Deal Statement On Barge Charter Flip Flop

August 15, 2012 8:30 am

by Buzz Brockway · 23 comments

Last night I received this from Governor Deal by way of the House Republican Caucus.

“I am discouraged that Superintendent Barge has changed his position since the campaign trail and no longer believes parents should have public school options for their children. His new position doesn’t change mine. I stand with 2/3 of the General Assembly and will uphold the promises I made when I ran for office: Parents and students should have public school options; this is the best form of local control.

Superintendent Barge’s statement of opposition to the proposed charter school amendment is indeed a reversal of the view he held while running for election in 2010.

Candidate Barge said he agreed with this question asked by the Georgia Charter Schools Association:

I support allowing local boards of education, the State Board of Education and the Georgia Charter Schools Commission to approve and monitor charter schools.

Barge said in the same questionnaire he strongly supported HB881, the 2008 bill creating the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, which authorized charter schools rejected by local school boards.

Barge has received criticism, especially from a number of local school Superintendents over his endorsement of Sen. Chip Rogers. I suspect his charter amendment flip flop is an attempt to repair those relationships. Unfortunately for Dr. Barge now he’s losing support on both sides of the charter debate.

Rambler1414 August 15, 2012 at 8:36 am

“no longer believes parents should have public school options for their children”

Gov Deal’s spin on this truly disappoints me.
This isn’t about whether you support public school options for children. This is about whether to authorize the state to over-rule the locals when deciding public school options for your children.

Charlie August 15, 2012 at 9:09 am

The “locals” are how the state chooses to define them, as all powers granted below the state level are at the pleasure of the state and its constitition.

As such, if the state chooses to end its practice of granting monopoly franchies exclusively to counties (and cities with school systems before the most recent constitution was adopted), then the people of the state have that right via this constitutional amendment.

“local” can get a lot more local, with a lot more local control, if this amendment passes.

And I’ll have a lot more to say about this in Monday’s column.

bgsmallz August 15, 2012 at 9:23 am

Agree…but I also agree with the idea that characterizing the charter school amendment as being either ‘for’ school choice or ‘against’ school choice is flat out wrong.

Charter schools are the low hanging fruit of school choice. The legislature took the path of least resistance and then got zinged because the constitution didn’t allow it. My hesitancy to support the charter school constitutional amendment starts and ends with the fact that if we are going to amend the constitution to allow more school choice, we should really try to do something more comprehensive rather than just addressing charter schools. Specifically, there is no reason to continue the ban on new, independent school districts if you believe in school choice. None.

The rhetoric coming out of the governors office only confirms my worry that if this passes, there will not be any real movement towards creating more school choices at the local level for some time.

Charlie August 15, 2012 at 9:28 am

Politics is the art of what is possible. Charter schools are the “low hanging fruit” because it keeps money within the public system, but offers choices within the public realm.

Wholesale “choice” may be acceptable, but brings with it an armada of new opponents. Vouchers open up money leaving the “public” realm and as such, spread an existing pool of money over a larger group of students, (those currently enrolled in private schools). While this is preferable in an ideal world of choice, no one is willing or even able to assure that the same funding available now per student wouldn’t be diminished. There’s no appetite for tax increases, so vouchers at this time are reasonably viewed as a way to re-allocate current funds to students already in private schools. That just won’t pass muster with 2/3 of the legislature, and quite possibly, 1/2 of the electorate.

Just because it’s low hanging fruit doesn’t mean it won’t provide good nourishment.

ryanhawk August 15, 2012 at 11:44 am

I agree that we need more robust school choice and see the risk of missing out on greater choice by passing the charter amendment. My belief is that as voters see the benefits of limited choice they will be willing to allow greater choice.

bgsmallz August 15, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Ok, I can certainly concede Charlie’s point.

But in what way would allowing new city school systems not “keep money within the public system” while offering “choices within the public realm”?

Me and my family live in Dunwoody and Brookhaven. I have friends in Johns Creek, Sandy Springs, Chamblee, etc. When we discuss the matter of schools for our children, most seem to like the idea of Dunwoody or Brookhaven or Chamblee being able to form a school district independent of DeKalb. Most are surprised to find out that this is specifically barred by our constitution.

If the charter schools amendment passes, what is the reasonable likelihood that we will see another amendment to the constitution prior to another generation of kids cycling through the school system?

There was/is no reason to not include this change in the constitutional amendment other than my conspiracy view that you would lose voting motivation for a Milton Co.

ryanhawk August 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I don’t know how likely it is, but I’m all for it. My opinion is that a little choice leads to a desire for more choice. People like freedom… Let me know when you want to go and I’ll be happy to meet you at the Gold Dome next session and “lobby” every legislator we can track down to support a constitutional amendment that would allow the creation of additional school systems by local governments.

Bigger picture I would love to see all school choice advocates working together. As it is today, people who support public charters, vouchers, virtual, home school, and everything in between often oppose each other.

NorthGeorgiaGirl August 15, 2012 at 9:11 am

Because a local school system wants to approve what it sees as its competition?

I thought we weren’t going to be so “system-focused” any more?

If a local school system is doing such a good job, no one will ever form a charter school, because no one will want to leave.

GA Constitutionalist August 15, 2012 at 11:22 am

Conservatives who see charter schools as school choice (a euphemism which is purported to be a catalyst for creating competition) need to address the inconsistency of the premise that government has never been and cannot create true competition in the sense of free market context. By its very nature and authority of the “power of the sword” to tax, it also must control and rightly so, if the constitutional principle of taxation with representation still exists. It is a contradiction in terms to think that government funded functions can or will create entities to compete with itself. So parents and other proponents of charter schools must be willing to jettison the idea that the public school system is genuinely providing a convenient escape from schools the very same forces have destroyed.

What government funds, government ultimately controls. There are strings attached. Just look at No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top. Big government will control both systems, for government funds both systems. As the recent health care legislation debate in which the flaw was exposed in the idea that government can create competition in health care, charter schools share the same flaw in concept.

Legislators and candidates for office who mistakenly promote charter schools as “choice” should work toward abolishing the Federal Department of Education. The Fed Dept of Ed is a root to much of this evil and continued loss of localism in public education.

Charlie August 15, 2012 at 11:29 am

Awesome. Another newly minted constitutional scholar. Check back at 1:00 today.

In the mean time, we’re discussing the STATE constitution and the STATE’s roll in setting up charter schools.

We understand you may have only one tool in your toolbox, and that’s firing away senselessly at the federal government. The state, however, has a direct and clear roll in establishing education.

Misdirecting the conversation back to the federal government doesn’t address what the state is trying to do here, under its very direct and very constitutional role.

And, welcome back to Peach Pundit.

GA Constitutionalist August 15, 2012 at 12:18 pm

My points are very applicable about federal interference into our state’s locally prescribed obligation and interest in public education. Georgia has had a strong tradition of localism in public education and that is why our STATE constitution was written to prescribe the state’s obligation with local oversight by locally ELECTED school boards instead of a politically appointed charter commission. Now, the Charter Amendment changes the relationship with Atlanta and locally elected boards. Centralization of public education is certainly underway.

What we are creating is a nationalized system and charters are used as window dressing to implement the nationalized curriculum called Common Core. Why do you think Georgia won the Race To The Top money (crack cocaine)? You can call my points about federalization a distraction if you like, but that is what is happening. Peel back the blinders from your eyes for a moment and you will see that the loss of local control is very real. This policy discussion is much deeper than the emotion of wanting to put one’s child in a different school…a school that will ultimately become as perverted as the traditional public schools (TPS) because Common Core has to be implemented in both charters and TPS’s. And there is proof that studies show there is no difference in student achievement between TPS and Charter.

By creating a classification of schools (charters) which are exempt from mandates (federal and state) and regulations for regular government schools, the traditional lines of jurisdiction of ELECTED school officials are diminished. UNELECTED overseers of charter schools operate under their own authority but receive funding from taxpayers who ELECTED the local school boards to be accountable for those tax dollars. The more charter schools, the more the concept of elected representation is weakened until local district lines can be eliminated to gradually accomplish the transformation of local public schools (including charter schools) to state, regional, national then international oversight in that order. Wake up; this is a dismantling of a long held tradition of localism in public education.

Charlie August 15, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I’m wide awake, and frankly tired of seeing conspiracy theorists who are stuck on defending against things like Agenda 21 and federal issues screw up a chance to instutute true reforms at the state level.

Yes there are problems with federal intervention in state schools. If you want to battle those, then I encourage you to discuss with your U.S. reps and Senators. Meanwhile, those of us who are trying to change what we can with what we have will go back to actual work here at the state level.

Anyone But Chip August 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm

How many fliers did I receive from my State Representatives and Senators suggesting that they are working hard to defeat Obamacare? Your statement that we should contact our US Reps and Senators smells like hypocrisy to me, or at least a good dose of having it both ways.

Another politicians trick: bring up the conspiracy bogeyman and paint someone as a looney because you can’t win the argument. Where do you guys (Dems and Reps) go to school for this? The tie is a different color but you are all the same.

I’m a lifelong conservative and all I see in this Charter Amendment is a way to create more corporate welfare. I’m tired of seeing my tax dollars flow into private companies and have these companies simply turn around and fund the politicians that enabled them.

Look at the wording of the amendment to prove again the fact that you are banking on the fact the majority of your constituents are idiots. It’s plain you are taking advantage of someone who will read the paragraph once and pull the ‘Yes’ lever because ‘By God I’m for Choice!’. Too bad that each pull is another buck that goes to some out of state company.

ryanhawk August 15, 2012 at 7:11 pm

If you are a life long conservative why are you bothered that “some out of state company” might make money in the process of providing a service that is freely chosen in a competitive market? What does it matter if a company is in state versus out of state, and why does it offend you that someone other than a government employee may profit?

I’m not sure how it is that a “conservative” prefers money to be wasted on state bureaucracy and low performing public employees, and eagerly await an explanation.

Anyone But Chip August 16, 2012 at 11:38 am

Perhaps you are keying too much into “Out of State.” Out of State was simply a reference to the fact that we are making local decisions that won’t even keep taxpayer money local.

As for being “offended that someone other than a government employee may profit”, I have no such concern. If you are suggesting that there is no difference between a private companies profit motive and a government bureaucracy we don’t need to discuss much further, you simply aren’t well educated or are completely naive. Each is a waste of time.

Finally, the fact that you claim the service “is freely chosen in the competitive market” is laughable and suggests that you didn’t get the main point. After the amendment passes, you may see flocks of Charter Management companies applying, but the selection process will be based on donations, back room deals and all the rest of the political maneuvering we see daily. Sure a parent can select to go to the school, but their choice ends there.

ryanhawk August 15, 2012 at 3:20 pm

A direct and clear roll indeed:

“The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia.”

Calypso August 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I guess one issue is how wide is the disparity from one end of the ‘adequate’ scale to the other. Adequate being a subjective word and all.

ryanhawk August 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Absolutely. If the General Assembly doesn’t define “adequate” someday soon, the courts will. And in other states courts have usually defined it by focusing on inputs, rather than outcomes, and have forced the states to spend more money. It’s not an easy question to answer, but I would argue that the inputs we now provide go far beyond adequate, though the outcomes often fall short.

Buzz Brockway August 15, 2012 at 12:30 pm

It’s not a matter of government entities competing with themselves, it’s a rejection of the notion that every student learns the same and thus should be taught in the same way. Charter schools, whether started by a local school board or a state authorizing agency are public schools that offer alternatives for parents to consider.

Ivy Prep is an all girls school, KIPP Academy in Atlanta does things differently than traditional public schools, SEED Academy in DC is a boarding school, the online academies at the State level and the online academy Gwinnett started are examples of charter schools. Each of these options isn’t the best one for everybody but that’s the point.

A member of my school board in Gwinnett said they entertained the idea of creating dozens of charter schools. I told him I thought that was a brilliant idea and I hoped they’d do it ASAP.

gagenx August 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm

“The state, however, has a direct and clear roll in establishing education.”

And as we have seen it over the past few years, local school systems are partial to charter schools along with the public school’s constituants like school boards/PTA’s/some neighborhood associations.

To avoid this, the state should have the right to manage the program because those people influence the local’s decisions on support/no-support. Of course school system boards typically do not like policy proposed as this, because it takes away their powers to budget the charter schools and control the student’s experiences in that area.

Charter schools offer another option for the school systems that have poorly performed, in my opinon.

Agree, NorthGeorgiaGirl.

CCFRG August 15, 2012 at 8:07 pm

I have 2 problems with the Charter Amendment.

#1 we do cannot fully fund our current system of public schools, the state share of funding for public education has decreased from 60% to 38%. We still have a crazy fair share system whereby district must put in the first 5 mils of their property tax receipts to the state.

#2 Charter Schools are like toll roads- they will be built where there is money to operate them. No would ever open a toll road from clayton to chatsworth. Charter Schools will open in Gwinnett, N. Fulton, Cherokee, Forsyth and Cobb not Telfair, Early and other counties/districts that problem need significant improvement.

Dave Bearse August 15, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Please enlighten me concerning the first 5 mils of property tax receipts going to the state.

Ken August 18, 2012 at 7:30 pm

And in Tifton MY choice for state school superintendent, the conservative Republican Richard Woods, may have a small sense of satisfaction.

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