Today’s Charter Amendment Opponent Misinformation: The State Can Already Create New Charter Schools So Vote No!

September 18, 2012 8:15 am

by Buzz Brockway · 23 comments

Dick Yarbrough, who’s never met a Legislator he could tolerate, provides us with today’s charter amendment opponent misinformation:

Write this down in indelible ink: The state can already approve charter schools. This weasel-worded amendment isn’t about reaffirming that approval. It is about setting up a redundant bureaucracy and allowing legislators to get their hands on the big money that for-profit charter school management companies can donate to their campaign coffers in return for political influence to operate charter schools.

Wow. Let’s deal with the misinformation in that paragraph one by one:

1) “The state can already approve charter schools.”

In declaring HB881 unconstitutional, Chief Justice Hunstein said:

“Authority is granted to county and area boards of education to establish and maintain public schools within their limits.” Art. VIII, Sec. V, Par. I of the 1983 Georgia Constitution. This language continues the line of constitutional authority, unbroken since it was originally memorialized in the 1877 Constitution of Georgia, granting local boards of education the exclusive right to establish and maintain, i.e., the exclusive control over, general K-12 public education.

I’ll have more to say about the inaccuracies in the Gwinnett v Cox ruling at a later date.

However, if the State previously had the authority to approve charter schools the ruling makes it clear they don’t anymore. What the State Board of Education is doing today, giving commission charter schools funding, will most certainly generate a lawsuit should the proposed amendment fail this November. The BoE, as I understand it, is declaring those schools “special schools” which the State does have the authority to approve. However based on the language in Gwinnett v Cox, the Court will most likely rule against the BoE and cut off funding for those schools. In Gwinnett v Cox the School Boards argued that “special schools” only referred to schools for the blind etc… not schools geared toward the general student population.

2) “It is about setting up a redundant bureaucracy…”

No it’s not. The proposed amendment will recreate the Charter School Commission which existed under HB881. The members of the Commission have no salary and govern no bureaucracy. The State DoE oversees charter schools currently. Search the DOE website for more on this.

3) “…and allowing legislators to get their hands on the big money that for-profit charter school management companies can donate to their campaign coffers in return for political influence to operate charter schools.”

If Legislators who accept donations from charter school management companies are in the hip pockets of those companies can’t we also say that Legislators who accept donations from the Georgia Association of Educators are in the hip pocket of the GAE? This is a silly argument. I’ll refer the readers to a post I made in July about a study showing corporate political donations don’t have the impact the donor seeks.

As I posted several times on this website, HB797 the enabling Legislation for the charter amendment, will encourage schools that hire management companies to hire Georgia owned company:

200 (2) Give preference in contracting and purchasing of services and materials to businesses
201 incorporated under the laws of this state or qualified to do business within this state and
202 having a regularly maintained and established place of business within this state, so long
203 as such businesses are otherwise similarly situated and qualified as compared to a
204 business from out of state.

In addition, the Charter School Commission will be under the authority of the State Board of Education. Legislators will not be approving charter schools and will not be appointing members to the Charter School Commission. More from HB797:

45 (a) The State Charter Schools Commission is established as a state-level authorizing entity
46 working in collaboration with the Department of Education under the authority of the State
47 Board of Education.

and this:

51 (b) The commission shall be appointed by the State Board of Education and shall be
52 composed of a total of seven members and made up of three appointees recommended by
53 the Governor, two appointees recommended by the President of the Senate, and two
54 appointees recommended by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Governor,
55 the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall each
56 recommend a list of no fewer than two nominees for each appointment to the commission.

As Mr. Yarborough says, the fight over the proposed charter amendment is a nasty one. I’m shocked on a daily basis by the smokescreen – and sometime outright falsehoods – opponents throw out there. As the saying goes, you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own set of facts. I hope the voters cut through the smoke and noise and make an informed decision on this issue. If they do I think they’ll vote yes.

Other posts on the proposed charter amendment:
Taxpayers Not Left Holding The Bag When Charter Schools Close
Gwinnett Chamber Moves To Neutral, PTA Revises Position In Charter Debate
As The School Year Begins A Lesson Is Needed On The Difference Between An Apple And An Orange
More On The Flawed Logic Of Banning State Charter Schools

benevolus September 18, 2012 at 9:49 am

If the BoE is already doing it, why doesn’t the amendment just make it OK for them to continue doing it, rather than create a new “commission”?

Charter supporters supposedly wanted the Charter School Commission because they felt the BoE was hostile to charter schools, right? But the BoE has approved well over 100 charter schools and only rejected a few, right? And if this new entity is under the purview of the BoE, why does that satisfy amendment supporters?

This is all very confusing.

Harry September 18, 2012 at 10:27 am

Buzz can tell you how the BOE here in Gwinnett dealt with charter school applications.

Buzz Brockway September 18, 2012 at 4:33 pm

You’re confusing local Boards of Education with the State Board of Education. Sorry it I wasn’t clear on that.

HB881 was passed several years ago to encourage local BoEs to work with charter applicants. Local BoEs approved over 100 charter applications before the Supreme Court threw HB881 out. The State Charter Commission approved 16 applications (out of 83 submitted) and the authority of the State to approve those schools if what the Supreme Court took away.

We want to recreate the Charter Commission and provide once again an appeals process for charter applicants. That’s the only way many local systems will be willing to work with good charter applicants. The reason is these charter applicants often times seek alternate ways to educate general population students. My home county of Gwinnett for example, is perfectly willing to open a charter school for students that want to learn Chinese, or excel at STEM but they will not approve an application to teach general population students differently. Some students simply don’t do well in the traditional setting. Why not offer them an alternative where they can thrive? That’s why we need this amendment to pass.

benevolus September 18, 2012 at 8:11 pm

The state DoE already can and does hear appeals that were rejected locally. If the Supreme Court changed that then we should just fix that. Unless there is something else going on here. Spell it out!

Buzz Brockway September 19, 2012 at 7:22 am

They didn’t hear any appeals until the Supreme Court ruling. What they are doing now will be challenged in Court and the experts I talk to say the State BoE will lose. The ruling clearly says the State cannot create any school except schools for Special Ed. students.

Opponents are being disingenuous. They went to Court saying “the State doesn’t have the authority to approve charter schools” and now to defeat the amendment they say “the State already has the authority to approve charter schools so the amendment isn’t needed.” They can’t have it both ways.

Rambler14 September 19, 2012 at 7:26 am

“We want to recreate the Charter Commission and provide once again an appeals process for charter applicants. That’s the only way many local systems will be willing to work with good charter applicants.”

Why will this amendment change the way local systems work with good charter applicants?

James September 18, 2012 at 11:08 am

I don’t want to sound cynical, but the charter debate on this blog over the last couple of days begs the question — does anyone actually have children who are being impacted by allegedly poor public schools? In my own personal life, I know plenty of people who send their kids to private schools. I know plenty of people who really like their public schools. I don’t know anyone–anyone–who supports the concept of charter schools so that they can actually enroll their kid in a charter school.

Oh, I know plenty of people who support charter schools, but it’s mostly a theoretical issue–they don’t like “big government” educating hypothetical “children.” I also sense that the whole charter school effort is really an effort for government funding of religious schools. Am I wrong?

Harry September 18, 2012 at 11:23 am

For me it’s about trying to visualize a better life for underperforming kids.

Stefan September 18, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Have you tried watching “Glee”?

Charlie September 18, 2012 at 11:28 am

My niece is a student in one of the charter schools that was affected by the GA Supreme Court ruling. For her and my sister, it’s not about trying to find a quasi-religous school nor about trying to be in a private school. It’s about finding the best environment for her to learn and excel. The school she attends is the best choice for her, and better than the school she would otherwise be attending if the charter school was not an option.

John Konop September 18, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Charlie,

This is a very difficult issue to make black or white. North metro Atlanta has very good public schools while Atlanta and south metro Atlanta are spotted via quality. Both sides tend to point to the data points they like and ignore the ones they do like to make a point. We know that some Charter schools have helped, while others look more like a winner for the politicians and private companies than the kids.

My fear is without proper controls we hurt the good public schools in places like East Cobb, West Cobb, North Fulton, Cherokeee……..and do not improve the spotted areas. And this could become another No Child Left Behind, that became a big win for text book companies, testing companies……while the rest us got left behind with a massive bill.

It is clear the office holders want nothing to do with, on a macro putting in any real controls in place ie loans over free tax payer money for strart up cost, no bonding, no personal guarantees…… Like your post today the office holders will sell us it is all for the kids,while the money flows away….

Rambler14 September 18, 2012 at 11:25 am

So for those of us who are legitimately confused by both sides,
how can we educate ourselves?

When I first read the Amendment text my inclination was to vote NO,
but it sounds like there are greater implications here than what is just written on the ballot?

Nick Chester September 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I guess the sad answer is that you can’t educate yourself on the issue. The education landscape in Georgia is shifting beneath our feet. No one seems to be able to say where we are heading and what the result will be. We can’t maintain the current system and none of our so called leaders seem to be able to articulate a better system.

UpHere September 18, 2012 at 1:07 pm

This truly does go wider than just the charter school amendment. The Supreme Court ruling gives “exclusive” control to locals. That is giving the state no say in education policy down to state retirement accounts for teachers, state pay scales, etc. It is writing a check and having no say in how it is spent.

I am leaning towards yes. Anything that has the established education bureaucracy and the AJC in a roar has to be something good, imo.

Rambler14 September 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm

“That is giving the state no say in education policy down to state retirement accounts for teachers, state pay scales, etc.”

Can someone explain this further?

BJ Van Gundy September 18, 2012 at 12:33 pm

@Nick: And THAT sir is the reason that this Amendment must pass.

The choice is simple:

The Status Quo of Georgia’s continued ranking in the bottom Quintile in Education

or

We do something that has proven to work in other states to shake up the education establishment and bring about some real change.

Option one is Einstein’s definition of insanity.

benevolus September 18, 2012 at 12:51 pm

How can it have worked in other states when everyone is saying this is a test case?

Rambler14 September 18, 2012 at 3:08 pm

“We do something that has proven to work in other states to shake up the education establishment and bring about some real change.”

What other states have given the state the power to over-rule locals on this issue?

BJ Van Gundy September 18, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Technically, this isn’t about “over-rule” of local school boards… as the State Commission doesn’t “veto” or “reverse” the decision of the local SB.

What occurs is that the entity that applied to the local SB that is turned down, is then able to apply to the State Commission. The State Commission then decides whether or not to authorize the creation of the Charter School as petitioned.

I know it is a fine point but it isn’t a reversal of the decision by the local school board because a reversal of their decision would basically suggest that what would have occurred if it had been approved by the local SB will now happen against their wishes, i.e. a Charter School will be created under the same circumstances by the State as if it had been created by the local SB… and that will NOT happen.

What WILL happen is that a State Charter School will be created… which has a different funding mechanism and model than does a Charter School authorized by the Local SB.

What the State Charter Commission REALLY is, is an “Alternate Authorizer”.

I said all of that to say this. Other states have various types of “Alternate Authorizers”.

I found this paragraph online that best tells you how it is set up so far across the USA:

“States allow various entities to authorize charter schools. The most common are local school districts, which account for about 90 percent of all authorizers. Other types of authorizers, in order of prevalence across the country, are higher education institutions, state boards of education, nonprofit organizations, independent charter boards and municipal governments. As of late 2010, a total of 955 authorizers were responsible for 5,268 charter schools and 1.6 million
students in the nation.”

In Michigan, Michigan State is an “alternate authorizer” and has set up charters all over the state under their umbrella of influence and monitoring.

I hope that helps.

BJ Van Gundy September 18, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Just a bit more about “Authorizers”.

An authorizer is NOT a School Board… so it does not function in relationship to a school as does a local SB to its schools.

In the case of a Charter School…. each school has its own “School Board”. That is, a Board of Directors for that particular school that performs the functions of the local school board for that school (or in some cases a group of schools).

This is an important point when the whole issue of “LOCAL” is brought up.

In Gwinnett County for example we have 120 schools, with 160,000 kids and 5 School Board Members for the public school system (in which I personally have 4 kids: Kindergarten through Senior in HS!)

Ivy Preparatory Academy, the public charter school at the center of the storm in Georgia, was chartered as a State Commission School (before now being a State Special Charter School). It was authorized by the state, but has its OWN SCHOOL BOARD of 12 or so members. The school board for a charter schools is approved (or not) by the authorizer.

There was even a situation during my time on the State Commission that we had two schools that were basically identically set up, but one of their applications was denied simply because we saw that the board for the denied school simply was not going to be a board that we had confidence in.

Just a little bit more from the National Conference of State Legislators:
“The four primary responsibilities of authorizers are to review applications for
charters, establish “charters” or contracts, ensure compliance and renew contracts
(or not).”

Note. There is NO discussion of the authorizers setting disciplinary code, curriculum, attendance zone, hours, etc.

Jeanette Knazek September 19, 2012 at 1:54 am

Let’s talk a little about supporter misinformation and a lack of specific information regarding the proposed amendment.

Mr. Brockway states that if ratified, the amendment “will recreate the Charter School Commission which existed under HB881.”

Actually there will be more than a simple re-creation. There has been scant discussion about the “state-wide” attendance zone which has been added to HB 797.

O.C.G.A. 20-2-2084 (b) states: “The commission shall be authorized to approve a petition for a state charter school that meets the following requirements:
(1) Has a state-wide attendance zone

Further, O.C.G.A. 20-2-2084(c)(1) states: “For petitions for state charter schools with a state-wide attendance zone, the petitioner shall submit such petition to the commission and concurrently to the local board of education in which the school is proposed to be located for information purposes only provided;”

This goes far beyond the scope of HB881.

“INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY” means that local school boards will not have any say nor input if a petitioner applies for a charter with a state-wide attendance zone.
Of course, categorizing a school’s zone as “state-wide” does not mean that students must come from every part of the state to attend.

For-profit EMOs have already donated significant amounts of money to the “pro-amendment” campaign, particularly K12 Inc. ($100,000) and Charter Schools USA ($50,000). Both corporations already operate charter schools in Georgia.

It would make sense that these corporations and other for-profits see a greater opportunity for themselves if the amendment passes in November. And, it would cost relatively little for an outside EMO to incorporate and set up a regular place of business here.

State Sen. Buddy Carter recently said (bit.ly/U7mCNL) that
“Others oppose this amendment because they claim out-of-state for-profit companies will benefit from the creation of state charter schools. This is total fabrication, since state law requires that public charter schools be run by local nonprofit boards made up of parents and community members.”

Charter school boards are incorporated as Georgia nonprofit corporations. However, GA charter schools can and already do contract with FOR-PROFIT Educational Management Organizations to run their schools, as already indicated above.

If the amendment is approved in November, O.C.G.A. 20-2-2084(e)(1) will be enacted as follows:
“The members of the governing board for the state charter school shall meet the following qualifications:
(A) Must be a United States citizen;
(B) Must be a resident of Georgia; and
(C) Must not be an employee of the state charter school.”

There is no specific requirement of board participation by parents nor by local community members in HB 797. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, of course.

benevolus September 19, 2012 at 8:47 am

So I want to ask about alternatives.

What do amendment opponents think SHOULD be done? Personally I am not opposed to charter schools in principle and groups like the PTA have said the same thing. But if the amendment fails, what will happen, and could the amendment or legislation be fixed to satisfy opponents?

John Konop September 19, 2012 at 9:46 am

I would require the following:

1) If a charter school gets up front money outside of per pupil allotment , tax payer money via grants……it should be in the form of a loan that has a personal guarantee with off sets against the management fees. This is standard procedure for business loans in the private sector ie even SBA loans……… This is for a private company that is taking a material amount of management fee.

2) If the Charter school has a material amount of students some form of penalty should be in place to guarantee a school year. Small charter school should be exempt, this is to put controls in places like Cherokee charter that has close to 1000 students. You realize mid-year close would put a real strain in the system. This would be for schools with more than 750 kids.

3) If the state or county wants to take over the charter school that failed by companies like Charter USA, they should not have any rights to their fees. That means any fees they received on their monthly allotment should be reimburse back to the county for that school year as a penalty for non completion.

4) All contracts the charter schools engages in should be public record and available to be reviewed by tax payers.

5) Also officeholders conflict of interest should be fully disclosed ie employment of relatives, contracts for service ie relatives, Land ownership ie relatives………..

Is this really asking too much to protect tax payers?

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