AJC Sunday editorial: Support charter schools but oppose Amendment One

In the Sunday AJC, the editorial page urges the defeat of the charter school amendment because of the costs of creating a new bureaucracy without compelling justification. (You can read a rebuttal of that viewpoint by Gov. Nathan Deal here.)

Here is the editorial:

We don’t oppose charter schools, but we do urge voters to say “No” to the proposed amendment to Georgia’s Constitution that would create a legal way for the state to circumvent local school boards to create and fund charter schools.

While we have some concerns about the implications to local decision-making when it comes to schools, the strongest argument against Amendment One is simply that the state can’t afford it.

Given that Georgia’s existing public schools are so pitifully underfunded, we find it unconscionable to ask voters to divert precious tax dollars to benefit a relative few.

So-called “austerity cuts” and other reductions have sliced away state support for K-12 education for a decade. Georgia Department of Education figures put the total funding formula shortfall at $5.7 billion.

Yet big numbers make for sterile statistics. What do years of state cuts in support look like? They meant 2 of 3 Georgia districts cut school days. In the 2011-2012 school year, Chattooga County students were in class only 144 days, a full 36 days shy of the 180-day benchmark. Three other of Georgia’s 180 public school districts likewise fell short of even 150 days of class time.

And while many pupils statewide were in school fewer days, there were fewer teachers to go around, too. The number of teacher contracts in Georgia public schools has dropped by 8,500 since the 2008-2009 school year, even as the number of students increased, according to a new report by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. A predictable result is that class sizes grew, and some programs have been reduced or dropped altogether.

Amendment supporters argue that per-pupil education spending is actually up in Georgia in recent years. Yet, the cited increases have been more than negated by inflation’s fiscal bite.

Such an intolerably inadequate situation damages the schools charged with educating 9 of 10 Georgia children. It makes a mockery of the state constitution’s plain requirement that, “The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia.”

It’s against this beyond-bare-bones funding that state lawmakers are asking voters to constitutionally empower an appointed commission to approve state-chartered schools that would, somehow, be financed by the same cash-strapped government.

It’s no wonder then, and to his great credit nevertheless, that State School Superintendent John Barge bucked the state’s leadership in opposing the charter schools amendment. In a letter, Barge wrote that, “I fully support charter schools, but I do not believe we should divert scarce state dollars to create a new government agency when our schools are suffering.” We couldn’t agree more.

The fact that the state’s signature education initiative at this point in time is opposed by the Republican elected official in charge of statewide K-12 public schooling is a big point for voters to remember Tuesday.

Unlike many lawmakers who’re backing Amendment One, Barge is a career educator who’s seen schools from the inside out, and from the classroom up. His counsel seems wise and prudent on this issue.

Voters should also remember that this election is not about charter schools as a concept. Not when most of the 110 charters in Georgia operate under the umbrella of local school districts. As Barge put it, “I want the citizens of Georgia to know that our local school districts are receiving and approving high quality charter applications to serve Georgia’s students.”

That’s held true locally. Thirteen charters operate in DeKalb County. The district’s website even notes that two unused schools in DeKalb “are available for use by start-up charter schools.” Atlanta Public Schools likewise rosters 13 charter schools approved by the district.

And when local districts have denied charter proposals, their reasoning often was apparently sound. The old state charter commission itself declined 76 percent of applications that had previously been turned down by local districts.

Georgia thus doesn’t seem to need the big-foot authority of an appointed state high commission that could overrule the intent of locally elected school boards.

All of which is not to discount the often-valid public sentiment driving the charter schools movement. Innovative charter schools can be a valuable tactic in the quest for educational improvement, but they are not the entire answer.

Too many of Georgia’s 1.63 million public school students are stuck in inadequate, or even failing schools.

That’s an unacceptable situation. We need better results for all kids, not just those whose parents are motivated enough to seek out the charter option.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

32 comments Add your comment

[...] The AJC editorial board comes out Sunday with an editorial urging the defeat of Amendment One, citing the cost of creating a new bureaucracy to approve charter schools when one already exists. [...]

Shar

November 3rd, 2012
11:37 pm

Mary Elizabeth

November 4th, 2012
3:01 am

I wish to thank the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Dr. John Barge for their courageous stands in behalf of the public schools and the public school students of Georgia. Well done!

Beverly Fraud

November 4th, 2012
5:35 am

From the AJC

Given that Georgia’s existing public schools are so pitifully underfunded, we find it unconscionable to ask voters to divert precious tax dollars to benefit a relative few.

Yet school systems such as DCSS can afford two THOUSAND dollar chairs for their central office.

Yet big numbers make for sterile statistics. What do years of state cuts in support look like? They meant 2 of 3 Georgia districts cut school days.

Because they would NOT make meaningful cuts to administrative BLOAT

If and when this amendment passes, the public schools only have themselves to blame. ALEC’s dirty work WOULDN’T work if the public schools had remembered one thing:

It’s the DISCIPLINE, Stupid!

Bertis Downs

November 4th, 2012
6:29 am

see also: http://bit.ly/PDMYpP, in which some Grady HS students explain Amendment One pretty succinctly. It’s a strange set-up when the lifeboat manufacturers’ reps are in charge of the ships’ maintenance. And if it is such a great idea, why the tricked-up language and multi-million dollar ad campaign thanks to all those outtastate donors poised to enter the GA education “market”? Support our local schools– No on Amendment 1. See also http://bit.ly/U4XFTT And to see more of the dots connected: http://bit.ly/PP0t6n

Tony

November 4th, 2012
8:28 am

Beverly – the rest of Georgia schools should not suffer because of Dekalb County. Dekalb County voters need to deal with their mess. Our school system and most of them throughout the state have trimmed central administration to some of the lowest levels in many years. We have cut days of school for students, teacher pay, and increased class sizes. For most of us, there is nothing left to cut.

just another teach cha

November 4th, 2012
9:29 am

Attention Maureen and anyone else….rumors are flying around that Dr. Atkinson has resigned, and they’re trying to get Dr. Wendolyn Bouie to take the job. Since they aren’t being transparent, would someone please find out.

Dr. Monica Henson

November 4th, 2012
9:33 am

Beverly Fraud posted, “Given that Georgia’s existing public schools are so pitifully underfunded, we find it unconscionable to ask voters to divert precious tax dollars to benefit a relative few.

Yet school systems such as DCSS can afford two THOUSAND dollar chairs for their central office.

Yet big numbers make for sterile statistics. What do years of state cuts in support look like? They meant 2 of 3 Georgia districts cut school days.

Because they would NOT make meaningful cuts to administrative BLOAT.”

Exactly. The state should keep pouring money into district public schools so they can continue to keep on doing what they’ve been doing that doesn’t improve teaching and learning? Increased funding to perpetuate the failed status quo is insanity. The vast majority of districts will never make meaningful, large-scale reform until forced to do so, and real reform will have to come from the outside of the system.

mountain man

November 4th, 2012
10:22 am

I hear such inaccuracies repeated as truth. Please, Maureen, would you post a link to a reputable source showing TOTAL spending per pupil adjusted for inflation? You will see that per-student spending went from about $2000 in 1970 to over $9000 in 2011. ACTUAL spending per student n 1970 was about $500. And in those days EVERY student went to class in a real brick-and-mortar school building, not a trailer. Only in the past few years has spending been FLAT (not decreasing). Of course, local spending as a percentage has grown the last several years.

One commenter says “Given that Georgia’s existing public schools are so pitifully underfunded”.

In what way are they underfunded? If not enough money is making it to the teaching level, it is because it is siphoned off for administration and for SPED. We are spending more that 4 times what we used to spend per student, adjusted for inflation, and our results are worse. More students graduate today that cannot read and write than did in 1970. So what is the problem?

In 1970, we did not put up with disciplinary issues – we paddled. we kept after school, and we threw students out of school. In 1970, we enfoced our attendance requirements. In 1970, we attended to SPED students in their own classrooms rather than trying to deal with them in regular classrooms (and affecting EVERY student). And if a student failed a grade, then he/she was RETAINED.

[...] The AJC editorial page came out today in opposition to Amendment One, saying it would be a waste of taxpayer funds to create a new bureaucracy to do what the state board of education can already do. The AJC joined GOP State School Superintendent John Barge in contending that the creation of another layer of state government is wrong when Georgia has slashed billions from school funding over the last few years, leading to larger classes and shorter school years. [...]

FairLady

November 4th, 2012
10:51 am

Lots of supporters of Amendment ONE have lost confidence in the ability of Superintendent Barge
( who can’t seem to turn this failing train around) and leadership of the education status quo in Georgia!! We are hopeful that Amendment One will give MORE hope to the parents and children of Georgia! Voting for Amendment One is a step in the Right Direction!!!

Ed Johnson

November 4th, 2012
11:20 am

@Bertis Downs, thanks for…

“And to see more of the dots connected: http://bit.ly/PP0t6n”

The link takes the reader to the article “The Right’s ‘School Choice’ Scheme.”

And to see what one might call the “anchor dot,” be sure to also read Milton Friedman’s “Public Schools: Make them Private” via the link in the first paragraph of the article.

UGA Student

November 4th, 2012
1:28 pm

I can’t in good conscience not vote Yes for Amendment One. At this point, I will do anything I can to take power away from my local schoolboard before they taint more minds. (Dekalb Co., for those who care)

ThinkB4Uspeak

November 4th, 2012
5:23 pm

Fact: Charter schools have not proven to be beneficial to ANY school district
Fact: School systems fail because of the LACK of a good syst
Fact: Since the existence of charter schools students have failed more than they get have in the history of the US
Fact: This country was built from public education
Fact: If you can create a system ran by public and elected officials you definitely can’t do it in a system that’s not

Point: You create two systems both with no proof of success and both using tax dollars only creating another costs more THOUGH there isn’t enough data to support the success of charter schools. Keep tax payers dollars in school where any tax payer in the did trick can attend and invest the extra dollars in training and NOT contracting teachers out to teach then leave, give teachers more resources and a raise, and restore fun into learning and not treat it like the step child of a spouse you didn’t want to marry!!!!!

bigbill

November 4th, 2012
6:49 pm

@Bertis Downs & Ed Johnson

Bravo to you both for your comments. A clearer version of that seminal article “The Right’s School Choice Scheme” by Rachel Tabachnick in Public Eye magazine can be found at this link:

http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v27n3/School_Choice.html

The article talks about school vouchers. I have read that the radical right-wing billionaires pushing public school privatization have given up on school vouchers because too many voters link school vouchers with funneling taxpayers funds to private religious schools. They have now definitely switched over to charter schools as the preferred vehicle for funneling taxpayer funds to for-profit corporate interests in their quest to privatize public schools around the country. So as you read Rachel Tabachnick’s watershed article, just substitute “charter schools” for “school vouchers.”

Also note in this article Ms. Tabachnick’s focus on Betsy Devos, Blackwater founder Eric Prince’s sister and the grande dame of public school privatization. Betsy Devos set up the American Federation For Children which operates across the country (and especially in Georgia) to promote public school privatization. Google Betsy and Dick Devos to obtain a treasure trove of articles about these billionaire radical right-wing Republican powerhouses. They, along with their friends, the Koch brothers, are very serious adversaries of the very concept of protecting and preserving public school systems in America. And the American Federation For Children is foursquare behind the Georgia charter school amendment passage.

[...] the AJC’s Editorial Board: We don’t oppose charter schools, but we do urge voters to say “No” to the proposed amendment [...]

LarryMajor

November 5th, 2012
12:33 am

mountain man, these are the state’s QBE numbers since FY2002. What they have online goes back a few more years, but not many – 1999 as I recall.

YEAR FTE DOLLAR AMT PER STUDENT
2002 1,426,711 5,441,447,767 3,814
2003 1,447,074 5,465,910,098 3,777
2004 1,472,992 5,540,673,482 3,762
2005 1,498,953 5,565,896,742 3,713
2006 1,528,242 5,914,535,181 3,870
2007 1,567,486 6,624,749,927 4,226
2008 1,607,142 7,128,800,082 4,436
2009 1,626,987 7,189,930,584 4,419
2010 1,630,146 7,018,210,472 4,305
2011 1,642,257 6,967,827,858 4,243
2012 1,650,904 5,642,427,171 3,418
2013 1,657,639 6,017,884,345 3,630

LarryMajor

November 5th, 2012
12:38 am

Well, that formatted nicely. Lemme try again…

YEAR – FTE ——- DOLLAR AMT – PER STUDENT
2002 – 1,426,711 – 5,441,447,767 – 3,814
2003 – 1,447,074 – 5,465,910,098 – 3,777
2004 – 1,472,992 – 5,540,673,482 – 3,762
2005 – 1,498,953 – 5,565,896,742 – 3,713
2006 – 1,528,242 – 5,914,535,181 – 3,870
2007 – 1,567,486 – 6,624,749,927 – 4,226
2008 – 1,607,142 – 7,128,800,082 – 4,436
2009 – 1,626,987 – 7,189,930,584 – 4,419
2010 – 1,630,146 – 7,018,210,472 – 4,305
2011 – 1,642,257 – 6,967,827,858 – 4,243
2012 – 1,650,904 – 5,642,427,171 – 3,418
2013 – 1,657,639 – 6,017,884,345 – 3,630

mountain man

November 5th, 2012
6:35 am

LarryMajor – I asked for TOTAL spending since 1970 – that would include LOCAL spending, not just the state portion. Try to follow the ball.

Private Citizen

November 5th, 2012
6:50 am

Looks like state spending is about 1/2 of what it was in 2002 if you account for inflation (?)

Hey mountain man, So you want to be a “Researcher…” Maybe you should enrol in a Georgia university for ed. studies and pay a bunch of tuition and ask this question. They’ll say “Yes, you go answer that question.” And you’ll see say, “Can I get any HELP?” And they’ll say, “Why, no, actually.” You’d probably get re-directed to study RTTT or whatever else trendy power column stuff is in play. Guys like you they do not want in ed. research programs. They want potted ferns who play their game and make others do the same. Oh, unless you are a foreign student and then you can make meaningful examinations of your home country and everyone will say “Oooh aaahhhh good work.”

Private Citizen

November 5th, 2012
6:53 am

I went looking for catlady’s dissertation at UGA, thinking I might find something on cats. -didn’t get anywhere.

Private Citizen

November 5th, 2012
7:18 am

Hey everybody, have a look at the descriptive outline I made / posted of the 1.5 hour Harvard roundtable discussion / counterpoint video about the charterization of New Orleans. The video makes a lot of good points and credit to Former Fulton Employee for providing the video link from which I made the outline of what they are reporting / talking about.

http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2012/11/03/new-ajc-analysis-fewer-poor-kids-attend-charter-schools-in-metro-area-does-that-matter-to-you/?cp=all#comment-238532

DeKalb Inside Out

November 5th, 2012
10:18 am

Year Local State Federal Total Total/FTE
1996 $2,509,538,840 $3,670,616,395 $276,289,548 $6,456,444,782 $5,063
1997 $2,728,231,355 $3,979,233,918 $281,590,579 $6,989,055,852 $5,343
1998 $2,775,401,320 $4,313,762,545 $334,323,995 $7,423,487,860 $5,572
1999 $3,135,012,871 $4,670,765,289 $399,548,195 $8,205,326,355 $6,045
2000 $3,449,706,225 $4,922,286,996 $436,846,841 $8,808,840,062 $6,400
2001 $3,697,905,915 $5,439,669,382 $474,907,514 $9,612,482,811 $6,738
2002 $3,982,493,537 $5,803,719,925 $584,054,336 $10,370,267,798 $7,165
2003 $4,295,165,553 $5,825,401,669 $708,957,538 $10,829,524,760 $7,360
2004 $4,593,260,220 $5,695,312,766 $821,903,050 $11,110,476,036 $7,414
2005 $4,834,565,349 $5,890,066,550 $961,761,037 $11,686,392,936 $7,648
2006 $5,225,563,917 $6,400,512,865 $1,021,485,591 $12,647,562,373 $8,075
2007 $5,767,032,931 $7,200,951,318 $1,003,997,700 $13,971,981,948 $8,729
2008 $6,157,972,027 $7,729,847,682 $957,774,751 $14,845,594,461 $9,121
2009 $6,326,056,922 $7,044,061,283 $1,117,640,068 $14,487,758,273 $8,885
2010 $6,246,499,844 $6,268,562,785 $2,025,128,533 $14,540,191,162 $8,888
2011 $6,048,714,740 $7,040,615,848 $1,679,948,832 $14,769,279,420 $9,000

DeKalb Inside Out

November 5th, 2012
10:26 am

Try this …

Year Local ————– State ————– Federal ———- Total —————- Total/FTE
1996 $2,509,538,840 $3,670,616,395 $0,276,289,548 $06,456,444,782 $5,063
1997 $2,728,231,355 $3,979,233,918 $0,281,590,579 $06,989,055,852 $5,343
1998 $2,775,401,320 $4,313,762,545 $0,334,323,995 $07,423,487,860 $5,572
1999 $3,135,012,871 $4,670,765,289 $0,399,548,195 $08,205,326,355 $6,045
2000 $3,449,706,225 $4,922,286,996 $0,436,846,841 $08,808,840,062 $6,400
2001 $3,697,905,915 $5,439,669,382 $0,474,907,514 $09,612,482,811 $6,738
2002 $3,982,493,537 $5,803,719,925 $0,584,054,336 $10,370,267,798 $7,165
2003 $4,295,165,553 $5,825,401,669 $0,708,957,538 $10,829,524,760 $7,360
2004 $4,593,260,220 $5,695,312,766 $0,821,903,050 $11,110,476,036 $7,414
2005 $4,834,565,349 $5,890,066,550 $0,961,761,037 $11,686,392,936 $7,648
2006 $5,225,563,917 $6,400,512,865 $1,021,485,591 $12,647,562,373 $8,075
2007 $5,767,032,931 $7,200,951,318 $1,003,997,700 $13,971,981,948 $8,729
2008 $6,157,972,027 $7,729,847,682 $0,957,774,751 $14,845,594,461 $9,121
2009 $6,326,056,922 $7,044,061,283 $1,117,640,068 $14,487,758,273 $8,885
2010 $6,246,499,844 $6,268,562,785 $2,025,128,533 $14,540,191,162 $8,888
2011 $6,048,714,740 $7,040,615,848 $1,679,948,832 $14,769,279,420 $9,000

DeKalb Inside Out

November 5th, 2012
10:40 am

LarryMajor and MountainMan,
I give up. I’ll give you the link to Nancy Jester’s site that sums up from the DOE the History of Spending on education in Georgia

http://www.nancyjester.com/georgiaspendingperstudent.aspx

Funding, as you probably know, comes from Local, State and Federal taxes. As you can see school districts have been receiving more and more money every year for the last 16 years. I don’t think more money is the answer.

DeKalb Inside Out

November 5th, 2012
10:48 am

Dr Jester just started an interesting conversation …

http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2012/11/05/the-more-you-know-where-georgia-ranks-in-education/

Georgia is top 10 on education spending but bottom 10 in results.

Mountain Man

November 5th, 2012
11:26 am

I agree with you, Dekalb inside out, it was LarryMajor who was posting only the state to illustrate (I presume)the drop in education funding.

Dollars are not the answer ot our problems. How much does it cost an administration to effectively deal with ATTENDANCE????

Private Citizen

November 5th, 2012
11:40 am

“Georgia is top 10 on education spending but bottom 10 in results.”

yow!

vince

November 5th, 2012
12:07 pm

Georgia is not in the bottom 10 in results. The NAEP is the only standardized test that currently allows for true cross state comparisons and we do very well on it. In fact, we are in the top ten in many categories and routinely score better than states like California and Michigan. Our scores are much like those of New York….except our minority students usually out score theirs.

Private Citizen

November 5th, 2012
2:03 pm

vince Thanks. It would be nice / useful to have some type of clear “document bank” to have perspective on these things. As pointed out in the Harvard discussion video about New Orleans, it does not help that the state changes value determinations and moves the scale up and down to variously promote or make for negative compensation.

DeKalb Inside Out

November 5th, 2012
2:08 pm

There are obviously thousands of metrics. I guess it depends on what is important to you. Here are some that have come up on this blog …

* Georgia ranks 45th based on SAT scores
* Georgia ranks 47th based on Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate
* Georgia ranks 11th in seniors scoring a 3 or higher on AP Exams

KIM

November 5th, 2012
8:48 pm

@Mountain Man Get your own info next time. Take the ball and carry it yourself if you want to know.