Posts Tagged ‘Charter Schools’

Hope You’ll Vote NO on the Georgia Charter School Amendment

October 3, 2012


I’m talking about the move by Georgia lawmakers who want to make it easy to circumvent local boards of education, and even the state board of education, so that new charter schools can be formed.  

There is a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would allow a special commission in Atlanta to approve spending state tax dollars to  fund new charter schools. 

A lot of people whose opinion I respect think this is really a bad idea.  Local school boards and the state board can now approve charter schools, so it’s not a matter of not having them. It’s a matter of losing local control and using state tax dollars for charter schools that could be going to local school systems. Local systems really need that money because of the draconian cuts to public schools by the state legislature.  The legislators will tell you they are for public education, but actions do indeed speak louder than words. 

After, studying this complicated matter, I  will be joining our state Superintendent of Education,  former state representative Mary Jane Galer, former state representative and State Board of Regents member Milton Jones, and others in voting no on this amendment.  If you live in Georgia, I hope you will do the same thing. 

A lot of out-of-state money is going into the campaign to get this amendment approved.  I am told that is because for-profit management companies that manage some charter schools want this amendment to pass.

As I said, like so many other things, it’s about the money. 

The Education Solution: Charter Schools are Not the Magic Bullet

February 14, 2011

Despite the hue and cry for more local control to make establishing charter schools easier, there is also the admonition that they are not the solution to the education crisis.  The idea of allowing schools to be partially exempt from school board control so they can be innovative in improving instruction and student achievement outcomes is getting a lot of coin these days.  But, a study by Stanford University has found that charter schools are not better overall than traditional schools.

Based on the CREDO study, Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States

  According to Wikipedia the research showed  that 17% of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools; 46% showed no difference from public schools; and 37% were significantly worse than their traditional public school counterparts.  This based 70 percent of demographically matched charter schools in the United States.

Still, there are those who want more charter schools, and more magnate schools. Former Muscogee County School District board member Fife Whiteside has this to say about it:

Fife Whiteside

  “The school district has only two dedicated magnets, where all the children are there by choice, of the sort described in Waiting. [He is referring to the documentary Waiting for Superman.] These are Columbus High and Britt David. Both are extraordinarily successful and have traditionally had twice, or more, as many applications as seats. When I was on the school board I periodically reviewed school costs for these schools and they were never more expensive than others.

“Why not have more such schools, particularly a dedicated magnet middle school? The reason most often articulated, when I asked that question, was that it would be unfair to other schools, to take away the “other school’s good students.” The fear was that taking away the good students would hurt test scores in the other schools and make them look bad. I thought the parents owned the child not the school. The school is the resource for the benefit of the child and not the child the resource for the benefit of the school. The question should be what is best for the child, not for the staff of the school.

“Three other examples come to mind as well.

“The school district, with one exception, has always resisted charter school applications, sometimes at great expense. The publically articulated reason was that the charter proponents could not be trusted, had bad ideas, would fail, etc. Hard to understand in view of the performance in some of our regular schools. But the real reason is that the charter schools would pull students out of regular schools and pull away the state FTE earned money, I believe over $5000 per child, which is a loss to the school district. It is about keeping money to protect positions and salaries.”

Magnate and charter schools also bring up in the issue of two-track schools, an upper track for the better performing students and a lower track for the rest. Is that a good idea? Is it fair? We’ll look at that in a future Education Solution report.


The Education Solution: Are More Local Control and Charter Schools Really Better?

February 7, 2011

Sen. Josh McKoon, (Rep) Georgia 29th District

There is a hue and cry by some for more “local control” in Georgia’s public school system.  Newly elected Georgia 29th District Senator Josh McKoon tells me he is going to introduce a bill to provide more local control.

In an email he said, “First and foremost is to make it easier for local school districts to elect charter system status. This status allows local school districts to reassert control over their district and frees them from one size fits all state mandates. Every education success story I’ve read about involves heightened local control. So I intend to propose legislation that will allow local boards of education to elect charter system status provided they are meeting or exceeding the state average on the CRCT test.”

There is already a law on the books that addresses charter schools, according to Muscogee County School District Superintendent Susan Andrews.  There is a big problem with it for Columbus, she says, because it rules out admission requirements for any school.  She emailed this to me: “By 2014 local school districts must decide to operate under what is described in Georgia Law as IE2 (I,E squared) or become a Charter System.  If systems decide not to select one of these umbrellas under which to operate the Board of Education and Superintendent must sign an affidavit that they will accept the “Status Quo.” Of course, who wants to do that with the negative connotations that brings with it? To operate as an IE2 district, the school district must develop a Strategic Plan which outlines the student achievement improvements which will be made in exchange for flexibility or exemption from State Board rules and/or State laws.  The district in its plan can request the specific rules and/or laws from which it wants to be exempt. 

“To become a charter system, all schools in the district operate under a district charter but there can be no admission requirements for any school in the district.  Currently, we have admission requirements for Columbus High, Britt David Elementary, Hardaway’s, Richards’, and Clubview’s International Baccalaureate Programs, Arnold’s Magnet Program.  Unless we are willing to dismantle those programs, we would not be eligible for Charter System Status. 

“I believe IE2 offers the most flexibility and that is the one we will most likely pursue.” 

Josh tells me that IE2 allows local school boards to apply for charter status.  He promises to give me a fuller  explanation. When he does, I’ll pass it along.  He also has some other interesting plans for public education in Georgia.  More on that, too, later.

Some think the charter school concept is the magic bullet in making schools better. Some think they are overrated.  I’ll deal more with that in my next  The Education Solution series.

MCSD Board Approves Applying for Charter School Status

October 21, 2008

  It appears that Muscogee County School District Board Chair James Walker changed his mind about wanting a delay in considering application for Charter School status for the district. The vote, according to a report on WTVM, to make the application was 7 to 2 tonight, and he wasn’t one of the two. 

  He had told me this afternoon that thought more time was needed to consider the issue, and that, with a new superintendent coming on board, he thought it might be a good idea to wait for that to happen to get his or her input on the matter.

  Dr. John Phillips, whose interim term ends at the end of November, was definitely for the application, saying not only does it give more flexibility to the system but would mean $15 million in more state funds over the next five years.

  As I reported earlier, Dr. Phillips told me he would consider staying on past November 30th if a new superintendent hasn’t been chosen by then, if he could do it with jeopardizing his state retirement.  Board Chair Walker told me that should a new superintendent not be in place at that time, he would think it a good idea for Dr. Phillips to continue until a replacement is found.

MCSB May Delay Approval of Charter School Application

October 20, 2008

     Muscogee County School District Board Chairman James Walker wants to put the breaks on appying for Charter School status for the district. He thinks more time is needed to study the proposal and to allow more public input.  That means there is a good chance the school board will not approve filing for  the application at tonight’s meeting.

  “We’ve already missed one of the deadlines, the one in May, and the November one is coming up. If we want to do this, we can do it next year. Besides, we are about to have a new superintendent and perhaps we should wait to get his or her ideas about this.”

  MCSD Superintendent John Phillips’ interim term ends at the end of November and Walker beleives it is possible a new superintendnet will be chosen by then.

  “What if  you don’t? Are you going to ask Dr. Phillips to extend his interim period?”

  “Well, that would be a good idea. He is already experienced at the job.”

  Would Dr. Phillips stay a little longer if needed? He told me that would consider it if he is needed, if it can be done without adversely affecting his pension.

MCSD Expected to Approve Charter Schools Application, but Why?

October 17, 2008

  After learning that the Muscogee County School Board is expected to approve application for Charter School status at its Monday meeting, I decided I really didn’t know a heck of a lot about it.

  I mean, I’ve heard all of this business about it allowing more innovation and flexibility, which made me question what we already have.  I talked with Superintendent Dr. John Phillips.


Dr. John Phillips, MCSD Superintendent (Photo: MCSD)

  “We already have innovative programs in the system. It really doesn’t mean a lot of change,” he told me.

  “Then why change?”

  “Well, there are incentives. We won’t have to follow the state rules and regulations the way we do now. For instance, we’ll have more flexibility in class size and things like that. And there are financial incentives. We’ll get an additional one hundred dollars per student a year. That comes to $3 million dollars a year and that will be in place for five years.”

  “So we’re talking $15 million more dollars.”

  “Right, but that’s not the main reason we are doing it, though that’s what some people are saying.”

   So, what all of this boils down to is that the Charter School systems have more freedom and are less encumbered by state rules and regulations. And, the gravy on top of that is a few million more state dollars.

  “Does this mean systems can lower standards if they wish?”

  “Oh, no. There is accountability. In fact, you have to agree to meet higher standards of student performance in order to be granted Charter School status.”

  There is a chance the system will have to wait another year before it can be granted charter status. There is the little technicality of a letter of intent that was supposed to have been sent to the state school board before May 1st. Dr. Phillips isn’t sure why that was missed, saying, “I’m not even sure we knew about it.” He said that Harris County also missed that dealine, but is also still applying.  Both systems are hoping the state will waive the letter of intent requirement, and neither one plans to miss the next deadline, the one for applying. That comes on November 1st.  

  “Considering that Lt. Governor Cagle is urging more systems to sign up for Charter School status, maybe the state board will be willing to waive the May 1st letter of intent requirement.”

  On the surface, it sounds like a good idea. I guess we really won’t know until it’s tried.