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8 Myths About the Proposed Charter Amendment

On November 6th, voters in Georgia will weigh in on changing the Georgia Constitution to give a politically appointed state commission the authority to create and fund a separate system of schools.

Myth: The State Does Not Have the Power to Approve Charter Schools That Were Denied by Local School Boards

Fact: The Georgia Department of Education currently has the authority to review and approve state charter applications.

According to State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge, “with the state charter schools review process already in place, why does Georgia need another state agency that can do the same thing?”1

Myth: Charter Schools Are More Innovative and Flexible

Fact: Charters are allowed to “kick out” students for behavior or academic reasons.

Where do these students go once they are kicked out? They go back to the area’s traditional public school. This “flexibility” charters are given to kick out students means the most challenging students are simply tossed around and the real issues are never addressed. True innovation would mean that charters would be forced to find solutions to teaching the most challenging students.  Charters can only prove their perceived innovative edge if they are required to meet the same challenges as their traditional school counterparts.

Fact: Charters are able to hire uncertified teachers/staff and ignore class size caps. 

In Florida, charters are given the flexibility to ignore state standards, opt out of being assigned a grade, and do not have to meet the same building standards required of traditional public schools.  If the proposed charter amendment passes, Georgia is likely to follow Florida’s lead.2

It should be noted that the lawmakers who sponsored/supported the proposed charter amendment are the same ones who have a history of creating more red tape for traditional public schools.

Myth: State Charter Schools Will Not Take Funds Away from Traditional Public Schools

Fact: If the proposed charter amendment passes, charter schools authorized by the Commission will be 100% funded by the state. 

Currently, state funds make up just 37.8% of school funding for traditional public schools with local funding making up the majority.  A decade ago, state funds accounted for over 50% of school funding.  The funding burden has steadily shifted from the state to local property owners.3

If the state can’t provide 37.8% for current traditional schools, how is it going to provide 100% funding for a separate charter school system? Why are some legislators advocating for an additional constitutional obligation, when the state is unable to fulfill its current constitutional obligation?

Fact: The state has a constitutional obligation to fully fund and provide for an adequate public education for every student in Georgia.4

Currently, the state is not meeting its constitutional responsibility. Most Georgians understand that budget cuts were necessary due to the economic downturn, but the passage of the charter amendment would bind the state to additional funding obligations.  

Myth: Charter Schools Are Public Schools

Fact: There are many elements of charter schools that make them appear more private than public. 

Though charter proponents tout that any child is allowed to attend a charter school, there are many barriers in place that “screen” students:

- Many charters require students to go through an application and interview process; 

- Parents must commit to volunteering at the school (difficult for single parent families or families where both parents work);

- Students must sign a behavior and academic contract (if broken, students can be kicked out);

- Some charters do not have lunchrooms and do not provide transportation (barriers that keep out economically disadvantaged students).

If the only test for “public” school status is receiving public funding, then charters are “public” schools. Applying any other criteria that public schools have to meet would indicate charter schools are a front for privatizing public education.

Fact: The charter movement has close ties with the pro-school choice movement. 

The President of the Georgia Charter School Association (GCSA) recently was spotlighted in the documentary Making the Grade Georgia. The documentary advocates for expanded choice, including vouchers, home schooling, and online learning. Recently, GCSA participated in an event that included advocates for these very issues. Clearly, GCSA is including itself as part of the movement to privatize public education in Georgia.

Myth: Charters Serve All Students

Fact: Many charter schools use lotteries to avoid qualifying for AYP testing, making it difficult to compare their success to public schools. 

If students are able to jump over all of the barriers mentioned above (applications, interviews, parent volunteer commitments, behavior and academic contracts, etc.), then they are entered into a lottery. Currently, schools are measured for their overall test scores, but also the test scores of students in different subgroups (Economically Disadvantaged, English Language Learners, Black, White, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, Students With Disabilities).  All testing subgroups must meet the same pass rate or the school does not make AYP.  If a school has a low number of test takers in a subgroup, then the scores of those test takers do not count toward the school’s overall performance.  Lotteries are designed to keep the class sizes of charter schools small. Many charters use this mechanism to exploit a loophole in the methods used to measure a school’s performance. 

Fact: Overall, data suggests that students who are the most challenging to teach and require the most resources are not being served by charters in the state.

EmpowerED Georgia looked at the AYP for all of the charter schools in Georgia and did not find any charter schools in the state with a Students With Disabilities (SWD) testing group that counted towards AYP.  Clearly, the needs of students with disabilities can be ignored by charters since charters are not being held accountable for this sub-group’s performance.

In regards to English Language Learners (ELL), EmpowerED only found three charters with enough ELL to count as an AYP sub-group. Out of the three, only one charter school made AYP in this category. As expected, most traditional public school counterparts served a very diverse student population (including SWD and ELL).

Myth: Charters Seek to Put the Interests of Families and Students First

Fact: Proponents of the proposed charter amendment wave the banner of families and children, while advocating the interests of business interests over students’ interests.

Looking at the list of sponsors for the Georgia Charter School Association (GCSA), EmpowerED Georgia found a laundry list of for-profit interests – charter management, school construction, curriculum, and investment companies -- which will benefit directly from the passage of the proposed constitutional amendment.5

If GCSA has its way and the Charter Amendment passes, it seems they might look to a state like Michigan, which has lax charter school regulations. Michigan has 80% of charters being run by for-profit management companies.7 For them, it is about expanding a market and not about improving education for every child. 

Proponents’ claim of representing the interests of families even expands to the name of the group promoting the passage of the charter amendment -- Families for Better Public Schools6, but their actions speak louder than their words.

Recently, Families for Better Public Schools (FBPS) held a $1,000 per plate fundraiser (corporate sponsorship was $10,000 per plate).  Not many “everyday” families could afford that kind of fundraiser, so are they really representing everyday Georgia families?8

Fact: For these groups and individuals, support of the proposed charter amendment equates to making a business investment, instead of investing in all of our schools and all of our children.

Many would think that a true grassroots organization would have a charter school parent or teacher at its head.  However, FBPS’s Director is Mark Peevy.9 Peevy is the former President of the Georgia Charter School Association and current co-owner of a for-profit company called Ed Innovation Partners, LLC.10, which provides services to help clients establish and run charter schools.

A glance at FBPS’s website and promotional materials makes it appear that they represent the interests of everyday Georgia families, but beyond the stock photos lies a web of self-serving actions, instead of student-serving actions.

Myth: Charter Schools Increase Student Achievement

Fact: Multiple Studies and Reports Call Into Question the Effectiveness of Charter Schools.

A comprehensive study conducted by Stanford University (which included Georgia) concluded that 83% of the nation’s charters performed the same or worse than their traditional school counterparts.11 A recent report from the Georgia Department of Education found that charters in the state do not out perform traditional public schools.12

Fact: Charter school proponents regularly cherry pick data and make broad comparisons. 

Often, they point to the overall scores of the area’s traditional schools and compare them to the overall scores of the charter school.   Proponents continue to twist the data in order to push an agenda.  When it comes to true comparisons, the devil is in the details.13

Comparisons must be made on a sub-group to sub-group basis (i.e. comparing the performance of charter school students with disabilities to that of traditional school students with disabilities).  The proposed charter amendment does not include such a requirement.

Myth: Charters Will Expand Choice and Create Competition 

Fact: Passage of the charter amendment does not guarantee that charters would be added to areas that have chronically underperforming schools.    

In this economic climate with over a billion being cut to education each year and with teacher furloughs/layoffs, shortened school calendars, and increased class sizes, it does not make fiscal sense to allow the creation of state charters in areas with performing schools.  Are additional educational options really needed in areas with high-performing schools?  If the amendment is really about improving education, why isn’t charter authorization being targeted in areas with chronically underperforming schools?

If, as charter school advocates claim, choice creates competition and competition drives a school’s performance, why is choice not being offered in areas with chronically underperforming schools?  Why are charter schools avoiding serving these areas, and why are they avoiding serving the most challenging children (and the ones they claim would benefit the most from their services)?

Fact: True competition can only exist if the same system of rules and regulations are in place for all participating parties. 

Comparing charters and traditional public schools is like comparing apples and oranges.  Charters can kick out students, whereas traditional public schools must educate every child that enters their doors.  Charters can mandate parental involvement and acceptable student behavior, whereas traditional public schools have no such authority.  Charters can screen students, whereas traditional public schools are committed to educating every child. 

Conclusion

The amendment is not a referendum about charter schools or even school choice. The real story is that the State of Georgia is undermining our traditional public schools (as well as our local charter schools) through the severe cuts in financial support and by increasing red tape (expanded testing, Common Core, merit pay, etc.). Changes are needed, but they must be positive, constructive changes and not gimmicks. The proposed charter amendment is not a choice between expanding charter schools and protecting local control or even between increasing options and preserving the status quo. It is about whether we should go down a new road until we have given the schools we have a chance to succeed. That answer is a resounding “No.”

Matt Jones is a public school teacher in Toombs County and the co-founder of .

Jean Rogers September 05, 2012 at 11:41 AM
This article is a good learning tool featuring many things I did not know about charter schools. Thanks
Ed September 05, 2012 at 12:00 PM
This article has convinced me to vote for the amendment and hope we get rid of Public Sector Unions and all (Federal,State and Local goverment unions) they have destroyed a once great educational system.Our only hope for future students is the competion for quality that Charter Schools bring and not the" Union thug" accept lower test scores and performance but you must pay me more money attitude of the public sector unions.
Marcia Gathercoal September 05, 2012 at 12:27 PM
This article was written by a member of a group (public school teachers) many of whom feel threatened by anything that seeks to wrench control away from the teachers' unions. The public school system is failing; parents must demand accountability and options such as charter schools. It's time to quit propping up a bloated bureaucracy in which parents have little say. I hope voters will not assume that this collection of union talking points is the whole truth about the issue, and will research it for themselves.
Carolyn Woodward September 05, 2012 at 12:44 PM
I agree: The UNIONS have ruined education! Some parents have failed their children! Yes it takes a village but w/o someone to teach discipline and hold the youth accountable, we will fail time and time again. Education is provided as a right but the student decides to take it or leave it. Learning is a PRIVILEGE! Our entire education system must be redesigned from K- College! Check this out?: RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms - YouTube This animate was adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA's ... www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U - Cached
j miller September 05, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Let's see...medicare/ medicaid...government response? Obamacare, failing schools?...government response? Charter schools. Why should my tax dollars go to pay for someone else's child to go to a "private" school. Voting no on this amendment. Thanks for the article. Excellent journalism!
Carolyn Woodward September 05, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Education belongs in the private sector where competition drives excellence. Ineffective teachers and schools will then be forced to compete to keep their jobs. The best teachers will get the best pay based on outcomes of all students and not some standardized test! Our education system has been left almost unchanged from the time our grandparents attended! The results are much worse! How about basic life skills like, creativity, innovation, communication, collaboration, conflict management..... We are no longer an industrialized country! We are about creating things or making things better! Education needs to evolve and we can see that all unions have done in every sector is drive costs and lower quality! Socialism will NEVER drive innovation!
Carolyn Woodward September 05, 2012 at 12:57 PM
J Miller, Govment is the problem u state over and over. Yet u want to let them keep our most important role?! Please do more reading before u make up your mind? Charter schools should REPLACE all govmt schools! We tax payers should take back the resources we paid deary for and offer up the operations to the best qualified entity and that will NEVER be the Govmt!
Grant September 05, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Maybe we can follow Louisiana's lead, Their Charter "schools" "teach" kids that the Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution! Splendid!
Terry September 05, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Sounds like yet another member of the teachers union spouting the same rhetoric we hear from anyone trying to keep the status quo. I believe the Charter Schools will hold individual students, parents and teachers responsible for their actions and performance; by doing so they will improve the level of education for everyone. Our current system is simply bringing down the better students instead of pulling up the problem students. If they bring corporal punishment and the bible back to the class room it could be miraculous. Shame on the Snellville Patch for publishing such an article as factual. I will vote for the amendment.
Amie Ray Davis September 05, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Fact: Charters are allowed to “kick out” students for behavior or academic reasons because they "kick out" No Child Left Behind and base performance on the individual - not the population.
Mary Lou September 05, 2012 at 03:52 PM
why I pay exorbitant fees (on top of taxes) to send my child to private..just cannot bring myself to ruin him by sending him to our so called public school system. Stinks for us, but we dont feel we have another choice. Fed up with it all and seems/feels your going up against a system you just wont get anywhere with. NEA- the great guardians of mediocrity. If we were unable to send him to private for some reason, homeschooling would be the next option. Public however, at this point, would never be an option.
Sue Pinion September 06, 2012 at 02:34 AM
There are NO teachers' unions in Ga. It violates the law. There is no collective bargaining for teachers. It violates the law. You people are so blinded by "government hatred" that you lump everything run by the government into one big pile. Public education has been the backbone of this country for many years. Could it use an update? Of course. Diverting money to private schools, aka Charter Schools, is certainly not the answer.
Marcia Gathercoal September 06, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Sue, perhaps your love of all things government has blinded you? The Georgia Federation of Teachers is associated with the AFL-CIO. If Charter Schools aren't the answer, what "update" would you advocate? Pouring more money down a black hole? The dismal history of public schools suggests that abolishing the Department of Education (established by the esteemed Jimmy Carter) and returning control to the states would be a good first step. To update you on unions in Georgia, you might want to check this out: http://www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2011/mar/30/calvine-rollins/unions-have-little-bargaining-power-georgia-group-/
Sue Pinion September 06, 2012 at 12:51 PM
It is amazing that a contrary opinion on one topic warrants a sweeping assumption about my opinion of "all things government". I have also been amazed that over my 40 years of teaching in public schools in Georgia that everyone considers themselves an expert on education just because they attended school. Most people who declare public schools a failure attended them. I stand on my statement. There are no educational unions in GA. In theory some of us are affiliated with the NEA, but in practice we have no collective bargaining power. It is against the law to strike in the state Iof GA. As far as the superiority of private schools is concerned, the student-teacher ratio as compared to public schools and the ability to have a selection system for entrance certainly give the private school a distinct adnantage.
Terry September 06, 2012 at 02:02 PM
As a teacher you might want to learn to spell advantage? I am a product of public schools in Gwinnett County, Snellville School, Snellville Middle and South Gwinnett. It was totally different form of education, it was better, we need to go back. You do not have to be a "expert" to understand that.
Carolyn Woodward September 06, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Gosh! after 40 years I'd think you'd be an expert but your comments make me believe otherwise. Sounds like you may be one on the dole and tenure will help u coast till retirement?! and YES the vast majority of us attended govmt schools and what other choice did we have as children?! NONE! But now we are adults who are responsible for leading and improving society! The ONLY way to do that is thru competition not socialism and abiding by the status quo. Check the box?! it's all about checking the box but the results continue to worsen! Our children deserve more and so do our talented teachers, who sadly happen to be a minority amongst those who check the box and muddle thru till payday.
Marcia Gathercoal September 06, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Sue, you were the one to make assumptions based on a contrary opinion: "You people are so blinded by government hatred". When I turn it around on you, you cry foul. I suspect you are a tenured teacher who supports the unions philosophically and financially. In addition, you appear to look down on those who aren't in the system as know-nothings. You are opposed to Charter Schools, yet as an "expert", you didn't give an alternative solution, nor did you respond to my question.

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