Can parents trust the state with control of their schools?

charterartMany people in DeKalb and other counties are losing faith in the ability of local education leaders to responsibly manage their schools.

Can they trust state leaders to govern more responsibly?

That’s a question more Georgia parents may be asking if Gov. Nathan Deal wins greater control over local schools systems. And that, reports the AJC’s Greg Bluestein and Ty Tagami, is Deal’s intent.

In 1989, New Jersey became the first state to take over a school district. Now, the majority of states have some legal mechanism to seize control of a troubled district. But research suggests that state intervention does not always solve problems.

That’s because a state bureaucracy can be even more sluggish and unyielding than a local one. And states don’t always have the money or the staffing to turn around struggling systems.

So, while states may come in and rearrange things, they don’t necessarily dramatically improve them as recent takeovers in Philadelphia and Roosevelt, N.Y., demonstrate

According to the AJC story:

Deal took considerable criticism by wading into DeKalb after SACS found the local board to be a dysfunctional mess. He says DeKalb’s problems aren’t unique, but Georgia law sets up an unwieldy “one-legged stool” that only allows the state to intervene over governance issues rather than, say, academics.

That legislation he wants will start taking shape after the 40-day legislative session ends Thursday. But some lawmakers are already raising questions about the role SACS will play in a new setup. House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams said more state oversight is needed in the accreditation process.

“Accreditation is a necessary part of maintaining a school system, but it doesn’t abdicate our responsibility to monitor the school systems,” said Abrams, who said the state has done a “poor job” in tracking school performance.

SACS is not the only accrediting agency in Georgia, but it is the dominant one. The Alpharetta-based company monitors more than 2,500 Georgia schools and 140 of the state’s 180 public school districts. In recent years, SACS has drawn increased scrutiny for a string of high-profile decisions involving Georgia schools, including a 2008 decision that removed Clayton County’s school accreditation.

SACS has placed several Georgia school districts on probation, saddling DeKalb with that unwanted distinction in December with a report depicting a frustratingly dysfunctional school board. Its report helped prod Deal to suspend and then replace six board members this month.

It still seems likely that SACS will play an important role in whatever plan legislators hash out with Deal. Leading lawmakers have shown little appetite for creating a new state-run accrediting agency, and few rivals have the resources or clout to readily step in.

Mark Elgart, who heads the firm that oversees SACS, said he would cooperate with the governor and lawmakers. He said he supports allowing broader state powers to rein in struggling schools, but the more difficult part may be sustaining that intervention.

“That’s where the state has to be thoughtful about how they amend the law and the mechanisms for intervention. Some states have struggled with the capacity to do it, ” said Elgart. “Once you go in and intervene, you take some ownership. And if you aren’t positioned to do it, you’re in trouble.”

But the specter of increased state intervention has split many parents and activists who don’t want their duly elected officials ousted by the state — but also want an emergency trigger if their representatives can’t get their act together.

“I have an issue with any imposition on voting rights, ” said Marcia Coward, who heads the DeKalb County Council of PTAs. “But my bigger issue and bigger passion lies with children and what is best for them. And that’s why I support state intervention.”

Any debate over those roles should inevitably involve SACS, which she said wields too much influence.

“We need to look at alternate accreditation processes,” she said. “What really froths me is that our system is put in jeopardy by an organization that finds issues that have absolutely nothing to do with student achievement.”

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

89 comments Add your comment

Bobby Elrod

March 27th, 2013
7:40 am

Can they trust the State any less than the previous Dekalb board?

dc

March 27th, 2013
7:53 am

When the current approach isn’t effective (OK…let’s be honest, in many ways, isn’t working at all), the funders (taxpayers) and clients (parents) will look for alternatives. That’s why teachers need to come up with ideas that actually change, might hurt (the teachers) in the short run, but make a positive difference. And….once again….”MORE MONEY” isn’t an idea that is at all realistic. The rest of the world is doing more with less, schools have got to do the same.

Until teachers and educrats begin to come up with actual ideas to delver better results, for less money, the rest of the world will support almost anything that promises change.

Doug Eliot

March 27th, 2013
8:03 am

DC, why did you place “(the teachers)” in parentheses?

What's Best for Kids?

March 27th, 2013
8:05 am

@dc,
Teachers have lots of ideas that are practical and research based. What people/school boards/parents/community members don’t want to hear is what those teachers have to say.
If teaching conditions were better, i.e.: students were better behaved and the consequences for poor behavior were more stringent, I assure you that more learning and better learning would happen.

catlady

March 27th, 2013
8:06 am

In a word, NO. We cannot trust the state or, most importantly, SACS.

Centrist

March 27th, 2013
8:18 am

Once again this blog headline puts the solution to the gross problem of Dekalb County in a biased, negative light.

Our elected State representatives passed the solution in both chambers of the legislature and uses the professional SACS thorough investigation, Hearing and recommendation as a condition for the Governor to consider before making his decision whether to replace a dysfunctional Board. The blogger and posters attack SACS, the legislature, and the Governor for political reasons even while they admit the Dekalb School Board is a total mess. Putting politics above what is best for the children in Dekalb is disgusting, and denying it is almost as bad.

What's Best for Kids?

March 27th, 2013
8:18 am

And schools would do more with less, but there are federal mandates that force schools to spend a lot (and I mean a whole lot) of money. If those mandates weren’t in place and schools could br run locally without intervention from the state and the federal government, many of the issues would disappear.
Example: a child is a behavior issue (cursing teachers, staff, assistant principals, etc.). Child is special education. Child can only be isolated for ten days (In school suspension, out of school suspension total). What happens after that? Nothing. Child can run around naked and screaming, ruining learning for every other kid within his or her proximity, and nothing happens.
That, my friends, is what happens when the government gets involved with education.

Cellophane

March 27th, 2013
8:24 am

The State likely has no intention of managing the school districts “taken over” under this plan. They would simply turn these schools over to private management companies and wash their hands of the low performers, shirking all financial responsibility and accountability.

Looking for the truth

March 27th, 2013
8:27 am

Trust is a personal thing. Either someone earns it, or they don’t. Do you trust you doctor? Your lawyer? Your accountant?

If your school system has earned your trust, don’t let situations like DeKalb erode that trust. That would be like suspecting your spouse of cheating just because your neighbor cheated. If you don’t have suspicions that something is wrong, it’s likely nothing is wrong. If you think otherwise, then act on it.

Under no circumstance would I trust state bureaucrats, given what’s been done to state support of local schools over the last few years!!

Don't Tread

March 27th, 2013
8:29 am

Who knows if the State (or the new school board) will be any more effective than the previous school board? By the time we find out, the kids in this system will have paid the price.

Vouchers would solve this quickly, at least for those kids whose parents are actually parenting.

teacherwantingachange

March 27th, 2013
8:31 am

This Dekalb teacher saw no other solution for our failing county.

So far, though, I’ve seen window dressing-Thurmond (like his predecessor) has spent 32 days talking to the community. The new board is encouraging and asked some good questions last week, but if the same people who didn’t know what they were doing before are supplying the information (or misinformation), how much will change?

In the end, I think concerned parents (and teachers-if more of us spoke up) are the only ones who will make a change. And that leaves the students needing the most from public education as victims of the business of education that supplies so much money to people who never work with children and packages/programs that rarely benefit students.

jerry eads

March 27th, 2013
8:51 am

For most of my years working in state gummints I would frequently joke to groups with whom I was speaking “I’m from the state and I’m here to help you.” If there was dead silence, I knew it was going to be a long day. If they could laugh, I knew we were going to have fun.

My experience would suggest that there won’t be much laughing here. With some wonderful exceptions, there aren’t many educators who gravitate to state-level work who have the talent, skill and experience necessary to make a district work any better than disfunctional local school management. That said, shaking up a system that won’t budge at least provides hope that SOMETHING might change – hopefully for the better.

On the other hand, I find the cluster law article in today’s print rather heartening. Parents AND local teachers and school leaders working TOGETHER to distance themselves from the disfunction of a central school board to work toward a better local and smaller system will be interesting to watch. Wish them the best.

BT

March 27th, 2013
8:53 am

In the meantime, teachers and administrators are at the mercy of those who “know what is best of our schools”. We are the ones taking the heat for the dysfunctions from above. I struggle with being told what to do by those who have no idea what they are doing.

Georgia Coach

March 27th, 2013
8:55 am

@what’s best ou have no understanding ofthe laws that govern the discipline as it pertains to special needs children. It is possible to place such a child in an alternative environment if they are disruptive.

It requires the principal to be proactive and to follow the law meticulously in regard to determining if the behavior is a manifestation of the disability. Most of the time it is not. Special needs children have the same right to an education as everyone else.

Mountain Man

March 27th, 2013
8:59 am

“Can parents trust the state with control of their schools?”

Can parents trust the LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD with control of their schools? The answer in a lot of cases is NO.

dc

March 27th, 2013
8:59 am

I get that it’s hard…..and very tempting to fall back on blaming federal mandates and other govt dictates for our current issues. But clearly that approach is just going to end up w/ the funders and the clients being willing to accept other ideas and alternatives, that aren’t necessarily teacher led. Or at least “traditional public school” teacher led.

And maybe the answer is that, due in part to these dictates, the current approach can’t be fixed, and has to be replaced. I hope not.

Mountain Man

March 27th, 2013
9:00 am

“Special needs children have the same right to an education as everyone else.”

Yes, but does that education have to be conducted in the same CLASSROOM as everyone else?

Mountain Man

March 27th, 2013
9:03 am

“In a word, NO. We cannot trust the state or, most importantly, SACS.”

So sho DO you trust, Catlady? Don’t tell me you trust the old Dekalb county BOE.

Mountain Man

March 27th, 2013
9:05 am

“I’m from the state and I’m here to help you.”

That is up there with “I will respect you in the morning” and “the check is in the mail”.

reality check

March 27th, 2013
9:06 am

I don’t trust the State to do a good long term job. Interventions need to be of short duration.

SACS has earned my distrust.

I don’t much care for the Cobb County School Board, but by comparison to DeKalb maybe I shouldn’t complain as much as I have and will.

I don’t trust administration. I have seen arrogance and ignorance there.

I like teachers the best by far, but I don’t trust anybody very much.

I do trust my ability to get my children raised, educated and productive. I’ve overcome the challenges and all 4 are doing very well.

Now I plan to be a burden to them in my old age.

dc

March 27th, 2013
9:06 am

@doug, (the teachers) was because, in my families experience, one of the biggest issues is that the best and worst teachers are treated basically the same by the admin – When the teachers in a typical school are all pretty much rated and paid the same, regardless of actual value (performance), then over time, the best teachers will wear down, and give up. After all, it’s hard work to be a great teacher, and while the “reward of seeing kids achieve” is great, it’s not enough over time to sustain the effort required.

So the short term pain comment relates to the need for teachers as a whole to accept that there needs to be a change to the way they are rated, evaluated, and paid. Sadly, it might be that the only way to do this is to get away from the traditional schooling model – again, I hope not.

Mountain Man

March 27th, 2013
9:15 am

Let’s be real here. The law that Gov. Deal used to replace the Dekalb County BOE was a last-ditch mechanism to be used in only the worst cases. Apparently, so would be the new law they are working on. Losing SACS accreditation is something tht has happened to only one in a thousand systems. No one is disputing that Dekalb system was broken. Most of the criticism about SACS I have read is that they don’t DO ENOUGH (did not censure APS for the cheating scandal). The other side says that SACS has not produced EVIDENCE – like those lawyers that know their client is guilty but wants to argue that the evidence was mishandled. They want to use a loophole to get the Board members out of hot water. These are cases where it is clear that SOMEONE needs to take over, and the State is the right one to do it.

Freedom Works

March 27th, 2013
9:17 am

“Their schools”? What a load. These schools are owned by the government and if some bunch of unaccountable bureaucrats decide, your house will suddenly be rezoned into another different school. If the state decides to mandate a horrible curriculum, that will be implemented. These schools do not belong to the people. They belong to the government and the government most certainly is NO LONGER the people (despite what they indoctrinate you with in government schools).

The real question is why do parents trust the government with control of their children?

Madge From Accounting

March 27th, 2013
9:20 am

Can answer your question succinctly – NO.

How can we put our trust in people who suffer ETHICS violations?

How can we trust them not to sell our children down the river to the highest (school vouchers) bidder?

How can we trust a man who (miraculously), got out of $2m+ debt in (I’m going to try to bold this part), less than 6 months, while making only $300K/year?

I’m amazed how the FEAR card is being played so successfully by the State and how gullible a lot of Georgians are that they’ve fallen for it.

Georgians voted down TSPLOTS because they didn’t trust the state with their funds. They voted down a one cent tax increase to support emergency centers in rural areas because they didn’t trust the state — but now they’re going to sit back and allow that same state to take over their children’s future? How crazy is that?

Ronin

March 27th, 2013
9:24 am

Can you trust the state to manage your local school? uh, no.
Can you trust the local school board to not play politics and consider the benefit of all k-12 students vs. the employment of their extended family? in many cases, no.

This links to the topic from yesterday: vouchers. Involved/concerned parents will find the right school if given a choice. It may be a charter school that excels in math or a private school that specializes in music and arts. It may mean that this changes the face of education as we know it, which could be a good thing.

Lynn43

March 27th, 2013
9:25 am

Dysfunction schools are the only ones about which we read giving the public the perception that none are working and none are successful. Maureen, come look at my system. No fussing among Board members-we don’t aways agree, but we know how to agree to disagree. Our schools buildings are in great shape. We have no problem with SAC. We have great programs. Pupil-teacher ratio is reasonable, still 180 student school days, nurses in every school, the Arts flourish, successful athletic programs offered, academic success at every school, a technical school to die for, and money is tight but so far, no problems. All this and not one of our legislators like public schools or supports us. We are doing fine without state intervention so, Governor, leave us alone. We know what we are doing.

Anonymous in DeKalb

March 27th, 2013
9:27 am

“But research suggests that state intervention does not always solve problems.”

What kind of a weasel statement is that, Maureen? The thing parents in failing school districts will be hoping for is some glimmer of hope that conditions will finally get better under new management—and that the scapegoating, and the excuses for inaction, will cease!

Furthermore, I’m sure the Governor would much rather avoid getting involved at all—unless local incompetence and malfeasance force his hand, as in DeKalb.

Mountain Man

March 27th, 2013
9:30 am

“We are doing fine without state intervention so, Governor, leave us alone. We know what we are doing.”

And there is no law currently or proposed that would take control of your school away from you.

BTW, where is this school system of yours? Are you blogging from FINLAND?

Madge From Accounting

March 27th, 2013
9:32 am

Furthermore, I’m sure the Governor would much rather avoid getting involved at all—unless local incompetence and malfeasance force his hand, as in DeKalb.

I hope you don’t put any money down on that one — you’d loose.

Deal, who suffers from SERIOUS ethics issues, would not only LOVE to get involved, he’ll cut a side deal for himself, and his family, to the detriment of every child in the state of Georgia.

Lets take the POLITICS and the BUREAUCRACY out of the hands of politicians and give it back to the teachers.

TEACHERS know far more about what’s needed in schools, than a shady politician would.

Mountain Man

March 27th, 2013
9:34 am

“I’m amazed how the FEAR card is being played so successfully by the State and how gullible a lot of Georgians are that they’ve fallen for it.”

Remember, Madge from Accounting, the current law allowing State replacement of board members was not passed until after the Clayton County debacle. There is a REASON these laws are passed. If you don’t want them passed, clean up your own living room first.

Mountain Man

March 27th, 2013
9:37 am

“TEACHERS know far more about what’s needed in schools, than a shady politician would.”

To a certain extent that is true. But NO ONE listens to teachers, certainly not the ADMINISTRATORS of their own schools. Parents don’t listen to teachers. Board members don’t listen to teachers. Politicians don’t listen to teachers.

zeke

March 27th, 2013
9:38 am

No! If you think they can be trusted with the minds of your children, just look at the socialist agenda schemes they promote! Begins in Pre-K or K! The first day, after you have purchased all the things your child needs, the teacher, and, I use that term lightly, tells your child that they have to put all their supplies into a communal box or such, SO THAT EVERYONE CAN USE THEM AND THOSE THAT HAVE NONE CAN USE THEM! The very first lesson in being a good socialist! RIDICULOUS!

Mountain Man

March 27th, 2013
9:39 am

Teachers hurt their credibility by insisting that the problem alone is MONEY. Politicians know that money is tight, got even tighter during the recession, but teachers did not want to suffer any fallout from that belt-tightening.

What's Best for Kids?

March 27th, 2013
9:48 am

@Georgia Coach,
I know exactly what I am talking about. A child can get compensatory education at the expense of the school, or a special education teacher can go in and serve the child for however many hours the child is served in the regular setting. That requires more money from the school, which you and I both know is prohibitive.

Madge From Accounting

March 27th, 2013
9:58 am

Hmmm, that should’ve said, “Lets take the POLITICS and the BUREAUCRACY in education out of the hands………….blah, blah, blah.

Sorry!

Madge From Accounting

March 27th, 2013
10:04 am

Remember, Madge from Accounting, the current law allowing State replacement of board members was not passed until after the Clayton County debacle.

Don’t you find it strange that one school district out of 181 triggered that rush to implement that law?

For the past decade, certain politicians have been talking about changing the state system into a voucher system – however they didn’t have a reason to do that because the local school boards were doing just fine.

Now all of a sudden you have ONE out of ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY ONE, that’s a problem and voila, there needs to be a fix so that EVERY school district can fall under the Gold Dome’s hands.

Seems mighty peculiar to me.

Madge From Accounting

March 27th, 2013
10:08 am

Teachers hurt their credibility by insisting that the problem alone is MONEY. Politicians know that money is tight, got even tighter during the recession, but teachers did not want to suffer any fallout from that belt-tightening.

Money is tight? Do you often wonder WHY? Here’s one reason:

Amid budget cuts, lawmakers seek millions in tax breaks

First they wring their hands about not having enough money to fund things like for schools and public health care. And then they dole out expensive special-interest tax breaks that ensure that they have trouble funding schools and public health care.

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/amid-budget-cuts-lawmakers-seek-millions-in-tax-br/nWWDn/

THAT’s ^^ why you can’t trust Politicians………………

Pride and Joy

March 27th, 2013
10:08 am

Not a good question.
A “state” is no more good/evil than a “local government.” Whether or not one can trust one over the other depends on the ethics and morals of individuals in those jobs.
In Dekalb County, we know for sure that the local BOE had the morals and ethics of a bunch of alley cats in heat.
Yes, Governor Deal is better than that pack of mangey, flea-bag, rabid alley cats (and I apologize to offending cats).
The former Dekalb Co BOE and the people who voted them in are low-lifes (Jester excluded).Governor Deal is waaay better than they are and I say that as a Democrat who voted for Obama twice.

Mountain Man

March 27th, 2013
10:10 am

The only people that parents can entrust to look after the best interest of their kids is themselves. That is why school choice is important to parents who care about their children’s education. Not everyone can sell their house and move to a different county (especially in today’s housing market). Not everyone has someone who can homeschool their child(ren). Not everyone can aford private school. That effectively left a lot of parents TRAPPED in their local school system. Thank goodness we at least have a chance at a Charter school.

Madge From Accounting

March 27th, 2013
10:12 am

I know exactly what I am talking about. A child can get compensatory education at the expense of the school, or a special education teacher can go in and serve the child for however many hours the child is served in the regular setting.

My godchild was special needs (cerebal palsy) and went to regular school. He was housed with other “special needs children” in a separate classroom (about 10 kids).

That’s how it is in most school districts in Georgia.

Mountain Man

March 27th, 2013
10:13 am

“Don’t you find it strange that one school district out of 181 triggered that rush to implement that law?”

How many school districts before that had actually LOST their accreditation? I know several were placed on probation (including Cherokee in 1998), but they made the needed changes before actually LOSING accreditation.

mathmom

March 27th, 2013
10:14 am

OMG. Too bad people can’t remember how it was before NCLB and GPS – federal and state mandates that have, essentially, destroyed our schools. You know, back when local school boards could actually do what they needed to do without having to deal with all of this government complexity. However incompetent a local school board is, the members can be voted out. We can’t say the same for the bureaucrats at DOE, many of whom are amazingly clueless about education. Most legislators know nothing about education, but they may (or may not) be good with other issues – do we vote them out of office if we don’t like what they do with the schools even though they are good at other things? The governor’s office and the state superintendent’s office have both been known to “go after” teachers who dare to criticize their programs. State control? Please, no.

Maureen Downey

March 27th, 2013
10:15 am

@Anonymous, If parents looked at the outcomes of state intervention in Newark, Philly or Roosevelt, N.Y., they will not be heartened. Can’t pretend otherwise.
Maureen

Pride and Joy

March 27th, 2013
10:15 am

Zeke, I feel your pain.
I hate what you’ve described. It happens to me as well.
Here’s how to thwart the idiots who promote this program.
I buy chdeap communal property — generic brand stuff.
What I do instead:
I buy the supplies I want my kids to have.
I then put their first and last name on EVERY piece of school supply I purchased and I put it in their back backs for them to use only.
Every single crayon I mark “FIRST NAME LAST NAME ”
I tell my children to ONLY use the supplies I purchased for them and instruct them to use them and share them ONLY if they want to.

Madge From Accounting

March 27th, 2013
10:16 am

If they start the school voucher program in Georgia based on the model program in Louisiana, and a couple of other states, then I’m going to start a petition that allows me, a woman over 50 with grown children, to opt OUT of paying taxes into the system.

Since I don’t have any children in school, i should NOT have to pay for someone else’s kids to go to school — my tax dollars, just like those parents who want those vouchers, go into the school system too. and I don’t even have a “dog in the fight” so to speak.

It cuts both ways. Parents want vouchers to supplement their children’s education OUT of the school district that THEY CHOSE to live in?

Then I want a voucher OUT of paying taxes for a school when I have no children of school age attending.

skipper

March 27th, 2013
10:16 am

Maureen,
It is sad, and race is brought into it, but Dekalb is a prime example of incompetent voters electing incompetent people! something had to be done. It is a crying shame that kids had to suffer at the hands of incapable buffoons, and dummies put them in. If folks are so backwards that they vote in folks like this, then by God it is time to do something, period!

Mountain Man

March 27th, 2013
10:18 am

“My godchild was special needs (cerebal palsy) and went to regular school. He was housed with other “special needs children” in a separate classroom (about 10 kids).”

And I know some parents who were not happy about the SPED their child was getting, so they sued the school and the school had to pay $20,000 per year to send the child to an out-of-state facility in Florida. Now where do you think the money for that (and defending the lawsuit) came from? I will give you a hint: from funds used to educate the REST of the students.

Madge From Accounting

March 27th, 2013
10:23 am

How many school districts before that had actually LOST their accreditation?

Don’t know — that’s a Maureen question, (she’s the expert!)

Richard

March 27th, 2013
10:24 am

Maureen,

Better question for you: can students trust their parents with control of their education?

It’s true that the state can’t be trusted with this control since they aren’t educators, but last I checked, parents aren’t generally educators either.

The only people I would have confidence in to control education are teachers. Shame we don’t let them.

Madge From Accounting

March 27th, 2013
10:32 am

Not everyone can sell their house and move to a different county (especially in today’s housing market). Not everyone has someone who can homeschool their child(ren). Not everyone can aford private school. That effectively left a lot of parents TRAPPED in their local school

Baloney.

My husband died and left me with 4 kids to raise, I was a single parent for years until I remarried when I was in my early 40’s ( I was going to lie about my age, then I remembered this is an anonymous blog! You wouldn’t know how old I was when I got remarried!).

Anyway at that time I lived in an aging school district — my kids were about the only kids on that block and the school wasn’t filled up to capacity. My local school board, rightfully so, decided to close the school down and when they did that, my children would’ve had to be bussed cross town to an inferior school.

So what did I do? At the time I worked all the way out in another county from the county where I lived — I got an apartment in that county so that I became a legal resident there and my kids went to school there.

I kept that place until my last child graduated from school and went to college – never lived there; sometimes would go through and “pretend” someone was living there full time; but that’s what I did to ensure that my children went to a better school than the one they were designated to attend.

So this bunk about how hard it is, tell that to someone who didn’t raise 4 kids on her own as a single parent for years. My last child was in high school by the time I remarried so the full weight was on my shoulders.

If a parent sincerely want whats best for their children, then they’ll make a way.