Fran Millar: Why I Will Vote YES on the Charter School Amendment

by State Sen. Fran Millar | Reprinted with permission from Dunwoody Crier; published 10.16.2012 

There is a lot of misinformation on the Charter School Amendment on the November ballot. I want to try and set the record straight.

First, charter schools are public schools.

Second, there are different types of charter schools. For example in DeKalb County, Chesnut, Kingsley, Peachtree Middle and Chamblee Charter High School are examples of converted charter schools from traditional public schools.

Third, the charter school amendment primarily deals with charter schools created by the state after a local school board turns down the application. The exception is a school with a statewide attendance zone like the virtual charter school which goes directly to the state.

Fourth, the academic performance of the state created charter schools by the former commission is as good or better than the schools in the district where the state created charter schools are domiciled. This data comes from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.

Fifth, parental involvement is a key component of a charter school because in many cases a parent must sign a contract of involvement in their child’s education.

Sixth, the current state-created charter schools that are brick and mortar facilities receive about 85 percent of the funding that traditional public schools receive. The difference is due to the fact that the state-created charter schools do not receive local tax dollars.

Seventh, it is true that the state can currently create charter schools. However, based on the Supreme Court ruling it is very likely that any lawsuit challenging this right will be successful. The reason I say this is because in the Supreme Court opinion ruling that the state could not compel the locals to contribute to a state created charter school, the court also said the following: state special schools are not schools that enroll the same types of K-12 students who attend general K-12 public schools or that teaches the same subjects that may be taught at general K-12 public schools. As a layman this means to me that the state special school (state created charter school) would not be an option except for special circumstances such as for the deaf and the blind.

Eighth, there are areas of this state where local school boards will not approve any charter school. Everyone can’t move or send their child to a private school. Maybe this is why 44 percent of voters in the Democratic Primary said Yes to this amendment.

Ninth, If a state-created charter school does not meet its objectives, then it can be shut down. When was the last time a traditional public school was closed due to poor academic performance?

Tenth, for-profit companies can make money by running these schools. Why do we care if this means we increase academic performance?

Bottom line, if we can increase academic performance by injecting competition into a system with mediocre results and increase parental involvement, then I will vote yes.

Senator Fran Millar

District #40 | 770-490-0213

senatorfranmillar@gmail.com

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26 Responses to Fran Millar: Why I Will Vote YES on the Charter School Amendment

  1. decaturparent says:

    Well said, Senator. I have been disgusted by the recent posts here regarding the lack of transparency by DCSS and their refusal to honor open record requests and to answer parent questions. Our system is way past flawed, it is broken. The Charter Amendment won’t fix DeKalb overnight, but it will give its Administration a badly needed wake-up call! It will also give parents a alternative when their children are in failing schools.

  2. There are a couple more issues that will knock your socks off! We are holding up on publication so as to not damage a student. Atkinson, March and Ziegler are more than capable of retaliating because they have already shown that students are unimportant. As far as they are concerned, students are simply collateral damage in their drive to enrich themselves at any cost. We have the stories to prove it.

  3. decaturparent says:

    At this point, nothing would surprise me. Keep up the good work. I appreciate your thorough reports and fact-checking.

  4. This is from the InstaPundit (PJ Media) http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/155671/

    October 27, 2012

    “LOWER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Bursting The Administrative Bubble.

    Between 1950 and 2009, the number of K-12 public school students increased by 96 percent. During that same period, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew by 386 percent. Of those personnel, the number of teachers increased by 252 percent, while the ranks of administrators and other staff grew by 702 percent—more than 7 times the increase in students.

    So “administrative bloat” isn’t just a problem for higher education. If you got rid of some of those administrators, you could use the money to pay teachers more, and hire better teachers.”

  5. realityscout says:

    Three of Fran Millar’s top campaign contributors in the 2012 cycle are for profit education companies. Of course he will go to bat for them. That’s how political campaigns are run these days.

    http://votesmart.org/candidate/campaign-finance/17494/fran-millar#.UI3HAYZ0b54
    K12INC
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K12_%28company%29

    Education Management Corp.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_Management_Corporation

    Apollo Group
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Group

    I used to post as “guest” but I had to re-register for some reason.

  6. ursokm16 says:

    Distressing that the comment thread isn’t about the position statement. …but that would require some thought about the Amendment and the implications of changing the constitution when so many different interest groups can “get something”… For the poorly managed urban school districts like DeKalb, the law would simply be a way to approach changing the ways THIS local school system is managed. It’s too bad that a state referendum shouldn’t come down to proviscial issues. Beyond wacking this county’s leaders, the Amendment is wrong-headed risky business and we will be sorry if it passes.
    (All of that can be said–and ironically most of what the Senator said is true–how can that be? It;s called context.)

  7. realityscout says:

    I have a post with links to info on each of these groups awaiting moderation, so until it is released here is my post without links.

    Three of Fran Millar’s top campaign contributors in the 2012 cycle are for profit education companies. Of course he will go to bat for them. That’s how political campaigns are run these days.

    K12INC
    Education Management Corp.
    Apollo Group

    source:
    http://votesmart.org/candidate/campaign-finance/17494/fran-millar#.UI3HAYZ0b54

    I used to post as “guest” but I had to re-register for some reason.

  8. We are trying to determine when “for-profit” became a perjorative term.

    Have you looked at the lengthy list of purchase approvals brought up at every DeKalb County School System board meeting? ALL of those companies are “for-profit.”

    How about the blood-sucking “non-profits” like New Birth Missionary Baptist Church? Have you checked out how much DeKalb County School System pays New Birth to rent space for two (2) charter schools when state law says that charter schools must be given, rent-free, the use of vacant school system facilities? One space DCSS rents for a charter school is actually in New Birth where they also have another private school for the same grade levels. Hmmm … The other space is a facility that used to be owned by DCSS. It was sold to New Birth who then turned around and rented it back to DCSS for a charter school.

    “For-profit” companies are not the only way to start a charter school. Parents and/or teachers can move to convert any DCSS traditional school to a charter school and it is not all that difficult. Chamblee Charter High School, Peachtree Charter Middle School, Chesnut Charter Elementary School, and Kingsley Charter Elementary School all started that way. All are highly successful schools. There is a law on the books right now that enables converting clusters to Charter Clusters. It takes a bit more work than converting a single school to a charter, but not much more work. In fact, we think we saw a draft of a proposal to convert the Chamblee Cluster to a Charter Cluster. We will see if we can find that draft and, if so, will publish it.

    The problem that will be resolved by the Charter School Amendment is that the Court said that Georgia did not have “constitutional authority” to review and approve charter schools that had been turned down by local school systems. This amendment simply gives charter schools and proposed charter schools the right to appeal a negative decision by their local school system.

    Financially, the best path for a charter school is to become a “conversion” charter — if (and this is a big IF) the Governance Council is strong enough to avoid being bullied by the school system. If a conversion charter is meeting all of the requirements of its charter that should trump any local school system pettiness (of which we have plenty in DeKalb County). And, if the local school system moves to take away the charter — or not renew the charter — of a charter school (conversion or start-up) that is meeting all the requirements of its charter, the Charter School amendment provides a path for an appeal.

  9. We encourage anyone who checks the VoteSmart source you mention to also check the financial supporters of other elected officials in DeKalb County.

    We believe that election funding should be limited to those funds raised by allowing taxpayers to check off a box on their tax returns that will contribute $5 or less ($2 / tax return — personal and corporate — comes to mind) to a fund that will be divided among all those running for office. No personal funds from candidates may be spent. That would really level the playing field among candidates.

    But, this is a topic for another time …

  10. ursokm16 says:

    Three of the TOP donors meaning it’s a TOP priority–meaning these firms have TOP access…access you don’t have. Likely these guys don’t help the senator DECIDE which way he leans…they help him finesse his rationale to the public. (as I said earlier–context–how to change the subject)

    Folks, that’s no ordinary donation story.

  11. DECATURMOM1 says:

    Hello,
    I am confused, tomorrow when we vote for amendment 1: if we are in favor of the charter — do we vote YES or NO? The wording is very confusing on the voting example. It reads:
    Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?

  12. realityscout says:

    If you are in favor vote YES to amending the constitution.
    If you are not in favor vote NO.

  13. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Here is the actual charter amendment if that helps:
    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 establish special schools;

    To simplify – Local boards of education can already commission charters. Do you want the state to be able to commission charters as well?

  14. ursokm16 says:

    Dec mom 1–you couldn’t have made a better case for voting “no”

  15. realityscout says:

    Is YES always bolded on this blog or did it just get special treatment via the blog host?
    I meant for my comment to be unbiased because the ballot language is indeed confusing to both pro and con voters, but the addition of the html sort of wrecks that. I am a strong believer in voting for whoever or whatever one wishes, with a clear understanding of what the issue is which is why I included both yes and no.
    For the record, I object to having my comments changed without notification or permission.

  16. realityscout says:

    A preview feature would be nice.

  17. @reality Scout: We have absolutely NO idea what you are talking about. We do not edit comments ever. We delete them occasionally when we find them offensive but that’s it.

  18. realityscout says:

    Well someone had to insert the “strong” tag into my initial comment and it wasn’t me.
    I did do it on the the second one by mistake. I added a space which I thought would make it invalid but it bolded anyway.
    Interesting.

  19. @reality Scout: Did you mean to Bold the text in your complaint comment? You are doing something all on your own – we are not touching your comments.

  20. @ Reality – again, NO ONE touched your comment.

  21. realityscout says:

    DSW I did type the strong tag into the complaint comment leaving a space in between the < and strong thinking it would invalidate the tag, but not into the initial one that had YES and NO in it. I found the inserted strong tag by right clicking on view selection source on that comment.
    You would have had to do that since I did not.
    I have found the get schooled blog to be more unbiased as Maureen respectfully always presented both views so that people could decide on their own, fully informed.
    I'm done here. Tomorrow people will vote on this ill worded ballot and it will be over.

  22. @reality scout – you are being ridiculous!

  23. realityscout says:

    Again DSW, I would have had to type the opening and closing tag into my Yes or NO comment. Why would I, as someone in opposition to this amendment, take the time to bold YES and not the NO? I’m not stupid.
    Goodbye. No need to publish this comment.

  24. Bye.

    Geesh. That was downright weird.

    Is there such a thing as blog rage?

  25. Great comment found on the AJC online:

    Nobody ever questions why the opposition to the campaign (the school districts and associated organizations), serving 1.6 million children in this state could only muster up $120,000. Parents didn’t join the vote no fight, local businesses didn’t join them, and certainly no outside companies looking to come to a state with a struggling economy and poor academic results supported them. Who supports the vote no campaign? Those benefitting the most. The $226,000,000 establishment and all of those making money off of them.

    One must wonder why, if the local districts are being truthful, they are fighting against the amendment which affirms what they already claim to be true – that we have local school districts and the state to approve on appeal. Why the fight? The only reason lies in their deeper, more subversive plans to remove the appeals process at the state, or to cripple the funding to the schools it approves on appeal to the level that they will close. Prior to the Commission, charter schools could go to the state if they wanted to exist on less than half the per pupil funding the district schools did. The districts never worried about this appeal method because it was not a viable one and very, very few (as in 2 over 10 years) ever went that route.

    The public has been fleeced of tax dollars NOT used for effectively educating students, but for building an empire – one that is filed with layer after layer of Deputy Associate Superintendents, Associate Superintendents, Directors, Coaches, and everything in between. The real irony is that they continue to cry poor as loudly and as robustly as they can, all the while increasing their bureaucracy almost double the rate of student growth.

    Millions and millions of dollars ARE at stake, but its not funds that will go to classrooms. It is funds the vote no campaign are protecting for themselves and their crony network of educats.

    Charters are more efficient and more accountable to tax payers, and they are producing better results. THAT is what the districts fear to the depths of their souls – more attention spotlighted on the districts and their associated organizations that will DEMAND better outcomes and better stewardship.

    The public has one moment in time to put the focus back where it should belong – on kids and great outcomes. VOTE YES, and send a loud message that you expect a better return on your tax dollar investment in public education via well educated students.

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