A woodshed season for John Barge

State Superintendent John Barge consults with a staffer following a hearing before a joint meeting of the House and Senate budget committees. Jason Getz/jgetz@ajc.com

State Superintendent John Barge consults with a staffer following a hearing before a joint meeting of the House and Senate budget committees. Jason Getz/jgetz@ajc.com

A season of punishment has begun for state School Superintendent John Barge – payback for his opposition to last year’s ballot measure restoring the state’s power to create charter schools throughout Georgia.

But at the state Capitol, the first rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club. Those throwing the punches don’t want to appear vindictive. Those on the receiving end know that things could get ever so much worse.

This week, it was Barge’s duty to go before state lawmakers to explain educational spending in Gov. Nathan Deal’s $19.8 billion proposed budget for next year. Unless you had the document in front of you, you would never have known that Deal had shrunk Barge’s central office budget from $87 million to $27 million.

The governor had really, really liked that charter school measure.

But rather than point to his bruises, Barge rained praise on Deal for increased spending on classrooms. “I want to thank the governor for investing in education,” the superintendent told members of the House and Senate budget committees. Not just once. Not just twice. He and a deputy uttered that phrase – or a variation of it – 10 times over 45 minutes.

Yes, Barge admitted, some of the cuts to his administrative staff will hurt. “We will continue to make our bricks, even though we have less hay to make them with. It just means it may take us a little longer to build that pyramid,” Barge said. Though perhaps a metaphor that draws on Israelites, slave labor and Egyptian overseers wasn’t the best choice.

In terms of administrative costs, the Department of Education endured the same 3 percent budget cuts endured by other state departments and agencies.

And to be fair, much of that $60 million removed from Barge’s central office budget was shifted to other pots in the state education budget – perhaps to make them easier to remove from Barge’s control at a later date. All spending on charter schools, for instance. The state education budget now includes funding for a Charter School Commission independent of the school superintendent.

The most obvious evidence that the governor has placed Barge in time-out: The Department of Education had been splitting the costs with Georgia Public Broadcasting for a program in which teachers can access math and science material – created by the Discovery Channel – through the GPB network.

Next year, Barge’s budget will be docked for the entire cost – nearly $1 million. But GPB will be given total control of the money.

After his session with state lawmakers, Barge declined to admit that he’d just visited the woodshed. “I don’t want to take any kind of assumptions as to what is what. I know that budget cuts could be worse,” the school superintendent said. “And the budget is obviously reflective of what’s most important – and that’s students in the state of Georgia and their education.”

The translation from Capitol-speak into English: “Thank you, sir – may I have another?”

But seriously, Georgia has an awkward approach to education. The governor has control over most spending, and the school superintendent is in charge of the bureaucracy that your tax dollars pay for. Both are elected statewide, by slightly different sets of voters.

Yet there are signs that Barge has become more cautious about airing differences with the governor in anticipation of his re-election in 2014.

During his state-of-the-state address last week, the most overlooked portion of Deal’s speech dealt with state intervention in cases in which local school systems are faced with the loss of accreditation. Right now, the state can inject itself into local educational matters only when adults – i.e., school board members – are behaving badly.

“It is somewhat ironic that the loss of accreditation can only be based on governance issues and not on substandard academic progress of the school system,” the governor said. “Unless this is addressed by state legislation, we will continue to have thousands of Georgia’s children trapped in under-performing schools through no fault of their own.”

Last year’s fight over charter schools centered on local control – whether the state could impose charter schools on local boards of education that don’t want them. Charter school proponents won.

But giving state government the power to intervene in school systems that are simply poor-performing would be a far more significant extension of authority than last year’s charter school measure. When asked about it, Barge was careful.

“We would need to discuss what that intervention may look like. And who is intervening, and how,” he said.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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35 comments Add your comment

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

January 23rd, 2013
5:45 pm

Awfully speculative, aren’t we?

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

January 23rd, 2013
5:52 pm

A Con cuts spending and the libs accuse them of malice. Makes you feel good about the future of our country, doesn’t it?

td

January 23rd, 2013
6:35 pm

Aesop’s Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

January 23rd, 2013
5:52 pm

I agree with you most of the time but Jim has a good point on this one. Dr. Barge was correct on the Charter school amendment and Deal (with the help of other legislators) is punishing him for his opposition. It appears to me that Dr. Barge was correct and we are seeing an unelected committee getting more and more power over the money and overruling local elected boards to put schools anywhere they want too with accountability to anyone.

yuzeyurbrane

January 23rd, 2013
7:03 pm

Why surprise? Deal has always practiced classic politics; reward your friends and punish your enemies.

Kris

January 23rd, 2013
7:15 pm

yuzeyurbrane “Why surprise? Deal has always practiced classic “

More like playground justice. Lets pick on the kid (pick something) because there are more of us..

But beware of smiling faces this could be a smoking DEAL to hide other things about to come to light…

Also some of the Ladies of the evening are complaining that getting paid in Birth control pills is not right,. That’s cash only!

By Crooked deal 2014

Biden/Clinton (pick a Clinton 2016

Proud Voter

January 23rd, 2013
7:25 pm

And who are ones who really loses here? The already failing students because on the vindictive adults in charge.

CC

January 23rd, 2013
7:41 pm

“But rather than point to his bruises, Barge rained praise on Deal for increased spending on classrooms. “I want to thank the governor for investing in education,” the superintendent told members of the House and Senate budget committees. Not just once. Not just twice. He and a deputy uttered that phrase – or a variation of it – 10 times over 45 minutes.”

Interpretation: “I know I’ve been a very bad boy! I’m sorry! It won’t happen again. Please, don’t spank me anymore!”

CC

January 23rd, 2013
7:53 pm

“The already failing students because on the vindictive adults in charge.”

I submit that the major cause for the “failing students” is parental neglect. Parents are not involved in their children’s’ education. Many view school as a baby-sitting service. The undisciplined students make it difficult, if not impossible, to teach them or their classmates. Black students who try to get an education are accused of “acting white” by their black peers.

There are many causes for these “failing students”, but the parents bear the chief responsibility.

Mikey D.

January 23rd, 2013
8:22 pm

Governor Deal and our wonderful legislators have no interest whatsoever in the children of our state. They are concerned with enriching themselves and their cohorts. Need evidence? Two words: Chip Rogers.

DekalbParent

January 23rd, 2013
8:30 pm

Kudos to Deal for supporting charters and Kudos to Barge for moving on!

Buzzy

January 23rd, 2013
8:48 pm

The charter school bill was a mistake, but it was the will of the people nevertheless. I give Barge a lot of credit for his independent thinking on the issue.

Of course, the independent commission will be used to funnel money to friends of GOP legislators, and friends of Shady Deal too I guess.

There are no Liberals

January 23rd, 2013
9:17 pm

Can we please quit blaming Liberals for the ills of this state? Conservatives are in full control of the state and have been for a decade. Every screw up is yours.

Point/Counterpoint

January 23rd, 2013
10:38 pm

Deal can punish Barge, but people are watching. Teachers are a powerful voting block with long memories, otherwise Roy Barnes would be governor now. Maybe Barge should run for governor next year.

Kris

January 23rd, 2013
11:22 pm

Looks like Barge was not the only one beat up on the playground …..Education took a beating

Governor shady deal, not known as a clever or successful businessman.
$24.6 million cut in funding for the state’s technical college system
$24.6 million cut in funding for the state’s technical college system
$22 million cut in technical school HOPE grants, based on fewer students qualifying
$6.5 million in grants for high-demand programs, such as nursing and commercial truck drivers. Might explane why the cuts…

I smell smoke and asphalt…Look for tsLOST part 2…..

After the regional sales tax for transportation crashed and burned last year, Gov. Nathan Deal said he would set priorities for major road projects.

These are the top donors to Gov. Nathan Deal for the second half of 2012 from the highway construction sector, which includes roadbuilders, engineering firms, paving companies and others.
http://www.ajc.com/news/news/road-contractors-shower-governor-with-campaign-don/nT5Wc/

By Crooked deal 2014

John Barge for Governor 2014? Well at least he is educated.

B. Thenet

January 23rd, 2013
11:26 pm

There is nothing more dangerous than a dumb bully with unlimited power.

td

January 23rd, 2013
11:44 pm

Kris

January 23rd, 2013
11:22 pm

And what is the only budget that went up? Medicaid!!!!!! You libs have to decide what is more important. Giving your children enough money for education or giving free insurance to people that should be able to afford it?

Kris

January 24th, 2013
12:05 am

Enter your comments here

Kris

January 24th, 2013
12:11 am

td….was your SS and welfare denied…They will not let you bye liquor with your EBT card….little person get over it rake your meds..

In case you have figured it out the way out is EDUCATION …

By Crooked deal 2014
John Barge for Governor 2014? Well at least he is educated.

Highlights of Deal’s Budget

January 24th, 2013
5:02 am

[...] A woodshed season for John Barge [...]

Buckhead Boy

January 24th, 2013
7:13 am

td: “You libs have to decide what is more important. Giving your children enough money for education or giving free insurance to people that should be able to afford it?

A false dilemma posed with a false hypothesis. Maybe we “libs” are capable of more sophisticated thinking — that is, recognizing that Medicaid recipients can hardly afford private insurance and that there are other alternatives to the limited choices proffered. But, to indulge you with equivalent extremism, this old bachelor chooses the option that will afford him some protection against communicable disease over educating your children. How do you like that “conservative” thinking, td?

Dr. Love

January 24th, 2013
7:30 am

As long as we have money for football I’m good.

Tom E Gunn

January 24th, 2013
7:32 am

Barge did the right thing. The people that voted for a mis worded, misleading amendment were either uninformed, or protecting someone’s money. Children’s education was not the issue. Deal and his cronies need to remember what that great Yankee Abe Lincoln said, ” you can fool some of the people, some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.”

Dr. Love

January 24th, 2013
7:42 am

Abe may of been wrong as far as Georgia goes.

honested

January 24th, 2013
8:01 am

What a State…..
We not only have a sucky, underfunded education budget, we have a power structure that punishes those who notice it.

All the while, we want to redirect precious taxpayer funds to lunacy like a new sports palace..

Did it ever dawn on any of these folks under the Gold Dome that job growth and business relocation follows adequately funded education?

Just think of where we might be if these clowns had concentrated on funding the already mandated smaller class sizes over the last 10 years that they have been in charge. Of course, that would have required qualities like leadership, fortitude and intelligence…so I guess it won’t happen here.

South Georgia Retiree

January 24th, 2013
8:04 am

Hopefully, there will be way for Barge to get into the Governor’s race in 2014. We need a different set of leaders, starting in the Governor’s mansion. Barge seems to have a good grasp on leadership and what it takes to run an effective organization on a shoestring.

honested

January 24th, 2013
8:05 am

Abe wasn’t counting on a state that was so stupid they would still cower before the same planter families 150 years later.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

January 24th, 2013
8:12 am

Oh my, all this rank speculation has the goons in their high dungeons. Rather excitable, aren’t they? It isn’t like this rises to the cory booker level.

OSG

January 24th, 2013
9:03 am

South Georgia Retiree,
I agree with you. I hope that he runs, or runs as an Independent…people will vote for him…why, because they are sick of the current roughshod behavior and total disregard for ethics, laws, and cronyism that has overtaken the GA legislators….good luck Mr. Barge.

What's Best for Kids

January 24th, 2013
9:21 am

I would be first in line to vote for Barge as Governor.
I think that he would be a level headed and fair leader.
He’s a good man with a good vision for Georgia and Georgia’s students.

Catlady

January 24th, 2013
9:29 am

Aesop: Funny how the cuts are for things the Gov doesn’t like (or the people that run them). Yet there is plenty of money to create a sweetheart job for the ethically-challenged.

td

January 24th, 2013
9:43 am

Buckhead Boy

January 24th, 2013
7:13 am

” this old bachelor chooses the option that will afford him some protection against communicable disease over educating your children.”

By your own statement you do not qualify for Medicaid so your whole argument is bogus.

Kris

January 24th, 2013
10:07 am

What’s Best for Kids “” I would be first in line to vote for Barge as Governor.
I think that he would be a level headed and fair leader.
He’s a good man with a good vision for Georgia and Georgia’s students.”"”"

I’m In . WE need Jobe and Education for GA to grow.

Good riddance shady Crooked deal 2014

John Barge for Governor 2014? Well at least he is educated.

Kris

January 24th, 2013
10:08 am

What’s Best for Kids “” I would be first in line to vote for Barge as Governor.
I think that he would be a level headed and fair leader.
He’s a good man with a good vision for Georgia and Georgia’s students.”"”"

I’m In . WE need Job’s and Education for our childern in order for GA to grow.

Good riddance shady Crooked deal 2014

John Barge for Governor 2014? Well at least he is educated.

bigbill

January 24th, 2013
11:15 am

As usual it is always important to follow the money. Governor Deal was upset that Barge opposed the charter school amendment? Could it be because Barge ungraciously chose to reveal an aspect of the amendment which involved the flow of taxpayers’ funds away from local, traditional public schools and into the hands of out-of-state for-profit charter school corporations, many of which were funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into Georgia supporting the amendment; many of which corporations (and the individuals behind them financially supporting them) were and are providing campaign contributions to members of the Georgia General Assembly; many of which (and Governor Deal surely loves this) will now handsomely profit from the huge infusion of Georgia taxpayer funds as the amendment is implemented? John Barge – a state education official who pulled the curtain back to reveal that the governor’s beloved amendment is not about what’s best for children but what’s best for corporate money interests? Of course he and the department he runs are on the chopping block.

Here is the part of Mr. Barge’s statement opposing the amendment which addresses this issue:

“What’s more, the constitutional amendment would direct taxpayer dollars into the pockets of out-of-state for-profit charter school companies whose schools perform no better than traditional public schools and locally approved charter schools (and worse, in some cases.)”

Bravo, Mr. Barge! Bravo for telling the truth.

Don

January 24th, 2013
12:36 pm

What a mistake. John Barge thinking he was elected by the voters of Georgia and not Nathan Deal. Perhaps he should try to emulate the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. This is not state government, Superintendent Barge, it is party headquarters and Mr. Deal is the party boss.