Georgia: Putting all our eggs and hopes in charter school basket

The battle in Georgia to win passage of a controversial charter school amendment turned out to be costly, divisive and polarizing.

Many might also argue it was unnecessary, given that charter schools were never in jeopardy and more continue to open every year in Georgia.

The state Board of Education already had the ability to approve them, and local school boards, despite the characterization that most were hostile toward charters, authorized nine out of 10 of the existing 108 charter schools now operating in Georgia.

It’s a futile exercise now to question the rationale for the amendment, which, in its most practical application, accords the state Legislature the power to appoint a commission that can approve and fund charter schools over the objections of local boards of education.

The benign question put before voters — “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”— earned a “Yes” from an impressive 58.5 percent of Georgians.

So, now is the time to consider the impact of the passage of the amendment on education as a whole in Georgia.

And that impact is likely to be consequential to the 1.6 million Georgia children who attend public schools in Georgia.

Because now the Legislature will be convinced that it’s done its part for education by giving students more choice.

Lawmakers can relax and let choice work its magic. If students don’t do well, it will be blamed on their parents failing to make the right choice.

In elevating choice to their top legislative priority, lawmaker shirked what ought to be their main concern: Ensuring that existing public schools in Georgia remain viable and have sufficient resources to educate students to increasingly higher standards.

Instead, they have consistently disinvested in public schools while touting marketplace solutions.

Choice is not a substitute for adequate funding, talented teachers and strong leaders.

And more choices don’t necessarily mean better choices.

In the last 10 years, a period when school enrollment rose, austerity cuts and other reductions decimated state education funding by $5.7 billion. Two-thirds of Georgia’s 180 school districts have been forced to cut back on school days.

In four districts around the state, students now attend classes less than 150 days, even though the standard is 180 days. Class sizes have soared, with parents lamenting 37 kids in middle and high school classes.

A Georgia Budget and Policy Institute study noted that while enrollment jumped, teacher contracts in Georgia fell by 8,500 since 2008-2009.

The first education act by the 2013 General Assembly will be reconstituting the Charter School Commission that was in place before the state Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional and an infringement on local control last year. And that will ensure a few more charter schools approved every year.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are privately operated and earn freedom from some state regulations in exchange for contractual pledges to not only meet standards set by the state, but eventually exceed them.

If charter schools fail to meet their contractual goals, they’re supposed to shut down. An examination of national data shows that doesn’t always happen, as parents often argue in favor of the school remaining open despite disappointing academics — a scenario that unfolds in many school closings. (Hundreds of DeKalb County parents fought closings there, even when the targeted schools had years of low achievement.)

As with every school model, charter schools show varying degrees of success and failure. An evaluation earlier this year by the state Department of Education found that charter schools in Georgia were less successful than traditional schools in meeting federally mandated, adequate yearly progress measures and had graduation rates in line with the state average.

No one who looks at the performance of charter schools in those states where there are many more of them could argue that they have been a transformative agent.

Without question, charter schools should be part of a mix of innovations and reforms. Unfortunately, in Georgia, charter schools have become the only reform. As one rural legislator commented to me about his House colleagues, “We’ve put all our eggs in the charter school basket.”

And all their hopes and energies.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

246 comments Add your comment

Ron F.

November 21st, 2012
3:14 am

As I’ve said many times, we still have the same pool of children from which we draw our school populations. While charter schools offer options for innovation for specific groups, they too must deal with the same children with the same needs and problems. Improvement in schools starts with commitment from all stakeholders, and we’ve seen what dysfunctional boards, poor administration, and community strife can do to schools systems. How charter schools will ultimately avoid some of these problems remains to be seen. I’ve seen and heard of some that are trying, just as many public schools are trying. As many have said on various threads here, improving schools is going to take more than just changing the type of school. The entire view of education in our society needs adjusting regardless of the type of school children attend. Charters can be an important part of that, but I see them being used as a political tool by legislators whose motives are questionable at best.

Eventually, the legislature is going to have to come up with a reasonable solution to funding both existing schools and new ones, and nothing I’m hearing from the Gold Dome even mentions that critical issue. My fear is that in coming years, neither existing public schools or charters created by the state will be adequately funded. There has to be a baseline of school funding somewhere, and all we’ve seen in the last decade is cutting funding and demanding more accountability. Regardless of typer of school, unless some reasonable funding legislation is passed and adhered to, we’re not going to be able to sustain any positive growth.

Ed Advocate

November 21st, 2012
4:07 am

Exactly Maureen. Many of us who care deeply about this issue are reflective in the wake of Amendment #1’s passage and still trying to figure out how to move forward in a positive way to improve education for all Georgia’s kids.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for your thoughtful commentary on this and other education issues and for this space where different voices can share important ideas.

Just put it out there...

November 21st, 2012
6:16 am

Now is the time to move towards making education better for all of Georgia’s students. Providing the best for every student may well be the answer to Georgia school reform. Elevating student learning should be the goal in order tp prepare them for their lives after academics, arts, and athletics.

Those of us that are involved with public education must step up and show that we can offer the same results that the charter proponents say that they can offer. Innovation will have to be the answer to the disparities in funding and mind-set. Doing more with less has been what schools have gotten accustomed to doing. We must now do much more with less.

There is a rationale out there that public schools are bad. Elected school boards are bad. Admistration is bad. Teachers are bad. All of us are bad. That rationale is tailored to move public schools to the condition where only the highest performing and highest socially acceptable institutions survive and these will combine with the private options that are to be funded, substantially, with vouchers (or whatever the correct terminology will be to identify refunds from the state for parents to utilize for the education of their children). The third organization will be poorly funded, less effective, “seperate but equal” schools that will house the students whose families are not able to supplement the voucher schools, do not see the importance of good education (or cannot discern the difference), or cannot or will not relocate to the areas that have the higher performing/socially acceptable schools. Charter schools are only a waypoint along the route as a voucher arrangement is the destination.

This scenario is the master plan. This scenario is deemed necessary for several reasons.
1. The need to find ways to recoup taxes to offset tuition in private schools.
2. The racial mindsets of many of those that send their students to underperforming “Christian” academies across the state that are primarily for racial and social reasons.
3. The condition of some schools within large school districts that do not perform, have no hope of performing, and are already in the condition above, “seperate but equal”. (There are those legislators with a conscience that justify their positions by expressing concern for these schools where there is no choice for students and parents that providing them that “choice is the Christan thing to do”. -Those words came out of the mouth of my senator.)
4. The participation of our elected officials in the principles as set forth by ALEC.

All said, we must do the best with what we have and the conditions that exist. Solid performance and offering opportunities for student academic and social growth that are equal to or better than the other choices are the only ways that public schools are going to be a viable option and continue to exist.

Jd

November 21st, 2012
6:22 am

In history books, to be used in schools outside of Georgia, 2002-2012 will be known as “The Lost Decade”

Ronin

November 21st, 2012
6:25 am

In favor of the amendment was a little over 58%. Frankly, I’m surprised it was even that close. If you look at the AJC election results model. You would find groups of rural counties in both north and south Georgia that were in lockstep opposition to amendment #1. In viewing some of the county paper debates on the issue online, there was clear opposition from local school board supporters. When I posted a question: “Why do you oppose amendment 1? The answer always was: “OUR schools are fine”. That’s the crux of the issue, SOME district schools do a good job, some (Dekalb and APS, as well as a few others) fail to meet the needs of their customers. Passage of the amendment gives students in failing district schools another option for a public education.

The point is, district schools that meet the needs of students and families have little to fear from Charter schools. Funding, now that’s the $64,000 question.

It appears that the next legislative issue will be vouchers.

Ron @ 3:14, you’re correct.

mountain man

November 21st, 2012
6:26 am

“authorized nine out of 10 of the existing 108 charter schools now operating in Georgia.”

Deceptive statistic. What percentage of TOTAL APPLICATIONS did local boards approve?

Charter schools were never meant to be the “magic bullet” to save education. They were meant to give at least one more option for parents to get their kids out of schools they are unhappy with.

And in a lot of cases, people voted FOR the charter school amendment in hopes that the competition would force traditional schools to address their own problems so that parents would have no reason to want to send their kids to charter schools. I fall into that category.

If all those who put forth their energies to defeating Amendment #1 would put the same energy into addressing the REAL issues with current schools, you would see less charters. The REAL issues don’t require money, they only require a backbone. Sadly, that is what is lacking (I am talking about ADMINISTRATORS, not teachers).

teacher&mom

November 21st, 2012
6:44 am

Excellent article.

Amendment 1 did not pass in my district. We are one of those districts that performs well, however, furlough days, reduced staff, and increased class sizes have negatively impacted our district. Our main concern with Amendment 1 was funding.

No one under the Gold Dome could provide a sufficient answer regarding funding. Instead, we were told by our Representative and Senator to “trust” them. They would not support further budget cuts to public schools.

mountain man

November 21st, 2012
6:50 am

Totally off subject, but…

They say that crime in Atlanta is DOWN, but every day I get on the AJC site and read about a murder, shooting, or carjacking. Makes me wonder, DOWN from WHAT LEVEL.

Sort of like when they say the worst schools are improving – yes they went from 60% failing rate to 59% failing rate (after they eliminate the GHSGT).

mountain man

November 21st, 2012
6:59 am

Three people killed in Atlanta last night.

AnnieAD

November 21st, 2012
7:04 am

A member of the Education Committee of the State Legislature told me in a personal conversation that the majority of the legislative body does not understand or even have a general knowledge of how the education formula works and how much schools in Georgia are under-funded. Local taxpayers should be outraged in that the bulk of funding has now gone to the locals.

mountain man

November 21st, 2012
7:05 am

“Putting all our eggs and hopes in charter school basket”

We haven’t put ALL of our eggs in the charter school basket; we haven’t even put 1% of our eggs in that basket. 99% of our eggs will stay in the traditional school basket, so we had better decide how to improve those schools (with a bow to Mary Elizabeth).

LarryMajor

November 21st, 2012
7:18 am

I’ve never seen local BOE denial statistics, but there were about 110 denials appealed to the state, which suggests a local approval rate of about 50 percent. The state also denied most of these petitions approving only 19, four of which subsequently closed.

dcb

November 21st, 2012
7:54 am

Can’t argue with your statement above, Maureen – “Choice is not a substitute for adequate funding, talented teachers and strong leaders.” But could it be that the tons of money thrown at the public educational industry since the publication of “A Nation at Risk” over twenty years ago has simply proven not to be the answer? And could it be that the public’s frustration at the educational establishment’s failure to respond with something other than “more of the same” is the cause of the 58% support (not what I would call a rousing mandate but if 52% is considered just that in the presidential election, I guess this is even more so) of the recent Charter School amendment? The answer is not more “great teachers” or better administrators. Sure there are some that need weeded out. But there are plenty of real pros in our public schools out there. The problem is in the educational establishment that doesn’t recognize these are different times than when they experienced their education and professional prep. And until they adjust to the technological demands of today’s society, there will be no improvement seen in the preparation of our young people for a productive life in today’s tech-oriented world. Mark my word – you will see such changes in a great number of the charter schools that will result from this amendment. And by the way – if I hear one more time “stats don’t prove those with more tech experiences in schools provide better standardized testing results, I’ll scream. Technology these days is a way of life. Current classroom tech experiences do not treat it as such. In fact the “establishment” has no idea of how to respond. That’s the first place we need to put our money. Experimentation with tech in the classroom dictated by the students would prove enlightening and maybe open the eyes of some of our pedagogy gods …. the progress of our students won’t be harmed if the word experimentation frightens some. And the results would be a real win-win for our schools.

DeKalbParent

November 21st, 2012
7:57 am

When a school serves all children well, parents don’t go looking for other options.

And as far as legislators thinking they are done fixing Georgia schools….no way! Next session you can expect Parent Trigger legislation, which will help those children everyone says “are left behind” in failing schools.

Soothsayer

November 21st, 2012
8:00 am

Local boards are required to evaluate charter petitions using criteria provided by the Charter Schools Division of the Georgia Department of Education. Also, petitioners must prove that such a charter is needed. If a petition does not meet the criteria and/or does not prove such a need, then it should be denied. Kudos to local boards for thoroughly evaluating each petition.

Petitions/Contracts of each Georgia charter school can be found on the GaDOE website. Read the petition for the charter school in your area, and ask yourself if the school is really living up to its petition? I cannot speak for each charter school, but I can assure you that the one in my county is not. I am not against charter schools, but I am for accountability for all schools.

Concerned DeKalb Mom

November 21st, 2012
8:00 am

I think the most significant point made in Ms. Downey’s piece is the fact that the legislature, having worked to pass this amendment–and don’t think members didn’t work for it–feels that they’ve done what they need to do. I don’t expect to see our state legislature doing ANYTHING to improve the situation for the students of this state.

And without a legislative focus on improving our schools–all the public schools, not just charters–our state’s future is in serious jeopardy.

DeKalbParent

November 21st, 2012
8:02 am

BTW…the three people killed last night were killed in Decatur…close to my friendly neighborhood school, Columbia HS. I thank the voters of Georgia for ensuring Ivy Prep DeKalb remains open for my children and others.

crankee-yankee

November 21st, 2012
8:02 am

LarryMajor
November 21st, 2012
7:18 am

Interesting numbers. What is the source of your info?
What I see from it is 86% of the denied requests were deemed or proved unsound by the state and/or marketplace (and I assume the jury is still out on the remaining 14%). Pretty good support for the decisions that were handed down locally in spite of what we heard from the proponents about local denials being unfounded.
Well, the majority has gotten what it wished for (or was tricked into wishing for). Now we all have to live with the results.

teacher&mom
November 21st, 2012
6:44 am

It reminds me of a saying common when I was growing up, “How does a New Yorker say @#?% you?” They say “Trust me.”

South Georgia Retiree

November 21st, 2012
8:02 am

Thanks, Maureen, for the facts about Georgia and its charter school issue. In my opinion and as you point out, the law already provided for the approval of these schools; however, the existing law was not enough for many who wanted to override local school boards, so the legislature agreed to put the question on the ballot. I told a number of legislators during the campaign that the real issue was not charter schools but the adequate funding of public schools, as you also explain. The burden now is on the Governor, legislature, and charter school supporters to show how the new law will enhance public education. In fact, it cannot and will not improve something that has already been almost destroyed by funding cuts of almost $6 billion over 10 years. Political power, mistakes in judgement, and greed drove this issue down the throats of more than 58% of Georgia voters.

DeKalbParent

November 21st, 2012
8:04 am

@Soothsayer DeKalb turned down Ivy Prep’s charter, one reason cited “lack of community support”, yet somehow all seats were immediately filled and a wait list established. Hmmmm….

DeKalbParent

November 21st, 2012
8:05 am

More money has never shown to provide better results.

Mary Elizabeth

November 21st, 2012
8:07 am

“Instead, they have consistently disinvested in public schools while touting marketplace solutions.”
————————————————————————————-

The content in the above statement has come about, in my opinion, in large part from political forces outside of Georgia who are driven to change most, if not all, of America’s public institutions to private ones. I do not believe that their intense commitment to this goal, in terms of time, energy, and money spent, to that end will go away. Look for more legislation through Georgia’s Legislature, and through Legistures throughout the nation, to focus upon other “school choice” avenues that will continue to dismantle traditional public schools, such as the use of vouchers by every student.

One cannot deny that ALEC has a fervent interest in this public to private goal. Georgians should make a point to be aware of which of their legislators are members of ALEC and they should be particularly aware of the bills that these legislators sponsor in the coming legislative session.

crankee-yankee

November 21st, 2012
8:13 am

dcb
November 21st, 2012
7:54 am

“…the word experimentation frightens some.”

That was exactly the argument used by parents when an award-winning school I taught in switched to a “school-within-a-school” model back in the ’90’s. “NO one is gonna experiment with my kid!”

Pride and Joy

November 21st, 2012
8:16 am

Parent Trigger is next.
I’ll be marching for that one.
And so should all teachers. When a failing school continues to fail 50% or more of the parents of the school can “trigger” the school to become a charter school, which means, releasing many of the chains that drag innovation and creativity down.
All aboard!
The education train is moving. Those who want the schools to change for the better (parents and teachers) should hop on. Those who don’t want it can stay in their failing public schools.

MAY

November 21st, 2012
8:17 am

I think this article is a lot of whining from someone who didn’t get her way. It could have been reflective, thoughtful, about the future. Instead it comes across as written by a sore loser.

Pride and Joy

November 21st, 2012
8:20 am

crankee-yankee doesn’t want anyone to experiment with his kid. Neither do I. I want a proven method. One that is time tested and guaranteed but…and what we have now is time tested and guaranteed in georgia. It’s guaranteed to fail 40% of all of Georgians children because that is how many don’t graduate from high school and of those who do graduate, what is their diploma really worth?
Charter schools experimentation is not like Joseph Mengele who tried to inject blue dye into the Jewis brown eyes of children in Nazi Germany. Experimentation means trying different ways to teach kids. Today’s public school rip from a workbook paper and phtocopy it mentality just ain’t a workin’.

Dc

November 21st, 2012
8:22 am

“we have consistently underinvested….”? Are you serious? Spending per pupil has doubled in the last 30 years, even after adjusting for inflation, with zero improvement in results. But we have “under invested”?

What a complete crock. The only certaintity is that the way we have done education in the past isnt working. And blaming the customers isnt working. So maybe its time to change the product.

Too many schools are offering vinyl records to the ipod generation. Clearly the only way to change that is through competition from outside forces.

crankee-yankee

November 21st, 2012
8:25 am

Is it any wonder why ALEC is targeting states like Georgia? States with education funding largely funneled through the state legislature where convincing only the leadership in one body (state congress) to follow the piper is far easier than convincing multiple local school boards across a state like New Jersey where a larger percentage of funding is still parsed out locally?

Cindy Lutenbacher

November 21st, 2012
8:26 am

One has to be very worried when megabucks were poured into our state by the ALEC-affiliated folks who are trumpeting and planning for making profits off education (taxpayer) dollars. I’m speaking specifically of for-profit charters. That concept is in fundamental opposition to the goals of education. Thus far, for-profit charters have been abysmal failures…except in lining the pockets of a very few.

jw

November 21st, 2012
8:31 am

How many charter schools are affiliated with a religious organizations????.

Dc

November 21st, 2012
8:31 am

Ahh alec is now the villan. Not the ludicrous pouring of money into our schools with no results. Nothing to see there…….move along…..nothing here!!!

Nice try at deflection, but the issue is squarely on the schools for not figuring out how to modify the product to work with the customer. Please Quit blaming others, and do something to fix the product

Eddie Hall

November 21st, 2012
8:33 am

This was what they ( the legislature) wanted. To divide and conquer. Yes, the issue failed in my county because we do have good schools that preform well. How will we be impacted? Our local property taxes will increase, (as will others accross the state) to make up for the continued shortfall in funds from the state. Our area and the other places it failed were in the minority and they knew that. They also knew that people in what I see as failed districts lack the motovation to vote in good BOE members and improve their schools from within would be allies, as it is easier for them to vote for change in Atlanta than locally, They knew the voucher folks would be on board, and they were. They already are “dizzy” about the prospects of private schools funded with your money, and as a bonus, their monetary supporters get to run the schools, a double win for them! I have maintained we do need change and reform of our education system, but this was not it, and as Maureen states, I fear this is all we will get. (other than the bill) The amendment passed, that I will live with, but I remember who voted for it, and some of THOSE folks can’t afford to loose many votes come next election!

crankee-yankee

November 21st, 2012
8:35 am

Dc
November 21st, 2012
8:22 am

“Spending per pupil has doubled in the last 30 years, even after adjusting for inflation…”

Source for your numbers please.

Additionally, the top 10% of GA kids compare quite well with the top 10% of kids in other states. Same with the top 25% vs. top 25%. But when you compare 80% or more of GA students to the top 10% of the students out of state, of course the results look dismal.

indigo

November 21st, 2012
8:39 am

Georgia Republican politicians have satisfied their Christian fundamentalist base with this amendment. Fundamentalist parents will now pack local school boards with their ilk and schools will be teaching creationism, a 6,000 year old Earth, the absolute truth of The New Testament and the evils of science.

Georgia is not in last place for nothing. We work at it!!!!!!!!!!!

Dc

November 21st, 2012
8:39 am

Crankee….ive posted the dept of ed info on that many times. Just search for it on the internet.

CJae of EAV

November 21st, 2012
8:40 am

@Crankee-Yankee & @ Mary Elizabeth – Both of your observations with regard to the growing influence of ALEC on state level policy making is well founded.

mark

November 21st, 2012
8:52 am

From a different article on AJC.com

“Deep budget cuts over the last several years have helped to undermine the well-being of average Georgians, and they continue to compromise the state’s path to economic recovery.”

According to a local think tank, the charter school choice is worthless, as long as it remains underfunded,. I guess all the hoop-la was over nothing.

mark

November 21st, 2012
8:55 am

“Deep budget cuts over the last several years have helped to undermine the well-being of average Georgians, and they continue to compromise the state’s path to economic recovery.”

I don’t think choice has to do with success.

Jarod Apperson

November 21st, 2012
8:57 am

“No one who looks at the performance of charter schools in those states where there are many more of them could argue that they have been a transformative agent.”

I think this is an unfair statement. Because charter schools’ growth is such a recent phenomenon, we aren’t currently able to analyze any long-term impacts on things like college completion, incarceration, or teenage pregnancy. All that is available now is test scores.

In places where charter schools are more prevalent, the impact on test scores has indeed been transformative. NYC has 32 districts. District 5 covers central Harlem. In 2006, the district ranked 28th in Math and 26th in English. Now 25% of District 5 students are enrolled in charter schools, and the district as a whole (i.e. including all the students in traditional schools) ranks 16th in Math and 18th in English. The charters in the district rank even higher, 5th in both Math and English. This transformation has occurred at a time when NYC as a whole has steadily risen relative to the rest of the state.

I think it is fair to say that we don’t know whether charter schools success on tests will lead to transformative life outcomes for their students, but the evidence available so far seems to point to “they might” more than “they certainly won’t.”

In Georgia, we certainly shouldn’t put all of our eggs in one basket, but charter schools seem like a good place to put several eggs.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444358804578018410937727422.html

teacher&mom

November 21st, 2012
8:57 am

@Dekalb Parent: “When a school serves all children well, parents don’t go looking for other options.”

Perhaps….but what about the districts/schools that are already serving students well? What will happen when more and more funds are cut from the public schools to cover the creation of more charter schools in less performing districts. Don’t give me “the money will follow the student” line of BS. Charter schools don’t just “happen” overnight. Start-up costs have the potential to make a huge dent in the public school budget.

More money will be drained from all districts…good/average/low to fund an experiment based on the ideology that competition in education is the cure.

Look to states that have put all their educational eggs in the charter school basket. Research what is happening in Arizona, NOLA, Florida, NY.

http://nepc.colorado.edu/blog/still-searching-miracle-schools-and-superguy-updates-houston-and-new-york-city

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/20121016insiders-benefiting-charter-deals.html

http://nepc.colorado.edu/blog/may-i-have-envelope-please-and-pulitzer-education-reporting-goes-…

Dunwoody Mom

November 21st, 2012
9:09 am

I will be curious to see, after all this drama and expense, how many charter schools will actually come to fruition?

I would think a better answer would be to allow the ability to create smaller school districts. That is really “local control”. I am placing my support 100% behind the effort of the City of Dunwoody legislative team in their efforts to have the constitution changed to allow the creation of school districts.

Tucker

November 21st, 2012
9:15 am

The current legislature is the most ignorant in modern times. Fortunately they are working hard to get rid of modern times.

no name used

November 21st, 2012
9:22 am

“authorized nine out of 10 of the existing 108 charter schools now operating in Georgia.”

Deceptive statistic. What percentage of TOTAL APPLICATIONS did local boards approve?

Charter schools were never meant to be the “magic bullet” to save education. They were meant to give at least one more option for parents to get their kids out of schools they are unhappy with.

And in a lot of cases, people voted FOR the charter school amendment in hopes that the competition would force traditional schools to address their own problems so that parents would have no reason to want to send their kids to charter schools. I fall into that category.

If all those who put forth their energies to defeating Amendment #1 would put the same energy into addressing the REAL issues with current schools, you would see less charters. The REAL issues don’t require money, they only require a backbone. Sadly, that is what is lacking (I am talking about ADMINISTRATORS, not teachers).

Can we have a LIKE button for this?

I voted yes for it because of the same reason. Competition will hopefully make the schools better. I homeschooled my own and 30 others in MS (with a co-teacher) in our living rooms and kitchens. We did it on very little money. The kids got a good education, and it was proven to several that throwing money at a situation is not the answer.

Ron F.

November 21st, 2012
9:22 am

@crankee and ME- it is the ALEC connection to this that bothers me. If this were solely about innovation in school design, I’d be a lot more willing to consider it. The kids I teach every day require constant innovation to reach and motivate them. Experimental design might be good, as schools need flexibility to find what works best for the kids they serve. That said, the overshadowing politics of this, pushed by an organization whose overriding goal is to undo anything remotely democratic, makes this smell like the mess it is. And that, in my opinion, is only going to make this yet another colossal example of the failure of far-right extreme politics. I just pray TRS stays intact and that I make it to retirement before they destroy the entire system.

Ron F.

November 21st, 2012
9:25 am

“The kids got a good education, and it was proven to several that throwing money at a situation is not the answer.”

no name: congratulations on the willingness to be the teacher and the commitment to your children. One reason you could do it so cheaply was the lack of politics in your decision. You did solely what was best for your kids. Options need to be available, but this amendment is the result of political will and polarization of political thought in this state. If it were just about the kids, it might not be so controversial. It’s not, and that’s what makes it suspect to me.

living in an outdated ed system

November 21st, 2012
9:26 am

@Maureen, you need to move on. Voters have spoken. This newspaper missed the point completely and chose to follow your advice and issue a formal editorial opposing the amendment. Remember that public charter schools would not be needed if traditional public schools were doing their job. They have not shown any ability to modernize an education system, and research shows that it is NOT about the funding.

For the sake of this community, it is time to move on, learn from this, and look at the process of implementation. If it is executed successfully, then we will see a marked improvement in academic achievement. However,it would be naive to expect favorable change to be immediate. But it will happen if we do it right.

This critique is not meant at you directly, but people who opposed this amendment do not understand one iota why you can not let a local monopoly be the sole authorizer of charter school applications. And lets not forget that the amendment was created to reflect this escalation mechanism. Charter schools will still look to collaborating with their local school boards, but we also know that these boards have never been kind to charters and will seek to delay or deny their applications.

Time to move on – the voters have spoken, and they chose giving education reform a chance. You are incorrect when you say that charter schools are the magic bullet. They are one type of reform measure. Many others are sorely needed!

crankee-yankee

November 21st, 2012
9:27 am

Dc
November 21st, 2012
8:39 am

Your claim holds little water.
Verifiable numbers I found for the past decade…

2001 = $6,405, 2011 = $6,280 – Local & State inflation adjusted funding combined. Note the decrease.

QBE State Infl. Adj. Funding 2001 = $3,600, 2011 = $3.100 (approx). Note the decrease.

State Share of Ed Funding 2001 = 60%, 2011 = 50%.

My source, Georgia Budget & Policy Institute

“The new normal for school systems entails a decade-long trend of cuts in state funding for public education.
Consequently, a decade after the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, per pupil spending for FY
2011, adjusted for inflation, was lower than its FY 2001 level.”

http://gbpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/fy2013-budget-analysis-pk-12-education-05162012-FINAL.pdf

I am sure funding was lower in 1982 but I have found no numbers for that. However, GA education at that time was dreadfully underfunded as it was not until Zell Miller began pushing for increased Ed. funding in the 90’s that improving results began. Improvement began to be stifled with NCLB in the early 00’s. Look it up.

Pride and Joy

November 21st, 2012
9:28 am

I’m joinging Dunwoody Mom in her effort to create more school districts. Smaller districts have smaller pots of money and no need for large bureacracies. The EduRats at APS have so much money they can steal it without much notice. They can hid incompetence with “Gee, I didn’t know I have ten high schools in my district.”
One high school or two in a district. That’s it. REAL LOCAL control means dividing APS into four districts.
GO DUNWOODY MOM. I am marching with you.

living in an outdated ed system

November 21st, 2012
9:28 am

Oh – and one more hole in the argument against charter schools.

From the Center on Reinventing Public Education (11/20/12):

New study suggests charter schools may not systematically under-enroll students with special needs

Seattle, WA, November 20, 2012 – A fresh examination of special education enrollment patterns in New York State suggests that charter schools may be doing better at enrolling students with special needs than many believe.

The issue arises in part from a federal General Accounting Office (GAO) report that said, at the national level, charter schools enroll fewer students with special needs than schools run by districts.

In the aggregate that may be true; but new research comparing New York State’s district-run schools with charter schools finds important variations in the enrollment patterns of students with special needs. The study, conducted by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) and commissioned by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), looked at special education enrollment in individual schools, grade levels, neighborhoods, and in the portfolios of schools under different authorizers to present a more accurate picture.

“Although certainly some charter schools are not meeting their responsibilities in special education, our data indicate that the simplest explanation—that charters don’t want to serve these kids and are sending them away—is not really a good characterization of the story,” said Robin Lake, Director at CRPE.

CRPE’s study, New York State Special Education Enrollment Analysis, uncovered four key findings on the question of whether charter schools under-enroll students with special needs:
• At the middle and high school levels, the average enrollment figures are actually higher in charter schools than in district-run schools and the distribution and range are almost indistinguishable.
• A marked difference in special education student enrollments, however, does appear when charter elementary schools are compared with their district-run counterparts.
• While some authorizers oversee schools with special needs enrollments that “closely track those of nearby district-run schools, other authorizers oversee groups of schools that don’t mirror” the special education enrollments of their district-run neighbors.
The report demonstrates a need for more research and a better understanding of enrollment data for students with special needs in order to explain the differences uncovered by the analysis. Part of the difference in elementary schools may be that some district-run schools offer programs that attract more students with special needs.

Charter schools at the elementary level might also be less inclined to label students as needing special education services. This raises a troubling question: are charter schools under-enrolling or under-identifying students with special needs, or are district-run schools over-identifying them?

The authors point out that there likely are access and quality issues that need to be addressed in charter schools, but policy solutions need to recognize the complexity of the issues. For example, the research indicates that setting statewide special education enrollment targets may be less effective than school or regional targets that pay careful attention to those very specific factors that influence such enrollment choices as locations, grade-spans, and neighborhoods. Moreover, explicit efforts to develop charter school programs that better address the needs of special education students might more effectively increase enrollment and improve the quality of service for these students than simply setting a target.

“This report underscores the need to understand these issues more deeply,“ said Alex Medler, Vice President of Policy at NACSA. “To ensure all students have equal access to charter schools and are well served by them, we need to understand all the possible obstacles, and what the schools, their authorizers, and the surrounding districts can do to make that a reality.”

New York State Special Education Enrollment Analysis, by Robin Lake, Betheny Gross, and Patrick Denice, is available at http://www.crpe.org.

Mountain Man

November 21st, 2012
9:28 am

“Spending per pupil has doubled in the last 30 years, even after adjusting for inflation…”

“Source for your numbers please.”

Here is one source – I can’t dig it out just for Georgia:

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d04/tables/dt04_163.asp

It shows, nationwide, that we spent $471 in 1960 per student , which is $2856 in inflation-adjusted dollars. For 2001, we spent an average of $9614. I am sure with enough research you could find more recent numbers and maybe numbers for Georgia.