Charter school amendment, will it affect Dunwoody?

Reprinted from the Dunwoody Crier

by Rick Callihan

This November in Georgia voters have an opportunity to amend the state constitution via the Charter School Amendment.

The drive behind this amendment is to allow public funds to be used for a different type of public school – a public charter school. In many areas of Georgia, parents, students, employers, and concerned taxpayers are not satisfied with the performance of the existing public schools.

These existing public schools have a monopoly on public funds, forcing parents not able to afford private school to stay in schools that do not meet the educational needs of its students. Just as in the private sector, when you go from a monopoly to a competitive environment, you see improved results and innovation. Regardless of what you hear from those opposed to the Charter School Amendment, the end goal of those of us in favor of public funds for public charter schools is to have better schools for the children of Georgia.

So if this issue is truly about the best education for children by allowing competition, why are teachers and school boards opposed? First , don’t believe that all teachers are opposed to charter schools. It’s the teacher organizations who are opposed. Teachers who have taken the time to research the issue and realize charter schools will help reduce overcrowded classrooms, allow for more funds per student, and create a competitive environment, welcome the competition.

However, most school board members across the state do oppose this amendment not because they fear loss of funds (school districts will actually have more money per student with the creation of charter schools as students opt to attend a charter school), but because they want to keep power and control over parents, students, teachers, and taxpayers. They fear competition and want to maintain their monopoly.

Several new principals and dozens of new teachers were hired for Dunwoody schools this year. Across DeKalb County many teachers, principals and administrators were transferred, promoted or fired. The same thing happened in districts across the state. How many of you were asked what teachers to keep or let go at your local school? How many of you were asked what person would be the best principal and assistant principal for your local school?

The answer is none of you were asked, and you never will be asked in the current system. There is no local control. The school district superintendent, with input from a few select school district employees (who most likely have no children and no direct interest in your local school) made those decisions for you. Under the charter school model, it is the parents and local (not district) board members who make those decisions. The parents and leaders of each public charter school choose their administrators and teachers. That is local control.

In regards to funding, you’d expect the bean counters at the school districts to encourage the start-up of charter schools. The school districts keep all their local funding regardless of how many students choose to attend a new charter school. If 5,000 students in your district leave their current public schools and switch to a charter school the district keeps the local funds regardless.

On average that is nearly $3,700 per student.

In this example the district keeps the $18.5 million in local dollars but has 5,000 fewer students. That $18.5 million can be used to reduce class sizes. Of course the district does not receive state funds for those 5,000 students since they no longer need to provide an education – the state funding portion goes to the public charter school.

The state money is used at the charter school for the same things as before: teacher pay, teacher management, supplies, and building expenses. In summary, the mega districts especially, should celebrate the financial gains of losing students but keeping local funds. But remember, to educrats this is not just about money, it’s about keeping their monopoly.

Should this amendment pass, it’s doubtful you will see a charter school immediately established in a city like Dunwoody. I doubt you’d ever see a charter elementary school in Dunwoody. But a charter middle school or charter high school? Those odds increase a bit.

Currently well over half of Dunwoody’s middle school and high-school-aged children do not attend DeKalb County schools. DeKalb collects millions of tax dollars in this part of the county, but serves less than half of its eligible population. A charter school with support from the community would be a success in Dunwoody. But this charter amendment is but the first step for a city like Dunwoody. If a majority of state residents approve the charter school amendment, it shows the General Assembly that we the voters are not satisfied with the current system.

The next step is an amendment to allow new school districts to be established in Georgia, disassembling the mega-sized districts. Cities like Dunwoody, Milton, Johns Creek, Brookhaven, and Sandy Springs can keep those millions of dollars local and establish their own school districts (with charter schools as an option in these new districts).

You want real local control? Vote yes for the charter school amendment.

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26 Responses to Charter school amendment, will it affect Dunwoody?

  1. Bernard J. Myers says:

    Peachtree Middle is a DeKalb School and a Charter…How does that work?

  2. There are start up charters and conversion charters. Peachtree is obviously a conversion charter (having once existed as a DeKalb County Public school with an attendance zone), as is Chamblee HS. They have more control over their decisions but still function inside the school system parameters. Start up charters only ‘live’ under the school system’s umbrella. They get their state funding passed through the system. The system can choose to add local funding, which they have done in the past for Destiny and Leadership Academy. Start ups are also entitled to use unused public school buildings but they must maintain them with their own budgets. All are public schools. Charters must accept students from all around the county. If more applicants apply than they have seats, a lottery must be held.

  3. Like Chamblee Charter High School, Kingsley Charter School and Chesnut Charter Elementary School, Peachtree Charter Middle School is a conversion charter — not a start-up charter. There are many benefits to being a conversion charter. The biggest downside to being a conversion charter is the need for extreme vigilance with regard to DeKalb County Schools. The Palace is so threatened by successful charter schools that, given half an opportunity, they look for ways to water down the charter. The Friends-and-Family Flying Monkeys (think Wizard of Oz) use threats and intimidation to demand control that, by law, they do not and should not have.

  4. Denise E. McGill says:

    Having a serious Ebeneezer Scrooge moment- Bah what????

  5. Pingback: Charter School Amendment - City-Data Forum

  6. Gardenerontheside says:

    I disagree with the idea that the local schools will have “more money” if a student leaves for a charter and takes their state money with them. A school has a set of fixed costs to run. So for example per student cost is $10000 of which local support is $6000 and state support is $4000. Student leaves to a state charter and the $4000 goes too. The school does not have more money to run the same school with this one child gone, there is less money. That student being gone from the classroom doesn’t lower the costs to run the classroom significantly but the school sure does notice the $4000 being gone.

  7. Pro Charter says:

    I know parents who wish their child’s elementary school class had 28 instead of 32. The biggest expense operating a school is teacher salaries, not utilities and such.

  8. Gardenerontheside says:

    Agreed Pro. But 28 or 27 students the teacher is still paid the same, but the school is paid less. I’m also pro charter, but not this way.

  9. Another comment says:

    This is the wrong amendment, the right amendment should be to take the arbitrary limit off the number of school districts. Districts should be local, no more than one to two High Schools and their feeder schools large. Dunwoody, Chamblee, Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, Buckhead, etc, all deserve their own school systems. They deserve just like the grandfathered systems of Decatur, Marietta, Bufford.

  10. You are absolutely correct. In fact, while it is appropriate that the Georgia Constitution identify Georgia’s responsibility for providing a free, adequate K-12 public education, we believe that it is inappropriate to put an arbitrary limit in the Georgia Constitution to the number of school districts in Georgia. This limit has been changed several times by amending the Georgia Constitution several times. Clearly it does not belong in the Georgia Constitution. All it will take to fix this once and for all is removing an 8-word sentence.

    Unfortunately, removing the cap on school districts is not up for a vote this year. Being able to meet our children’s educational needs through parent-and-stakeholder-managed (i.e., real local control) charter schools is on the ballot. DeKalb County Schools (the Palace administration and the board) has displayed arrogance, incompetence and well-known recalcitrance when it comes to embracing charter schools. Passing the charter school amendment is a step in the right direction to getting our schools and our children out from under the thumb of the failing DeKalb County School System and its spendthrift superintendent and its spend-and-tax school board.

    So, please vote “YES!” on the charter school amendment — and ALSO ask your elected officials to do what it takes to remove the sentence that inappropriately places a constitutional cap on the number of school systems in Georgia.

  11. R Nelson says:

    @gardenerontheside – Your argument misses two important points.  First, your scale is off.  Of course, one student less (or more) has little impact on the cost of running a school.  Suppose that 40 students leave a traditional public school for a charter.  Would you argue that the traditional school wouldn’t have reduced costs in that case?  Second, under the proposed amendment, the school system keeps all local money for students who leave for charters.  The state contributes less than a third of the money used to run the system.  Those thousands of dollars per student would add up very quickly (although I will admit, given DCSS’s abysmal track record, this money corresponding to students they no longer have to educate would probably not be used well).
    I hope that you will acknowledge that your logic was flawed and consider voting for the amendment.  I have no confidence in the current board, the leadership within the system, and little hope for positive change.  The state charter route isn’t perfect, but better than trusting our children’s education to those who are outstanding only in their incompetence and corruption. DCSS has great kids, great teachers, great local administrators, but is being ruined by the central office and useless board. I want options for my kids now. It is time for us to take the reins!

  12. Gardenerontheside says:

    I hear you R. But my logic isn’t flawed. 40 students gone means less money for the school, fewer teachers, and less variety of classes for the students. Charters yes, but not under a a state commission with no accountability.

  13. Gardenerontheside says:

    This whole issue would be easier if the state actually fully funded education as required by the constitution.

  14. @ Gardenerontheside: Please quote where in the state constitution you found the requirement for the state to fully fund education.

  15. just me says:

    Here’s how much the state cares about education: (from Lakeside High School’s email to parents) Reductions in Advanced Placement (AP)

    Test Funding Results in Most Families Having to Cover Cost of Student Exams
    For several years, Georgia Department of Education (GADOE) and the DeKalb County School District have appropriated funds to cover all fees associated with Advanced Placement (AP) exams for all students. This year’s state budget includes a sharp reduction in these funds. As a result, the Georgia Department of Education will fund only one exam for Free/Reduced Lunch students this year (as opposed to funding all such exams in previous years). The Dekalb County School District is unable to fund any exams for those students who are not Free/Reduced Lunch recipients (as opposed to funding one exam for these students in previous years). These conditions will require many families in Georgia to cover the cost of their student’s exam(s).

    College Board determines the fee to take an AP Exam. Fees for May 2013 are published at this link: In May 2013, AP exams will cost $89.00 per test. The College Board provides a $28 fee reduction per exam for qualified students with acute financial need. Thus, eligible students who receive free/reduced lunch pay $53 per exam.

    DeKalb County School District is sharing this information with you at this time in hopes of providing you and your student(s) time to plan for the cost of the exam(s) that will be administered in May 2013. You should anticipate the school requesting the payment of fees no later than Friday, February 15, 2013. If you have any questions, please contact Lakeside’s local school representatives: Dr Brian Fenner (Head Counselor) or Mr. Jason Clyne, (Assistant Principal) at 678-874-6702.

    They won’t pay for a test. You think they will pay for an entire school?

  16. Dr. DeKalb says:

    By the way, when you say “the state” will pay or “DeKalb” will pay… it all comes from our tax dollars. We are paying for it either way.

    And, there is no guarantee that you will be free from our corrupt board this way. I suspect the state charter commission will name it first appointee as Mr. Paul Womack. And, this time you will have no way to get him out. Why unleash our misery on the rest of the state this way?

    Let’s fix the schools we have instead of bringing a whole new corrupt board into the mix to approve a bunch of new schools. Remember, we are supposed to be scaling back, not ramping up. You are putting a lot of spin on what you want this bill to do for you (Dunwoody) but I think you are reading more into it than what is really there. In fact, the bill itself states that the state would have the authority to COMBINE districts within the state, the exact opposite of what you are hoping it will do.

  17. Concernedmom30329 says:

    What makes you think Womack would be appointed? The Governor and Lt. Governor actually aren’t from Metro Atlanta and that is one of the things that many opponents of this bill fear. Who will they appoint?
    Just Me, most states don’t pay for AP tests. It was a luxury while it lasted. The state quit paying several years ago. DeKalb didn’t and paid on their own. Not anymore. If you have a child in an AP class, make sure they study for the exam. The cost of the exam is far less than the cost of the course they can place out of in college.
    Actualy R. Nelson, DCSS has magnet schools that often pull that many students from a school and mostly it just hurts the schools the students come from.
    We have choice in DeKalb, our board seems to approve charters more than most in the state and things still aren’t good. This bill won’t fix much of anything but it will send a strong message to dysfunctional boards across the state, Change is coming and now communities have choices and options.
    If you study what happened before the last commission was declared unconstitutional, only 20 percent of the schools that applied were approved and less than that even managed to open.

  18. DunMoody says:

    The achilles heel in the conversion charter schools’ ability to exercise their charters is that, while they are written to bring flexibility into the schoolhouse, the charters are effectively blocked by central office administration. For example, if a conversion charter believes a different schedule is more appropriate for their students, and writes the charter that way, the central office says “no,” and that’s the end of that. Happens over and over again.

    That said, state-authorized charter schools are necessary because there’s an extra layer of “yes, we can” behind an approved charter (but only if the principal isn’t threatened with termination or relocation by HR). By the time a charter goes through the complex research, documentation, creation, and approval process, it’s a solid foundation for a school that’s meeting its students’ specific needs. And with student-based measurements along the way, a charter school that isn’t doing the job will not keep its charter.

    It really isn’t all about the money. It’s about what’s best for the students in YOUR school, not what’s convenient across an oversized school district.

  19. Hamilton says:

    @gardenerontheside What’s the difference between the state commission with no accountability and the DeKalb County Board of Education? I’ll take a chance.

  20. We did our own research and found this website for the Georgia School Funding Association which Joe Martin is involved in:

    It’s a great website with a lot of data to review.

    They also state that the GA Constitution requires funding education, but they call it “adequate” funding. That is a very fuzzy measure. Read on —

    “The State of Georgia has a constitutional obligation to provide an adequate education for every child in Georgia, but is not fulfilling this responsibility. The QBE Formula is no longer a realistic measure of the cost of providing an adequate education. Local school systems are being forced to absorb an increasing share of the required cost. Although this problem is particularly severe for those systems without a substantial local tax base, it affects all local school systems. The recent cuts in State funding have made this situation even worse. “

  21. educator90 says:

    I pray that the charter amendment passes. Charter schools will bring competition to the school districts and require them to focus on educating the children, something that they aren’t currently doing. Also, if the charter school is no good, they will close. This is not so when we have sucky public schools. They remain open and get suckier and suckier, because parents have no choice.

  22. booksrkool2 says:

    To DSW2 and all others:
    The Georgia Constitution Education item can be found in Article 8 Education, Section 1 Public Education, Paragraph 1,

    “Public education; free public education prior to college or postsecondary level; support by taxation . The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia. Public education for the citizens prior to the college or postsecondary level shall be free and shall be provided for by taxation.”

    Directly from

    Just a thought: The very reason why you don’t trust ELECTED government is because they don’t do what they say they WILL do so the solution to that problem is…APPOINTED (unelected) government? Quite perplexing.

  23. bettyandveronica1 says:

    I have no problem with parents having to pay for ap exams. At least the county is coming out now and telling everyone concerned to plan for it. Maybe they can hold off on their iphone 5 purchase for their children. The kids might just have to use that 4 just a little bit longer. So many people are willing to say they can’t pay but have no problem ponying up for a little bling for their kid just cuz “they have to have it”. Sorry, if you want your kid to get ahead a bit then think of it as prepaying for part of college. Get’s you ready for paying for college expenses. Plan for it.

  24. Will the Georgia Charter School Board (er Commission) approve conversion charters if local boards are recalcitrant. That is not specified (distinguished) in the law and no one is talking about it. Why and Why not? Even if the vaguely written law which just says “charter schools” (not new and conversion) allows for the board to intercede on conversion, you will see where their interest lies and conflict of interest exists. They will not act on conversion charters because that would limit privatized operations in that school zone. The conversion charters will be judged by the existing DOE circumvention process–which is what we have today–and can continue to use for new privatized operations as well.

  25. dekalbinsideout says:

    House Bill 797 describes the Charter School Commission and chartered school boards. Peruse Ms Jester’s other Charter School Amendment documents at your leisure.

    The state can only commission “State Chartered Special Schools”. A group of people cannot swoop in and request that an existing traditional public school be converted.

    Let me know if that does not answer your question.

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