Why hasn’t the Governor signed H.B. 881?

H.B. 881 is the charter schools legislation. Given the mess in Clayton County and the kids who are stuck down there, I am really surprised the Governor hasn’t signed this legislation — it’s just common sense reforms to prevent local school boards like Clayton County from shutting down charter schools without cause and the legislation provides adequate funding and freedom for charter schools.

Right now Georgia has 71 charter schools with about 30,000 students across the socio-economic spectrum. These schools are currently out performing state averages on standardized tests despite receiving about 30% less than typical public schools. And charter schools don’t even get facilities funding.

Under H.B. 881, funding will following children. If a child goes to charter school, the money goes with the child there. If the child goes back to public school, the money goes with the child back. It forces public and charter schools to compete, and competition improves schooling.

Twenty-six Georgia school systems have failed to meet federal and state standards. Clayton County is losing its accreditation. Charter schools are a great alternative.

H.B. 881 is a common sense reform to help foster charter schools. Too often local school districts try to make things extreme difficult for charter schools, while ignoring the need to actually improve local public schools.

It’s time for the Governor to sign off on H.B. 881.

Please join me in calling Governor Perdue at (404) 656-1776. Ask him to sign H.B. 881. If you don’t want to call, you can contact him via the web by going here.

25 comments

  1. heroV says:

    The Georgia PTA’s viewpoint is that “HB 881 unconstitutionally takes local tax dollars out of the hands of local boards of education and places the money under the control of state commissioned charter schools. The State has a process by which a charter school can be established and it appears to be working well. Adding another authorizing agency who has additional authority and can raid local dollars undermines both the existing State process and the local boards of education.”

  2. troberts says:

    The Georgia PTA is just dead wrong! They, like some other groups, are painting HB 881 as unconstitutional which is erroneous. Not one, but two, independent legal opinions have been given by attorneys specializing in Georgia constitutional law. Both of these concluded that HB 881 is constitutional without reservation. These opinions were presented to both the House and Senate Education Committees for their study and review. In fact, the committees heard testimony from both legal firms and had the opportunity to ask questions. Not one group opposing HB 881 has brought forth a legal opinion written by a constitutional expert which concludes that HB 881 is unconstitutional.

    Now to the erroneous assertion that the state has a process “by which a charter school can be established and it appears to be working well.” This is not a workable system by any means. Only four schools in the entire state have been approved as State Special Charter Schools and that only after denials (most repeatedly) by local boards of education. The problem is not the approval process by state, as it is fair and objective. The problem has been inadequate funding of our children’s education in those schools. Half funding is not sufficient.

    And, lastly, to characterize HB 881 as a way to raid local dollars is very telling. I would expect an organization that purports to represent parents and teachers (PTA) to accept that the funding should follow the child. After all, those local taxes are raised to educate children, not support “boards of education.”

    The PTA, like other organizations, need to open themselves to the new paradigms of education. Parents are now rightly demanding better educational options for their children. And they deserve nothing less.

  3. heroV says:

    troberts, I’m curious as to the expert opinion as to the constitutionality of HB 881. I can’t say this is a hot button issue that I have a strong opinion on because my kids go to a private school and I can afford to send them there. But, can you give an overview as to the reasoning those opinions used to reach the conclusion that it is constitutional without reservation? Who gave the opinions?

  4. I chaired the education study committee last fall that analyzed the issue how charter schools are authorized in Georgia. The product of our efforts is HB 881 sponsored by Rep. Jan Jones. I was pleased to be a co sponsor of the bill along with Brooks Coleman, Fran Millar, Kathy Ashe and others.

    Georgia’s present charter school authorizing system is far too limited in its scope. Under the present system, a group wanting a school charter can only receive full funding for the school by applying to a local school system. There is no right of appeal if the local system denies the application or offers an insufficient level of funding. As a result, how charter schools are treated in this state is uneven at best.

    While it is true that the State School Board can presently also authorize a charter, under the current law a state chartered school only gets approximately half what a local chartered school may receive. Therefore, the Georgia PTA’s assertion that the present system “appears to be working well” is laughable. Through 12 hours of hearings no one felt the present system was working well. (I might also add that unfortunately the Georgia PTA never showed up or offered any input into our efforts.)

    In developing HB 881 we looked at how schools are chartered around the country and tried to borrow the best of the different practices we studied. Under HB 881, a group seeking a charter must simultaneously apply to both the local school system and the state commission. The local school system has 60 days to act before the state commission can consider the application. If any party is dissatisfied with the action of the state commission, they can further appeal the matter to State Board of Education in an expedited process.

    In regards to funding, it is important to remember that a charter school is a public school and the children attending are Georgia’s public school children. There is no reason to treat them any differently in terms of funding from any other public school child in this state.

    I appreciate Peach Pundit bringing up this important bill and also urge you to contact the governor. He has traditionally favored charter schools and he should support this measure as well. (By the way, this is Charter School Week In Georgia!)

    Let me also add that charter school reform is just one small piece of the education reform movement that many of us in the House and Senate are committed to move forward because the statue quo is unacceptable. (In recent years, we have seen some improvement. We have climbed up to 46th in SAT scores and have improved high school graduation rates from 62 to 72%. That just means, however, that we have gone form abysmal to poor.) Much more needs to be done in order to make the promise of available quality education for all in Georgia a reality.

    We need to move forward to uplift our technical and career studies in high school, overhaul the antiquated QBE funding mechanism, provide for merit and market based pay for teachers (and get incompetent teachers out of the classrooms), expand school choice, demand greater accountability from local school systems, and so much more. The tired old bureaucratic system of the past needs to be placed squarely in our rear view mirror and allowed to fade from view.

    I hope you will join us in our efforts. I was once told by a grandmother in my district that her grandchildren were her ambassadors to a world she would never see. The same is true for all of Georgia’s children. It is our duty to see to it that they have the necessary skills to excel when they get there.

  5. EAVDad says:

    I like HB881, but I do have a political question: Exactly how does this support “local control” of government. Essentially, it’s a state panel saying “hey locals: We’re gonna spend your taxpayer dollars for you.”

    Also, plan on a lawsuit.

    Again, I like HB881. But I wonder if this is what’s giving the Gov. some pause.

  6. John Konop says:

    heroV

    I like you can afford to send my kids to private school and I do send my youngest. But unlike you I think children with parents less fortunate need a chance at a quality education.

    Not only is it the right thing, but we all pay for a failed system with a high drop out rate at the end.

  7. John Konop says:

    Rep. Ed Lindsey

    I agree with your comments and thank you for your effort.

    I do have one question.

    As someone who chaired the education study committee what are you doing about Kathy Cox pushing the failed recycled math 123 down our throats? I have not talked to anyone in the education system that does not know this is a train wreck. In fact the person Kathy hired to be in charge of the program quit from what I hear knowing this is a mistake waiting to happen.

  8. EAVDad:

    I guess it all depends on what your definition of what you mean by “local control.” For years the State has been dictating one prescribed rule after another down to local schools. The end result is Title 20 the the Georgia Code which is approximately 3 inches thick.

    Charter schools operate largely autonomously with the parents, teachers, and local charter school administrators in the driver seat. How much more local can that be? Our other reforms likewise seek to allow for greater flexibility in return for greater accountablity for results.

    John:

    I agree. You are in a long line of howling parents upset over the math program. Contact me. I need to learn more about the problem. I’m a great believer in the principle that my job is not to deliver edicts from the Gold Dome but to carry the wisdom of my community to the decision makers.

    Contact info: [email protected]. 404-926-4155. The same goes for the rest of you as well.

  9. John Konop says:

    Ed

    This is an article I wrote that helped spark the protest.

    Thanks for your help!

    Sonny Perdue Must Stop Kathy Cox

    Georgia’s State Superintendent of Schools, Kathy Cox, has imposed a dramatically different high school math curriculum without properly reviewing it with teachers and parents. She is replacing the traditional structure (Algebra I & II, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus) with vaguely-titled Math 1, Math 2, and Math 3.
    There are currently four math tracks available to high school students. They vary in difficulty to accommodate a broad range of math abilities. Under Cox’s proposed change, freshmen, sophomores, and juniors will now only have two tracks (Math 1 and Advanced Math 1, Math 2 and Advanced Math 2…). Cox’s new mandate may be well intended-but the devil’s in the details.

    Lobbyist-Driven Education Policies

    Politicians like Kathy Cox have been promoting programs like this to help fund their political campaigns instead of being straight with parents. David Chastain, Director of Georgia Libertarian Party, claims Kathy is bought and sold by the educational lobbyists who represent the companies that provide the consulting, textbooks, and testing materials needed to implement the new program.
    Kids would be better served if we had far fewer heavy-handed state and federal mandates (which they aren’t responsible for implementing or funding), and instead gave more money directly to the local school district and let local voters hold them accountable. In fact, if we eliminated these kinds of pork-filled bureaucratic misadventures we could raise the proportion of education funding that goes to classrooms (versus administration) to 65%. Please click here for more information.

    Problem #1: Cox punishes gifted and advanced kids

    As part of her new math program, Cox wants to stop giving gifted and advanced middle school math students the chance to earn high school credit in math (algebra). Currently, these advanced junior high courses (that Cox wants to eliminate) make Georgia students eligible for college math courses in their junior year, which helps them get placed in the top colleges.
    The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Cherokee County School Superintendent, Dr. Petruzielo, said this aspect of Cox’s new math program doesn’t make sense. “One of the things Cherokee County is proud of is the number of kids in middle school who take algebra. Next fall we will have ninth-graders in high school taking algebra for credit. Why not have seventh- and eighth-graders take algebra? And if they can pass the end of course test, why in the world would they not get credit?” In fact, 95% of Cherokee County’s junior high Algebra 1 students pass the Cox’s own, state-required, EOCT test.

    Problem #2: Students will suffer under unrealistic goals

    Cox spokesperson and Georgia’s math program manager Claire Pierce told me that a goal of the new math program is to have 85% of Georgia’s students graduate having completed the equivalent of Algebra II. I believe this goal makes the same mistake as President Bush’s unpopular No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program: not all high school students should prepare for college. As reported by the AJC, it is wildly unrealistic to expect that they should, and it damages the self-esteem of kids that would be better served by a vocational program.
    It’s more likely that 85% is the proportion of students she wants to buy new textbooks for, as a favor to her education-industry campaign donors.

    Problem #3: Unrealistic goals for the teachers

    I support high (yet realistic) expectations. But Kathy Cox’s unrealistic plan to graduate 85% of our high school students with the equivalent of Algebra II will destroy the morale of math teachers. Georgia’s high school classrooms face an explosion of immigrants with very poor English skills, pregnant teens, drug users, and kids with parents who don’t support academics.
    Finally, Cox needs to double check her math-if currently 44% of Georgia’s high school students drop out and only 29% (nationally) graduate with math proficiency (which doesn’t include Algebra II), how can she possibly meet her 85% goal? The only way is to hide watered-down standards behind the vaguely titled Math 1, 2, and 3.

    Problem #4: A rushed and careless policy

    Cherokee County’s Mark Smith says Cox’s new math program hasn’t been reviewed with any colleges except those within Georgia’s state system. Meaning no one knows if or how colleges from other states will accept it. “This is a sea change in the way registrars look at stuff,” Petruzielo said. “I’m not comfortable [with the new courses]. We wouldn’t want our kids to be at a disadvantage.”

    The state has also failed address how to handle students transferring into Georgia public high schools. Since the new curriculum is mandatory, advanced students transferring into our systems could be forced to sit through math classes they have already mastered. The same holds true for middle school students who have taken advanced math courses.

  10. John Konop says:

    Ed

    This is an article I wrote that helped spark the protest.

    Thanks for your help!

    Sonny Perdue Must Stop Kathy Cox

    Georgia’s State Superintendent of Schools, Kathy Cox, has imposed a dramatically different high school math curriculum without properly reviewing it with teachers and parents. She is replacing the traditional structure (Algebra I & II, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus) with vaguely-titled Math 1, Math 2, and Math 3.
    There are currently four math tracks available to high school students. They vary in difficulty to accommodate a broad range of math abilities. Under Cox’s proposed change, freshmen, sophomores, and juniors will now only have two tracks (Math 1 and Advanced Math 1, Math 2 and Advanced Math 2…). Cox’s new mandate may be well intended-but the devil’s in the details.

    Lobbyist-Driven Education Policies

    Politicians like Kathy Cox have been promoting programs like this to help fund their political campaigns instead of being straight with parents. David Chastain, Director of Georgia Libertarian Party, claims Kathy is bought and sold by the educational lobbyists who represent the companies that provide the consulting, textbooks, and testing materials needed to implement the new program.
    Kids would be better served if we had far fewer heavy-handed state and federal mandates (which they aren’t responsible for implementing or funding), and instead gave more money directly to the local school district and let local voters hold them accountable. In fact, if we eliminated these kinds of pork-filled bureaucratic misadventures we could raise the proportion of education funding that goes to classrooms (versus administration) to 65%. Please click here for more information.

    Problem #1: Cox punishes gifted and advanced kids

    As part of her new math program, Cox wants to stop giving gifted and advanced middle school math students the chance to earn high school credit in math (algebra). Currently, these advanced junior high courses (that Cox wants to eliminate) make Georgia students eligible for college math courses in their junior year, which helps them get placed in the top colleges.
    The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Cherokee County School Superintendent, Dr. Petruzielo, said this aspect of Cox’s new math program doesn’t make sense. “One of the things Cherokee County is proud of is the number of kids in middle school who take algebra. Next fall we will have ninth-graders in high school taking algebra for credit. Why not have seventh- and eighth-graders take algebra? And if they can pass the end of course test, why in the world would they not get credit?” In fact, 95% of Cherokee County’s junior high Algebra 1 students pass the Cox’s own, state-required, EOCT test.

    Problem #2: Students will suffer under unrealistic goals

    Cox spokesperson and Georgia’s math program manager Claire Pierce told me that a goal of the new math program is to have 85% of Georgia’s students graduate having completed the equivalent of Algebra II. I believe this goal makes the same mistake as President Bush’s unpopular No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program: not all high school students should prepare for college. As reported by the AJC, it is wildly unrealistic to expect that they should, and it damages the self-esteem of kids that would be better served by a vocational program.
    It’s more likely that 85% is the proportion of students she wants to buy new textbooks for, as a favor to her education-industry campaign donors.

    Problem #3: Unrealistic goals for the teachers

    I support high (yet realistic) expectations. But Kathy Cox’s unrealistic plan to graduate 85% of our high school students with the equivalent of Algebra II will destroy the morale of math teachers. Georgia’s high school classrooms face an explosion of immigrants with very poor English skills, pregnant teens, drug users, and kids with parents who don’t support academics.
    Finally, Cox needs to double check her math-if currently 44% of Georgia’s high school students drop out and only 29% (nationally) graduate with math proficiency (which doesn’t include Algebra II), how can she possibly meet her 85% goal? The only way is to hide watered-down standards behind the vaguely titled Math 1, 2, and 3.

    Problem #4: A rushed and careless policy

    Cherokee County’s Mark Smith says Cox’s new math program hasn’t been reviewed with any colleges except those within Georgia’s state system. Meaning no one knows if or how colleges from other states will accept it. “This is a sea change in the way registrars look at stuff,” Petruzielo said. “I’m not comfortable [with the new courses]. We wouldn’t want our kids to be at a disadvantage.”

    The state has also failed address how to handle students transferring into Georgia public high schools. Since the new curriculum is mandatory, advanced students transferring into our systems could be forced to sit through math classes they have already mastered. The same holds true for middle school students who have taken advanced math courses.

  11. EAVDad says:

    Rep. Lindsey,

    You raise a good point, but my guess is that local systems will say (and probably file suit to say) that the state should not be spending local tax dollars. It’s just a guess and more of a hypothesis as to why the Governor may be consternating on this.

    I appreciate the input.

  12. EAVDad:

    I suspect you may be right on the lawsuit, however, we have many instances where state action affects local dollars and the courts find it to be perfectly legal. One example is the 5 mil equalization requirement under QBE which transfers money from wealthier systems to poorer ones. That has held up under court scrutiny and I believe this will as well. It is awfully hard for a school system to argue that we are hurting it when all the money is following a child who lives in that system and the money is going to a local public (charter) school.

    As I always tell my clients, any fool with $80 and a gripe can file a lawsuit, it is a great deal harder to prevail.

  13. Angie Montgomery says:

    I have a problem with charter school management companies which charge high fees and do not seem to care if the child is from the school district where their parents are paying their taxes. Adding another bureaucratic layer will just be an additional excuse for the dollar to go elsewhere rather than my child’s education.

  14. Bill Simon says:

    Rep. Ed Lindsey Sez: “In developing HB 881 we looked at how schools are chartered around the country and tried to borrow the best of the different practices we studied.”

    WOW! A committee that actually looked OUTSIDE bumble-f*ck Georgia education policies to try to raise the standards here.

    I wholeheartedly applaud Rep. Lindsey and his committee’s efforts to have performed proper research on this bill. Yay, Edward!

  15. Tom Smith says:

    As a local school board member I have never had an issue with charter schools. We have one that we approved a few years ago. I don’t think they have delivered on their promise and fellow BOE members argue that it is not a great school. I tend to agree but it should not be the position of local boards to make a decision for the parents or even decide whether they have a chance to make a bad choice. My base philosophy is that educational choices should be made by those closest to the child; Federal defer to State, State to local boards, and local boards to parents.

    We petitioned to become a charter system so that we can get out from under Code 20 as much as possible. Competition even between public school systems is good.

  16. EAVDad says:

    You’re Right Rep. Linsey. A lawsuit doesn’t mean someone is right — just means they have a lawyer.

  17. Rep Doug Collins says:

    I would agree with the statements made in this post by Rep. Lindsey. The process that brought forward this bill showed the problems that hindered the development of Charter schools. The work of the comm. should be commended and the bill should be signed.

    However, I want to focus just for a moment on the state of education as a whole. We in the legislature and the executive branch handled education as if it were a giant paint by numbers canvas. We would start in one area and work for a little while then we would pause come back again in a couple of years and start again. After many years of this approach we have to take a step back and look at what we have created. When you look at the painting you will see many jagged lines and gaps. The problem has not been with the intentions of those involved whether they be in government or in the education communities the problem is we are unwilling to tackle the problem as whole.

    I believe that with a state budget that reflects over 50% spending in education we owe the people more than just patches and promises when it comes to education for our children. We must bring all sides to the table (Public Schools, Private Schools, Home School) and begin a dialogue that will bring comprehensive change to the area of education in our state. The ideas that work should come to the top and we should be able to release all schools including our public schools to be all that they can be without the overburdened micromanagement of state regulations. It was said by an earlier poster that decisions should be made at the lowest level. I agree the one area I would go further in is that the Federal Component should be almost non existent. The federal government’s involvement in education should not be that of dictating from on high but in the area of exploration of new ideas and solutions to assist the States with their proper role in educating the people of their states. When left to strive for the best I believe the states are far more innovative than any federal bureaucracy.

    There are far more things about this topic than I have room to post, but I wanted to thank Rep Lindsey for his leadership and also open up the door for a wider discussion of education that does more than simply pit Public against Private or innovation against living with the status quo. I look forward to hearing ideas. .

  18. John Konop says:

    Why not this solution?

    We need a new direction in high school education, away from the heavy handed, one-size-fits-all No Child Left Behind system that has failed students and strained tax payers.

    We need Governor Perdue and Lieutenant Governor Cagle to step up and lead, instead of rubber-stamping failed gimmick programs like Kathy Cox’s Math 123—we need real solutions.

    More Choice, Not Less

    Why not coordinate the current university, junior college system, certificate programs, and technical colleges with our high schools? Georgia’s only nationally-ranked high school academic program—the math program used in Cherokee, Cobb, and Fulton counties—currently coordinates its advanced math program with local colleges. Why not expand the concept to all high schools, instead of eliminating it, as Kathy Cox has proposed?

    How to Expand

    Beginning in the 11th grade, public high schools could coordinate curriculums with local universities, junior colleges, certificate programs, and technical colleges to give kids a chance to pursue job training or advanced academics. This would not only save tax-payer money, it would match students with their best opportunities to become productive tax payers after high school. Also, graduates that earn vocational certificates could still expand their education down the road. For example, a nurse’s aide could train to become a nurse.

    University-track students would be eligible to have their junior and senior year course work coordinated with a university system, either on campus or via the internet. This would both challenge Georgia students and give them a leg-up when competing with students from other states. This idea has already been proven effective in Cherokee county’s advanced math program—which is nationally ranked.

    Sonny and Casey

    Please take the lead by giving Georgia counties the option to transform their public school districts into charter school districts and by helping facilitate the flow of funds between high schools and the higher education systems so we can implement this solution. We need you to take a leadership role in reforming our education system so it better invests in our children’s future while saving tax-payer’s money.

  19. Rep Doug Collins says:

    John,

    I agree with you it takes leadership. That is why we must look at the ideas that are working and feed them and let the others starve.

    We must not only look at programs taught but look at the end result as well. Your thoughts on coordination between colleges and secondary education are positive and need to be encouraged. We could really give kids a great education and a career if we thought outside the box. Such as a high school partnering with a technical school to allow a child to graduate high school with a LPN. They can then proceed on to a higher degree or be work ready from graduation.

    My comment was to generate discussion. What is lacking so much in our conversations on education is honest discussion without the battle lines being drawn. We must always remember that education is the key to our countries strength not a turf battle for jobs and credit.

    Keep the ideas flowing.

  20. Mountain Republican says:

    Rep. Collins is on the money. Education is the key to our country’s success (or failure). There are so many agendas going on that we forget the true purpose of the discussion: our kids. The painting analogy is ingenious. Too often, we get caught up all of the impacted groups and organizations and their political rhetoric and posturing as opposed to rolling up our sleeves together and fixing the problem.

    The charter bill, while not a long-term solution, is a step in the right direction. It will be a shame if the Governor caves on this one.

  21. bc_its_right says:

    HB 881 is not about Charter Schools, as we already have a Charter Schools Act. HB 881 is being USED and promoted as an Alternative and Reform, but the truth is HB 881 establishes a State “APPOINTED” commission to make decisions for the Local People.

    We need alternatives and Charter Schools, but losing local control in the decisions affecting our communities is not the way to do it. Having APPOINTED individuals not VOTED on by THE PEOPLE will surely lead to promote losing our voice.

    Please people read it for yourselves
    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2007_08/search/hb881.htm

    Don’t allow others to fool you into thinking this is good law.

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