innocuous language coupled with people’s general misinformation about charter schools could lead people to once again vote against their interests (their children’s interests). This amendment could remove control from the local level and place it in the hands of state government. And who knows? Maybe in the hands of private interests to whom the state outsources the management of their charter schools! I as a parent want my child’s school to be locally controlled and to consider the local community’s voice. New Orleans provides us a case study in what can disastrously go awry in charterizing schools. One hour of one’s life is not too much to invest in better understanding the charter school issue before voting whether or not to amend the state constitution.

Private Citizen

November 4th, 2012
9:46 pm

Former Fulton Employee The video link you provided round table discussion from three individuals.

point 1: pre-Katrina, New Orleans are basically the worst performing schools in the nation.

point 2: hints that charterization results in fiscal abandonment of public schools.

point 3: immediately post-Katrina, Bush administration refused to provide school relief funds unless they were used to treat New Orleans as a charter school experiment.

point 4: Governor Kathleen Blanco passed a law upping the test pass score requirement of New Orleans to the point that 75% of New Orleans government schools were subject to charterization.

point 5: Governor Blanco then passed a law suspending required local input in order to make a charter school. Therefore, the schools were “taken over.” and from former New Orleans teacher “…you no longer have jobs. The district no longer exists.”

point 6: “How can you do this with open meeting laws?” “Well, what we did was invite some people back in town over to my house and we sat down and began to dismantle the district.”

(first 30 minutes of 90 minute long video)

Private Citizen

November 4th, 2012
11:23 pm

Note from video introduction: Pre-Katrina history in New Orleans school district of instability: several superintendents in succession, several financial officers in succession, and paying paychecks / sending money to accounts of persons who were dead. Financial malfeasance to the point of calling in the FBI, etc.

point 7: Algiers school district was already trying to get out from New Orleans school district.

point 8: Effective 2006 New Orleans government school teachers were fired en masse by means of a Western Union telegram sent to each employee in 2005. This also had the effect of eliminating the union. Also, no tax revenue coming in, no way to keep employing folk.

point 9: High degree of chaos occurring to the point of people benumbed to it.

point 10. Anti-democratic take-over done behind the backs of the people. Currently there is a class-action suit for wrongful termination under duress: state actions called arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable. District has business interruption insurance and this was not used. Teachers characterised as “expensive” and “having health insurance.” Strategy to replace with large infusion of TFAers (Teach for America).

point 11. Currently there is no master contract for teachers. Collective bargaining agreement collapsed. Superintendent of current “Recovery School District” has said that he does not want any of his teachers working longer than ten years due to the cost.

point 12. In 2007/8, 60% of the teachers in government “Recovery District” schools had one year or less of experience and 40% of charter school teachers has zero years of teaching experience.

point 13. Previous to Katrina, New Orleans schools HR basically would not process employment applications. Box with 2000 applications in it found. HR would not process application from teachers from parochial schools who wanted to work in the government school system / wanted to work with the students there.

point 14. Currently, Levels of SPED / special needs students in government / charter schools has levelled out.

point 15. Currently, one charter school has become a magnet for special needs kids, a place known for service special needs kids (20%). Counterpoint: segregating special needs kids…
Prior to Katrina, witnessing special needs kids doing nothing but watching Jerry Springer all day long.

point 16: Federal Law IDEA – special needs kids have a right to… (general school environment)

Private Citizen

November 5th, 2012
12:08 am

(final 30 minutes of video )

point 17. currently, some of the most dramatic gains in an urban school district in a short amount of time. 35% of students on grade level in 2005. This has already risen to 56% in 2011. Dramatic gain.

point 18. Currently similar student demographic to pre-Katrina. slightly poorer.

point 19. Now performance is down to a 10 point gap between rest of state and New Orleans (prior to Katrina the gap was greater).

point 20. Alternative take: Recovery district schools are a complete failure. The success of N.O. charter schools has been legislatively contrived. Treat is like a ping pong ball and continuously move it, shift the definition of what is called failing. The scale is moved up and down. High standard used to justify taking over schools. In 2012, a lower cut-off is used to determine which schools are “failing.” This year they started assigning letter grades to schools. (2011 data) 100% of the government schools in the Recovery district have been assigned a grade of D or F. 79% of the 42 charter schools have been assigned a letter grade of D or F.

point 21. Louisiana changed and raised the standards. (?? confusion ??) More discussing of different definitions of “a failing school.” “It is true you have to know which standard… however we are driving the bar up…. outstanding gains since…”

point 22. You can’t use one standard to declare schools are failing and then ratchet it down and claim charter schools are succeeding.

point 23. They do not like to talk about absolute numbers. The absolute numbers are abyssmal. On what basis is New Orleans a “national model” for “a standard of success?”

point 24. Charter school critic: The standard of what constitutes success and failure shifts every year,

point 25. Charter school advocate: Currently on grade level we have 56% of kids city-wide.

point 26: Moderator: Sounds like about half the kids have not been well served. Has there been any improvement since the storm?

point 27: A lot of these schools are lottery. What’s the biggest thing that is not working? Q: Where are the critics right? A: That the confusion of the system is one that the parents can navigate.

Charter advocate: I don’t know of a place were all kids have equal …. … we’ve empowered educators…. I think the risk is for folks to think there is one size fits all. Yes, new schools are out there for you to tear apart, to love or hate.

Charter critic. “We have been visionary / we have made progress” Who is the “we?”
State audit: State did a terrible job of monitoring and oversight (moderator confirms).
We’re told that the schools will be run more efficiently and effectively due to market discipline. Is this true? School operation includes “hidden markets” for transportation and for food. What the auditor found is the RSD (Recovery School District) is not monitoring the financial health of the legal / contractual compliance of the vast majority of the charter schools (moderator: We were hired to do this (audit) and it’s not as bad as you say, it’s worse than you say.)

Policy guidance: Very unapologetic: “We don’t have education people here. Everyone has MBAs and we understand what it means to franchise schools” (Interpreted to mean: the market will be good and even if it’s not, who cares?)(comparing rhetoric to achievement). If we cared about achievement, would we be touting performance when more than half of the kids are below grade level?

Wrap Up:
There are refreshments. Please join me in thanking our panellists. I’m going to volunteer them for you to ask them questions and if you want to follow up with them via email, they’ll make themselves available.

DeKalb Inside Out

November 5th, 2012
9:01 am

The referenced article says charter schools — independent public schools that operate free of some state restrictions

Not all charter schools are independent. There are many dependent local charter schools in the metro Atlanta area. There is a HUGE difference between independent state charters and dependent local charters.

I’m not convinced the author understands the difference … especially since no data was presented. Thanks for the wild guess accompanied by the anecdotal story.


November 5th, 2012
9:27 am

There is a story before this story. That of the Avondale community, after years of sending the bulk of their kids to private schools, or seeing young families move out when the oldest hit school age attempting to inspire the neighborhood to send kids to the local school. Avondale Elementary Association was formed as a community based fundraising and volunteer support system for the elementary school that was virtually all poor Black or refugee children. Money raised/volunteering done/and a cadre of the move affluent AE parents put their kids in pre-k there. There was a good relationship with the principal, who welcomed the support and involvement.

Then the central office switched out the principal for one of their favorites–who had already been moved from earlier postings with assertive Black parents objected to some of her behavior. The central office had a history of moving until the poor performer found a place where the parents were uninvolved and powerless. About half of the teachers left and the Avondale Elementary Association tried repeatedly to bring the issue forward—and were run off and ignored by the Crawford Lewis administration.

They wanted a neighborhood school where they could be involved and welcomed. Likewise Forrest Hills Elementary had a neighborhood foundation that supported/involved themselves and got grants for the school. That school had a wonderful principal during this time. The AEA was so frustrated that I watched members stand up during some of the public comment period on Forrest Hill’s closing and volunteer to be redistricted to FH and let Avondale close if that gave them Forrest Hill’s administration to work with.

Is it wrong to simply want a good neighborhood school? There is a false paradigm in feeling that there is something wrong when affluent parents are willing to attend one public school when they can’t stomach putting their child in another. Maybe there is something wrong–but the first racism I witnessed was that of the administrative structure that Gene Walker is a part of that defends allowing mediocrity in the running of the district schools.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 5th, 2012
9:43 pm

Enter your comments here

Dr. Monica Henson

November 5th, 2012
9:46 pm

LOL! Trying to hit “Show All” but it posted the above. :)


November 7th, 2012
9:36 pm

Yeah! The Charter School Amendment passed. Rae Anne Harkness is correct; Columbia Middle School is out of control. I substitute there quite often and I just look at the faces of those students who want to learn and can’t because their classmates are disrupting the class. I’m glad that the amendment passed so that parents can have an option. Not everyone can afford private school so charter schools are just another alternative to place a child in an environment where most students care about education.

Marcia Pounds Malone

November 8th, 2012
11:22 am