Reformation and the Charter School Amendment

This item was sent out by Nancy Jester in her “Nancy’s News” email today.
Below, please find my opinion about the constitutional amendment regarding charter schools that will be on the ballot in November. The opinions expressed below, are solely mine as an individual and do not represent any position of the DeKalb Board, the school district or any other group or individual.

As a member of the DeKalb County Board of Education, I have been reading with great interest, the news and debate about the Charter School Amendment that will be on the ballot in November. The usual groups that purport to speak for their members are lining up against it. The Georgia State Superintendents Association (GSSA), the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) and various teacher organizations. This is to be expected. Change is never easy and those who make significant earnings from the status quo are always reticent to embrace it.

As a requirement of law, I must participate in annual training. The GSBA puts on these training sessions. There is a large conference in June of each year in Savannah where board members from around the state gather to participate in the training and meetings. For the past two years, your tax dollars have paid for me to attend these required seminars and meetings as is the case for most (if not all) board members around the state.

As I sat in the communications seminar, I was told by a presenter that “Education is not designed to be customized.” I wondered if he had an iPod or was he still listening to 8-track? After a break, another presenter went on to talk about the Charter School Amendment and how that would cede local control to “bureaucrats up in Atlanta”. She went on to discuss how best to run a campaign against the amendment; including how to educate employees of school districts to talk with parents about the issue. I was very uncomfortable seeing how your tax dollars were being used to promote these ideas. This year, I had the honor of serving as DeKalb’s voting delegate to the GSBA. At this meeting the GSBA votes to take official positions on various issues. Among the positions the GSBA will be advocating for in the upcoming legislative session are (1) that elections for Boards should be non-partisan (they are in DeKalb but many counties hold partisan board elections) and (2) the State Superintendent should be appointed rather than elected. I found these positions to be contrary to their profession of faith in local control. I voted against these positions. I’m perplexed why the GSBA is even taking a legislative position on these matters. Perhaps it is illustrative of their true motivations. This should all make us examine their position on the Charter School Amendment more closely.

As I stated above, I understand those opposed to the Charter School Amendment fear the change that it brings to their realm. But it is past time to provide another tool to the hands of parents and dedicated teachers – a tool that releases them from the constraints and control of highly bureaucratic school districts and “one size fits all” approaches. Is it a panacea for all that ails education in Georgia? No. Indeed, all charter school proposals will not be approved and, some that are, will fail and be closed. Unfortunately there seems no effective and swift mechanism to close traditional schools that fail generations of children.

The discussion about “mechanism” brings me to an important point. Indeed, it is the central point of reformation that we need to discuss. In the early part of the 1900’s there were well over 100,000 school districts; there are now less than 14,000. We see increasing monopolization of public funding in education into large, Soviet-style, command and control education distribution systems. It is ironic that as competition and ingenuity have provided us with more individual choices and freedoms, our education distribution system has gone in the other direction. Customization and choice are the natural outcomes of competitive forces shaping a marketplace over time. I’m reminded of the quote attributed to Henry Ford, “You can have any color car you want, as long as it’s black.” Imagine if that were the case today for cars! But, for some reason, we accept this in education. In fact, we’ve gone backwards, offering a less customized, less responsive system. Education must be customized to be effective and it must be responsive to the community it serves. If we continue to fail on these metrics then the system will suffer the same fate as the Soviet economic distribution model. I suggest reading the lesson plan (link below) provided by the Foundation for Teaching Economics. This lesson provides a cautionary tale on the types of crisis that befall a distribution system that has no mechanism to receive signals and respond efficiently to them.

Some critics of the Charter School Amendment confuse the matter by suggesting that having a method to start a school that is not controlled by the local board of education, is tantamount to the removal of “local control”. They maintain this, despite the fact that a group of citizens would have to organize, plan, petition, govern and ultimately send their children to the charter school. That is the ultimate local control – it is micro control – it is parent control. Why are school boards and superintendents fearful of this? They often try to tell us that money will be diverted to these charters and away from their system; thus hurting the education of the remaining students. They neglect to address that they are now not responsible for the students at the charter school. They do not point out that with the absence of these students they lose only a portion of the funding for those students. They do not reconcile the equation – they will have fewer students but more money per student. I don’t doubt that they want what is best for children but their perspective is clouded by the fact that they make a living from the status quo.
Having a way for communities to come up with an innovative, responsive educational product is consistent with local control. It is also wholly consistent with the quintessential American notion of Republic. America was not designed to be a democratic tyranny of the majority. The rights of minority groups were protected and codified in our Constitution. Resisting tyranny, removing monopoly power, competing, innovating – these are all American and Georgian ideals. The forces of modernity will not dissipate. The winds for these changes will not calm. Education and how we distribute it to our children will eventually be shaped by more customization not less; by more responsiveness to community; by more freedom. That is where the future takes us. Please join me and reject the discussions of money and control. Please join me to improve the educational lives of Georgia’s children. Vote YES on the Charter School Amendment this November.

–Nancy Jester

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95 Responses to Reformation and the Charter School Amendment

  1. TuckerMom says:

    It’s my understanding that the Georgia Department of Education can authorize charter schools that weren’t approved locally, so I’m wondering why we need to create a separate agency to duplicate that effort. I’d like to hear more about this side of the issue.

  2. bu2 says:

    She doesn’t explain what is wrong with non-partisan elections. Schools are not Democratic or Republican issues. Putting parties on school boards would encourage even more political hacks who don’t care about schools to run for school board. And it would lead to more extremists as one party would effectively select the candidate.

  3. I must respectfully disagree with Ms.Jester and her summation of HR 1162. While it’s a perfect fit for the elitist, surveys show that minority and undeserved children will not benefit from its implementation. Furthermore, we are allowing the State to utilize our dollars the way the see best fit despite what the local school board (who are elected representatives of us the people) request.

    Superintendent Barge understands the detriment this amendment will have without other corrective measures in place. A previous commission was considered unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme court. With education and the advocacy for equality for all balancing on a thin line- why would we give control of our children’s education to a limited few?

    THE TRUTH ABOUT Georgia HR 1162



    HR 1162 IS A RESOLUTION proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia so as to clarify the authority of the state to establish state-wide education policy; to restate the authority of the General Assembly to create special schools; to delineate types of schools that the General Assembly may authorize and clarify funding authority; to provide for the submission of this amendment for ratification or rejection; and for other purposes.

    Georgia Charter Schools Amendment HR-1162- select ( ) YES or ( ) NO

    Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval
    of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
    All persons desiring to vote in favor of ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote “Yes.”
    All persons desiring to vote against ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote “No.”
    If such amendment shall be ratified as provided in said Paragraph of the Constitution, it shall become a part of the Constitution of this state.


    On Tuesday, November 6, 2012, Georgia voters will be asked to decide whether to approve a constitutional amendment to create a STATE-level commission that can authorize charter schools across the State of Georgia.

    The ballot measure would re-establish a statewide commission that would have the power to approve charters even over the objections of local school districts. This amendment would also give the state constitution the power to make decisions over local school districts.

    In approving this amendment, the people are allowing the State of Georgia to drain funds from traditional public schools systems, who are already suffering due to state budget cuts. The creation of this commission not only usurps local control of education, but will allow public money to be used towards for-profit charter facilities. Additionally, this constitutional amendment would direct current tax payers dollars benefit and increase profits of out-
    of state for profit charter school organizations.

    In allowing the creation of such an entity, we are authorizing the State of Georgia to divert $430 million from the schools to create a duplicate bureaucracy for charter school approval. Such a commission was disbanded and deemed unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court in 2008


    Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge has taken a stand in opposition to Governor Deal, the Georgia House, and Senate as it relates to supporting this amendment. See full statement as posted on the ajc get schooled blog. Get Schooled

    Barge: Can’t support diverting $430 million from schools to create duplicate bureaucracy for charter school approval 12:25 pm August 14, 2012, by Maureen Downey

    By John Barge
    I fully support the continued creation of high quality charter schools for Georgia’s students, but after careful consideration of what is best for all of Georgia’s students, I have decided to take a position in opposition to the constitutional amendment that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.
    Until all of our public school students are in school for a full 180-day school year, until essential services like student transportation and student support can return to effective levels, and until teachers regain jobs with full pay for a full school year, we should not redirect one more dollar away from Georgia’s local school districts – much less an additional $430 million in state funds, which is what it would cost to add seven new state charter schools per year over the next five years (the annual average of the Charter Commission that would be revived if the amendment passes).

    I cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education. What’s more, this 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).
    I trust our local school districts will continue to approve only high quality charter schools for Georgia’s students, and I am committed to working with all of our school districts to ensure that high quality applicants are not denied locally – including mediating between high quality charter school applicants and any local districts that are reluctant to approve them, as provided by existing Georgia law.”

    Longtime Gwinnett schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks states that charter schools are not the issue.

    “This is about expanding state government,” he said. “It is about bypassing the elected boards of education and leaving it in the hands of seven bureaucrats [with a state charter school commission] who are going to approve and decide on the funding without any accountability to the taxpayers.”

    Furthermore- research shows that the students who gain the most by attending these State run charter schools come from a private sector. Where does the equality for every student fall into this scenario. Before we hand over the power of choice to our state, we need to get our own house in order-


    On November 6, 2012 voters MUST MAKE A CHOICE as it relates to the proposed HR 1162- Georgia Charter Schools Amendment.

    The Stephenson Community Council, in conjunction with multiple neighborhood advocacy groups are going to ensure that their parents are fully aware of what a YES vote means as it relates to our neighborhoods and community schools.

    Local School Choice is on thing- State run selected Schools using my tax dollars, WITH NO ACCOUNTABILITY won’t fly here….. VOTERS DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE!

    VOTE NO FOR HR 1162 ON NOVEMBER 6, 2012

  4. @TuckerMom: So that is essentially true, however, as it is now, John Barge, Elected state school superintendent and his self-appointed minions make the decision. They are solely responsible for charter school approvals. John Barge has made it known how he feels about charter schools. John Barge is beholden to the superintendents of this state. He supports educrats to the fullest. The GSBA wants the state school superintendent to be appointed by the state board, who are also appointed – creating a virtual vortex of educrats. They don’t even want voters to have a say in who the state super is! THAT will result in ZERO local control. Do you really think they will clear a path for very many independent charter schools?

    Georgia will not progress if we not only stick with the status quo, but we endorse a school system that is completely run by educrats who only see one way to educate children (read that, to spend education tax dollars) — their way. Their argument that “Atlanta” would be making decisions about local schools is in reality – how it’s done now! Georgia is already falling behind our southern sister states in education innovation. Louisiana, since Katrina has improved their education outcomes tremendously – and they are now the leader in numbers of charter schools, with Washington D.C. right behind. In fact, President Obama and Arne Duncan publicly endorse the creation of thousands more charter schools. If Georgia insists on sticking with their outdated, highly suffocating system of education, we will not only see test scores continue to stagnate, or drop, we will begin to see businesses choosing to locate in our neighboring states like South Carolina, North Carolina and Alabama over Georgia. This issue is a watershed issue. We will either move forward or we will literally find ourselves “left behind”, stuck in our own bureaucracy.

  5. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Ms McGill,
    Where is the accountability with traditional public schools? If a charter school is bad, it fails. I’ve never heard of a bad traditional public school going away. Those schools bad schools ruin the lives of generations of children.

  6. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    I don’t think Ms Jester took a stance on non partisan elections. She did, however, say she ” found [the GSBA] positions to be contrary to their profession of faith in local control.” I think her vote was a sign of support for local control and not a referendum on non partisan elections.

  7. DSouth DeKalb parent says:

    Ivy Prep has TWO schools in DeKalb, and at least 99% of the students enrolled are minority. I know because both my children attend. Your comment is copied text showing someone else’s opinion. I am a DeKalb taxpayer and parent with firsthand experience with a charter school that is great and was turned down by the DeKalb School Board. Thanks, Nancy for taking a stand for the parents that are not happy with local school performance.

  8. @DSouth DeKalb Parent,

    Please do not be confused on what’s at stake here. This is not a matter of School Choice- I am not against School Choice, and I am not against Magnet or Charter schools. . If you choose to put your child in any non traditional public school that’s great.But it should be a Choice YOU MAKE.

    What you don’t understand is that this Amendment is not about that. This Amendment says-

    “Hey State of Georgia- I have access to all of your Tax dollars – there are seven of us who can choose to do whatever we want with them under the guise of charter schools. This means we don’t have to ask you diddly, nor do we need your permission because you gave us the power when you voted in amendment 1162.

    So Guess what Georgia, we’re gonna build you those charter schools, but we are going to make them “for profit”. Which means we can do so through private companies whom can give kickbacks to us and or any other government agency we chose to work with.

    This commission of 7-8 people can come in and say- “We could care less what you the taxpayer or your representatives want- we are putting these schools here…and oh by the way- the schools are being provided by ABC company”.

    This Amendment says to the teachers who are not part of any union-“Lookey here Mr. Teacher- you work for a profit based charter school- you work the hours I tell you when I tell you- your contract doesn’t mean squat- and you have no union to back you”

    It puts us in various states of disarray.

    County Run schools- No funds, No state funds, Federal cuts- average student population

    Private Schools- Private funding-Parent support based programing

    Charter/Magnet Schools County based- Some Private Funding/Grants/Matching Funds

    State Charter Schools- Utilizing County Funds, Federal Funds, Company Funds

    I urge you all to REALLY READ the proposal and UNDERSTAND it’s implications. It is NOT a matter of School Choice and never has been. It’s all about money-What folks don’t get is that this is NOT about education. This is about MONEY and privatization. It’s about pimping our kids to the highest bidder as long as the state and local government gets money out of the deal.

    All I can say is read, read read, and keep yourself informed. Should this amendment pass the future of our children in this state is gonna be far worse than the state DeKalb County is currently in.

  9. Hi DeKalb Inside Out- Not saying there is no accountability- Traditional schools are failing due to the same bureaucracy that we have chosen to ignore. The fact that it is broken has lead to such wonderful outlets such as this blog to have healthy debate and discussion on solutions. Unfortunately, coming up with solution versus implementing change is a whole other journey within itself.

    You can’t change something that is not profitable for the few. Learning what I have from this past election- money talks, and friends in high places move mountains- People are put in place to split votes and money always rules. It is never ever going to be about the children as long as corruption and greased palms exist. Everyone wants the resolve today- when it took over 20 years to get the DeKalb County School system in this state. Unless much of that corruption is uncovered and cleaned out- we will still be debating this age old battle.

    Do I believe HR 1162 is the savior and solution to our problems? Absolutely Not- In fact, it will only
    perpetuate further corruption and lack of solution for our students. My question to all is- how do we go from the current state we are in- which we allowed to happen (it just didn’t happen over night) – to a complete state takeover of our schools (which is not a better solution).

    I know I am the lone crusader here that does not believe that this is the end all be all and best solution- but knowing what we know, as we prepare for the trials, and as we continue to watch our
    babies, educators and schools in chaos, really do not even think it is a viable option for the greater good..

    I know DeKalb Watch II are pro Charter fans- I only caution that when we say hooray to Charter- that we understand, truly understand the implications with STATE RUN-OWNED Charter…Not ones of our own choice.

  10. The Deal says:

    Denise, don’t students have to actually attend those schools for the money you are so worried about to flow? Who cares if it’s a private charter school company if it succeeds? If it succeeds, then it was worth paying for. If it doesn’t succeed, then it will close. And your comment about teachers is moot. They are being treated like garbage right now – how they are treated by a state charter could only improve their situation. I’m with Nancy on this one. Something drastic is going to have to happen to the structure of how we run schools in this state. This could be one of those drastic steps.

  11. dekalbteacher2 says:

    @Denise McGill
    You start off by calling Ms Jester and charter school students/families elitists. That colors your objective opinion on the matter. In light of your request for us to read, read, read, I ask that you provide facts and/or documentation to backup some of your statements.

    There are many misconceptions propagated by both sides of this discussion. Let’s clear those up together.

    Among your litany of claims and accusations, you said “State run selected Schools”. Please note that charter schools are not state run.

  12. Disgusted in Dekalb says:

    “Unfortunately there seems no effective and swift mechanism to close traditional schools that fail generations of children.”

    It’s hard to believe that someone of Nancy Jester’s intellect is on the Dekalb School Board. I wish we could clone her.

  13. howdy1942 says:

    Well said, Ms. Jester. The point that at is least five members of the Dekalb County School Board seem to be in denial. However, the reality is that a large number of people in Dekalb County have demonstrated strong disagreement with them and are prepared to endorse the “anything but the Dekalb County School System” philosophy. People see that state-funded and state-controlled charter schools that are beyond the reach of the School Board as a solution. They want an educational system that focuses on the education of their children and one that is not distracted by legal issues, corruption in high places, a “palace” filled with family friends whose performance is at least very questionable, and financial ineptitude. On major lesson I have learned is that you cannot make people do something they don’t want to do for long.

    Change is coming and coming sooner than later. The era of Walker, Cunningham, Copelin-Wood is on its way out and a new, fresh era wherein our children will be the focus is about to begin.

  14. And that is truly the beauty of charter schools. Yes, some are for profit. However, if charter schools fail to bring home the bacon, they are shut down. When is the last time a public school has shut down? Case in point – Clarkston High School has been on the Needs Improvement list for pushing TEN years! Will anyone consider closing Clarkston and reopening with a completely new staff and leadership? No. Instead, the board endorsed the proposal by Ramona Tyson to place a high ranking administrator’s daughter in as principal – even though she had no experience as a principal (she was an AP at Chamblee HS) and even though she has no understanding of the issues of poverty and immigration at Clarkston. What kind of ‘system’ allows a decade of failure?

    As to the money – yes, charter schools take state funding. That’s because the state funds STUDENTS not systems. The money from the state follows the student. HOWEVER, there is no local financial support (unless the school board votes for extra support as they have done for Destiny Academy). The school board simply hands over the state funding – not the additional local tax dollars. The school system keeps all of the local tax dollars – without having to educate the hundreds of students in the charter school. So – free tax money – with no expense for DCSS! That’s why the state adds the bump to charter funding – to account for the loss in local funding.

    Charter schools are not elitist. That is a divisive thing to say. Yes, some people do come back from private schools to use a charter because it’s a fit for their child. But the original reason many parents choose to make the financial sacrifice to use a private school is to escape the terrible offerings at their local public school. I ask you, is THAT fair? Is it really fair to tell parents that if you don’t like what we have to offer (terrible as it is) you are welcome to spend your hard earned money (on top of what you already pay in school taxes) to pay for a private school? There are all kinds of levels of equity here. We just have NO issue with people taking the state’s per pupil funding and running their own school with it. No issue at all. In fact, more power to them! There are checks and balances in place to ensure that the job gets done. All we have for DeKalb apparently is SACS and the Governor/State – neither of which seem to think DeKalb needs intervention. If DeKalb schools were a charter, they would have long ago been taken back. How on earth can anyone think it’s a better idea to throw more money at this enormous, ineffective, corrupt school system and who on earth thinks children have the time it takes to wait for a ‘turnaround’?

  15. edugator says:

    I like Nancy, but don’t believe that sending a handful of kids to charter schools, along with increasingly scarce state funds, is the savior of education. Who’s going to set up the charter school that takes in the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to make C’s? Those kids will still be at the traditional school, adding fuel to the peculiar notion that the school is failing the child.

    Properly fund the public schools. Staff up the schools that have more…issues. Then we can talk about charters.

  16. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Hi Denise
    You said – “Not saying there is no accountability”. According to The Georgia Department of Education out of roughly 2,500, DeKalb hosts 10 of the 78 worse schools schools in Georgia. Who is being held accountable for these horrific failures and how?

    “state takeover” – The state only approves the charter while the local communities run them. As dekalbteacher2 pointed out, they are not state run.

    You lost your election because you’re not a New Birther. Eddie Long owns and operates elections in South DeKalb (no proof to back that up … just personal opinion).

  17. dekalbteacher2 says:

    DeKalb has the highest millage rate and the lowest performing schools in Georgia. I don’t think giving DCSD more money is going to solve our problems. I think DCSD is the problem.

  18. @edugator: I don’t see where Nancy proclaimed charters the ‘savior’ of education. I think she is just making the point that in America, people should be more free to innovate – that includes in educating their children. She also makes the point that the Georgia School Board Association and public school systems are the people standing in the way of true ‘local’ control – which would be parental control. What’s to fear from a little competition? Like I said, Obama and Arne Duncan are big supporters of charter schools.

    Many teachers are concerned that such schools drain money and talent from regular schools. However, Obama said state limits on numbers of charter schools aren’t “good for our children, our economy or our country.” He said many of the innovations in education today are happening in charter schools.

    @Denise: Georgia in No Way has any kind of teacher’s union. Unions and collective bargaining are illegal here. It’s nothing like Ohio, where you are from, in that way.

  19. dekalbteacher2

    I’ve gt some mixed feelings here- and I want to be sensitive to others thoughts as I stay true to my own.
    First, this is not about challenging and producing facts/data. Want to learn about the true purpose of HR 1162? browse the internet. The Best info in town can be found on GET SCHOOLED- who has done an outstanding job in getting the facts out regarding HR1162.

    i would like to kindly remind everyone that my comments are specifically regarding HR 1162 and its proposal. It IS NOT in regards to School Choice, it is NOT in regards to local Charter Schools, and it is NOT a condemnation of any parent who chooses an option other than a traditional school format.
    Is that clear?

    With that said, I am not going to allow my comments to be twisted or hijacked for purposes other than the facts.It seems to me, that many on this board take a personal stance behind something without Reading, understanding, or caring to review other opinions.

    Educate yourself on HR 1162- If you do, you will see that our affirmative votes AUTHORIZE the STATE to move forward to create STATE CHARTER SCHOOLS. Pass the bill, allow the creation.

    Furthermore, I DID NOT call Ms. Jester an elitist, nor did I call parent who make School Choice elitists. What I did say, and what I continue to say is, this- Are you comfortable in allowing a selected committee of individuals from the State to use your tax dollars and create private per profit charter schools? I’m not. It still does not resolve for me the current issues and problems we have with our traditional school. Nor does it address as I stated, how we compensate our educators? It’s not that simple, and this is not the end all be all solution.

    I realize I am ruffling a lot of feathers, and many of you may view my comments as idiotic- but I ask you to take the time, read about HR 1162- Think about the current state of our children in DeKalb county schools, and then kindly explain to me how passing this amendment is the best solution for every student in Dekalb? Sure doesn’t meet my one Vision, One Focus, One DeKalb philosophy….

    I know I am beating a dead horse- but silence is not always golden.

  20. dekalbteacher2 says:

    Hi Denise.
    Thanks for speaking out. I’m glad we can work together. No data/facts … no problemo … I was just wondering where you are coming up with some of these things.

    1. Charter schools are not private. They are public schools.
    2. Charter schools are non profit schools. They buy goods and services from for profit entites just like traditional public schools.
    3. Charter schools are not state run.

    Can we agree on those items?

  21. September says:

    If you are looking for schools and school systems that is truly responsive to the community they serve, you need an amendment to the State Constitution that allows school systems like DeKalb to be divided into much smaller organizations. I am not convinced that charter schools are going to be able to fill this need. When you run a dual system (in this case public charter/standard public) some students will find themselves in a “have not” situation.

    When I say small, I’m thinking very small. The Lakeside cluster could be its own school system. DeKalb County could still collect school taxes and that tax money could be distributed to schools based on the student enrollment. Just like the State of Georgia provides a specified dollar amount to DCSD per student enrolled, DeKalb could provide a specified dollar amount per student to each small district within the county.

  22. dekalbteacher2

    Just adding a bit of background on me- I was one of the parents who was asked to listen to and support Senator Dan Weber’s Charter School proposals. Susan Mitchell and Senator Weber did a fantastic job in trying to have people embrace the State Charter school concept. He came and presented to the parents of Stephenson- His specific challenge was to convince those more affluent communities to be willing to share resources and funding with those State charters who would not have the same type of financial backing.

    I attended multiple meetings where Senator Weber submitted his charter school proposal presentations to some of the Northside parents. One of the hottest and most angry responses
    came from some of the wealthiest districts. They were opposed to assisting or help provide tax dollars funding to some of the schools whose tax base funding may not support their programing. I sat in Amazement and watched angry parents who were furious and stated they would rather put their child in a private school versus helping to support state charter schools- Those conversations were colorful, and with them racial stereotypes proceeded with very colorful metaphors to boot.

    Of course, Senator Weber stepped down, in enters Fran Millar. I attended a meeting in which Senator Millar point blank told a group that state mandated charter schools were coming, and there wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do about it. That was a little over a year ago. The seeds
    had been planted then- the plants are just starting to sprout…Lets just say- I’ve been around, I’ve heard a lot- and I just don’t think that the premise is for us to be one big happy EQUAL family here.

    So to assure you…..Yes I am aware that

    1. Charter schools are not private. They are public schools.
    2. Charter schools are non profit schools. They buy goods and services from for profit entites just like traditional public schools.
    3. Charter schools are not state run. (YET)

    But I must also say, that HR 1162 adds a huge YET to the end of the statement number 3- It also opens up a whole can of worms- and therefore, at the very least deserves public education on the subject.

  23. booksrkool says:

    I agree with you Denise. I am not a fan of the Charter School amendment. It isn’t needed. If the state has all of this money to fund an entire new agency (which is what it will be) then why can’t they fully fund QBE like they are legally required to do? Somethings not adding up!?

    Like you said in a previous blog, DSW2, are your looking east when you should be looking west?

  24. dekalbteacher2 says:

    Ms McGill,

    1. If you are aware that charter schools are neither private nor for profit, why did you say
    “Are you comfortable in allowing a selected committee of individuals from the State to use your tax dollars and create private per profit charter schools?”?

    2. If you are aware that charter schools are not state run, why do you continue to refer to charter schools as “State run charter schools”?

    3. Who are the elitists in DeKalb you were referring to when you said While [charter schools are a] perfect fit for the elitist

  25. DeKalb Observer says:

    The vitriol against Charters fascinates me. Where is the vitriol against the DeKalb County schools that are consigning our children to a future of drugs and poverty – because we’ve left them uneducated and discouraged by a horrific public school experience? Have the anti-charter people forgotten where our graduation rate currently stands? Nancy Jester is spot on. It’s time for innovation and to give SMART, EDUCATED, RESOURCEFUL, COMMITTED PARENTS the opportunity to return engaging and inspiring education to DeKalb classrooms. Denise, stop singing from the status quo hymnbook. It undermines your credibility. And to those who say public education will improve when it’s fully funded: before the 2008 crash, DCSS was rolling in money. Between SPLOST and the tax digest, we were spending money hand over fist. We just weren’t spending it on things teachers needed. The system is irretrievably broken and it’s time to direct our tax dollars to more effective learning environments.

  26. hopespringseternal says:

    It can very tempting to major in the minor. For purposes of this discussion, I’ll choose to stick with the major. To Ms. McGill’s point, the “major” in this ballot question lies not in whether I support choice. I actually do. This post reminds me of the many half-thought ideas coming in the name of reform, and when people balk at them, the projector of the idea says “well you believe in high expectations for your children, right??” Not so fast.

    For starters, many charter schools across the country are for profit. Take the 9/9/11 Forbes article which examined Michigan’s charter schools and found that fully 80% of them are for-profit. I actually hadn’t considered the for-profit angle with respect to the Georgia ballot question, but it does exist elsewhere. So let’s leave that where it is.

    Now comes the part where despite certain turns of phrase, I’ll stick to the major — not the minor — point. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but when Ms. McGill refers to “state run” schools, let’s just say they would be “state-borne”. In other words, a small group of people gets to impose its will upon the larger, funding, body. Whatever you think about current incompetencies in local districts, is the concept of the “state-borne” imposition any better than the local imposition which doesn’t serve to educate most of it’s students?

    As for the “elitist” moniker, sure, let’s drop it. Even in the face of the recent conclusion that across the country urban charter schools draw roughly one-third of their students from private schools (I read this on Maureen Downey’s AJC Get Schooled blog a few days ago), we’ll refrain from using that term. I certainly understand, given these facts, how Ms. McGill came to use this term. But again, I’m going to major in the major — not the minor.

    Her point remains intact, no matter the choice of words — do I want to pay for another bureauracy to handle that which can already be handled? And if I’m not satisfied with how it is being handled locally, does that mean I should support an end-around? A change to the state constitution? No, to me what it means is that I should do my part to change the local landscape — as tedious and painful as that may be.

    P.S. Sure would love to hear what Ms. Mayo has to say about it. I’ve always had great respect for her opinions on this subject.

  27. Thank You HopeSpringsEternal for having the intelligence, understanding, and the ability to translate my concerns into terms that perhaps others can now understand. Also, thank you for respecting my point of view and ding so without labeling me as a stereotype.-although I have respect for Ms. Jester, I remain steadfast in my belief that HR 1162 will do more harm than good and I do not see it as the resolution to a much needed reform for our schools. It is with this that I will have to say to the others on this subject that we will have to agree to disagree on this matter. HR 1162 is not the solution.

  28. You surprise us Denise. You would be exactly the kind of leader we would expect to start or convert a charter school. Just think of the legacy you could build if you worked to create a charter school that serves young people in DeKalb and provides them the skills and talents they will need to succeed in the world beyond DeKalb, GA. How is it that you have instead, aligned yourself with the educrats that have continued to provide the monopoly ‘adequate’ education for hundreds of young (mostly minority) students? Why on earth would you support and endorse the status quo? Do you sincerely believe that we are on the best trajectory possible? Think of the possibilities you could offer young people if you got behind an independent charter. We are really curious – your opinion on this issue is not at all what we would have expected from someone as independent-minded as you.

  29. publicschool dad says:

    @Ms. Mcgill
    You ask’ “how do we go from the current state we are in- which we allowed to happen (it just didn’t happen overnight) – to a complete state takeover of our schools (which is not a better solution).”

    To answer your question, first I’ll refer to a quote from your first statement on this (above)…

    “While it’s a perfect fit for the elitist, surveys show that minority and undeserved children will not benefit from its implementation.”

    …and I’ll tell you, when the central focus of DCSS became less about educating our children and more “about [serving] minority and underserved children”, our school system began to fail. When school administrators (and others) became comfortable and labeling some of their community as “elitists” or even racists, our school system began to fail all of us. And here we are…

  30. FWIW, some charter schools are run by private, for-profit companies, but have you ever considered just how much money private, for-profit companies like Houghton-Mifflin, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill and Pearson make off of public schools? How about the Broad Foundation? Or the many consultants, attorneys and support companies that we pay millions of dollars to? How about the for-profit construction companies that build the schools and school admin buildings? How about the for-profit companies that make all of the sports equipment, textbooks, tests, desks, curriculum, etc that schools purchase for millions every year? What about computers? Technology? Buses? Trailers? Pension plans? Why is ‘for-profit’ such a dirty word when it comes to actually running schools? If they are not successful, they can be closed. This is not true for regular, public schools. Why all the fear? — Money. Power. Greed. Those currently in power are so afraid of losing power that they will fight with every fiber of their being. Why? Because they know that without this public-funded bureaucracy, they would never, in a million years, make the money or have the power they currently enjoy at taxpayers expense.

  31. dekalbwatch2,

    I guess its because I am an independent thinker that Ifind myself having to “defend” my opinion. My opinion is based on two major questions or premises that are bothering me- Since you are only HEARING what you want to hear and not LISTENING to what I am saying- Let me pose you with the questions that are disturbing me-

    How many of you think that it’s ok for us to allow a state agency of 7-8 people to decide how to best spend our tax money as it relates to the structured education of our schools?

    How many of you think that its ok to allow this same group of people to provide education modules that are not inclusive of local school board input, that may not give a fair advantage to every student, and that more than likely be run by privatized funding?

    Please answer that for me-

    If you are telling me, that that aspect of it does not bother you- then I think we have a moral dilemma here. It is not a matter of me stepping to the same dance tune or status quo- it has everything to do with me wondering what the long term price will be for allowing the private sector to step in with funding for education- Nothing comes for free.

    I have YET to say I am ANTI CHARTER SCHOOL. NEVER ONCE have you heard me say that- What you have heard me question is the NEED to have THE STATE OF GA be given the power to make decisions for the students in out local jurisdiction when we should be the best stewards to do so ourselves.

    I don’t like being told I am something I am not just because anther persons opinion or viewpoint does not necessarily meet mine- I would appreciate the same consideration- Perhaps you can help me to understand what I am missing in saying I do not agree that HR 1162 is needed-
    enlighten me ….

  32. justwatch says:

    In GA, for profit charter companies are not allowed to operate schools, but Success for All can receive millions of DeKalb’s Title 1 funds for a program that isn’t even aligned to the Common Core Standards. Academy of Lithonia, a start up charter school that was approved by DeKalb and the state more than a decade ago was shut down about 4 years ago for failure to show academic progress. Shall we list the myriad of DCSS schools that actually had worse scores that AoL? What about the handful of DCSS schools that are consistently ranked at the bottom of all the schools in the state?

    As to diversity, most start up charters in metro Atlanta serve minority and poor children. (You must exclude conversion charters if you want to have an honest discussion.) The case may be different in rural GA, but in metro Atlanta, the biggest single operator of charters in KIPP, which serves mostly minority and poor students and seems to serve them well.

    There is absolutely a risk with this bill. The risk is that non-profit spin offs of the for profit companies that operate charters in other places will flood the market with schools. However, if I was a Dekalb parent stuck in a crummy school I might not think this was such a risk. What we have in DeKalb is a total failure to serve many children, especially poor and minority children, well. The reality is that even with the passage of this bill, schools won’t flood the market. If the could though, think of the message it would send to elected officials in DeKalb, from school board members to state legislators, if all of sudden 1000s of DCSS students simply disappeared into these charters. Perhaps then, true accountability will finally occur.

  33. dekalbteacher2 says:

    I am pleased to hear you support choice because the public school systems do not. They try to give the false impression of offering choices but the majority of students are rejected from their choice selections.

    Why do you believe the concept of profit is bad for schools? Traditional schools pay for-profit businesses for goods and services such as food, textbooks, equipment, and lawyers. What do you care as long as a charter school does a better job for less money?

    The charter schools in this amendment are neither state run nor state born. They are state approved. Quoting Ms Jester, “a group of citizens would have to organize, plan, petition, govern and ultimately send their children to the charter school. That is the ultimate local control – it is micro control – it is parent control.” There is no bureaucratic imposition.

    Quoting DSouth DeKalb Parent @ 10:24, “Ivy Prep has TWO schools in DeKalb, and at least 99% of the students enrolled are minority.” I certainly cannot understand, given that fact, how you or Ms. McGill can use the “elitist” moniker to describe charter school’s children or their parents.

    Attempting to change the current landscape has landed Georgia ranked 49th out of 50 in education. This amendment will not fix all that ails education in Georgia, but it is another tool in the tool belt.

  34. dekalbteacher2 says:

    We agree … Woo Hoo!! I don’t believe a state agency of 7-8 people should decide how to best spend our tax money as it relates to the structured education of our schools? Nor do I believe a county agency should decide how to best spend our tax money.

    Charter schools is about ultimate local control – it is micro control – it is parent control.

  35. @Denise: You said, “Since you are only HEARING what you want to hear and not LISTENING to what I am saying- Let me pose you with the questions that are disturbing me-”

    I say, How many of you think that our local school board (with their stated intent to control every tax dollar allocated to education in DeKalb) or the state school board superintendent (beholden to the superintendents all across the state of GA) should be the only people allowed to endorse a start-up charter school? (Start up charters would essentially be their competition. Would Coke have voted to start up Pepsi?) What do you think their true motivation is? Given their historic record of success, do you really trust them to make decisions that are the BEST for the children of Georgia (and thus, the FUTURE of Georgia)?

    Do you really think that the school systems of Georgia are more than glorified jobs programs? Do you not see the correlation between the jobs programs that are our school systems and the jobs program that is our prison system? Denise, do you not see this? It is real!

    Georgia is in the dark ages. Open your eyes. Come into the light. Educate our young people — every – single – one. Educate them in the way that is best suited for them each as individuals.

  36. Educator 90 says:

    Having worked with Charter Schools in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Washington DC, NYC, Hartford, CT, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and several other places, I can say from first hand experience, that those running charter schools are for the kids. They want the children to learn and succeed. I have watched teachers/administrators of Charter schools who make less money, more focused on educating the children and meeting their individual needs. I have watched these teachers/administrators push themselves, each other, and the children expecting everyone involved to do their absolute best. Those running the charter schools that I have worked with will find someone to help them to best meet the children’s needs.

    I’ve taught in public schools, including DeKalb and I felt chained to doing exactly what was not in the children’s best interest. I felt not able to be the best teacher that I could be and knew that I couldn’t be the teacher I’d want my own children to have. I’ve watched administrators send emails with countless simple grammar errors, that I wouldn’t tolerate from my students. I’ve watched administrators lower student standards and require less and less for students. I’ve watched children who don’t have good skills move on from grade to grade and have prayed that someone along the way would take an interest and advocate for these children, as they were doomed to be on government payroll for handouts if they stayed illiterate and uneducated.

    Our children are not all the same. We can no longer treat our children like sardines and stuff them in classes where little learning can be done. We can no longer have a one model fits all approach to learning. ADD/ADHD are on the rise. Could a more hands on approach get these kids off of medication and get them excited about learning? What other innovative ways can we get our children excited about learning, and on the path to becoming life long learners?

    Our kids deserve better than what most of them can get in their neighborhood public school. Even those that are “good” in DeKalb would be mediocre in other parts of the country. We need to stop teaching to a test and focus on providing a quality education. Test scores will come when students are taught well. We need to stop spending millions on scripted curriculum that does nothing more than make those selling the product rich.

    Our public schools are failing our children. Parents shouldn’t have to pay for a private education in DeKalb if their child isn’t chosen to be apart of one of the better alternatives. I am all for choice and question those in public office who are against it. Our kids deserve better, and competition makes products better. From my vantage point, in many areas, it really couldn’t get much worse for children.

  37. dekalbmom says:

    I always support Ms. Jester’s positions on the need for DCSD to exercise more fiscal responsibility, However, I do not agree with her political position on the Charter School Amendment (but admit that on days when I am really angry about the dismal education some Dekalb students receive, I have flip-flopped on the issue).

    I have no objection to Charter schools but the state Board of Education funds and oversees charter schools now. The amendment is unnecessary and wasteful as it creates a new Commission (aka beauracracy) to do this. I would rather see the State take a more active role in helping the local school boards analyze, approve and promote high-quality charter school applicants. In Dekalb I believe we have one or more locally approved charter schools that seem to be part of the “friends and family plan” so “local control” has its flaws. At the end of the day, I share some of Denise’s concerns that the politicians who currently control state government may be motivated to promote charter schools operated by private companies and/or thinly veiled religious organizations. (BTW- non-profit or not-for-profit are IRS designations. Many “non-profits” are wildly profitable for their owners/operators).

    I have no qualm about private school families electing to move their children to charter schools- they are paying taxes too. However, charter schools should be carefully watched to ensure that they are available to all. (This is why private school vouchers are offensive- the schools control the selection of students.)

  38. Edugator says:

    Too late to be ranting on all this, but this charter stuff is pure fantasy. Who’s going to create schools to compete for the great mass of kids? How about those with special needs or behavioral issues? Will charters have to admit all comers or do they get to be selective? With the reality that the overwhelming majority of kids will remain in traditional schools no matter what passes, the focus of state energies should be placed there.

    Dekalb wasn’t always dysfunctional, and it can be saved. As depressing as the DCSD is, it is worth saving.

  39. There are times in life when its ok to agree to disagree. it does not make either party right or wrong. We are going to have to disagree. I DO NOT believe a state agency needs to be created to add to an already convoluted education nightmare that we have. There are many things that we will and will not agree on. Do Not use me as a target because I do not agree with your particular stance. We have to look at all things equally, and should it not sit well, then you have every right to question it, and or ask questions for clarification.

    To answer your questions- If I felt that the school board and the superintendent was doing wonderful things- I would not have even bothered to put myself , my family, and my supporters through the rigor of three months of elections. I defiantly would not have had to file a police report for the individual who sent me death threats and would not have had to put a block on a restricted number in addition to an additional police report for the individuals who continually call my phone at all hours of the night and day with nasty comments.

    If I felt status quo was ok, I would sit back like the majority of folks do, behind a pseudo name, call people out, talk the talk but not walk the walk- If I was ok with the way things were going, I would have folded up my tent and went on living my life the day after the runoffs- pretending that it was all ok, and with no need or desire to further pursue what was in the best interest of these children and community that I serve.

    If all is lost, please tell me what the purpose of electing a new school board was?
    Surely there was some hope that “change” to the board would perhaps us seeker unity on a board that is very disjointed. Why then do we all “Hope” that Mr. Orson and Mr. McMahan will help to bridge the gap and bring some semblance of decency and integrity to the board? What was the purpose of hoping for change and reform? What was the purpose in believing that with new blood a change could be made?

    Again, my opposition is NOT ABOUT CHOICE or CHARTER SCHOOLS. It is about adding a constitutional amendment allowing a state authority to make use of my tax dollars as they see fit regardless of if my community supports it or not.

    If someone can please give me a LOGICAL explanation why we need an amendment to our state constitution allowing a state appointed group of individuals to create state sanctioned schools- please enlighten me. I obviously am not getting it.

  40. another comment says:

    I agree with Ms. Jester that the biggest problem is the mega districts. The Ga. Constitution needs to be changed to allow more school districts. Where I grew up in a top 10 state Districts were no bigger than 1-2 high schools and their feeder schools. They would then share a vo-tech school with 2 districts. Super Pay is $150K for these size districts. The Principals are direct reports. The school boards are elected but community volunteers. They might get a $25 meeting Per Diem, but not a salary that some folks live off off.

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