Pushback on charter schools: Gwinnett Chamber flips to neutral, Georgia PTA under pressure

One of the biggest opponents to the November ballot issue to re-establish state authority to license charter schools in local systems has been pushed into neutrality.

Another may quickly follow.

This afternoon, my AJC colleague Nancy Badertscher obtained the following memo sent out by Gwinnett Chamber CEO Jim Maran to the organization’s board of directors and other parties (emphasis is mine):

We have had recent conversations with members of the Chamber’s Board of Directors and Gwinnett’s Legislative Delegation regarding state-controlled charter schools and the related constitutional amendment referendum.

With respect to all parties engaged in the issue, the Executive Committee of the Board has decided the Chamber shall remain neutral on this subject. As such, the September 5 event has been cancelled.

The Sept. 5 event was a fund-raiser for opponents of the measure.

Gov. Nathan Deal addressed the Gwinnett Chamber only last week. Do not persuade yourself that this is a coincidence. We’re told that some members of the legislative delegation threatened to withhold funds for Gwinnett Tech and Georgia Gwinnett College if the chamber didn’t back off.

If that weren’t enough, the National PTA has declared its Georgia chapter of line, with its opposition to the ballot measure. From Education Week:

The National Parent Teacher Association has revamped its policy to make it clear that it supports giving entities other than local school boards the right to approve charter schools, a new position the group argues will increase its ability to shape policy within the diverse and growing sector of independent public schools….

A state chapter of the organization, the Georgia PTA, is opposing a ballot measure that will go to voters in November to set up a state-level commission to approve charters. That puts the Georgia chapter at odds with the new national policy, according to the parent organization, which is trying to resolve the issue and to persuade state officials to remain neutral on the matter.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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40 comments Add your comment


August 28th, 2012
5:55 pm

So I guess the Gwinnett Board of Education was casting their pearls before the swine so to speak, when giving $250k of the taxpayer’s money to the chamber. But we already knew that. Some of us will remember the Board in the voting booth too.

Tommy Gunn

August 28th, 2012
6:02 pm

I wonder who will admitt and remember they support this and the TSPLOST when the next election year comes? I will remember when I go to vote!


August 28th, 2012
6:15 pm

When You have Your Head in the Lion’s mouth, you do not want to make any sudden moves.

Public School Parent

August 28th, 2012
6:21 pm

As a dues-paying PTA member, I am disappointed at the National PTA’s policy change and the pressure it’s exerting on GA PTA. This reeks of lobbying efforts at the national level. GA already has multiple routes to charter school creation. If a local school system doesn’t approve a charter, our state board of education can. The proposed constitutional amendment is a wasteful expansion of state power paid for by cuts to existing schools. GA PTA’s position isn’t anti-charter. They are right to protect existing schools and demand lawmakers return to the drawing board to figure out how to pay for and improve public education in our state.

Long Time Teacher

August 28th, 2012
6:27 pm

Money, money, money……..Yet we live in a great country. The United States of America has this great process called “voting”. All of us need to get out and vote for every election. If we don’t like the governor or legislators, we need to vote them out of office. It is okay to not vote Republican. It is not a sin as some would have you believe. Vote to get the results that you are looking for. The power is in the vote.

Public School Parent

August 28th, 2012
6:28 pm

And since I’m on my soapbox….shame on any policy maker who would threaten to withhold education funding because of the Gwinnett Chamber’s position on the con amendment. The Gwinnett Chamber looks pathetic and disingenuous for rolling over.

Charter Parent

August 28th, 2012
6:52 pm

Gwinnett BOE…..Oh, yeah….using taxpayer money to fund opposing a ballot item….isn’t that…..ILLEGAL? ……hmmmm…


August 28th, 2012
6:58 pm

Any effort to take control and funding authority from our corrupt and bloated local school boards should be applauded. Charter schools don’t cost taxpayers any more money, they only direct funds from the school board administrations and towards the students. Remember our education taxes should be funding EDUCATION, not jobs programs for school board employees with bulletproof job protections and little to no accountability. Shame on any public school system employee who decries the right of parents to have a choice as to the best educational option for their children. Your entitlement mentality and denial of the broken mess we’re dealing with is disturbing and serves nobody but yourself.


August 28th, 2012
7:11 pm

The decision to establish charter schools is best left to the local level. That way you’ll have competition between communities to see which route serves the students best. When you push it up to the state level, the teacher’s unions can focus on one legislative body and not hundreds of local ones.

Charter Parent

August 28th, 2012
7:18 pm

@Waldo313 Your premise makes sense, however, when local boards don’t want you to exist, there needs to be a better option than waiting two to four years to vote out those members.

j rev

August 28th, 2012
7:37 pm


The state has shown time and time again that the only interest it has in education is cutting school budgets during times of prosperity. If you do not like your BOE members, work to vote them out or run yourself. The state has no business taking away the already slim resources given to local school boards and giving it to charter schools that in most cases have been deemed unnecessary by local school boards.

j rev

August 28th, 2012
7:41 pm

@ Charter Parent

You are welcome to move to a different location if your local school board does not think that your school is needed in its district. You child’s school could also become a private school, but public funds are for public schools that have been approved on the local level. This constitutional runaround and purposely poorly amendment proposal are disgraceful.

Veteran Observer

August 28th, 2012
7:43 pm

Charter Parent, the better option already exists. It is called the state school board! This amendment creates a board that is not elected and accountable to no one! Dr Barge said it best, the legislators need to address funding needs in the existing schools before they siphon off dollars to create a new bureaucracy! I am a lifelong Republican and I oppose the amendment as not needed! Chip Rogers and the rest of his merry men need to deal with the important issues they were elected to deal with and quit trying to expand government and ruin the public schools! Be aware of the real issue here. They are using this as an excuse to defund the public schools and they are using the charter school parents(who I fully support) to get to their real agenda, which is stealing money from the taxpayers to fund PRIVATE SCHOOLS! The sad day will come if this amendment passes when the public school parents including the charter school supporters will wonder where their tax dollars went as every run of the mill private school gets those dollars in grants and vouchers! I personally believe every school should be a charter school as its success should be directly related to parental involvement in the school in partnership with the professionals! Sadly, there has arisen poor for-profit charter school companies that need the elected school boards oversight and approval or disapproval!

Decatur Joe

August 28th, 2012
7:49 pm

It is time for GAPTA to lick their wounds, tuck tail under their —, and admit they were wrong. I know it is hard to say “I was wrong” but the time has come. You are a “parent and teacher” organization, not a mouthpiece for local boards of education.

St Simons

August 28th, 2012
7:55 pm

hey, when you can’t win fair & square, just cheat – right, cons?
just pee on the state constitution, or ignore it.

You have a choice now, every day.
Just don’t use my tax dollars to fund private jesus-rode-the-dinosaur
bible schools, while our world’s competitors are looking for more
ways to add math & science with the public funds they have.

If you think the world USED to laugh at us, just wait.
Forget the 5 Ps – Georgias greatest export is wingnut ignorance.
Thanks. no really thanks a lot, Georgia Republicans.

An observer

August 28th, 2012
8:34 pm

Sounds like it is a No on state charter schools unless someone can start explaining its benefits.


August 28th, 2012
8:41 pm

So you complain when the Federal Government takes over States rights, but it is okay for the state to take over county rights? Can’t have it both ways, where is Obama when we need him.


August 28th, 2012
8:50 pm

The Charter School amendment is desperately needed. Local school boards can not be trusted to authorize their own competition. Yes charter schools compete for the same students and the dollars that go with those students, that is why the creation of a charter school in a district actually helps improve the schools around it. Educators become more responsive to parents and the children because that is what charter schools have to do to survive and local schools have to if they have the competition. Being responsive to kids and their parents is what all schools should be, but many of the county schools act very capriciously when they do not have the competition. Parents are tired of some educators who think that a parents point of view is not important and that is one of the reasons charter schools exist because they recognize that it is the parents responsibility to make sure their children get an education. Parents become true partners with the school. Asking local boards to authorize charter schools is like asking the cat to guard the bird while the homeowner is away, not a real good idea. I whole heartedly believe the charter school legislation is desperately needed in GA. As far as the chamber of commerce, they should remain neutral; it would be inappropriate for them to be anything else. The GA PTA should not have taken any side, charter schools have PTA members also. I pray the legislature does the right thing on this one.


August 28th, 2012
8:52 pm

The Gwinnett Legislative Delegation actually threatened to withhold funds from it’s own colleges!?! So if you don’t vote for this not so thinly veiled legislation that will surely be used to further handicap our children’s public schools primary education, we are going to also work to limit and obstruct our local citizens from obtaining technical training or furthering their higher education. Unbelievable! This is democracy?


August 28th, 2012
9:08 pm

Since when is putting a Constitutional amendment before the voters on a ballot unconstitutional???? And yes, it IS AGAINST THE LAW for BOE to use taxpayer funds to lobby for or against anything! But then it is also illegal for teachers to cheat for their students on a test but we’ve seen how much attention they pay to the law. So if you’re ag’in it vote ag’in it but don’t think you deserve more than 1 wo or MAN 1 vote! Those of us responsible enough about the welfares of our children and our educational system will vote for it. If you object to abidding by the outcome then you need to return to school and get educated on how a democratic republic works.

Mary Elizabeth

August 28th, 2012
9:38 pm

It seems to me that powerful arm-twisting is occurring to try to see this Amendment to Georgia’s Constitution passed. That tell me that this Amendment is as much, or more, political in nature, as it is educational. As a retired educator, I do not intend to vote for it for that reason.

I ask citizens to weigh the following choices of fundamental values which I have posed regarding the future of our nation – as they decide how they will vote on this issue. I do not think that that my analysis, below, is far removed from what is directly happening in Georgia, regarding this Constitutional Amendment.

From “Mary Elizabeth Sings”:

“Perhaps, as citizens, we should begin to consider what degree of competition versus what degree of cooperation we wish to perpetuate within society. Perhaps, it is time to question whether the more ‘muscular’ concepts of power, dominance, winning, and wealth . . . are the values most to be sought within our nation, as opposed to the values of collaboration, cooperation, egalitarianism, and intellectual and spiritual development.”



August 28th, 2012
9:39 pm

We need this Charter Amendment because local school boards will not put Charter Schools into their districts. They do not want the loss of power and the competetion. In Cherokee County, the answer to Cherokee Charter was for Dr P to start STEM academies. So, because there is a Cherokee Charter there is now STEM. The State BOE is only allowed to put in special schools and this is very very difficult to approve as well. The Courts have already ruled that only the local BOE’s have the right to fund and start a Charter School so if the state BOE approves a “Special School” then this too will be ruled unconstitional and the school not able to become a school. We have always had a board that approves Charter Schools and no one was ever concerned in the past about it until now. They do not approve every school and the amendment is only an appeals process for those Charter requests that have been denied by local BOE’s, if you look at everything from the past then you will see that they didn’t approve very many in the past. Charter Schools are going to all of a sudden start popping up all over the place, there has to be a need and the need has to be proven and shown to the board. Also, with this amendment the local tax dollar stays with the local BOE the Charter Schools will not get any of that money. So they local school will get the charter school’s kids money and the Charter won’t get it…. seems good for the local people right….. Plus charters educate children for about 2 to 3 thousand less a year per child. Plus the Charter School is held to a higher standered than a normal public school. What happens when a local public school doesn’t meet AYP? They keep giving them more money and training… What happens if a local Charter School doesn’t meet AYP? The Charter School is dissolved…..gone, fired… etc…. wish we could do that to some of the regular local schools right….


August 28th, 2012
9:40 pm

Also, our children deserve this second look, the appeals process. Even our criminals get to have an appeal, so why don’t our children?????

Mary Elizabeth

August 28th, 2012
9:47 pm

Parents who do not agree with a local Board of Education’s decision regarding a particular charter school may, presently, by law, appeal that decision to the state’s Board of Education via Georgia’s Superintendent of Schools. There is no need for this Constitutional Amendment for parents to have a means of appeal.


August 28th, 2012
10:06 pm

It really isn’t about charter schools, they are just the tool to take away our ability to vote people in or out of office. Take the time as a voter and taxpayer to take a look at the people you are electing. If the state can do such a great job with education, why haven’t they ever fully funded it? And you think they can do a better job than locally elected board members?


August 28th, 2012
11:16 pm

Mom of two- get up to speed, there is no more AYP in Georgia. Your school in Cherokee has failed to meet its academic, enrollment and fiscal goals in its charter contract, but just watch the state approve it for renewal anyway. Your school tried to operate on less money and went in the hole by over a million dollars (bailed out by its management company, which turned around and tripled its no-bid management fee).


August 29th, 2012
12:47 am

The state governor and legislature keep pushing expenses on local governments while taking away their power.
Who will have the courage to stand up to this extortion.

[...] Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has changed its position on the Charter School Amendment on the November ballot from “oppose” to [...]


August 29th, 2012
7:32 am

The governor and majority leader (and others) have resorted to bullying tactics because they know the facts don’t support approval of the constitutional amendment for charter schools.

Is it okay for the state to pay 2.5 times more per student for charters?

Is it appropriate for the state to redirect funding away from its constitutional obligation to provide education for all students in favor of a new funding mechanism for charter schools?

Did you know that charter schools do not perform better, and in many cases worse, than traditional public schools?

And hot of the presses, charter schools receive 1/3 of their students from private schools. So much for the argument of offering choices to families locked in failing schools.

Vote no.

[...] lobbyist, presumably to fight the creation of Milton County Gwinnett Chamber, Georgia PTA receiving pushback on charter school amendment Mayor Kasim Reed’s remarks to Ted Cruz on Meet the Press are being widely [...]

Sabrina Smith

August 29th, 2012
8:06 am

If you would like to learn more about the funding relationship between Gwinnett County Public Schools, the Gwinnett Chamber and Gwinnett County, you can find information on this website:


Old Farmer

August 29th, 2012
9:05 am

We sure don’t need a so-called independent commission. It won’t be independent and it will be just another entity that will eat up tax dollars. We already have a Department of Education, we are paying them and we need to let them do their job.


August 29th, 2012
10:13 am

Deal plays hardball. He cares about power and money. That is who he works for. I hope average Georgians will wake up and see that this man and all his gang must be turned out of office at the earliest opportunity. First, you can start with those Gwinnett legislators who put the squeeze on for him. Defeat them all even if their opponent is a yellow dog.

Mary Elizabeth

August 29th, 2012
10:33 am

@Tony, 7:32 am

“Is it okay for the state to pay 2.5 times more per student for charters?”

Tony, if your thinking that the state would pay 2.5 times more per student for charters was based on my analysis on Maureen Downey’s blog on the thread entitled, “Our PolitiFact Georgia team looks at John Barge and charters: Not much of a flip” (see link below), then I must correct that erroneous figure for you, and for the reading public. I apologize for my unintentional error.

Please read the post, below, which I just addressed to Dr. Monica Henson (10:00 am today, August 29, 2012 on that same thread, on that same link, below, 3rd page in):

“@Dr. Henson, 9:15 pm, August 28, 2012

My analysis was based upon the below remarks which you had posted when I requested to know how many students you served and what your annual operating budget would be:

On August 23, 2012, at 9:22 pm, on this thread, you had stated this response to my inquiry:

“Mary Elizabeth, everything you ask for is public record because we are a public school. Our enrollment as of today is at 269 students. We have a goal of 750 students for School Year 2013 and will accept students all year-round. If we have more then 750 enrollees, then we will happily accept them.

We currently employ nine Georgia-certified teachers and five degreed advisors, all of whom have either teaching or counseling certificates, some also with social work licensure, and several with graduation coach experience. We also employ three administrators, including me, a community outreach manager, an administrative assistant, and a data owner (more commonly known as a registrar).

Our state funding is approximately $4,440 per pupil. We won an Implementation Grant in the amount of $600,000 from the State Board of Education. This grant is part of a federal block grant for charter schools from the U.S. Department of Education. As a public school, we are eligible to draw Title I, Title IIA, IDEA (special education funding), and funding for alternative education for students who present at high risk. We are in the process of finalizing the specifics, but I anticipate our operating budget to be in the neighborhood of $5 million for this first year of school.”

Based on those remarks, I believed that your budget (which you had additionally stated needed to be finalized by the end of the week) was for your present enrollment of 269 students. I had assumed that your budget would increase, if your enrollment actually climbed to 750 students.

I will certainly, now, correct my assessment that the DeKalb School System would need a budget 2.4 times its present budget to serve 269 students in 380 charter-like schools, similar to yours. Since your estimated annual budget of 5 million dollars is based on an enrollment of 750 students (rather than of 269 students), then the DCSS would need only 136, not 380, charter-like schools (similar to Provost’s) to serve its 102,000 students. That would mean that it would cost the DeKalb School System less money, not 2.4 times more money, to serve all of its 102,000 students in charter-like schools, similar to those of Provost Charter Schools.

One financial element, however, remains nebulous, imo, and that is whether or not the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Centers would be receiving additional educational tax money.”

To repeat an important line from my post above:

“That would mean that it would cost the DeKalb School System less money, not 2.4 times more money, to serve all of its 102,000 students in charter-like schools, similar to those of Provost Charter Schools.”

Tony, if you have had another source for stating that “the state to pay 2.5 times more per student for charters,” then I would very much like to know that source. Thank you.

Mary Elizabeth

August 29th, 2012
10:36 am

Here is the link to the thread on Maureen Downey’s blog, which I had said I would provide in my 10:33 post, above:


Kara Martin

August 29th, 2012
12:30 pm

In regards to the constitutional amendment on the upcoming ballot no BOE or school entity should be using funds to lobby for or against this issue. That is not what school money or my tax money is for. It is for educating our children! And the fact that everyone is so angered by the issue of allowing the public to vote on this matter is disturbing to say the least. Since when is my ability to have a vote in what happens in this country so wrong? The current issue with the local board is that they do not want any other entity infringing on their power and control when it comes to the children in their district. They consistently vote down options for our children to be educated. The parents of Georgia are fed up with living in a state that offers substandard education. Cheating on tests, counties loosing accreditation, teachers with tenure who just do not care, salary increases yearly for employees while text books are unaffordable, 30,000 children in 2011 failing or dropping out before graduation and 47th in the nation is what this state has offered thus far. And according to some of the posts I have read here, this is good enough! Well I for one think that it is not and we are not going to stand by and continue to watch our children suffer because those at the district level simply want to squander our money away on admin buildings, fluffed up car expenditures and fancy bank accounts. It is time that these entities be held accountable. And if approving Charter Schools is going to provide a better option for education and force the district to start focusing on the kids and their education then I say what are we waiting for. It seems that a wake up call is long past do. Lets start holding the schools accountable to teaching our children with this message – There is another option, we can seek public schooling outside of your doors, and if you want to keep your doors open and your employment you will have to start doing your JOB!


August 29th, 2012
1:33 pm

As per Gov.Deal The State of Georgia has No MONEY for Medicaid expansion for the most poorest and neediest among US. And GOD knows there are hundreds of thousands of them. However, Georgia has $430 Million dollars to invest in a untried, untested,unproven State Wide “New” Big Government ” GOLDEN WELFARE Plan” called Charter Schools. There is really something to be said about the people of Georgia and its moral beliefs within its political leadership.


August 29th, 2012
2:20 pm

Why do some people feel just putting a “Charter” label on the school is going to make it any better? If the perception is that Charters are better because they waive certain certain state rules or regulations in return for better performance, why not remove those restraints from ALL SCHOOLS? Good schools are made up of good teachers, supportive (not helicopter) parents and guided curriculum and delivery. Get involved, demand change if it is needed and realize that schools have your children about 9% of their time from birth to 18 years of age (do the math!). Sounds to me like some want to return to the days of segregation (social, that is!)

Holly Jones

August 29th, 2012
3:06 pm

Where did it say the Gwinnett BOE was spending any money on this? It was the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce who had scheduled an event. Pay attention, people. Don’t get distracted by the red herrings being thrown out on this issue. It’s not about whether or not charters will exist. They are here; they will continue to be here. And they have a role to play, when used appropriately. This is solely about who controls the process and thus, the money.

I ask this of everyone who says this amendment is needed: Do you honestly think that an appointed, state-level committee member, who owes you nothing, will be more responsive than a locally elected BOE member who depends on your vote?? Now, if you are assured- or assuming- that the state level group will always agree with you- meaning that they will approve any charter petition just because it means “choice” -then I can see why you want this.

@momoftwo- you may see the academies as a response to CCA-and if so, then your point is proven– charters create innovation even in traditional public schools. And isn’t that we we all want? That’s what charter advocates keep saying, but when those innovations appear in TPS’s, there is still criticism. So, are charter advocates really interested in improving ALL schools or do they just want a special school for their kids? I will add that the academies were NOT solely in response to the charter parents, but the CCA issue pushed them to the front of the line, in my opinion. Dr. P, the superintendent, has wanted this type of school for a long, long time. He talked about wanting magnet high schools years ago. If CCA makes that happen faster, then I say “Thank you.”

George Boston Rhynes

August 29th, 2012
5:42 pm

Why is necessary to change the way our children are educated in America? Is it because certain segments of our society are concerned about NOT being in power in the future? Moreover why all these new voter ID Laws without any real justifiable reasons? Just keeping it real in times like these. http://www.youtube.com/my_videos?feature=mhee