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Charter School Amendment - Privatization of Georgia's Public Schools

This Amendment will send Georgia down an expedited path of privatization of public K-12 education.

Now that Nov. 6th is right around the corner, it's time to talk about the elephant in the room - the privatization of public education. The "pro" Amendment 1 side all feel that private corporations, in this case "for-profit" charter operators, can provide a more efficient way to educate your children compared to the current system managed by locally elected school boards, superintendents and the State Board of Education.

They feel so strongly in the superiority of the "free-enterprise" system that they are willing to remove any obstacle from the path of privatization, including your elected voice, and I guess their own if they happen to live in Georgia. A "yes" vote on Amedment 1 will trigger a 7 person appointed commission who's sole duty will be to review charter petitions faster and more efficiently than the current State BOE apparently is capable or interested in doing. Your input or your locally elected school board's input on these decisions, will not be required.

If privatization is such a great idea, why not include it in the preamble or ballot?

To see who the players are in this privatization scenario all you have to do is follow the money. The "pro" campaign amendment committee, Families for Better Public Schools (FBPS), has raised $1.789 M as of 10/26 - 94% of which has been contributed by 8 individuals or entities, 7 of which are out of state.

If you want to know what a group is thinking about, check out their conventions! A big one for leaders in "for-profit" education is the Education Industry Investment Forum. Here are some topics covered; "Enhancing Value in National Education through Innovation in Capital Deployment," Building Opportunities for Low-Cost, High-Quality Education from K-12 to Post Secondary," "Entrepreneurs and Business Paving the Way for Investment Return and Growth in Scale and Quality."  http://bit.ly/RsWVoG

Not exactly the warm and fuzzy HOPE being fed to you by the "pro" amendment ads is it?

John Hage, CEO of Charter Schools USA (contributed $50k so far to FBPS) and J.C. Huizenga, CEO of National Heritage Academies, (contributed $75K so far), are considered leaders in the "for-profit" education industry and prominent participants in this forum and previous ones.

 Huizenga is from Grand Rapids, MI. also home to the DeVos family, co-founders of Amway. Betsy DeVos is chair of the American Federation for Children - major backer of "pro-school choice" political campaigns in Georgia and school choice legislation, mainly vouchers; Barbara Gaby from Duluth GA, (husband contributed $100k to FBPS) is the youngest daughter of Amway co-founder Van Andel. The Gabys are also a founder of the Georgia Family Council, backers of this amendment; this group takes credit for the SSO program which legalized a state tax credit deduction for private school tuition - religious and secular. A flow chart would have been helpful.

The billionaire contributors, Alice Walton, $600K, Doris Fischer, $250K and Bernie Marcus, $250k all believe that private entreprenuers, like themselves (or their fathers in Alice's case), should have a seat at this table and they're willing to pay for it. Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst ($250K) is laundering money for the billionaires in an attempt to build her own "education empire."

If Amendment 1 passes the billionaires will be pleased - they may feel like they are doing a good deed - and our legislators will have successfully delivered on their promise to them to amend the constitution so "for-profit" operators can replicate efficiently without ever having to worry about another lawsuit.

So what's the problem? Here are a couple to ponder;

1) I don't like being lied to. This is a non-partisan voter requirement that most politicians have not yet grasped. The preamble should say; "Provides for increasing the number of public/private partnerships through more public charter school options." rather than a lie; "Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options."

2) Billionaires and corporations sneaking around in the shadows purchasing  legislation to fit their personal economic theories or profit objectives could not be considered the "free market."

3) What do any of these people know about education.

Reasons Number 9 and 10 to vote NO on Amendment 1: the privatization of education is not "free" and will most likely result in people getting rich off of our kids rather than saving us any money or improving education.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Justin Ove (Editor) November 01, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Hope, Cherokee Charter Academy is the most prominent charter school in the area, and I felt it was an appropriate photograph to use with this post. As for the author of this post not being a "local" voice, the charter school amendment is a statewide issue, and we at Patch want to give equal time to supporters and critics of the amendment. Just because she isn't "from here" doesn't mean her opinion is invalid in Cherokee County. Thanks, Justin
Elizabeth Hooper November 01, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Thank you Angela for highlighting the major shortcomings in the legislation. Why anyone would want to vote on a piece of legislation that doesn't offer protection of their own tax dollars is beyond me. This isn't about the benefits of charter schools - we have charter schools and an appeals process in place. It's about accountability to the people who are paying the tax dollars. Charter school parents should want that as well.
Elizabeth Hooper November 01, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Thanks for explaining how the picture got there - in other words, I didn't put it there. This was originally posted on The Alpharetta-Milton Patch. To go back to Leon's comment - your point is well taken. The constitutional authority of the State BOE to approve or deny charter petitions is reaffirmed in HB797. Why then is the commission so important to the backers? I feel there is a plan in place that we are not privy to. A huge question still not answered is - where in the state budget is the money coming from. Is there a new source in mind. What is the budget? Other states treat their citizens as if they have brains. This entire campaign has been misleading - facts have been misstated constantly. This is an amendment to our constitution - important voter rights are at stake and we are being treated as if we "don't need to know." I don't care what side you're on. This secrecy is troubling.
Elizabeth Hooper November 01, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Kelli, Obama has major monetary incentives in Race To the Top for states that promote charter schools. That's why Democrats and Republicans want Arne Duncan and the federal Dept. of Ed gone. Top down, just like this commission, never works.
Kids First November 02, 2012 at 01:46 AM
One could carry the idea of exclusive control to another level. What if one of our school systems decided not administer the CRCT? Can the state force them to do so if they have exclusive local control? I believe voting yes restores the shared authority. If the opponents think everything is in place now, I wonder why they're fighting so hard to stop it.
Martin Howell November 02, 2012 at 01:47 AM
It's hard to imagine a less objective article than this in the blog. One instantly wonders what Elizabeth Hooper has to gain by the continuation of the dramatic failure of Georgia schools and its negative impact on our children. Choice is not some strawman to be bloviated against by Ms. Hooper. Freedom of choice is key to our economic and political systems. If someone wants to push creativity and try something in education which doesn't produce a squadron of failure, let me at it. As long as parents have choice, what is she so afraid of?
Athens Mama November 02, 2012 at 03:04 AM
In a nutshell: If you live in Fulton, Oconee, or Jackson Counties (or any other county where public education is ideal and you give your neighborhood school an A+) VOTE NO on this amendment. If you live in the MANY other counties where your child meets a punitive philosophy where his/her ideas about learning will be formed, has less than 20 minutes per day at recess, has been treated poorly by one of more of their elementary teachers, is cussed at by a middle school teacher, is "progressing" through the end of the year (this means FAILING) or is being bullied and you can do nothing about it - then VOTE YES ON THE CHARTER AMENDMENT! I have children who have spent 9 years in public education. I am an educator. I have experienced some amazing things in public education, and I have experienced some things in public education that have left me aghast. It's hit or miss. I will vote YES on this amendment to ensure that parents and students have more CHOICES that do not include paying for private school, quitting their jobs, or moving.
Andrew November 02, 2012 at 12:16 PM
I advocate a support of the charter school system. The United States has fallen behind other countries due to our public school systems. Charter schools do better in aptitude scores than public schools and the teachers are paid less. Who in their right mind advocates paying more for worse education? Make public schools compete with private industry. UPS and FedEx do a lot better than the government employees of the United Postal Service.
Elizabeth Hooper November 02, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Martin, One question - do you know what the current law is? we have choice and an appeals process that was established in 1998. It was never legally challenged. The promoters of the "minority opinion" in the Supreme Court case are trying to convince people like you that it will be challenged. A hoax. I don't enjoy being lied to to by special interests. Here's what Dr. Barge said on August 14th, "In fact, the amendment creates an unnecessary government agency and restricts local community control." I suppose Dr. Barge doesn't know what he's talking about either? If you think appointed, centralized, unaccountable control is a good idea, by all means vote for it. That's exactly what you'll be getting.
Elizabeth Hooper November 02, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Leon - the PTA rep was talking about the funding formula for the state share that was changed in HB 797, not the State BOE's authority to authorize a charter that was denied by a local board. To set the record straight on the State BOE's authority which they have had since 1998 - from Dr. Barge," While the Supreme Court decision overturning the Commission last year explicitly stated that their decision did not apply to state chartered special schools (see footnote 5 on page 5 of that opinion), the MINORITY (my cap) opinion argued strongly that the arguments for overturning the Commission did apply...." Backers of this want you to change the Constitution based on the MINORITY opinion to prevent litigation that might happen in the future. Crazy? You bet. For-profit operators make large investments in land and buildings - they want, I'm sure, an airtight legal future even though there is no evidence that any lawsuit is in the works. The Commission was ruled unconstitutional, not the authority of the State BOE. Georgia Code BBB 160-5-1-.36 "(g) State Board of Education (SBOE) - the constitutional authority which defines education policy for the public K-12 education agencies in Georgia." This amendment gives the General Assembly, on lines 12-14 of HR 1162 ,clear power to establish education policy. What does that actually mean? As usual, they aren't talking. Based on the way this campaign has been handled, my trust in the legislators who are pushing this and the Gov. is zero.
Kathleen A. November 02, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Elizabeth, thank you so much! Please keep up the good work and hopefully deaf ears will hear.
Jim Beam November 02, 2012 at 03:58 PM
One certainly wonders what her agenda is. I salute her honesty though - she's made it clear that her wealthy, elitist N. Fulton schools were good enough for her children, therefore she sees nothing wrong with the rest of the state of GA public education. She never acknowledges APS, nor the impending loss of accreditation in Dekalb & Clayton counties, nor the criminal corruption seen in Bibb County. To her, these are either not very big problems or don't actually exist, since everything is roses in her N. Fulton district. Myopic is the word that best describes her POV on this issue. I cannot understand her hatred of charter schools and the education they're obviously providing for thousands of children. She claims to be for them....and yet she actively advocates against an amendment that would merely cement a process she claims already exists. Let's be clear: If Amendment 1 fails, there will be nothing to stop local BOEs from shutting down all charters in their endless quest to funnel more money into what's clearly a failing public school system. Vote YES to prevent this from occurring.
Jim Beam November 02, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Mrs Hooper, do you think the federal Dept of Ed should be dissolved?
Jim Beam November 02, 2012 at 04:01 PM
"Who in their right mind advocates paying more for worse education?" Anyone who votes NO, whether they realize it or not.
Angela Bean November 02, 2012 at 05:18 PM
My stance is that this amendment placed on the ballot by our general assembly is a distraction to what they should really be focusing on - fixing ALL our public schools! However this vote turns out, I am saying prayers for ALL our children in public schools - public AND charter - who, as of this school year, are being educated under Obama's Common Core national standards which is pushing the Type 2 Education Philosophy and indoctrination of the left's social justice agenda with anti-American, anti-family, and anti-capitalist values. These standards were accepted by our state legislature with NO review of curriculum or the cost of implementation. Our "reward" for the NCLB waiver. Whether this amendment passes or not, I am praying that all parents and concerned citizens will wake up and do what REALLY needs to be done.... INSIST that our state legislators rescind Common Core national standards, kick the feds out of our schools, develop education standards using Texas as a base model (who is now considered to have the BEST standards in place because they said NO to accepting Common Core), and then ask our state legislators this question... With the federal government out of our schools WHO is it keeping us from implementing the teaching model of current charter schools into ALL our public schools? Learn about Type 1 and Type 2 education philosophies http://libertylinked.com/posts/9703/2-education-philosophies-with/View.aspx
Angela Bean November 02, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I have heard stories of this kind of child abuse in our public schools. As a parent I am appalled that these situations exist. As parents, concerned citizens, elected representatives, clergy, and active community groups, WHY haven't we done something to FIX these schools to help these children? Unless this charter commission is going to set up enough schools in every school district to move these students into a better situation, (How many would that be...dozens.... hundreds? Certainly just 7 a year doesn't seem like enough.) this amendment will not magically take this abuse out of these schools. I am so glad for those students who have found a better learning environment in charter schools, but what about all those kids left behind? Since charter schools have been around for almost 20 years and the "competition" hasn't helped these school districts with these abusive situations, I don't suspect this amendment will be the magic bullet that many are believing it will be. I'm afraid if this passes everyone will turn a blind eye, once again, to the real problem in our schools.... the federal government takeover since the federal Dept. of Ed was established in 1979! And, since HB 797 rewrites the rules of charter schools and defines the standards for these STATE approved charter school to be those of the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.... I'm afraid the charters established won't be the better schools we are hoping for. How can they be?
John Doelman November 02, 2012 at 06:32 PM
There is good and bad here. If one looks at the private colleges that are sucking up student loan money and not giving a decent education you can get an idea of why these megabillionaires want this to pass. This is a profit move for them, and the money they will get is public money.
Joe Hunter November 02, 2012 at 09:49 PM
John Doelman: I would like to know what did you drink or take before posting your comment :) In Georgia, Charter Schools are Non-Profit !!!! I was involeved with one for 10 years and I did not take a penny or see any "megabillionaires" made a profit out of Charter School
Monty Brewster November 03, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Stanford CREDO study shows only 17% of charters performed better. That means 83% did not! Vote yes if you are willing to take a 17% chance of your child getting a "better" education. I'll take the 83% and vote NO.
Monty Brewster November 03, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Joe, EMOs are certainly for-profit. See K12 and Charter Schools USA for example. They will walk away with at least $1million per school each year in profit. That's after expenses and salaries for those that still don't understand the difference between profit and salary.
Bob Pepalis (Editor) November 03, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Mr. Galis, I believe the comment you posted is listed below and it was not rejected, having appeared in this stream at 3:55 p.m. on Friday.
Monty Brewster November 04, 2012 at 04:29 AM
Dan, stop playing dumb. (You are playing right?). You know there is a huge difference between for-profit companies that act as vendors and those that control the school. Pearson supplies a product but has absolutely no control over the school or personnel. CSUSA controls every aspect of CCA. Surely you understand the difference.
Kids First November 05, 2012 at 12:35 PM
I think K12 has only one school here, GA Cyber Academy. It has over 10k students. They provide a service to the non-profit governing board. If they make money in the process, I'm not sure of the problem. I think they were being watched to improve Special Education programs and I understand the board is working with K12 to remedy that situation. If their provider (k12) doesn't do what they're expected to do, the board can move to another provider or pull it in house. I do think that's harder for the virtual schools than the bricks/mortar schools but it's an option. We've had some schools renegotiate their contracts with EMOs, taking on a little more of the work themselves and paying the EMO less. Some schools have released the EMO entirely. I personally feel like some of our superintendents are the 'for-profit' entities that should be watched more closely but again, he/she provides a service and if Gwinnett County tax payers believe he should be paid more than the president of the US, that's up to them.
Carey Fisher November 05, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Monty - a 17% chance is better than a 0% chance.
Bonnie olson November 06, 2012 at 02:49 AM
I just have a question. I am not understanding the whole thing, but if schools in lower income areas are failing due to drugs, gangs and guns and other issues, if we have more Charter schools, then the kids causing the issues will have the chance to go to the charter schools too? So does this mean the kids in downtown that cause problems get to go to better schools and start issues there. Of course I would want my child in the best school possible and we did just that. We moved from APS to Cumming. The schools here are great and I can say I sure wouldn't the kids that are causing trouble in APS to move to cumming. I think it is the parents that don't teach their kids and show them how to steal, cheat, and bring guns to school. If you take the pople who live in APS district where there is a lot of issues and move them to say a private school, eventually that private school will turn to. I think people need to try to get together to fix the schools that are broken and not take away students so the schools will close due to low enrollment. I have said how I feel, now someone can explain to me the reasons I should vote yes, if I am mis-understandig the whole issue.
Kids First November 06, 2012 at 01:11 PM
@Bonnie it sounds like your mind is made up but I'll respond anyway. If you moved from APS you know better than anyone some great people live there. Some aren't even 'stuck' but rather want to live there but also want a good education. There are some tremendous charter schools in APS and by following the code of conduct set forth by the system, they keep discipline in check. If your question is whether a charter school could open in Cumming and draw from APS, it's not likely. There is a school in south Georgia that draws from 5 counties but it's rural and makes sense. The commission heard from one petitioner who wanted to pull from Fulton, Douglas, and maybe Fayette County but that one was denied because they couldn't 'prove' local support. The petitioners must show that residents are interested. The opponents keep saying 'they' can put in a school the community didn't ask for which is just not true. I think you should vote yes for all the families In Georgia. If a school opens in your area that practices single gender math and science classes, you may think that your child could do better there. He or she may be making low Bs or Cs, which isn't failing but you want to try something different. The option would be there. Forsyth County would get the first chance to approve that school. If they deny it, the petitioners could appeal to the charter commission. That's it.
Bonnie olson November 06, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Thank you Kids first. I now understand a little better.
Athens Mama November 06, 2012 at 10:44 PM
@Angela Bean: I would be happy to meet with you for coffee/tea and discuss possibilities. For many months, the things I have witnessed have kept me awake at night.
Athens Mama November 06, 2012 at 10:45 PM
@Monty: High performance - i.e. higher test scores - are not all by which schools should be measured.
Athens Mama November 06, 2012 at 10:48 PM
@Bonnie: Charters have the option to expel kids - even if they have IEPS. This translates to the fact that federal law protects students who have special education needs that are emotional/behavioral. They cannot be denied education services by a public school district. Charters would have more control over this.

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