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.