Chartering a new future for schools through a local focus

Adam Emerson is the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s school choice czar, directing the Institute’s policy program on parental choice and editing the Choice Words blog. This piece ran on the AJC print education page Monday. It originally appeared in slightly longer form on the Choice Words blog, which you can check out here.

By Adam Emerson

Charter school supporters can claim victory in two high-profile ballot initiatives, Georgia and Washington, but each state has a different story to tell — and lessons to teach.

In what may arguably be defined as a landslide, 59 percent of Georgia voters empowered the state to create an independent commission to authorize charter schools. But that margin of victory doesn’t even tell the whole story.

Consider Gwinnett County, the state’s largest school district, which has allowed only three charter schools within its boundaries and which filed the original lawsuit that ultimately killed Georgia’s previous independent authorizer, hence the constitutional amendment.

Gwinnett schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks once said that the question before voters would only empower the state to “privatize, defund and dismantle public education.” But 63 percent of the county’s voters disagreed with him and said yes to the amendment.

The state’s largest counties followed suit, including Fulton, where 66 percent of voters said yes, and DeKalb, 64 percent.

This highlights the arrogance of Wilbanks and other district superintendents, who warned that the amendment would only diminish “local control” of public education.

In Gwinnett, charter students make up less than 1 percent of the public school population. Perhaps Gwinnett was on Republican state Sen. Fran Millar’s mind when he wrote recently on the AJC Get Schooled blog that “there are areas of this state where local school boards will not approve any charter school.”

But Gwinnett was hardly alone. DeKalb, the state’s third largest county, added just two charter schools in the past five years. Two of Georgia’s relatively larger counties, Cobb and Richmond, have the same number of charter schools they had five years ago (six and two, respectively).

That’s why citizens said yes to a charter commission independent of Georgia-style “local control.” An overwhelming number decided that the most “local” kind of school is one where the decision-making power rests at the school level, not in some faraway district office that holds veto power over all public education.

Now, promising charter providers in Georgia will no longer have to depend only on the whims of a recalcitrant school board.

The same can’t be said for Washington state, however. While Georgia can claim a landslide, charter advocates in the Evergreen State got by with a squeaker.

At last count, Washington’s Initiative 1240 won 50.8-49.2 percent, indicating that Seattle and other cities may finally see charter schools (Washington was previously the largest state without a charter law).

A victory is a victory, but Washington’s charter initiative narrowly passed despite the fact that proponents outspent opponents by $10 million. Washington has asked voters to approve charter schools three times before, with voters saying no every time.

With such a polarized electorate, advocates and charter operators will have plenty of work ahead to assure voters that the schools they plan to open over the next five years will add quality, innovation and variety to a public-education landscape that has done little to accommodate pluralism.

And pluralism is what emerged on Election Day — even in states with far different stories to tell. Whatever transpires in the years to come, voters in Georgia and Washington worked to make public education much more local.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

41 comments Add your comment


November 15th, 2012
9:18 am

I thank the AJC for printing this.


November 15th, 2012
9:49 am

@Maureen – do you know the status of the lawsuit over the verbiage in the amendment? I have spoken with people who – even as late as election day – were confused by what the wording on the ballot said versus what is actually going to happen now.

Ron F.

November 15th, 2012
9:52 am

I wonder how the ballot initiative was worded in Washington. Anyone see or hear about it? While I support well-planned and carefully managed charter schools, and have seen quite a few so far here in Georgia, I still think the ballot language was far too misleading on purpose. I hope Washington state doesn’t have the questionable political agenda our state leadership seems to have. The issue is far too soiled by partisan politics here.

red herring

November 15th, 2012
9:53 am

i believe charter schools will finally accomplish what the state and public schools will not do—reduce the cost of a good education. Many of our counties have public school education that is extremely “top heavy” with administration and there is no will to reduce it. When the chiefs get to decide how to lower the budget or make staff cuts just how many chiefs do you think they include in the cuts? None. Once some competition is added into the equation perhaps that will bring change. Even when Dekalb had a group come in and make recommendations on how to cut spending they chose not to follow those recommendations because the people deciding on the cuts weren’t going to cut themselves or their friends in similar administrative positions. In some counties in georgia there as some public schools that basically being run by a few families (via nepotism)—that too should be looked at.

Maureen Downey

November 15th, 2012
9:53 am

@D, The lawsuit is moving along, but the AJC had a story with experts doubting it will prevail. I am not sure that story ran online, but here is part of it:

Opponents of Georgia’s just-passed charter school amendment who say it was deliberately worded to mislead voters now claim that a legislator’s email helps prove it.

“People high up are wanting this legislation, ” Rep.Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, wrote to a constituent on Feb. 3. “The vagueness of the ballot wording is something they want to keep. They think if they keep it vague it will more easily pass.”

Charter school amendment opponents say that email is among documents they hope will help in a lawsuit, which was filed before Tuesday’s vote, over the ballot language — a type of lawsuit experts say is difficult to win.

Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, said he obtained the email on election day and sent letters this week asking Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate. Neither office has responded.

Sen. Jones said he was stunned when, in August, “the exact language we had rejected” was inserted in the ballot’s preamble. “This is about voter fraud, the way this ballot was written is against the due process clause of the Georgia Constitution, ” he said.

A lawsuit pending in Fulton Superior Court alleges that lawmakers wanted the amendment language to tout charter schools’ ability to improve student achievement. That language was stricken before final, narrow passage of the proposed amendment by legislators. But on Aug. 15 it was put into a preamble to the amendment language by a Constitutional Amendments Publication Board.

DeKalb County school board chairman Eugene Walker said he believes the largely black part of South DeKalb voted for the measure due to the “deception.” The amendment “gave people the impression that anybody who voted against this would be voting against charter schools, and that’s a lie, ” Walker said. “The deception worked.”

Experts said prevailing in a lawsuit, and essentially getting a judge to rule that the vote should be overthrown, is a long shot.

“What you would have to prove clearly and convincingly is that the language prevented people from understanding what they are voting on. That’s been done before, but it’s difficult, ” said Steve Anthony, a political lecturer at Georgia State University and longtime Democratic operative.

He said the e-mail from Benton could be “the smoking gun that could give a judge a reason to say ‘ahah, there might be something here’ ” and at least temporarily delay implementation of the new amendment.

Gerald Weber, the attorney representing the teacher and preacher who sued, said Thursday he has seen the email and it is “evidence that the misleading language was purposeful.”

But he is not certain he will amend his complaint to include it. A hearing is not yet scheduled.

Vladimir Hogan, an assistant professor of political science at Ohio State University who has studied ballot language, said there’s no clear legal precedent. “Unfortunately, there is no single standard for judging the language, ” he said. “It varies state by state, depending on what the state law or court decisions say.”

He said judges have generally ruled in favor of the writers of the ballots “unless the evidence of a problem is overwhelming.”


November 15th, 2012
10:01 am

Where are these companies that were supposed to come in and start charters? I haven’t been contacted or heard about anything. I’m ready. I only have a small window here before private school applications are due. I’d stick with Error Davis for one more year if I knew we had a good shot at a charter to compete with Inman the folowing year – but if not we’ll get out this year.

Beverly Fraud

November 15th, 2012
10:13 am

DeKalb County school board chairman Eugene Walker said he believes the largely black part of South DeKalb voted for the measure due to the “deception.” The amendment “gave people the impression that anybody who voted against this would be voting against charter schools, and that’s a lie, ” Walker said. “The deception worked.”

Not since the dawn of the iron age has there been a more ironic instance of the pot calling the kettle black. You might even say that Walker’s statement is beyond the pale (That should take care of any of Walker’s sycophants who want to make hay of the “pot calling the kettle black” LOL)

Jarod Apperson

November 15th, 2012
10:14 am

@Ivan – It will probably be the 2014 year before you see anything. For APS approved charters, the deadline has already passed. I know KIPP is opening another primary school in South Atlanta, but I don’t believe there are any plans for a school to open near Inman.

Also, unlike Gwinnett, I don’t think APS has been turning down many charter applications, so this law probably won’t have too much impact on APS. Instead, the charter growth will depend on whether additional leaders are willing to open a school.


November 15th, 2012
10:18 am

I feel it is high time that the Gwinnett County school system is on the radar. The entire county is headed for a level of mediocrity never seen in American education. The entire system is leaning towards a “one size fits all” construction. There are direct attacks upon the gifted program across the system and a “dumbing down” of all education. Gifted students’ needs are being seriously degraded by the inclusion of non gifted students in the classrooms with gifted students. If you read the article on regarding the “Myths of Gifted Education,” you will easily recognize that the Gwinnett system is heading down the wrong road. I am an advocate for all children to receive the best education possible, including the gifted. When you take away the rights of the gifted educators to work as required, and necessary in stretching the thoughts and performance of the most capable students in the system, you directly cheat those students of the education they deserve.

Gifted program teachers are never given the flexibility in teaching strategies, testing, and pacing that are required for an adequate gifted program. They are forced to stick with the agenda of all students, forced to administer testing that is designed for the general student population, and forced to include non=gifted students in their over-sized classes. All these aspects seriously degrade the ability of gifted teachers to stretch the minds of truly gifted students.

The system and parents must understand that there are truly gifted students in every school. These students deserve and need specialized treatment, smaller classes, and specialized teachers in the curriculum areas.

Teaching gifted students is a unique challenge that must be completed by a driven, highly educated, and qualified gifted teacher. These teachers require the flexibility of thought to recognize individual student giftedness and the the freedom to adjust their curriculum and strategies to best serve each student’s needs. Homogenizing the gifted program, as is seen in Gwinnett County, is definitely not the road to take. It only hurts the gifted students who need advocacy at ever point in their education.

Gwinnett County must address the needs of the gifted students, or they will be seeing these creative minds exiting the system to learn in charter schools that will address their needs.

What a loss that would be!

Mary Elizabeth

November 15th, 2012
10:26 am

I posted the following words this morning on Jay Bookman’s blog. I wish to post my thoughts here, also, in order to cast some “brakes” on the growing bandwagon of thought in Georgia that charter schools are the “saviors” of education. Some charter schools could, in the long run, be detrimental to our democratic republic, if they not well-regulated. Perhaps those citizens in Washington state who voted against charter schools were more wary, for good reason. Be aware.

“If there is a ‘real’ Mitt Romney, then these remarks reflect who he is and how he sees. He is not in Obama’s league. Romney sees humanity with a hierarchial vision; Obama sees with an egalitarian vision. Many of our top CEOs see with the same hierarchial vision as does Romney.

That is why it will be destructive to America’s egalitarian vision if these same corporate CEOs are given the power to control our public schools, just as some of these CEOs attempted to control their employees’ votes. Vision is fundamental to what America becomes. Romney’s vision of humanity is essentially a petty, small-minded, limited vision, not an expansive, inclusive one. Thank God he was not elected to be America’s President, with the power to represent and to mold our nation to his vision. This election was pivotal. Providence, imo, took a hand in shaping our destiny.”


November 15th, 2012
10:27 am

Ms. Downy – Your comment ~ “This highlights the arrogance of Wilbanks and other district superintendents, who warned that the amendment would only diminish “local control” of public education.” I see no arrogance here from the superintendent, only arrogance on our government and the AJC. If you want to talk arrogance, how about the comment made by Ralson: ~ “I believe the process the amendment went through was a full, fair and complete vetting of the bill, ” Ralston said. “This language was approved months ago and the voters have now spoken in a resounding way. To use the old adage, this is truly like beating a dead horse.” The very same people who worded the amendment did the vetting. I was first in favor of this amendment based solely on the wording. Period. I was sent some information and starting looking into this and realized that I was being mislead by the wording. I am very disappointed once again in the AJC for WORKING for the government. Ms. Downy you should offer up apologies to your readers for insulting their intelligence. Please cancel my subscription to the AJC.

Maureen Downey

November 15th, 2012
10:41 am

@Paul, You are reading an op-ed by Adam Emerson. I did not write the piece. Emerson works for Fordham Institute, which is a longtime supporter of choice. I run a range of views on this blog. Please look at the category of charters on this blog for previous postings and you will see dozens and dozens of pieces reflecting a range of views. I suggest you start with this one:


November 15th, 2012
10:42 am

Madison and the other founding fathers warned that pluralism would divide us, destroy the whole experiment they created.

Jarod Apperson

November 15th, 2012
10:43 am

@Mary – I think we see plenty hierarchical visions in the current administration of traditional public schools. Teachers today are inundated with mounds of paperwork to try and document each and every effort they make to help students. For teachers I know, this is one of the most frustrating parts of the job. It is a direct result of a hierarchical approach to education. If the local school leader had authority, the focus could be on actually helping students rather than time spent documenting each step to satisfy a central office or the state.

We also see superintendents take action without community input (Erroll Davis) and sometimes a complete lack of accountability and transparency (Dekalb). This is also hierarchical.

Some charter schools work and some don’t, but I think they generally move school administration away from hierarchy and bureaucracy rather than toward it.

Jarod Apperson

November 15th, 2012
10:53 am

@jd – Not sure the context of the statement you are referring to. Madison was a founding Democratic-Republican and along with Jefferson argued for stronger states rights and a weaker federal government. To me, that seems like a pluralistic approach to power rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Mary Elizabeth

November 15th, 2012
11:18 am

Jarod Apperson, 10:43 am

“Some charter schools work and some don’t, but I think they generally move school administration away from hierarchy and bureaucracy rather than toward it.”

You make some good points. However, my post was meant to alert citizens to the long-run effects that wealth and power in corporations – such as in the WalMart Corporation or in Koch Industries – can have, behind the scenes, in controlling the vision of our democratic Republic through our schools. We simply must be aware that the pursuit of money and profit-making can be a destructive force if that pursuit becomes inordinately dominant within our public educational delivery system. We must keep our public schools truly public ones, which are created to serve the common good, and not to serve the pocketbooks – or the ideology – of billionaires. We must work to improve our traditional public schools – in the ways that you have suggested – instead of dismantling them for schools which might become controlled by corporate power. Public schools are the heart of our American democracy. We must keep our schools central to our democratic principles by having them controlled by the people themselves, through their public taxes – which directly fund the schools themselves, and not the pocketbooks of entrepreneurs.


November 15th, 2012
11:19 am

@Beverly Love your comments! I completely agree.

Truth in Moderation

November 15th, 2012
11:37 am

Hmmm. After reading this article from the Fordham Institute, it looks like the Jesuits and the Christian Brothers might be positioning themselves to get into the charter school business…

And Mr. Emerson, while you are busy insulting GCPS leadership, let’s at least give them credit for starting their county Charter STEM school, Gwinnett School of Math Science and Technology, whose 2012 SAT scores were the top in the state, and in the TOP 40 IN THE United States.

Jarod Apperson

November 15th, 2012
11:52 am

@ Mary – I completely agree with you that education should not be a means for making profits. It should be an altruistic pursuit, geared toward improving the future of our society. If there is enough money for profits, the schools should either invest those in improved services or return the money to tax payers.

At the same time, we have to remember that there are competing interests for money in any system, not just charter schools. What about all the money Sutherland and Jones Day lawyers have been paid from the Dekalb coffers? What about the millions paid each year to textbook companies who make only small changes in content? What about Dekalb failing to lay off central office staff when they ran out of money? What about Ruben McDaniel launching an investigation to make sure enough Black teachers were hired in APS rather than focusing on whether the teachers hired were the most qualified?

Within the traditional school system there are many competing interests which vie to allocate money among certain groups. Those who receive the benefits in effect profit.

The question should always be how can we best educate children. Unfortunately, in school systems students are not always put first. Resources go to benefit other parties.

As a public, we should hold all schools accountable for the quality of education provided and how money is spent. We can see from large school systems like Dekalb that this kind of accountability is very difficult to enact. School board member have their own agendas and can be too focused on their own constituents rather than what’s best for all students. I think charter schools may be easier to hold accountable because they are by nature smaller.

As I said before, there are some charter schools that work and some that don’t. Many are founded by communities and leaders who are sincerely interested in improving education rather than making a profit. We should encourage those schools and deny the applications of schools which are more interested in profits than education.

Rod Johnson

November 15th, 2012
12:07 pm

Paul complains about being misled by the amendment’s wording…but can’t even attribute a quote to the right person?

60% of GA Voters knew exactly what they were voting for. Perhaps it’s the NO crowd, blindly backing our complete failure of a public education system, that was misled into voting for more dismal public-school failure?


November 15th, 2012
1:03 pm

@Jarod Thanks for the info, even if I don’t like the timeframe. I realize it may not so much be the law that has a direct effect, but I’m hoping that someone or some company will come in and start a charter now that they see the State is open to them (parents don’t have the time to get the ball rolling).

Jerry Eads

November 15th, 2012
1:28 pm

A “landslide” by deception. P.T. Barnum wins.
Hm. Republicans are willing to let Wall Street run amok – still – to ruin the national economy, but don’t want citizens to run their own locality. Interesting.

Truth in Moderation

November 15th, 2012
1:46 pm

@ Ivan

I’m sure Fordham Inst. can give you contact info for setting up a CATALYST SCHOOL.

“Finally, I have just finished a report for Education Next on an experiment in Chicago that stands the “religious charter” question on its head: the Christian Brothers, with 300 years of experience, at Arne Duncan’s invitation, are running two public charter schools that are NOT religious. They call them Catalyst Schools. Some might call it an educational Hail Mary!”

Catalyst School website:
“If you are a parent or guardian committed to making certain your child gets a quality, private school education at a public school price and if you live in the neighborhood near either Howland Charter or Circle Rock Charter, you should apply.

The Catalyst Schools expect much from the children who attend. The program is rigorous, study is required, and standards of behavior and character are upheld. If you want a safe and disciplined environment for your child, you should apply.

The Catalyst Schools expect parents and guardians to be involved. We will ask you to attend conferences and special events, and to assist your child with homework each and every night. If you are willing to be an active participant in your child’s education and in the life of the school, you should apply.”

living in an outdated ed system

November 15th, 2012
2:12 pm

Bravo for printing this article. @Maureen, I recommend you move on and stop trying to find something to distract our state from trying to improve its public education system. The amendment passed by a LANDSLIDE. There should be no lawsuit – it was a fair campaign, but that can’t be said for the Democrats who changed the wording on their July primary ballot to force a negative bias, and it BACKFIRED.

The people have spoken – the charter commission will not give charter applications a “blank check.” They will take a deliberate approach and evaluate each appeal on its merits and degree of fit within its respective community. If you want to promote the continue waste of taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit that is frivolous in every way, go right ahead. This newspaper already has egg on its face for being a vehement opponent of public charter schools and thus, reforming public education.

Adam makes valid points, and it’s time to move on. Lets not forget what this is about. If our public education system was working effectively, we wouldn’t even be discussing this issue, would we????????????

living in an outdated ed system

November 15th, 2012
2:14 pm

Oh, how can I forget? Barge is ok with using out of state vendors to repair his image, but is not ok with outsiders supporting the amendment. We again see the inconsistent principles of a leader who is failing in more ways that you know.


November 15th, 2012
3:39 pm

Ivan: What exactly is your beef with Inman MS and with “Error” Davis’ administration of Inman MS? Be precise, please.


November 15th, 2012
5:02 pm

@Michele–don’t know about GC gifted program teachers but I know about gifted program teachers in general. When principals discovered that each school had many unidentified high potential students who could not qualify for gifted via traditional state-designed measures, they took over the placing of students in the program. Thank God. There are so many high potentials who have out performed the traditionally qualified students. They have totally deserved the opportunity to be in those classes. Students who do not perform [gifted or not] are taken out of the classes and put in general ed. classes. Why would any teacher of gifted resist high potential students? It has amazed me at the snobery of the teachers. I lost respect for many of them when I was a principal. BUT I also gained great respect for the ones who said to “bring them on!” They also agreed that many gifted children over time became so impressed with themselves .. or were told how much smarter they were than their peers (probably by the parents) .. that they never lived up to their potential. As a private sector business owner now, I would hire a high potential any day over someone who was smart and lazy.

Pride and Joy

November 15th, 2012
5:19 pm

Let’s settle this once and for all. Here is an easy way.
For all those who say amendment one passed because of vague language — go ahead and author a bill to amend the constitution to abolish charter schools or whatever it is you really want. Word it just they way you want it and let’s vote.
Use all your resources to fight amendment one and let’s vote….
Put your money where your mouth is.

Sandy Springs Parent

November 15th, 2012
9:53 pm

If what is wanted is local control we still don’t have it with the Charter Amendment that was passed. It is a joke. What we need to do is pass an amendment to abolish the arbitrary limit on getting saying that the State of Georgia can only have 170 or so School Districts ( what ever the current number is). What we need to do remove the cap on School District’s allowed. Then we need to pass and amendment then law that no school District shall be larger that two high school ’s and their feeder schools larger. That would be less than 10,000 students, with most being no larger than 1 high school large like Marietta, Decatur, Buford. This is the size that works best. It does not have the bloat, has local control, dooues not have huge transportation costs, no North South, East West, District Fighting issues. You don’t see the outright title one fraud with the falsified free lunch applications since everyone knows everyone else in these districts.

Woodward is the largest Private School K-12 in the Country and they only have 2,500 students. So what does that tell you.

The other option is an amendment for real vouchers that follow the child. They have to be at least $8,000 for Elementary School and $12,000 for High School.

Mary Elizabeth

November 15th, 2012
10:32 pm

Should I, as a retired teacher on a fixed income with no child in school, be required to pay taxes so that others can have vouchers? Perhaps the time has come that only those who have children in schools, public or private, should pay school taxes for vouchers.


November 15th, 2012
10:54 pm

@Mary Elizabeth…check with your local county tax office…I remember hearing that older people could get an exemption on paying the school portion of their property taxes…can’t hurt to ask.


November 16th, 2012
12:06 am

Mary Elizabeth, I no longer have children in school either, but if you taught in public schools I bet part of my taxes pays your teacher’s retirement.

Mary Elizabeth

November 16th, 2012
2:16 am

RCB, 12:06 am

From your post, I realized that citizens, as a whole, probably need to be better informed about who pays for teachers’ retirement pensions in Georgia. During the 30 years that I was a teacher, I contributed a significant amount of my income, monthly, so that I would have retirement income through my teacher’s pension. My money was paid directly to the Teacher’s Retirement System of Georgia so that the TRS could invest my income for me wisely. The TRS combined my monthly retirement contribution, with the retirement contributions of other teachers in Georgia, and invested the retirement contributions from all of the teachers so that our own funds having grown through wise investments, essentially, pay for our individual pensions – not the general public.

It is true that the taxpayers paid for my services to the children of this state during my active years as a teacher, but that was for my services rendered, through contract. I well earned the income I made during my active working years. And, I planned early, and well, for my old age, financially.

I do not think it just that I should be mandated as a senior citizen, with an annual retirement income of about $55,000. (including Social Security), to fund vouchers for citizens (some of whom have annual incomes of $300,000. or more) to send their children to private schools.

As the landscape of public education becomes more privatized, then what I have suggested must also be considered as a possibility of change in the funding of vouchers. I have always, previously, gladly paid taxes toward funding traditional public schools for all of Georgia’s students, equally. However, that educational delivery system is in the process of being significantly altered, and, therefore, legislators must now think “outside the box” in every aspect (not simply in terms of delivery), including what I have brought forth this evening regarding the equitable funding of vouchers.

mountain man

November 16th, 2012
7:42 am

“I do not think it just that I should be mandated as a senior citizen, with an annual retirement income of about $55,000. (including Social Security), to fund vouchers for citizens (some of whom have annual incomes of $300,000. or more) to send their children to private schools.”

If you worked all your life as a teacher, there should be no Social Security payments, since TRS is a replacement retirement fund for SS.

Anyway, the Georgia State Income Tax has been 6% forever. When they raise that tax rate or eliminate deductions, THEN you will have something to complain about. Not now.


November 16th, 2012
9:49 am

There is a difference between “high achieving” and “gifted” students. I have had many teachers tell me that “all students are gifted” and should be treated as such. The truly gifted students are capable of higher level thinking and should be allowed to move at their own pace. In a public school setting, one gifted class per week is great, but the other four days are boring for these children. Many educators are “turned off” at the notion that a gifted child should be educated differently. The students who perform at the bottom of the spectrum get the most attention and funding.


November 16th, 2012
10:33 am

@ Mountain Man: “TRS is a replacement retirement fund for SS.” This is NOT true, as I know well being a member of TRS. I believe that there are certain counties such as DeKalb that have made this the rule for their K-12 educators–and even then I think that it is so for their Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), which is different from TRS. Remember that TRS is also the retirement system for all USG employees. And I can tell you that we all keep paying our “Payroll Tax,” or Social Security contributions, as well as our TRS contributions.

Mary Elizabeth is quite accurate about the ways in which the TRS pension funds have grown through wise investment of the teachers’ own contributions along with that of their schools. Public taxes have not paid for that, in spite of what RCB claims.

Mary Elizabeth

November 16th, 2012
11:05 am

Thank you for your remarks of confirmation to my post regarding how the TRS pension funds have grown through wise investment of the teachers’ own contributions, Prof.

Also, Mountain Man, I worked at New York University as a secretary until I was 27 years of age (while I was also going to college there), so that my particular Social Security benefits are based on the contributions that I made to Social Security during my twenties, before I became a teacher.

I want to inform readers to watch a very important documentary which will air tomorrow at noon on GPB-Knowledge TV. That channel is 246 on Comcast and it is free to Comcast subscribers. This program will also air on the 29th of November on that channel at 9 am, 3 pm, and 8 pm.

The name of the program is “Independent Lens: Park Avenue, Money, Power and the American Dream.”

That these wealth/power forces exist in our nation, and that they have worked to influence our national and local politicians (including some within Georgia’s Legislature) for their benefit, is not simply an opinion I am putting forth. This is factual knowledge that was aired on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Channel 8, early this morning from 3 to 4 am. Even I was stunned by the stealthy shift of our nation’s wealth or money from control by the Middle Class to the top 1%, basically since 1977. Since that time these forces, including the Koch Brothers, deliberately have skewed our nation’s wealth upward and they have had a heavy-handed Liberatian ideology which they wish to perpetuate in America, in ways other than the vote. That is why they have been so stealthy in their goals. They could not accomplish their goals by the vote – and they had tried and failed in that democratic avenue. They have had to manipulate the public to distrust their own government to serve their mercenary and ideological goals. They have tried to dismantle our nation’s public institutions for private ones through scare tactics that many – who are unknowing – have bought into, such as that America is becoming more “Socialistic” under Barack Obama and the Democrats. I am grateful that Progressives in our nation have been exposing their stealthy agenda to the American public in the last few years.

Graphs (moving graphs) were shown on this television broadcast in which most of the wealth of this nation can be seen to have shifted from the Middle Class to the top 1% – in a drastic change from 1977 to the present day. This has not occurred through happenstance. It has been by design. We must wake up to what has been happening in America by stealthy design. Please watch this broadcast tomorrow at Noon on Channel 246 Comcast or on your GPB-Knowledge TV channel.

In my opinion, Sen. Chip Rogers, a leader in ALEC, has been influencial in this shift of power away from public institutions and public programs that benefit the Middle Class to programs that serve the interests of the wealth/power forces in our nation through private markets. Be wary of legislation that Chip Rogers may put forth in the 2013 Legislative Session in Georgia that will further dismantle public institutions and programs such as traditional public schools, and also be wary of legislation that his fellow ALEC members might put forth, including Rep. Jan Jones, Rep. Edward Lindsey, and Sen. Fran Millar.

Mary Elizabeth

November 16th, 2012
11:48 am

@GSMST Mom, November 15th, 2012, 10:54 pm

“Mary Elizabeth…check with your local county tax office…I remember hearing that older people could get an exemption on paying the school portion of their property taxes…can’t hurt to ask.”


@mountain man, 7:42 am

“Anyway, the Georgia State Income Tax has been 6% forever. When they raise that tax rate or eliminate deductions, THEN you will have something to complain about. Not now.

TO ALL READERS, including GSMST Mom and mountain man:

The reason that I brought up the inequity of my contributing property taxes to support the voucher use by other citizens (who might be making 6 times my income) in order to send their children to private schools, was not for mercenary reasons or greed on my part. My reason for broaching this subject was to highlight to the reading audience of this blog that a VOUCHER bill should NOT be passed in Georgia because of its inherent injustice to many citizens, not just to me. I used myself as a concrete example of why vouchers are inherently injust.

Btw, I have recently checked with my county tax office regarding a minor exemption that I will receive for having turned 70, and nothing was mentioned about school exemptions. Moreover, I would rather wait and see how a possible voucher bill is handled in the state Legislature before I would take that step. I will support true public education (but not the privatization of public education) with my money, as well as with my voice, for as long as I live. But, thank you for the information.

Mary Elizabeth

November 16th, 2012
6:44 pm

A poster on Jim Galloway’s blog shared this link with me to the video that I had mentioned above entitled, “Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream,” so that anyone interested can see it immediately online:

Watch online:

Mary Elizabeth

November 16th, 2012
8:13 pm

Also, read Hedrick Smith’s book, “Who Stole the American Dream?” to understand the details of why and how the middle class has been so maligned, deliberately and with careful organization, by powerful business interests since the late 1970s.

And read the reviews on Amazon:

“Journalist Hedrick Smith builds a case one piece at a time in his book Who Stole the American Dream? He shows through multiple examples over the past four decades how public policies that favor the rich have decimated the economic strength of average workers and enhanced the power of the wealthy. He shows how the United States has changed from a fairly level society to a plutocracy. This has been a transformation of American society that has important consequences. There are multiple predators that Smith exposes in this book, and he proposes ways in which we can turn this situation around, if we want. Readers interested in public policy should consider this required reading, whether one agrees or disagrees with Smith’s views.”

Pride and Joy

November 16th, 2012
9:45 pm

Sandy Springs Parent — LOVED your comments about smaller school districts and vouchers.