Cherokee GOP wants a new litmus test: Charter schools

The past 30 years have seen the creation of a long list of litmus tests for Republicans.

A license to practice as an orthodox conservative in Georgia now mandates opposition to abortion and gay marriage, a firm belief in tax cuts as the driver of economic growth, and an antipathy toward federal regulation.

Two young girls take tour of Cherokee Charter Academy in Canton. The new charter K-7th grade school opens Monday, with just under 1,000 students, on the premises of a failed private school. Brant Sanderlin,

Two young girls take tour of Cherokee Charter Academy in Canton. The new charter K-7th grade school opens Monday, with just under 1,000 students, on the premises of a failed private school. Brant Sanderlin,

But days ago, the Cherokee County GOP nominated still another test. It passed a resolution that demanded four county school board members reconsider their opposition to the local funding of charter schools or “renounce their affiliation with the Republican Party.”

School choice, the local party declared, is no longer a negotiable issue.

Pay attention to this. This clash between the philosophical and the practical could be headed the way of your school board very soon. And it will have many of you wondering whether you truly are the conservative you think you are.

This is what Mike Chapman, a Canton businessman, would tell you. He’s been active in the local Chamber of Commerce, served on the board of the area technical college and — for the past 10 years — occupied a seat on the all-GOP Cherokee County Board of Education.

Chapman considers himself the picture of a civic-minded, cut-don’t-tax Republican. At least he did until, with three of his colleagues, he was read out of his party. “As a conservative, where do I go when the Republican Party has left the building?” Chapman said. “Locally, I mean. I’m not talking about anywhere else.”

The spat is an outgrowth of this spring’s decision by the Georgia Supreme Court, which ruled that the state-issued licenses of 16 charter public schools were unconstitutional because they stepped on the prerogatives of local systems.

The 16 schools were advised to go back to their nearest local boards of education, where they could attempt to negotiate a place in each school system. Among those schools was Cherokee Charter Academy, which had already been turned down twice by the Cherokee County school board.

In June, after heated debate and a 4-3 vote, the school board rejected the academy a third time. Chapman was joined by Janet Read, Robert Wofford and Chairman Rick Steiner.

It’s important to note that, last month, Gov. Nathan Deal found a spare $10 million to assure that Cherokee Charter Academy and seven other orphaned charter schools could keep their doors open — at least this year. Cherokee Charter’s students will begin classes Monday.

The state funding didn’t stop the Cherokee GOP, which had backed acceptance — and funding — by the local school board. The resolution was unanimous. “As a party, we came down on the side of freedom,” said Brian Laurens, the first vice president of the Cherokee GOP.

The fight may really be about one’s definition of local control. For Laurens and his Cherokee Republican brethren, that means power in the hands of parents who act as the charter school’s governing board. To Chapman, local control — and responsibility — falls to a duly elected school board.

But we are now in an era replete with suspicion of government at any level. “I’ve come to realize that that attitude is now transcending all the way to the lowest, local level — which would be your school board,” Chapman said.

“One of the things you have to realize, whether you like it or not, is that public education is the government. And if you’re conservative, or you’re tea party, and you have an issue with big government — therefore you have an issue with your local public schools.”

Chapman is ambiguous when it comes to the general topic of charters — they have their place in hot spots of public school failures, he thinks. But he says his opposition to Cherokee Charter Academy rested primarily on the fact that the school is to be managed by a for-profit Florida company.

And the school board would be handing over taxpayer dollars.

“We kept going back to that,” Chapman said. The school board said it would have to see — and approve — the charter school’s budget. The managing firm said no.

“Right there, the deal’s done. It’s over,” he said. “We have to be able to see that. That’s not a Republican or a Democratic thing. That’s just the way it is.”

On the coin’s other side is that deep-rooted suspicion of government. “If we’re allotting the same amount of money per student to a charter school — which is a public school — as long as that charter school is above par and doing well, why do we need to micromanage?” asked Laurens. “What we’re dealing with is an overbearing administration.”

The exact consequences of the Cherokee GOP’s decision haven’t been fully studied. Primary challenges are a possibility. “I’m sure these guys will find themselves not being supported by the party if they run in the Republican primary,” Laurens said.

Meanwhile, Democrats — a very modest force in Cherokee County politics — wonder whether they’ve been handed an opening.

“[Republicans] say they believe in freedom and in choice, but their conduct indicates otherwise. They clearly demand conformity and obedience to party doctrine,” Georgette Thaler, chairwoman of the Cherokee Democratic Party, said Friday. “It’s really kind of scary.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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100 comments Add your comment

Daily Aued

August 13th, 2011
11:11 am

Start tax-free weekend.


August 13th, 2011
11:15 am

The GOP blows. They have run this country into the ground. All the while they rich get richer and the poor get poor. The GOP has highjacket the poor whites of American, into believing that they will be better off if the rich get richer and they get poor. The idea of trickle down economics has not worked. American has one of the largest wealth gaps in the world. All the GOP are, is a bunch of rich, fat, old, white men who want to dictate to us how to live, who we sleep with and what we do to our bodies. Now they want to get in the business of education. It is time they go away.


August 13th, 2011
11:27 am

Mark, Herman Cain might argue that, or maybe Condoleeza Rice, or maybe even Colin Powell


August 13th, 2011
11:43 am

Stand up for what you believe in. Don’t change your beliefs so they conform to any political party-be it Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, or any other. One of the problems I see in America today is that or leadership appears to be more interested in political parties than they are in helping the citizens of the United States.


August 13th, 2011
11:45 am

School choice is a family value.

Cherokee Reality

August 13th, 2011
12:06 pm

Chapman and Read got no help from the Republican Party last time they ran…. both had “Republican” opposition, both won easily. Laurens’ resolution went over like a lead balloon in the community– he says it was unanimous, but won’t release a list of who was actually present or voted (and elected officials are backing far away from it now). One representative in particular had no knowledge of the resolution. There is no “local control” with this charter school. No one elects this local council — they were hand picked by the private management company and now get to appoint themselves or their friends in perpetuity.


August 13th, 2011
12:11 pm

If the Charter School wants to be an independent entity it should get it’s own funding.


August 13th, 2011
12:18 pm

There is no greater Republican (or at least what Republican was before it was accosted by power hungry selfish people) than this Chapman guy. Listen to him. Laurens says, in effect, give public money to private interests and give them control. If the legislature would do the same for local school boards Georgia would be best school system in the country.
But the truth is, People like these local party members and their puppeteer (a prominent state senator who had the bad loan deal in Calhoun) don’t want an intelligent republic. Because an intelligent republic would see their motives and send them home.

Public guy

August 13th, 2011
12:21 pm

Family values? whose?


August 13th, 2011
12:28 pm

The Cherokee GOP is using emotion and hyperbole rather than honest discussion about this matter. They are doing nothing less than bullying the school board members into choosing between the deception they are pandering to the public instead of providing a good public education to all children of Cherokee County.

To announce “Coming down on the side of freedom” is an outright lie. The fact is that charter schools limit freedom. They take away opportunities for all children by garnering special funding for a select few children. This is not freedom.


August 13th, 2011
12:31 pm

Mark. You are not entirely correct. The GOP is full of people who want better lives for themselves and their children … well, and then there’s the rich, fat, old white men, too. They are drawn to the party because, fundamentally, its premise makes sense to them. The problem is the original premise of the Republican party has morphed into a group advocating social authoritarian regime change and the decent people in the party vote for it. Many of our rights have been eroded significantly in the last 12 years – important rights that keep government out of our personal lives. Contrary to their anti government mantra, the Republicans keep making more and more rules for our personal lives. They fight for tax cuts that 90% of will never see.
There’s a story about how a frog will jump out if thrown into a pot of hot water, but will boil to death if he’s placed in the water before it’s heated. Sadly, the water’s getting hotter and many don’t notice.


August 13th, 2011
12:42 pm

Why is it that some people use the exception as a rule. I call that the Jackie Robinson rule. Know what I mean?


August 13th, 2011
12:46 pm

Gotta love the big tent.


August 13th, 2011
12:58 pm

Our Mission Statement
“The Cherokee County Republican Party (CCRP) stands for fiscal responsibly, lower taxes, local control of schools, property rights protection, traditional family values and decreasing the size of government. It is not expected that every member will agree 100% with all issues. But, by joining CCRP, the member understands they have joined a party whose members overwhelmingly support the above principles. Members also agree with the premise that less government is better than more government and local government is more accountable than the federal government.”


August 13th, 2011
1:08 pm

Ok, let’s see: all they want is a separate but equal parental choice for their children run by a for profit corporation.
All they want is the “per-pupil” funding for their children to attend.

?1- Is the local schools over crowded
If yes, ok
If no, then the fixed cost of the facilities under utilized are squandered

?2- Are the schools the parents want their children pulled from under-performing to Georgia’s median scholastic measurements?
If no, ok
If yes, then the fixed cost of the facilities under utilized are squandered

?3- Will the parents pay for the community’s lost funds due to their choice to cause the under utilization
Well of course not, that would be an additional tax and dag nabbit there will be NO NEW TAXES

And that ten million the governor found should be programs, positions, or equipment that needs to be trimmed from next years budget


August 13th, 2011
1:15 pm

1 thing in common for all of these so-called “choice” alternatives to traditional public schools is there lack of transparency and accountability. In fact, in Georgia we have written into the statutes in some instances that it is illegal to divulge info re such schools. If they claim to be the far superior alternative, why do they fight transparency even though they are using taxpayer funds? How are you going to measure their claims?

[...] Republican Party.” School choice, the local party declared, is no longer a … Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) 0 Comments – Leave a comment! « Previous PostNext Post [...]


August 13th, 2011
1:39 pm

“The school board said it would have to see — and approve — the charter school’s budget. The managing firm said no.”

Interesting statement by Chapman. If this is correct then the local parents are not running the local charter school but an out of state corporation.

Why would the local party want to give taxpayer money, with no strings attached, to an out of state corporation? Sounds like the TARP deal, taxpayer money given away to provate companies.

B. Thenet

August 13th, 2011
1:40 pm

If you don’t like the schools in Cherokee, use your God given freedom to move somewhere else that has schools you do like. Housing in Cherokee is cheaper than other places for a reason.

There is no “right” to start your own charter school on the public dime. As someone said above, want a new school…..raise some money and build it.

R Plenty

August 13th, 2011
1:52 pm

There is a new man in town, Rick Perry, he supports charter schools and dies his hair black.

Georgia Voter

August 13th, 2011
2:05 pm

Does anybody know where Governor Deal found the extra money for the for-profit charter schools? I would love to know.

I know that Chip, Charlice, Sean and Calvin are very much in favor of charter schools. I am looking forward to them making statements on this Cherokee Republican “my way or the highway” situation. If they have guts, they will come out and say something. Kudos to the Cherokee Dems for taking a stand!


August 13th, 2011
2:23 pm

My understanding of fiscal conservatives is that they don’t trust the government’s handling of tax revenue, because of what they see as a history of irresponsibility. And yet here is an official seemingly determined to be a responsible steward, requiring a potential recipient of a massive outlay of public funds to present a plan and a budget. How can anybody be against this idea?

Cherokee Reality

August 13th, 2011
2:49 pm

Byrd claims she knew nothing about it, but rest assured Senator Rogers and Representative Jerguson did! I would have more respect for them if they would come right out and say that they were involved. This whole resolution totally backfired on them and they know it!!!


August 13th, 2011
2:55 pm

Brian Laurens is on the CCRP executive cmte? Really? How low will the go?

I wonder if those same folks will pass a resolution against the 4 county commissioners who voted to increase property taxes?

Clinton "Skink" Tyree

August 13th, 2011
2:55 pm

The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party is out of control — in running amok!

They’re our way or the highway approach to governance is going to bring about the demise of the Republican Party.

And, what’s conservative about taking taxpayer money and giving it to a for profit management company to run a county school when there is an adequate school system in place to handle the educational needs of the country children?

But, you can argue with these people because they’re irrational.


August 13th, 2011
2:55 pm

Cherokee county is corruption at it’s finest. Everyone, from Garrison, the sheriffs, to numerous detectives, to all of the politicians are corrupt and on the take.Chip is no different, and now he’s shown himself to be a deadbeat as well. Mr. Rogers and Mr.Graves should pay their bills, like the rest of us. As for the balance of Cherokee county – move. It’s hell here.


August 13th, 2011
3:00 pm

There will be Democrats in heaven and Republicans in hell. Some do and some don’t. Some will and some won’t. Any other questions?


August 13th, 2011
3:16 pm

R Plenty @ !;52 pm;

Think it is “dyes his hair black,” not “dies his hair black.”


August 13th, 2011
3:30 pm

That goes for you too south Georgia Republicans. Fall in line.

Are we making ourselves clear?

Please don’t embarrass the party heavyweights. (Elections have consequences.)

Charter Schools are PUBLIC SCHOOLS

August 13th, 2011
3:36 pm

“But [Chapman] says his opposition to Cherokee Charter Academy rested primarily on the fact that the school is to be managed by a for-profit Florida company.”

Mr. Chapman needs to actually learn how charter schools (which are all PUBLIC) operate. That much homework is not too much to expect from someone serving on the Board of Education is it?

He should definitely peruse the Georgia Department of Education FAQ on charters at the link below.

All charter schools are non-profit. Don’t’ believe me? Check out the first section of the FAQ link above.

A governing board (as outlined in the charter) oversees ever charter school and usually is in charge of hiring the principal/director of the school. The board members must serve voluntarily (i.e. they can’t receive pay to server on the board). The governing board can also choose to define the curriculum (which must still align with the same GPS standards are all other public schools) and mange the school. Or they can hire a for-profit company to help with some all of those aspects.

I think that members of a for-profit management company can actually serve on the governing board, but the proposed board make-up MUST be explicitly outlined in the charter. So instead of rejecting a school based on this, the Cherokee BOE could simply require that no members of the management company be allowed to serve on the governing board.

If the management company is not doing a good job, the governing board can fire the company (as recently happened with the charter school in Peachtree City I believe).

“And the school board would be handing over taxpayer dollars.”
Geesh Jim, I think you should peruse the Ga DOE Charter School FAQ link as well. All Georgia Charter schools are PUBLIC schools. All Georgia charter school students are PUBLIC school students. The money sent to charter schools is being for the exact same purpose as all other money sent to PUBLIC schools – to educate PUBLIC school students.

In fact, I often hear people say PUBLIC charters take money away from traditional public schools. In truth, locally approved charters actually put more per capita money back into public school system budgets. This is because local school systems always fund each public school student at a charter school at a lower amount to cover “administrative” costs such as central office functions. That funding gap for public school students at charters goes back into the school system’s budget for them to do with as they see fit.

So the more public students in charter schools, the more money the school system has to spend on public school students in traditional public schools.

Chairman Mao

August 13th, 2011
3:37 pm

There will be no thousand flowers blooming in this Party. Toe the Party line or you will be denounced, forced to wear a dunce cap, and paraded through the streets. Children, turn in your parents if they fail to embrace the Chairman’s philosophy! Only then can the Republican Party succeed in its glorious cultural revolution.

Remember … the Party knows best what is good for you.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

August 13th, 2011
3:40 pm

“Meanwhile, Democrats — a very modest force in Cherokee County politics — wonder whether they’ve been handed an opening.”

Let me answer that for them, NO! Keep dreaming, Cherokee County ‘Crats, keep dreaming….


August 13th, 2011
3:49 pm

If the leadership of the Republican Party in Cherokee County thinks that CCA ( Charter Schools USA’s dummy institution) is a true Charter School then perhaps they need to be tested for substance abuse. This so-called Charter School brings nothing innovative to the table. As a matter of fact they get to cherry pick the types of students that they want. On the purely selfish side, CCA segregates themselves and their students from those children with the most challenging needs. Sounds to me like Rogers and his ilk are practicing elitist segregation. Given Rogers track record on “creative financing” , this should come as no surprise. Hopefully, the taxpayers of Cherokee County and this state will wake up and see this scam for what it really is.


August 13th, 2011
4:19 pm

“If we’re allotting the same amount of money per student to a charter school — which is a public school……..”

Is that funding calculated by menu item ?

We know the public schools have many costly items imposed on them by the State & Feds that the Charter schools will not be burdened with. So how is that cost per pupil determined ?

If it was gross calculation then the local Board has no fiscally responsible choice but to deny regardless of their personal opinion.

Rick Perry?? Really?

August 13th, 2011
4:29 pm

do these evangelical, bible thumping, tea party nuts realize Rick Perry CAMPAIGNED for Al Gore? And that the unemployment rate in Texas and taxes went significantly HIGHER (even accounting for the national economy) under Perry than any governor before? Then there is the Guardasil scandal (tried to force all parents to have their daughters get Guardasil shots–mainly because one of his big supporters is MERCK, the maker of Guardasil). Just what we need, another con artist using his office to make money for his fat cat friends. Folks, it isn’t un patriotic to THINK and do some research before you pick a candidate. Most of us spend more time pricing washers and dryers on line than we do checking out candidates.


August 13th, 2011
4:29 pm

My child is attending Cherokee Charter Academy. Although we do not believe it will be the *best* choice for her, we know it will be better than the school she’s leaving. That school had a proven record of taking stellar 6th grade students and making just-barely competent 8th graders out of them. While we are still paying property taxes and funding that other Cherokee School-board approved school, we have seen an immediate increase in uniform prices and other items and services, as well as a loss of bussing and other services we had hoped for.
I’m not bitter or angry at the school board. I can understand their decision and respect it. I am thankful that we are able to manage the changes and the expenses. And I am glad to be moving on.

Charter Schools are PUBLIC SCHOOLS

August 13th, 2011
4:40 pm

Inquirer @4:19 PM

“Is that funding calculated by menu item ?”

No, charter schools receive a per pupil allotment that is deteremined by the governing public school system and/or board of education (i.e. the charter approver).

So, the school system/board of ed usually funds the public student at a charter school with less funds to account for whatever they deem is provided already by the school system (e.g. online parent access system IF the school system allows their charters to use said system – oftentimes they don’t). The per pupil funding formula created by the school system can be quite complex as you can imagine.

Also, you imply that charters are under much less State and Fed regulations than traditional public schools. That really isn’t the case. The majority of the same rules/regs apply to both.

In fact, if you check out the Georgia Deparment of Education Charter school FAQ, you’ll find the following under the section entitled “Charter Schools and the Law” you’ll find the following Q and A.

“Which laws, rules and regulations cannot be waived by charter schools?”

“Charter schools and systems are subject to all provisions outlined in O.C.G.A. 20-2-2065(b). In particular, charter schools may not waive state laws or State Board of Education rules pertaining to health and safety, funding formulas, or accountability provisions. In addition, charter schools may not waive any aspect of federal law. This includes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and all applicable civil rights legislation.”

Veteran Observer

August 13th, 2011
4:51 pm

As a business person in the county, a life long Republican, former elected official, and Tea Party supporter this is no big deal! Chip Rogers and his buddies have no influence in these local races! To be a Republican is to think for yourself and not march in lockstep like the democrats! This is some local hack engineering something that will be forgotten by the end of the weekend!

Charter Schools are PUBLIC SCHOOLS

August 13th, 2011
4:58 pm

simplythetruth @3:49 PM

“As a matter of fact they get to cherry pick the types of students that they want. On the purely selfish side, CCA segregates themselves and their students from those children with the most challenging needs.”

This is not true if they are following state rules. Check out the “Admissions and Enrollment” section of the Georgia Department of Education Charter School FAQ:

Charter schools have to take all eligible public school students from the attendance zone specified in their charter (usually any student in their county/counties defined in their charter, conversion charters also take into account their school’s previous attendance zone and give those students preference). If there are more applicants and spaces, then every charter authorizer I have researched has required the charter school to include a lottery to be held (and that process should be defined in the charter document).

However, that lottery is usually supervised by the school itself. If you think the school has not conducted a true lottery then you need to provide that evidence to the authorizing agency (the State Board of Ed in the case of CCA I believe?).

I would like to see the boards of education/schools systems/impartial third party take over running charter lotteries to be honest because there is currently no oversight for that part of the process as best I can tell. I have seen accounting firms hired to certify the lotteries in some cases so that would not be an unreasonable requirement for all charter applications.


August 13th, 2011
5:09 pm

I thought charter schools had the purpose of innovative education. I’ve not heard about the innovations this school is promoting. If it has some, more power to it; if not, what is the need for it?


August 13th, 2011
5:17 pm

The GOP wants to take tax dollars (which they say they abhor) and use them to fund private schools to save money for those against public education for all. If that is what they want, let them pay for it themselves.

Alabama Communist

August 13th, 2011
5:25 pm

More Breaking News On Cherokee GOP’s mental test on other Republicans…A source within the Republican Party said their goal was to lower the IQ level of other republicans to 5 like themselves

Tell The Truth

August 13th, 2011
5:29 pm

As a lifelong Republican, I find this disturbing on so may levels. Most of the CCA students come from Title One schools and have high percentages of minority children. I’d have more respect for their “choice” if they came out and admitted the real reason they want their children to leave their neighborhood schools. On a CCA parent website, one parent even described a charter school as, and I quote, “a private school funded by public money.” This is what the Cherokee Republican Party is hanging their hat on? A disappointment, to say the least. I consider school board members Wofford, Steiner, Chapman, and Read heroes who stood up for what was best for the citizens and taxpayers of Cherokee County.


August 13th, 2011
5:30 pm

To Charter Schools are Public Schools: In this case, CCA, IF is the operative word. Lotteries can be rigged. Let’s see what the final enrollment categories reveal.


August 13th, 2011
5:40 pm

And the Georgia Democrats have their litmus tests. So many and strong, in fact, that they are now irrelevant with the voters.


August 13th, 2011
6:11 pm

I think there’s only one real litmus test for Republicans: oppose the Democrats in general and Obama in particular.

If Obama went on TV tonight proposing that we enter more wars, eliminate taxes for the top 75 percent of the population, and shrink the government to only military and roads, you’d have Republicans lining up to denounce this “socialist.”

The Republicans want the country to fail so they can keep Obama to one term. Never let patriotism get in the way of good partisanship!

Georgia Voter

August 13th, 2011
6:24 pm

Two of Guice’s children were “lucky” enough to win places in the charter school. He’s a school board member who was a very vocal supporter of Charter Schools USA. What a coincidence!


August 13th, 2011
6:36 pm

I’ll hand it to the Repubs…they’ve done a great job of convincing the middle and lower classes to vote against their best interests and vote Republican. Maybe one day the masses will wake up. The GOP is intent, for example, on destroying public education in this state. What they and their followers don’t seem to realize is that a strong public education system is the best economic engine there is. And, another thing, if tax cuts produced jobs, we should have had jobs to spare under the Bush Administrtion. Instead, we got the worst economy since the depression


August 13th, 2011
7:34 pm

Fact Cherokee Schools are getting worse and worse year after year. Scores are not improving, more schools are not making AYP each year and the oppressive leadership continues to stifle the creativity and enthusiasm of would be good teachers. The system is complacent and the programs lacking. A charter school may or may not be the answer but it will bring vigor and competition to a system that has become too fat and too happy.

Real American

August 13th, 2011
7:43 pm

camille, you make too much sense – that kind of logic has no place in Gawga.