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Charter School Amendment - Unintended Consequences

Top-down mandates by politicians, bureaucrats, and special interests, pushed and funded by billionaires, don't have a high success rate - Amendment 1 will be no different.

 Education policy for the past decade might well be summarized as follows; "Please give me a waiver from the unintended consequences of your mandates." The past two Presidents have announced big plans for education reform early in their term. Some folks feel this should not be part of their job description but they haven't been getting the message.

For George W. Bush it was No Child Left Behind. NCLB was signed into law in January 2002. The idea was to make all public schools and teachers accountable for performance improvement and close achievement gaps. Each state was required to develop their own standardized tests and test students performance in reading and math annually in grades 3 - 8 and once in high school. Severe penalties were assessed on any school which failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress, AYP, in successive years.

Unintended consequences began to surface; schools which were not failing the majority of students, but failed to improve minority students performance, were labeled "failing," administrators started gaming the system to avoid failing AYP, teachers had to "teach to the test," curriculum was narrowed to focus on math and reading, funding was not adequate to address improvement areas, and certain schools started cheating on tests to avoid failure.

By 2004 advocacy groups had started to form to change the law. The good initiatives such as identifying failing schools and adding accountability where there hadn't been any, were outweighed by the negatives mentioned above and looming benchmarks which were deemed unattainable.

In 2012, President Obama granted the first waivers to 10 states, including Georgia, who applied for a waiver from AYP in exchange for a different accountability system, designed by the states, for Title 1 schools. 

President Obama wanted to make his own mark. He dangled $4 billion, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in front of governors launching the education reform/improvement initiative called Race To The Top (RTTP). He invited all states to submit grant proposals to compete for a piece of the $4 billion - points were awarded for satisfying his education reform criteria, including authorizing more charter schools.

Can we call Barack when the feds run out of money and we have put in place unsustainable initiatives like charter schools that are not the magic bullet he thought they would be? Don't think he'll be picking up.

Georgia was awarded $400 million in RTTP grants for school systems that wanted to participate. Each state that got the money also had to agree to adopt the Common Core State Standards - even though these standards had yet to be developed.

It appears quite likely that many of the 45 states agreeing to adopt the Common Core will soon be asking for waivers - if not from standards requirements which are just being rolled out, then from the hi-tech testing that will be required in 2014-15. No one bothered to tell states strapped for cash that they will have to buy each student a device required to take these tests or figure out a creative way to share or whatever! 

The Common Core Standards, which many are calling unconstitutional in the first place, were partially funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - $250 million apparently http://truthinamericaneducation.com/. Misguided, impossible to implement? Can we call Bill, Barack, or Arne Duncan down the road for more money to implement this plan? Don't think so. If Romney wins will he scrap this plan and produce another one? What a colossal waste of time and money.

The waivers don't stop there however. Our state legislators often pass bills that come from other places, like ALEC, just because they can. Traditional public schools have to follow them all; charter schools and charter system schools, can ask for waivers from the most "onerous" laws as Jan Jones and Alisha Morgan call them. All public schools however will have to implement the new Common Core Standards and adhere to the accountability process whatever that turns out to be. So - we're really just transferring the money from public to private hands?? Have we all lost our minds?

So what does this mess have to do with the Charter Amendment? Top-down initiatives pushed by politicians, bureaucrats, special interests, and billionaires who don't live nearby don't work well very often. They are costly to implement and maintain and have unintended consequences - negative ones. Amendment 1 is an intitative which will be carried out by political appointees under the Gold Dome. Do they know anything about your community or exisiting public school? No. Can you call them if you have a concern? No.

This amendment is backed by Alice Walton, personally and through her foundation, Betsy DeVos (American Federation for Children), the Koch brothers (at least David - Americans for Prosperity) and I'm sure Bill Gates is in here somewhere. Do they know anything about the kids and parents in Georgia or your community? No. Will they clean up their mess 10 years from now? No.

This amendment is also backed by the governor and politicians who are tangled up with ALEC and beholden to the billionaires with an agenda and private corporations who want to make money from charter schools. Are your kids their first priority? No. If you give up your elected voice to them via this amendment will you ever get it back? Not likely.

Reason # 8 to Vote "NO" on Amendment 1 - the costly unintended consequences of misguided public policy are always paid by you.

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.

Elizabeth Hooper October 18, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Correction: Race To the Top - RTT not RTTP
Kids First October 19, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Well I'm convinced now.....let's do nothing. Nothing at all. Thanks Liz. I'm now convinced that we should never look for solutions for 'fear' of unintended consequences. I will vote yes as I think about all 180 school systems in Georgia, not just north Fulton. I saw a story on the news tonight showing beautiful children in inner cities simply asking people to stop killing. We have charter schools in those same sorts of neighborhoods right now. The front office has to unlock the door and you walk through a metal detector. The children there know they're safe for a few hours a day and getting a better education (because they're held to higher standards) than their neighborhood schools. I will vote for charter schools. Not everyone in Georgia has the same options you and your family have and it's simply shameful. AND before you go into your usual cut/paste that the state can approve a charter now, I will cut/paste my same response that your entire group is waiting to kill this amendment and then you'll go after the funding mechanism....throwing these exemplary schools into another year of uncertainty and once again trying to squash them out once and for all.
GA citizen & taxpayer October 20, 2012 at 05:07 AM
Thanks to Ms. Hooper for providing yet another excellent reason--with facts and links--for voting against the proposed constitutional amendment. The alternative to this ill-conceived constitutional amendment is not to do "nothing at all" but rather a studied and cooperative approach involving education professionals as well as parents and policymakers which, up to now, the legislators in power have ignored--even when it's been directly suggested to them. Georgia voters are being bullied by those with huge amounts of money and power. I know of no other state that would permit such a misleading and deceptive ballot question and preamble. The bill's sponsors pushed through the amendment by removing language to which other legislators objected. Amazingly, much of that language was brought back into the preamble! The alarmist comment by "Kids First" about trying to "squash charter schools out" doesn't make sense. It's actually traditional public schools that are being threatened by the amendment and I am even wondering if that's an intended consequence. I am voting NO on Amendment 1.
No Name October 20, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Allow school choice by using tax credits so that there is no government money going directly to schools. That keeps schools genuinely private with no strings attached. These charter schools (public-private partnerships) add another layer of bureaucracy. The state picks winners and losers and funnels our money to corporations who are accountable to shareholders, not taxpayers. This is taxation without representation at its worst. Dear Conservatives, don't automatically assume that having "private" in the name makes it a good thing. Study history. Study corporatism and fascism. That's what this is.
Kids First October 21, 2012 at 01:32 PM
If you care about the students in Georgia, not just north Fulton, and you believe better results can be achieved for less money, then you are a TRUE conservative and will vote yes. A state approved charter school will operate on less than $.70 per dollar the non-charter public school operates on. Educators are public servants, yet in Georgia, we have superintendents making more money than the president of the United States. A state charter school must submit all the same reporting that a school system does because they are their own LEA but its usually the principal, assistant principal and business manager ( all of whom also typically make less than their non-charter counterparts) who get the job done. I am voting yes.
Mike payne October 23, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Wow it is crystal clear now, on one side of the debate I have The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Alice Walton, Milton Freidman and the Koch brothers all winners whose charity knows no bounds. And on the other side we have teachers unions, government workers, Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo, Mike (if our public schools are not good enough maybe you should move) Chapman, the NAACP, La Raza and Elizabeth Hooper. How is this even debatable?
Concerned Parent/Taxpayer/Citizen October 24, 2012 at 01:00 PM
@Mike payne - your reasoning doesn't stand up to scrutiny. MANY for-profit companies are the same side of this debate as the non-experts you're praising. Ever wonder WHY? Jay Bookman has an informative column in the AJC on this topic - http://blogs.ajc.com/jay-bookman-blog/2012/10/24/charter-school-amendment-would-set-off-gold-rush/?cxntfid=blogs_jay_bookman_blog
Mike payne October 24, 2012 at 06:13 PM
If charter schools do not meet their expectations they are closed, if only the government schools had that same standard. Jay Bookman is far from an authority on this issue. I have done a little research on Mr. Bookman and his track record confirms he is usually on the wrong side of most issues, he praised the Chevy Volt, said T.A.R.P was a great investment, "This week, Israel threw a little more dirt on the coffin when it ended its 10-month moratorium on settlement construction. The decision probably means the end of peace talks with the Palestinians and further strains Israeli relations with the United States and other countries, but to Israel those are small prices to pay. I could continue with what Jay Bookman is wrong about but that is too easy. Again, I feel more and more confident that good will win out with the cast of characters lining up on the side of vote "no in NOvember" crowd.
Jen October 26, 2012 at 04:01 PM
$.70 for every dollar spent in a public school? How about Ivy Prep, which spent just $.39 on instruction last year (the rest went to Administration (Academica), facilities and "other"). Bet the execs at Academica make a whole lot more than that overpaid Superintendent. Show me ONE state charter school that has been closed by the DOE for academic or financial failure. Oh, yes there was Peachtree Hope, but they weren't shut by the state, they gave up after a year and never filed their financial report! Where did the money go? Will we ever find out? Our state paid to educate those students but we will never know what happened to that Tax Payer's money! Then there is Georgia Cyber Academy who has been out of compliance with IDEA since 2009 (even though the federal gov't requires deficiencies to be corrected within ONE year). The Federal government has no authority to shut them down even though federal IDEA money is flowing into the school. Yesterday, Clayton County schools were in the news yet again. This time for allegedly shifting IDEA funds for general education expenses. Yet nothing has been on the news regarding Georgia Cyber Academy. Thought this was all for the children? Doesn't look like it to me!
Mike payne October 29, 2012 at 01:13 AM
You caught us we are all pawns of the Gates foundation and the Walton's. We feel if they could just steal a few more dollars from our public school kids they may be able to scrape by. And if the money taken away to support charter schools comes from the disabled, the poor, minority groups or Alpharetta residents then, all the better.

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