Charter school measure wins, but the fight has just begun

Perhaps you thought that trip to the polls would settle the struggle for control over your kid’s education – the one waged between the public school establishment and the ladies and gentlemen who inhabit the state Capitol.

Not a chance.

The ballot issue to reaffirm the state’s authority to license charter schools, even over the objection of local school systems, enjoyed easy passage on Tuesday, confirming a new path for privatized education in Georgia.

But consider that vote a mere first volley. The next chapter, already being written, will be a vast melodrama with elements of revenge, naked assertions of power and – perhaps – some consideration of what’s best for more than 1.6 million kids who answer the bell each day.

Legislation is now being crafted to reduce the clout of Georgia’s 180 local school boards by making it easier for parents to seize control of individual schools.

And there’s the question of whether state School Superintendent John Barge, who bucked much of the state’s Republican leadership by opposing Tuesday’s charter school measure, will be reduced to a powerless figurehead.

At its root, the fight over Amendment One was yet another consequence of Georgia’s stalemate approach to education. Policy is in the hands of a school superintendent elected statewide, who answers to – but can’t be fired by — a state Board of Education appointed by the governor.

Gov. Nathan Deal is also in charge of the billions of dollars allocated each year to education, and requires control over how it’s spent.

Last month, at the height of the charter school debate, Barge sent a letter to Deal, announcing that he had rejected the governor’s selection and picked his own person to keep track of $400 million in federal “Race to the Top” cash.

“I am responsible for ensuring that [funds] are used to achieve the goals set forth,” Deal reminded Barge, in writing. More important, the governor noted that he – not Barge – is the one who fields the phone calls when Washington is unhappy.

In two years, both will be judged on how Georgia’s schools have fared. Their symbiotic relationship is best expressed on Barge’s re-election campaign website, johnbarge.com. Its home page features a half-dozen photos of the state school superintendent with Sandra Deal, wife of the governor and a former teacher.

On another page of the website is a picture of the governor and Barge, with the headline “Will the ‘real Republican’ please stand?” But Barge hasn’t just ticked off a governor. Speaker pro tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, served as the public face of the charter school campaign. Her friends in the House are displeased.

This spring, the Legislature passed a bill to give Barge more power. Deal vetoed it. Lawmakers won’t repeat themselves next year. In fact, Barge must now worry whether the Legislature will attempt to strip him of his budgetary authority – as happened in Virginia. (As a constitutional officer, Barge’s job can’t be erased.)

Only a few years ago, Roy Barnes created the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement to bypass state School Superintendent Linda Schrenko. She’s now doing time for diverting federal funds intended for deaf and blind students into her 2002 gubernatorial campaign – and toward a facelift.

A smaller target for lawmakers: The Department of Education has a charter school division that could be removed from Barge’s control.

Then we have “parent trigger” legislation now being drafted by House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, to make it easier for parents to convert their traditional public school into a charter school – and allow them to take direct control over the hiring and firing of school administrators. “This will simplify the process, and hopefully open up a greater dialogue between the parents and school board and administration,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey agrees that both sides in the charter school fight need to cool off. “We need to beat our respective weapons into chalkboards,” he said.

Some school officials across the state agree that the charter school fight has shown the need for closer contact with parents. “We have to really listen to what people are saying about their public schools,” said Jeannie “Sis” Henry, executive director of the Georgia School Boards Association.

As for beating their swords into chalkboards, don’t count on it. “They’ve awoken a sleeping giant. The education community is as galvanized as I’ve ever seen it. They’re very concerned about the lack of resources,” she said.

Henry predicted a small army would be on hand come January, when the Legislature convenes and the fight over your kid’s school begins again.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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68 comments Add your comment

Mitch

November 7th, 2012
1:04 am

Whoa there Sis Henry. I think your small army is going to have a hard time getting an appointment with anyone who makes any decisions.

Charter Parent

November 7th, 2012
1:19 am

Parents…be watching! Be aware! Be vigilant! This small victory will be the first of many!

Kris

November 7th, 2012
1:59 am

Sad night for the children of Ga schools. Low bidder,cronies and family members of shady all get the much needed Education dollars…Error Davis will get a new contract. The state will loose many great educators.

Cannot wait until the law suits start flying and all the $$$ spent by both the Ethical and unethical (shady)
unethical sides. Money wasted that could have been spent on fixing our current education system.

sis?

November 7th, 2012
2:00 am

This was just the first skirmish in a long pitched battle to impose accountability and the productive elements of competition on the entrenched corrupt public education system. The current bloated education establishment will not easily cede control of the piles of taxpayer cash they have at their disposal. I am happy for this small victory and am prepared for the decade or so it will take to make a dent in the monstrosity that is the public education monopoly.

BehindEnemyLines

November 7th, 2012
2:29 am

Given Barge’s willingness to obstruct an attempt to improve the sorry state of public “education”, reducing him to a powerless figurehead is far better than he deserves.

Real Athens

November 7th, 2012
3:15 am

Georgia continues it’s march backwards. So sad.

FairLady

November 7th, 2012
4:27 am

Tonight the parents and children of GA had a victory! Let’s just celebrate!! Their voices were heard tonight over the constant ranting of the educational bureaucratic status-quo! They want more from their schools, and they overwhelmingly voted for change!! Better Days are on the horizon.

Mary Elizabeth

November 7th, 2012
4:51 am

A word to the wise: Keep an eye on the money flow, as these changes to public education occur.

Just the facts

November 7th, 2012
5:26 am

It seems as if parents are concerned about Georgia being ranked at the bottom for states properly educating their children. Local school boards have been given a vote of no confidence.

Peter Smagorinsky

November 7th, 2012
5:36 am

sis? and otherw ho believe that “The current bloated education establishment will not easily cede control of the piles of taxpayer cash they have at their disposal”: Please pay attention to facts instead of the noise that surrounds the signal. Many, many Georgia school districts are scaling their school years back by 30 days or more because they can’t afford to operate, and taxpayers are not willing to fund them to provide their communities’ kids with the resources they need to get a proper education. Bloat? Please. Pay attention to what’s going on out there, and not what’s convenient to your ideology.

Peter Smagorinsky

November 7th, 2012
5:37 am

obviously, I meant “and others who believe”–my fingers aren’t well-oiled this early.

John

November 7th, 2012
5:49 am

So let me get this straight, the parents that we never see for conferences, can’t reach on a phone, or can’t find for person-to-person contact, will now have a greater control in how school systems work? This makes perfect sense. We can’t get them to come to PTO or Student Night, but by gosh we can let them run their own school. Talk about uncommon sense!

Diego

November 7th, 2012
6:11 am

Peter- My children went to a traditional public school and now they attend a public charter school. Both of the schools are very high performers. One of the stark differences between the two schools is money. Both schools get the same amount of money per child, but some how the charter school has plenty of money for computers and other extras. At the public school the PTA had to raise endless monies to pay for these extras. The difference is stark, and you could even make the argument that the charter school my children attend is over funded.

We should be focusing on what is happening to the money in the traditional schools because it certainly isn’t making it to the classroom.

crankee-yankee

November 7th, 2012
6:12 am

The voters have spoken and they will now get what they were tricked into wanting. It is a sad day for education in this backward state devoid of unethics. Your votes were bought and paid for by out-of-state entities who don’t give to cents about your kids, just their bottom line. The almighty dollar won last night, not your kids. But you will believe otherwise because that is what you have been told to think. Lemmings.

WillinRoswell

November 7th, 2012
6:13 am

Message to local boards of education: Get ready to see your fiefdoms fall apart and a better day dawn for the children because you won’t control them any longer.
Message to parents and citizens: Get ready to bypass your rotten local board of education. Oh, happy day.

crankee-yankee

November 7th, 2012
6:14 am

“devoid of ethics.” Fat-fingered it.

Bob

November 7th, 2012
6:21 am

John, you don’t seem to get it. The people that are pushing for more choice are the ones that show up to PTA and other functions. The people that don’t care will not pursue the option of charters.

catlady

November 7th, 2012
6:51 am

Our watchdog ethics committee has been gutted by this governor. Who will watch over the naked giveaway of state funds?

This is s sad day for Georgia taxpayers. I rejoice that in 17 months (maybe sooner) I will join the 47% and will pay even less than I do now in school taxes ($218.33) and no state income taxes. I will begin working on my 2 remaining children to move their families out of this state!

jezel

November 7th, 2012
6:54 am

Since we have opened the door to privatize education….where is the movement to end government funding of public education?

Concerned Parent

November 7th, 2012
7:00 am

John — Your description of parents was actually our experience with teachers at Brookwood High School in Snellville, a perennial tpo achieving high school. 50% of teachers showed up for parent-teacher conferences and about half of them were prepared. The education philosophy was “we serve it up; take it or leave it.” My child was an A-B student who was bored and disruptive. He now attends a top 25 college. Immediately he became a straight A student. We were stunned. We asked why, and he said “I don’t know. My professors care. They try to teach and not just jerk people around.” Perhaps that is his maturity, but it is consistent with how we experienced the school too. Ms. Robinson, an asst. principal, was queen of “the Brookwood way.” We wanted to be good parents. We got no cooperation from teachers or administrators. We just got “this is the system.” My hope for Charter Schools is that teachers will focus on student needs and not just preserving a system. Part of the problem at Brookwood is the size. Part of the problem was former principal before Ms. Dees. That is just one story from one school with one student. However, this is why I voted for Charter Schools — in the hopes that we could find more creative ways of educating children.

Ronnie Raygun

November 7th, 2012
7:05 am

Let the lawsuits begin over the misleading and vaguely worded amendment. It should be a slam dunk.

Mary Elizabeth

November 7th, 2012
7:11 am

Jezel, 6:54 am

“Since we have opened the door to privatize education. . .where is the movement to end government funding of public education?”
========================================

As a senior citizen on a fixed income without any children in school, I do not think that it is fair that I should be forced to pay taxes on my property in order to send children, not my own, to private schools, or to home school settings, with public funds.

If there is going to be a major change in the school delivery model for students throughout Georgia so that citizens’ tax monies for education will follow the child, then, likewise, the source of that money (citizens such as myself, childless couples, singles, among others) should also undergo changes.

The amount of my taxes paid for education should be adjusted so that I would only be required to pay for the education of students in Georgia who attend public schools, and so that I would not be required to pay for the education of those students who may choose to attend private schools, or attend home schooling situations, with public tax funds.

If change is going to happen in Georgia in its educational delivery model for students throughout the state, then that change must happen not only for the students and their parents who are the beneficiaries of that change, but change of educational tax policy must also happen for those citizens, such as myself, who are required to fund those educational changes.

Aaron Burr V Mexico

November 7th, 2012
7:22 am

Sooooooooooooooo glad I’m getting the hell out of dodge.

I just wish I hadn’t listened to my concience and voted Yes on 1 and 2 just to spite you all. :D

InvolvedParent

November 7th, 2012
7:35 am

The TAX money doesnt ALL follow the child. If a commissioned approved charter is created, then the local school taxes will NOT be used for the charter. The locally zoned schools will still have access to this money, even though students in that zoned area have opted to go to a commisioned approved charter. State and Federal money WILL follow the child, as it should.

Tell The Truth

November 7th, 2012
7:37 am

After over 25 years of constantly ranking at the bottom in education, I think the sleeping giant should stay asleep. Our children have been betrayed by those who’ve been elected and selected to prepare them to compete globally and challenge them, philosophically. The game rigged and is about keeping the poor, poor….the middle class, middle class….and the elite, elite. In those regards, the system is doing exactly what it’s been designed to do, KEEP THE MASSES IN THEIR PLACE.

You don't say

November 7th, 2012
7:42 am

cc & td

What is the latest from Morris and Rove?

They sure know how to make predictions, don’t they?

How did that oversampling theory work out for you?

Another angle

November 7th, 2012
7:43 am

How quickly can we get Edward Lundsay’s parent trigger rule on the books. Good minds are a-wasting. We can’t afford to wait.

Attack Dog

November 7th, 2012
7:50 am

Let the Koch Brothers, etal do something constructive with the money, and have them fund all charter schools. They just wasted a billion dollars.

honested

November 7th, 2012
8:02 am

Here’s a plan.
Lets quickly move to restoring revenue sanity at the Federal level (Clinton Era Tax Rates).
That might awaken the dim bulbs in the General Assembly that they can raise the revenue necessary to do the job instead of inventing unproven magic solutions.
With adequate funding for smaller classes, Georgia educational outcomes will improve!

Or we can concentrate on being the last, backward, redneck, conserrrrrrrrvative state in the south.

Ivan

November 7th, 2012
8:04 am

Who do I call to get the charter schools rolling in Atlanta (I’m serious and ready to work)?
PS – Kris, I love “Error Davis,” hope you don’t mind if I start using that.

WAW

November 7th, 2012
8:08 am

Simple solution: Every elected School Board in Georgia declares all public schools Charter Schools.

Marie

November 7th, 2012
8:13 am

I control my children’s education – and we decided the best we could do was to homeschool — with a group of other kids. We dissect frogs, plant gardens, listen to classical music, study the ancient world – then go see the exhibits at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, study Picasso – then go see the paintings at the High Museum. We are done worrying about 28 kids packed into the classroom, the weird lunches, the bus bully. We, as parents, are responsible and in charge of our childlren’s education. I say do what is best for your own child, whatever that decision may be.

Yes, Mary Elizabeth

November 7th, 2012
8:43 am

I agree, Mary Elizabeth. Seem’s we’re both OK with the social contract that has us investing in public education and the public good going forward. We don’t include corporate and [so-called] religious corporations taking a cut off the top and operating privately and independently with my tax dollars under this claim of ’schooling our kids’. It’s more like stiffing them.

We can escape the coming scammed-up tax mess by moving to counties that have the most neo-liberal “reward the richest” property tax policies that the GOP have put through. Consider what GOP Amos Amerson pushed along: counties set the tax exemption rules and amounts for lowering tax bills.

It was allied SB 346, and it hurts the fairness of funding the mission of local government, but it protects rich property owners.

GOP Amerson is in Lumpkin County, has a huge house and over 100 acres, but with the [no means test] tax exemptions passed locally, he’ll be paying hardly any property tax. Why care about the schools if you don’t have to pay!?

You evan read more about property tax exemption scandals in Lumpkin, which slashed county budgets by 30% after they realized they had created a fiscal cliff, at Lumpkin Tax Cut DOT com. Firefighters an EMTs had their pay cut from $15 an hour to $10 an hour, so living in these tax free for the rich places has consequences–like poor services, but at least charter schools aren’t going to be well funded there, either.

We can watch the greedy elites lead us to more ignorance and anarchy with their new anti-governemtn, anti-society Confederacy of Dunces. Corporate Charter schools will be cranking out more dunces….

[...] HERE to read the [...]

honested

November 7th, 2012
8:54 am

Yes Mary Elizabeth,
Excellent point!

Civilization has it’s costs………even for the wealthy!

Puerile Pedant

November 7th, 2012
9:09 am

Old times here are not forgotton.

Plessy v. Ferguson! Separate but unequal!

Bless the Georgia GOPs hearts!

Don Coyote

November 7th, 2012
9:12 am

The only certainty to all of this is that a lot of lawyers are going to get paid.

South GA Food Taxer

November 7th, 2012
9:23 am

I think this is a wonderful thing. 58% of Georgians voted for it, including 56% in my district. Therefore, I’m for it all the way……… unless you are against it.

Best Of The Best

November 7th, 2012
9:27 am

Something has got to be done about education in the state. Public schools have proven they can’t do the job for every child so I say hurrah for our leaders for taking this step. The public school superintendants were all in an uproar over this because they could see their power being threatened. Our society is/has changed & it’s time for this segment to change as well.

Chipoff Dablock

November 7th, 2012
9:33 am

Do any of you argue that Georgia schools are, and for years have been, in a state of decline. Only one state in the union is in worse shape than Georgia. This is the first of what I believe will be many positive measures to improve our dwindling education system and hopefully stop the bleeding. My hat is off to the Governor who has the courage to make the necessary changes for the sake of improvement. We owe it to our children and the generations to come.

jabster

November 7th, 2012
9:37 am

Mary Elizabeth: Not one nickel of your local school taxes are going to state charter schools. Period. Look it up.

If you are concerned about paying school taxes, move to Cobb County where seniors don’t pay a nickel in any local school taxes. How’s that for fair?

33 states do charter schools like the amendment now permits. At least 32 of them have better educational outcomes than Georgia’s.

All of this hollering and screaming is the GAE and their bureaucrats whining over the loss of control of their PRECIOUS…their money and their power.

And Dick Yarbrough is a putz.

Runs DMC

November 7th, 2012
9:46 am

Control the schools? Are you kidding me? I’ve got the squirts and can’t even control my bowels and you want me to do what???

Baron DeKalb

November 7th, 2012
9:47 am

I would like the opportunity to vote for a constitutional amendment stating that amendments to the state constitution require a 2/3 majority vote and a clearly-worded ballot.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

November 7th, 2012
9:58 am

ESSENTIAL QUESTION: In the run-up to, and during, the 2013 legislative session, will Sis and her fellow educrats be so galvanized about the lack of academic achievement among any of our poor and minority kids as they will be about “lack of resources?”

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

November 7th, 2012
10:00 am

OOPS: Line 3 above- “many” rather than “any.”

Proud Voter

November 7th, 2012
10:00 am

The technology companies and charter school companies are going to make a fortune in Georgia! Soon we will be able to claim Number 50 as our own in the education world in the United States and no other state will be able to take it from us because we’ll pass more amendments to the constitution to make sure we keep it! Good work, Deal!

bdawg

November 7th, 2012
10:05 am

The gates have been opened for the “For Profit” schools. Georgia money will fly out of the state like geese flying south. Politicians hands will be out to received the “thanks” of the out of state organizations wanting to set up shop in Georgia. Our governor’s history of unethical behavior will be tolerated again by the blind people of this state. Finally, when local taxes are maxed out because of the “golden domers” shifting more money away from public education then the public should hold our legislators accountable at the ballot box. THIS IS STATE FUNDED SEGREGATION PURE AND SIMPLE.

Andy S.

November 7th, 2012
10:07 am

The last Governor to wake up the education community was Roy Barnes….that did not work out so well either.

Michele

November 7th, 2012
10:21 am

Somebody truly needs to pull in the reigns of public education. The “one size fits all” approach to education hurts every single student in this state. The drive to end the gifted programs around the state is an even greater threat to Georgia’s education. Parents of gifted students need to flex their muscles in an effort to do what is right for gifted students. Regardless of what the institution is telling you, gifted students deserve just as much emphasis as the learning disabled. They must be pushed to achieve higher goals than regular education and special education students. These are the “movers and shakers” of Georgian and American societies. They cannot be neglected as they are being at the present time. The Common Core movement is wonderful, but teachers must be given the opportunity to teach their students in the best way for each group of students. Enforcing a requirement to teach exactly the same way, on exactly the same schedule, and with exactly the same tests on the same days of the calendar all go towards “dumbing down” the curriculum for those on the fringes of our society. Why can’t the leaders of education understand that?

Michele

November 7th, 2012
10:21 am

Somebody truly needs to pull in the reigns of public education. The “one size fits all” approach to education hurts every single student in this state. The drive to end the gifted programs around the state is an even greater threat to Georgia’s education. Parents of gifted students need to flex their muscles in an effort to do what is right for gifted students. Regardless of what the institution is telling you, gifted students deserve just as much emphasis as the learning disabled. They must be pushed to achieve higher goals than regular education and special education students. These are the “movers and shakers” of Georgian and American societies. They cannot be neglected as they are being at the present time. The Common Core movement is wonderful, but teachers must be given the opportunity to teach their students in the best way for each group of students. Enforcing a requirement to teach exactly the same way, on exactly the same schedule, and with exactly the same tests on the same days of the calendar all go towards “dumbing down” the curriculum for those on the fringes of our society. Why can’t the leaders of education understand that?