Jones: Charter Schools Give Students Opportunities

Today’s Courier Herald column is brought to you by Georgia House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, the author of Georgia’s Charter Schools Amendment.  Now representing North Fulton, Jones spent summer “swimming in her grandparents’ pond and going barefoot” in Laurens County where her parents also now reside.

As a mother of four children currently enrolled in or graduates of Fulton County Schools, I care deeply about public education in Georgia.  As an Air Force brat that attended Laurens County Schools while staying with grandparents and awaiting deployment, I know it matters in all communities. Public education changes lives by giving young people opportunities to fulfill their potential and achieve the American dream.

In this regard, I support Amendment One on the Nov. 6 election ballot to give Georgia’s students more educational options through public charter schools. I support all the ways that our young people can get a leg up, including charter schools, traditional schools, dual enrollment at technical schools and colleges, virtual schooling, homeschooling, and private schools. I trust parents more than I trust government to make the best decisions for children.

You see, real accountability can only reside with parents and students who live with the outcomes of a child’s educational success or failure.  And parents know one-size-does-not-fit-all children, including in educating them to thrive in a challenging global economy.  Not all learn in the same way.

Consider this: Our state’s 67 percent graduation rate ranks 47th nationally.  Georgia’s eighth grade students place 41st in math proficiency.  Among the 14 southeastern states, Georgia ranks dead last in graduates. But we rank first in average teacher salaries because we value our educators.

Clearly, we need more effective and efficient strategies, including educational options like charter schools.  And frankly, I’m troubled that the education establishment is misleading parents and educators and fighting so hard against giving them more choices and authority instead of celebrating another tool to reach students.

I’m not scared of education reforms that have been tested here and elsewhere; I’m scared of accepting more of the same, including graduating a lower percentage of students than Mississippi.

Predictably, the education establishment that regularly lobbies against reforms in Georgia and elsewhere finds it uncomfortable.  But if Georgians approve Amendment One, students will benefit with opportunities that cannot always be pigeonholed within narrow school attendance lines.

The charter amendment would assure that local school boards or the state could approve independent public charter schools to give parents more options when local communities request them.  The amendment is needed after a controversial 2011 court decision overturned charter school policies in state law.

A public charter school opens its doors only if parents choose to send their children to it and closes if the school does not meet achievement requirements spelled out in a charter, which is simply a five-year contract.  Most students, though, like my own children, will likely continue to attend the local public school because it works for them.

Public charter schools are run by local non-profit boards comprised of parents, teachers and community leaders and offer free, open enrollment to children.  Furthermore, charter schools hire only public school teachers that qualify for state retirement and health benefits just like teachers at traditional schools.  Next to the family, teachers matter most in students’ academic achievement.

Additionally, not one dollar of local property tax dollars is used to fund state-authorized charter school students.  This is also true for high school students that take dual enrollment classes at technical schools and colleges.  The state pays for these classes to supplement educational options, but not with local property tax dollars.

Thirty-two other states allow a variety of charter schools to be approved by the state and school systems. It’s been tried and true nationally as well as for 10 years in Georgia to complement system schools, increase parental choice and allow students with diverse needs more options to succeed.

Some charter schools primarily serve students at risk of dropping out; others may offer a smaller or more structured, challenging environment.  The bottom line is they have a record of getting results.

Our state’s future and that of our children and grandchildren depend on a vibrant array of educational opportunities that together meet the needs of all students.  It’s critical so Georgia can attract well-paying jobs that rely on a well-prepared workforce, not high school dropouts.

Our state’s priority must be what’s best for our young people, not preserving the status quo.

25 comments

  1. Scott65 says:

    Key line…
    “The charter amendment would assure that local school boards OR THE STATE could approve independent public charter schools to give parents more options when local communities request them. The amendment is needed after a controversial 2011 court decision overturned charter school policies in state law.”
    So this isn’t about local control…its about the STATE assuming control…wake up people. Has not the example of Deal & Co selling out to the highest bidder not enough…so now private for profit schools can grease the palms of a couple of legislators and get approved locals be damned??? VOTE NO!

    • Scott65 says:

      FYI…dont have kids…so I have no dog in this fight. I’m just looking at facts as I see ’em. The facts on the yes side just dont seem to add up

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Author of the amendment Jan Jones doesn’t address the core concerns of many opponents of the amendment, but that’s not surprising given the deliberately deceptive wording on the ballot.

      There was no reason in the ballot wording or Jone’s opinion piece to refer to local boards approving charter schools except to indicate that the state sought the same authority.

      • bgsmallz says:

        For all of those who ‘support charters’ but are against this amendment b/c of the wording on the ballot, including Sen. Carter who wrote a very nice but very flawed opinion piece in favor of charter schools but against the amendment, I’d like to see what wording you would support prior to the election so that if this fails we can put it back on the ballot after the appropriate time lapse.

        My guess is that no such language will be forthcoming and that the ‘ballot’ issue is a red herring.

        If you aren’t willing to propose alternative ‘fair’ language, then you are playing the same game.

        Scott- Read the dissent in the case, if you haven’t, about the role of the state and local school boards in our education. The majority of the court was absolutely wrong.

        • Dave Bearse says:

          The problems with the amendment go way beyond its ballot wording. Blatantly deceptive wording is reason enough to not trust those that crafted it.

  2. Dave Bearse says:

    Jay Bookman’s column in today’s AJC drew a very interesting connection between the two amendments: http://blogs.ajc.com/jay-bookman-blog/2012/10/24/charter-school-amendment-would-set-off-gold-rush/

    The State Properties Commission chaired by Crony-in-Chief Nathan Deal determined that a new $14M poultry lab would best serve the state by being built on land owned by Deal’s campaign manager Wilheit. (Apparently Deal’s appointment of Wilheit to the Board of Regents wasn’t reward enough.)

    The Charter School amendment establishes a new board to be appointed by the Crony-in-Chief. The other amendment would allow the State Properties Commission to approve 20 year leases. Bookman suggests that that Deal’s State Charter School Board appointees can approve a for-profit-run charter school, and then State Properties Commission Chariman Deal could approve a 20 year lease for the school.

    • bgsmallz says:

      Bookman’s a hypocrite…Where are the disclosures for the anti-amendment folks? Or was that not fit to include b/c it doesn’t suit his narrative.

      As long as we are reading into the contributions of the campaigns and trying to decipher who stands to benefit, maybe we should look into the disclosures of the “No” group, too.

      Guess what we find?
      -Superintendents of school boards (hmmm…they don’t stand to gain anything from this amendment?)
      -Lawyers who provide services to local school boards (hmm….)
      -A large, $5,000 contribution from a VP at EMTec, a consulting group that provides consulting to …gasp…public education boards including…gasp, Gwinnett County!
      -A $3,000 contribution from an Alabama company called Merchant Capital…who just happen to be active in providing public financing to school boards (I’m shocked that they have also supported Educational Splosts to fund capital projects in districts)

      Spare me the bullcrap about ‘greedy’ capitalists supporting the amendment.

      • Dave Bearse says:

        What do you call $50,000 and $100,000 contributions from out of state if $5,000 constitutes a large contribution?

        • bgsmallz says:

          What do you call it? That’s the point. People with something to gain are funding both sides, that doesn’t mean they are buying my vote, which will be on the merits….not on who funded the campaign.

  3. truth says:

    And….for reasons such as the above, the amendment will be defeated! I actually support Charter Schools but not this amendment due to the “deliberately deceptive wording on the ballot”.

  4. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Scott65
    85% of the state chartered schools in Georgia operate in counties where the local boards won’t approve local charters. Often times they refuse to even look at the charter application. This amendment is in no small part about giving those parents and children choices.

    Dave Bearse
    Chartered schools are public schools and are non-profits. Traditional schools and chartered schools are otherwise served by various for-profit companies. A minority of chartered schools are run by for-profit EMOs.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Charter schools run by for-profit EMOs are for effectively for-profit schools. The lack of checks and publicly accountable oversight on EMO operations are among the reasons I oppose the amendment.

  5. Scott65 says:

    I am in favor of charter schools…that meet a specific criteria that is spelled out in very specific terms. If a school board is being obstinate and refusing to approve them, how about an ELECTED multiregional state board that would review the appeal. My biggest complaint is that this legislation places the power squarely with the Governor and Legislature which I vehemently oppose. Supporters act as though these government officials are worthy of our trust. How many times does a brick need to fall on your head before you stop standing under falling bricks???

  6. Scott65 says:

    I personally always went to private schools, which was a world of difference between that and a public school where I came from.

  7. Scott65 says:

    I have a question…would schools for the arts, schools that focus on science, etc be considered charter schools or are those magnet schools? Or, are they one and the same?

    • ryanhawk says:

      Going forward state authorized charter schools will NOT be magnet schools. Charter schools must accept students by lottery if over subscribed, whereas magnet schools may have selective admissions.

  8. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Scott65
    Our elected local boards have done a terrible job. We are ranked 49th out of 50 in education. Why would an ELECTED multiregional state board be any different?

    Magnet schools are a construct of traditional public schools. That’s up to the local school districts as to what happens to them. There can also be chartered schools for the arts or sciences.

  9. John Konop says:

    Why we need more controls………………

    ………$500,000 payment to failed charter school principal sparks outrage……..

    ………The Sentinel also reported that Young was “still being paid thousands of dollars a month” at the time to complete the school’s affairs. The school serves about 180 students in east Orange County.

    Young’s payment was authorized by the charter school’s independent board, which is separate from the Orange County School Board, in June. At the time, the independent board called it “well-deserved and earned for her years of dedicated service at a below-market rate of compensation,” the Sentinel reported.

    Attempts by NBC News to contact Young on Thursday were unsuccessful.

    Orange County School District officials say they were unaware of the principal’s payment because the school isn’t required to report it under Florida’s charter school law, according to the Sentinel.

    Young’s attorney, Larry Brown, said the payment was justified. “Here’s a lady with no retirement, who at that point had put six years of her life into the school, feeling like she had to make provision for retirement in her contract,” Brown told the Sentinel…….

    http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/25/14698079-500000-payment-to-failed-charter-school-principal-sparks-outrage?lite&ocid=msnhp

    • bgsmallz says:

      What’s the point here, John? According to the story, she started at the school at $45K per year when she basically founded the place. The payout was the result of 2 years remaining on a CONTRACT that was to pay her a total of $700K. I doubt the school administrator calling the payout ‘immoral’ would have the same reaction if the school board attempted to not honor 2 years of his contract.

      So….getting passed the emotional b.s., the point seems to be that there isn’t enough oversight of charters or something like that b/c look how much they paid this person. Come on down to DeKalb and I’ll show you the current state of affairs in some of our ‘traditional’ schools. I keep seeing these ‘scare’ stories about how we need more accountability on charter schools and the thing I don’t seem to get is how I should be more worried that abuses are being found by audits and simple reporting than I am about the fact that my school board HATES audits and only tends to show its warts in the face of criminal charges, subpoenas, and accreditation threats.

      Accountability can be in the form of regular legislation. It’s important and should be demanded of ALL our schools, charter and traditional, but isn’t a bar to voting for the amendment in my opinion.

      • John Konop says:

        Huh? Wow you guys are way more fiscally liberal than me. The charter school business has a 12 percent failure rate nationally and Flordia is double after they let them open like fast food chains. I am for charter schools, but you sound like the same guys that called me chicken little when I warned about the lack controls with tax payer backed lending before it collapsed our economy.

  10. AMB says:

    You can put in all the controls you want but the unethical people in state government will circumvent them. See GA Lottery. See Port Authority. See Chicken Lab. lather, rinse, repeat

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