After anti-charter schools ruling, no more hemming and hawing over real school choice

The Georgia Supreme Court has struck down the law creating the state’s Charter Schools Commission, ruling that the Georgia Constitution permits only local school systems to operate public k-12 schools except under a very narrow set of circumstances.

The school administrators and board members giving one another high-fives this morning are no doubt educated enough to know what a Pyrrhic victory is. May they learn, very soon, exactly what such a victory looks like.

For some time now, charter schools have been the preferred instrument of school choice for those people — and particularly state lawmakers — conscious enough to recognize the failings of our public schools but too timid to support any game-changing reforms. The problem until 2008, when the Legislature passed the Georgia Charter Schools Commission Act, was that only local school systems had the authority to approve charter schools. Given the education establishment’s hostility to competition, many applications were rejected.

It was like asking any monopoly to approve and fund a new set of serious competitors. Fat chance.

The court’s ruling, released this morning, takes us back to pre-2008 conditions. The promising growth of new and innovative charter schools — many of them part of national chains with long track records of success in other states — is all but certain to evaporate.

And those legislators who have hidden behind charter schools when the topic of further school choice — such as vouchers or meaningful expansions of the tax-credit scholarship — have a lot less to hide behind now.

Their timidity led to the kind of embarrassment we saw during this past legislative session, when the sizable Republican majority in the Senate couldn’t bring itself to support vouchers even for the children of military families and foster kids.

Well, they have much less of an excuse for such cravenness in the future.

If a (4 to 3) majority of the Georgia Supreme Court believes the Legislature has no constitutional authority to approve charter schools, these justices have no grounds for denying the legislative prerogative for apportioning tax dollars to education.

Everything needs to be on the table — everything, that is, except the same old excuses. And let the King Pyrrhuses of the educational status quo, which fails too many students and, with them, society, decide how pleased they really are with today’s victory.

– By Kyle Wingfield

Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter

100 comments Add your comment

retired early

May 16th, 2011
10:01 am

Kyle

We just need the Governor to form another committee to “study the problem”.

retired early

May 16th, 2011
10:02 am

Oh and…first!!!

that's goofy

May 16th, 2011
10:14 am

2600+ in Cherokee County wanted a charter school. What did our Republican Representatives – the leaders of choice do to make sure we would have a choice? Nothing. It was obvious in October when the Supreme Court delayed the ruling that the commission was going to be ruled unconstitutional.

I still oppose vouchers or any choice plan that educates students w/o the accountability (tests) administered in public schools. The charter school students still had to take the CRCT and allow open enrollment (based on lottery).

We have great local schools where I live – but I still wanted the option.

Road Scholar

May 16th, 2011
10:14 am

Denied by a “republican” court! Or are they “activist” judges, Kyle?

Road Scholar

May 16th, 2011
10:15 am

Oh, and instead of running away from the public schools, why not fix them?

that's goofy

May 16th, 2011
10:22 am

charter schools are public schools – but they teach to the individual not the lowest half. The other difference: everybody – student, parent, teacher, principal are held accountable for education and behavior.

Blunt Realist

May 16th, 2011
10:27 am

@Road Scholar- You’re joking right? Fix them? Heroes straight out of Greek epics could not fix many of the broken, good old boy county school boards that handicap this state…This 1920’s back scratcher style of county government is one of the things that has kept Georgia, especially rural Georgia, in the Dark Ages as compared to other states.

And people wonder why Georgia is a perinnial bottom feeder state on the best educated students’ lists every year…

Hard Truth

May 16th, 2011
10:36 am

It’s a sad day for educational progress in Georgia. People in these various school systems wanted the charter schools (just look at the number of kids that apply for the lottery at each of these charter schools every year), but the various school systems didn’t want competition on performance that highlights how their old ways continue to keep public school educated Georgians at the bottom of the national pack.

No More Progressives!

May 16th, 2011
10:42 am

Wasn’t GA last nationally last year?

Looks like a repeat!

Dwain Morgan

May 16th, 2011
10:44 am

Kyle,why is it an embarrassment to not support vouchers? Maybe they didn’t vote them in becuse there are many people who don’t support them.

retired early

May 16th, 2011
10:49 am

Public schools need to be transformed to meet their mandate of providing a quality education for all children…not replace it with “something else”.
This is the greatest failure of some state governments…not to make the hard choices necessary for improving public schools. Once again, the politicians allow their fear of the education monopoly to simply allow the status quo.
From allowing separate “Departments of Educations” at our colleges to isolate teachers from the mainstream college courses, to allowing 150 plus separate “Boards of Education” in the state to decide everything from courses, text books, discipline and teachers salaries(local supplements)…then we have lubricous policies like requiring all incoming principals to earn more than the highest paid teacher at the school (regardless of tenure) to…giving 10% salary increases for advanced degrees even when they are not relevant to the courses they teach and on and on….Then there is “administrative cost”. Can you name another entity that is more inefficient than education…where 50% of the budget is spent on non teacher salary expenses.
…then, there is teacher “accountability”….where almost no one gets fired and where everyone gets the same raise.
The legislature needs to grow a pair, and tackle the deep rooted problems to make public education work, instead of “punting the ball” for short term political expediency.

jt

May 16th, 2011
10:52 am

These different “state” laws concerning education are stupid.Haven’t we progressed past the old-fashioned idea of different state?One centralized authority is what is needed.

The Federal Government should take over all funding of primary education like they did with College loans programs.

That way……………..upon a 12th grade graduation,the student will be in debt to the Fed….Maybe 40-50 thousand…Basically, highschool graduates will be owned by the Benevolent Federal Government…..not unlike a majority of College graduates.(it is always easy payments)(they will work with you).Many different programs can be created for students to “give back”.(or repay with interest and penalties)(they will work with you).

This will make the children/citizens much more manageable, strengthen the collective, and enable ALL of us to face a brave new world.

Courage.

Richard

May 16th, 2011
10:54 am

I’m getting tired of the judicial activist republican judges.

Ed Advocate

May 16th, 2011
11:01 am

Kyle,

It’s clear you don’t like the Court’s decision, but unclear what you recommend as a solution. Let me recommend one: Amend the state constitution to allow for the state approval process that was ruled unconstitutional.

There is political support for such an amendment. Unlike vouchers, charter schools have widespread support from across the political spectrum. As you suggest, people are fed up with districts’ reluctance to approve more charters. Why not capitalize upon this political support to change the state constitution to allow for state-authorized charter schools?

But please stop wasting people’s time by suggesting that the answer is vouchers. Vouchers are far more controversial and far less realistic than charter schools as a means of providing widespread choice for parents and accountability for schools.

Road Scholar

May 16th, 2011
11:06 am

Blunt realist: So why not just close all schools? We are already last in the US in education. How can we go lower?

Is it the same issue with those who want to stop teaching science and rely on creationism? By the way, they can get creationism in their churches!

It comes down to setting the standards and following up constantly with the teachers and administrators. That is the parent’s job. The schools have become detention facilities for many. Setting expectations and goals, and evaluating them honestly is the issue along with parents demanding improvement.

t-ho

May 16th, 2011
11:22 am

Charter schools are paid for by public school tax dollars, though – so the people who find public schools so deplorable are taking their kids out, putting them into charter schools, taking the public school funding, and then pointing at public schools and saying, “look, they are getting even worse!” Hmmm…wonder why. Could it be the constant creation of faux private schools with public $?

Aquagirl

May 16th, 2011
11:31 am

Republicans are all about limited government and local control. Except when they’re not.

Kyle Wingfield

May 16th, 2011
11:56 am

Road: Republican court? Are you serious?

Whether the decision was “activist” or not depends on whose evidence you believe about the meaning of “special school” when the current constitution was written. It seems to me that the sentence (from the constitution) “Authority is granted to county and area boards of education to establish and maintain public schools within their limits” does not necessarily connote exclusivity, although the majority on the court has read it that way. But there may be case law establishing exclusivity that I’m not aware of.

Kyle Wingfield

May 16th, 2011
11:57 am

Dwain: It’s an embarrassment because too many Republicans say they support choice measures and then don’t vote for them when the time comes. We don’t know precisely who’s backtracking on their word because the caucus vote (which established that the voucher bill couldn’t pass, and led to its being withdrawn) is kept as a secret. I’d love to see the Senate leadership force a vote on the matter next year so that we know who’s in and who’s out.

Kyle Wingfield

May 16th, 2011
11:58 am

Ironically, retired early @ 10:49, such steps would do much more to step on the feet of local educators than the mere creation of some charter schools.

Kyle Wingfield

May 16th, 2011
12:02 pm

Ed Advocate: We may disagree about vouchers, but I would be happy to see a constitutional amendment on charter schools. I’m not sure I share your optimism that there’s the requisite two-thirds support in each chamber of the Legislature, but I’d love to be wrong about that.

Kyle Wingfield

May 16th, 2011
12:06 pm

And let’s be honest: There was only one thing the school systems in this case cared about, and it wasn’t “local control.”

$$$

that's goofy

May 16th, 2011
12:18 pm

vouchers divert money from public schools into private schools w/o any taxpayer oversight. Charter schools are different*.

* In GA. The FL plan is a giant mess w/o any oversight or accountability.

bob

May 16th, 2011
12:18 pm

The World needs ditch diggers.

Bart Abel

May 16th, 2011
12:22 pm

Unfortunately, “school choice” is a phrase that, more and more, means support for policies that would gut our public education system and replace it with private schools. Such changes wouldn’t necessarily be for the benefit of children and society, but for the benefit of the private companies that own or operate charter and private schools.

For those who argue that charters and vouchers are the solution, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to support their cause. But anecdotal evidence is just that. Statistically speaking, there’s little to no evidence that charter schools and private schools provide better outcomes than public schools. In fact, I’ve seen evidence suggesting the opposite.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Many of our competitors in other industrialized countries have figured out how to achieve much better results in science, math and reading, higher high school graduation rates, and higher rates of graduation from colleges and universities. And they do it, almost exclusively, by investing in PUBLIC education.

So, let’s find out what they do and do the same thing here in Georgia.

Kyle Wingfield

May 16th, 2011
12:28 pm

Bart: In many of those other industrialized nations to which you refer — Sweden, Holland, Ireland, to name a few — they fund education publicly but they don’t necessarily require that the money go to what we think of as public schools.

The question is whether we want public administration of education or simply public funding of education. And the results of the former hardly argue for not questioning the status quo.

Bart Abel

May 16th, 2011
12:40 pm

Rockerbabe

May 16th, 2011
12:45 pm

“The schools failed the kids:” It is more like, the kids and their parents failed themselves. It is the duty of the teachers to teach the subject matter at hand and to give appropriate tests and project to aid the learning process. It is the duty of the parents to support the teachers in their endeavor to get the kids to learn new subjects and information vital to their futures.

What I have observed is 1) a bunch of politicans who really want the state and local educations boards to PAY for their kids private school educations at the expense of everyone else. 2) there is no proof that kids in private or catholics schools do better; they do not test their kids in the same manner or even at all to know if the kids have actually learned anything at all! 3) Unruly kids do not last long in private schools, irrespective of the amount of tuition paid out. 4) there is little to none in the way of resources for kids with special learning needs, mental or physical or developmental disabilities. 5) the kids’ responsibility in all of this is to LEARN what is being taught in the classroom; that takes focus, practice, dedication and work; with the average kid watching 3-4 hours of TV a day, just how much learning and homework is being done at home?

The failure is not on the school boards or the school administrators and definitely not the school teachers. No the failure is on t he kids who didn’t bother to learn what they were actually taught in the classroom. It doesn’t matter if it is a public school, a charter school, a private school or a catholic school. When kids are allowed to fail due to neglect, benign or otherwise, then the onous is on the parents and the kids to make the changes. The politicans are just meddling in affairs they really do not understand.

Road Scholar

May 16th, 2011
12:57 pm

Kyle, touchy today, eh?

Repub court: How many were appointed by a Demo/ Repub?

Don’t like “activist judges” used like during the Bush Adm?

Finally,where in this sentence, and state constitution does it say that others have this specific right and responsibility?

Bart Abel

May 16th, 2011
12:58 pm

Sorry to be long-winded, but I disagree that the debate is about whether we want public administration of education or simply public funding of education.

I’m convinced that part of the privatization effort is an effort to specifically cut public funding for education, public or private, regardless of the outcomes associated with such cuts.

In fact, some of the voucher proposals here and elsewhere specifically prohibit test scores from being one of the criteria for determining where voucher money is distributed. In other words, whether the kids get educated is less important than how cheaply a school can get away with operating.

Matt Clark

May 16th, 2011
1:07 pm

“That’s Goofy: – vouchers divert money from public schools into private schools w/o any taxpayer oversight.”
As a parent and a taxpayer, I provide all of the oversight needed for my child’s education. Give me a voucher and I’ll vote with my feet if I don’t like the results I’m getting. It’s a very simple concept.

Common Sense

May 16th, 2011
1:21 pm

Let’s upend this idiotic Public School/Charter School dynamic with a true voucher program. Nothing short of vouchers paid to parents (in an amount that equals the cost of public education) will allow real school choice.

If bureaucrats were so great at making decisions for us regarding schools why not surrender all decisions to them. We need to take control of our financial resources and take responsibility for the education of our families. Let’s eliminate the money and power flowing to government school monopolists – vote pro voucher for all.

historydawg

May 16th, 2011
1:24 pm

Kyle, you are completely incorrect about international education. If you read legitimate literature rather than conservative think-tanks, you will find that nations such as Finland are adopting the comprehensive high school and models of education that support democracy. Why is it such a horrific idea to support the future of our Republic with tax money for the common good, not individual economic choice? Our founding fathers agreed that public education would make us different, and indeed better, than the private aristocratic models of Europe that you and others think are the solution. The public school would indeed preserve our Republic. But alas, they thought bigger and thought about their neighbors–something I am not certain anyone in the voucher or charter camp can possibly do. The world has recognized that our model is indeed superior, while we cannot see past our own paychecks and our own children. It is not about me or you individually. It is about community. School choice is simply a cover for individualism gone awry.

historydawg

May 16th, 2011
1:31 pm

Kyle, maybe you should check out the work of Diane Ravitch. She authored the current system in many ways and used to make the same arguments you did, until she learned how harmful they were to children.

jconservative

May 16th, 2011
1:31 pm

I am not sure I understand what all the noise is about re vouchers.

There are public schools in the county where I now reside. There is also one private school – (pre K – 12), academically one of the top schools in the state (100% of graduates to college). The people who elect to send their kids to the private school pay the $6K+ tuition as well as the usual county property taxes.

Is the argument over vouchers an attempt to get the pro rated per student share of public funds reassigned to the private school at the student’s request?

Road Scholar

May 16th, 2011
1:44 pm

jconservative: As I understand it, yes.

Bart Abel

May 16th, 2011
1:54 pm

jconservative,

There are a lot of issues to consider:

1. When a child moves from a public school to a private schools, how much does the public schools system save? They still have a school board, a school superintendent, a school principal, the teachers, the building, the classrooms, and all the other overhead. The calculations are rarely talked about, but if the formula for calculating the variable cost of each student isn’t precise, the necessary funding for the overhead of the kids left behind gets cut. Something tells me that’s the more likely outcome.

2. What criteria do we use for using allowing kids to use public funds to attend private schools? I, among others, would argue that using such funds for faith-based education is a violation of the First Amendment. Also, as I mentioned earlier, many proponents of vouchers don’t much care about the outcomes of schools funded by the vouchers.

3. Contrary to what Matt Clark implied above, we all have a stake in our education system. That’s the reason it’s publicly funded. If Mr. Clark chooses to send his child to a poorly operated school, which many parents do, we all suffer.

Joe

May 16th, 2011
1:56 pm

Notice that the Justices who voted in favor of the school boards are demoncrats… They must be voted out… They didn’t mind throwing thousands of kids out in the street….

Kyle Wingfield

May 16th, 2011
1:59 pm

Road: Not touchy, but it’s not even close. Perdue appointed Nahmias and Melton. The rest predated him, and thus were Democratic appointees.

Not to say the court is so lopsided ideologically — some of the Democratic appointees can be conservative justices at times — but to call it a “Republican court” is way off the mark.

Kyle Wingfield

May 16th, 2011
2:02 pm

Bart: “If Mr. Clark chooses to send his child to a poorly operated school, which many parents do, we all suffer.”

Surely you don’t believe that the number of people with kids at private schools who fit that description is greater than the number of people with kids at public schools.

Look, I’m not some kind of public-schools hater. As I’ve said on here many, many times, I went to public schools from kindergarten through college. My mom and grandmother taught at public schools. A good public school is a fine place to send kids for education. But without options, kids stuck in bad public schools are severely disadvantaged. And yes, we all suffer from that.

jconservative: For me, that’s the essence of the voucher discussion.

tar and feathers party

May 16th, 2011
2:17 pm

I luv it when the so called intellectual elite try to trick the public into paying for a private school education for the children of the pseudo intellectuals. I resent have to pay property taxes to fund the public schools, so you can imagine how hard I will fight this blatant attempt by Kyle and his ilk to get me to pay for the private school education of their begotten. Fortunately I live in Cobb County, where those of us over 62 exempted from paying the school portion of the property tax. We need to end the practice of having someone else pay for YOUR children’s education.

tar and feathers party

May 16th, 2011
2:21 pm

The biggest scam in the history of America is the current higher education rip off. For an tutorial, go to inflation.com and look at the current video.

Linda

May 16th, 2011
2:50 pm

Mark Noonan commented on an article by Dan Gainor regarding the influence that George Soros has on the mainstream media. Noonan said that it was “the perfect fit: all sides agreeing that a socialist, amoral, weakened, impoverished America living in an increasingly global government world is the ideal.”

http://blogsforvictory.com/2011/05/12/the-soros-media-complex/

If you click on “Fox News” in the site above, you can read Gainor’s references to ProPublica. It’s list of Our Investigations “includes attacks on oil companies, gas companies, the health care industry, for profit schools & more…” One of Kyle’s associates, the female, is on the 14-person Journalism Advisory Board.

that's goofy

May 16th, 2011
2:56 pm

Matt Clark: “Give me a voucher and I’ll vote with my feet if I don’t like the results I’m getting. It’s a very simple concept”

If you want to take your contribution to a voucher school for a year then I fully support that. How much does the average taxpayer pay in school tax? 300? 500? If you take any more than what you paid – you are taking my money too and I am not OK with that.

I taught in FL where Jeb said parents would provide oversight. Parents went to voucher schools – realized they were worse and returend their kids to public schools.. Unfortuanly the moeny did not come back. FL Supreme Court put a stop to some of the vouchers. The next choice plan was charter schools for all! More than 60% have been taken over by local school districts becuase they failed. The local schools absorbed those students too.

good point

May 16th, 2011
3:10 pm

@that’s goofy: i think your point about how much property tax goes to fund education vs. per pupil expenditures is lost to many folks. i’d like to see anyone who wants a voucher to be given the money FROM THEIR PORTION OF THEIR PROPERTY TAXES USED TO FUND EDUCATION and see how their private school world would crumble. anyway, the idea that parents would “vote with their feet” is laughable to me: if the whining parents would work with their kids at home everything would be fine. the connection between home and school has been lost; now, any education failures are directly attributed to the teacher – who, with overloaded classes, shoddy curriculum delivery models, and more content to somehow cover in a deep, meaningful way – and parents are given a free pass. how about fining parents if their child doesn’t turn in an assignment on time / is late to class / is late to school / is a discipline problem? really, folks, education is only going to get fixed when parents start acting like parents again: who cares WHERE you do it, parents, just START DOING IT and quit worrying about WHERE you are parenting!!!

Living it

May 16th, 2011
3:12 pm

Vouchers will just make the bad schools worse. The parents who are moving their kids are making their kids successful not because they are putting them in a better school but because they are involved in their lives. I am teacher and have taught in the most affluent school in the state and also some of the poorest. I looked like a much better teacher where most of the kids came from a a 2 parent home and those parents had college degrees. Schools need help getting parents involved. Schools need help with the courts. I have so many kids that are here just because the Court told them they have to be and they aren’t telling them they have to be here and behave. Want to fix education. We need night schools. We need alternative schools for those that don’t fit in during the day.

Linda

May 16th, 2011
3:16 pm

good point@3:10, What about requiring students to have parents? That’s plural, as in two. That’s the beginning of parents acting like parents.

Aquagirl

May 16th, 2011
3:41 pm

that’s goofy
May 16th, 2011
2:56 pm

If you want to take your contribution to a voucher school for a year then I fully support that. How much does the average taxpayer pay in school tax? 300? 500? If you take any more than what you paid – you are taking my money too and I am not OK with that.
——–

Bingo! What the Matt Clarks of the world want is for everyone else to pay for their kid, while they essentially pay nothing for other children. If you’re taking other people’s money, it’s not YOUR choice any more.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta, GA

May 16th, 2011
3:45 pm

We Georgians have a compelling interest in the education of our kids. We should amend our state constitution to insure that our state government can protect that interest.

Beavis

May 16th, 2011
3:47 pm

We can fix the system, get rid of the NEA, and teachers unions, fixed….