YARBROUGH: School superintendent association head refutes pro-charter claims

Dick Yarbrough

Dick Yarbrough

GSSA head refutes claims on charter schools

With the vote on the charter school amendment just over a month away, the heat is getting intense. I know. I have felt it. I wrote a column a few weeks ago giving the pro-charter folks an opportunity to make their case for the amendment. For my trouble, a number of anti-charter advocates wondered if I was going soft on them and backers of the bill continued to accuse me of giving out "misinformation." I love this job.

Herb Garrett, the executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, has some thoughts on the amendment. After reading what Tony Roberts, president of the Georgia Charter School Association and Bert Brantley, the spokesperson for the pro-amendment group told me, Garrett says, "It continues to amaze me that supporters of the proposed amendment see all kinds of extraneous issues arising from the Supreme Court's ruling which struck down the former Charter Schools Commission on constitutional issues."

Garrett says that the ruling said nothing about limiting the ability of the State Board of Education to approve charter schools, nor did it contain any language that would limit the ability of the Georgia General Assembly to set educational policy through legislation (a contention of some politicians who have used this argument to bolster their argument that the amendment is needed).

He adds that the State Board of Education approved most of the former Commission schools as state special charter schools after the Supreme Court decision last spring, and no lawsuit was filed, or to the best of his knowledge, threatened.

As to the claim that the General Assembly has lost its powers to enact public education legislation, Garrett points out that in the last session more than 100 education-related bills that were introduced by legislators and more than thirty were passed and signed into law by Gov. Deal.

Roberts and Brantley had said while people like me questioned for-profit management companies getting into the charter school business, public schools also hired for-profit management companies, like Ombudsman.

Garrett scoffed, "The comparison of charter school management companies to companies like Ombudsman is a bit disingenuous, too. Ombudsman, which is hired primarily by local school systems to run alternative programs that are too expensive to operate as a local entity, is an accredited instructional program and is not given management authority over any school or system of which I am aware. Some local school systems also hire private companies to perform functions related to custodial and maintenance operations. Unlike those aforementioned management companies, though, local boards who answer to local taxpayers about the expenditure of their tax funds make the decisions to hire these private providers; the decisions are not made by a group of political appointees in Atlanta."

Garrett says that more than anything else, the amendment is about money -- "money for companies that run charter schools and money for politicians' election campaigns." Currently, the pro-charter advocates have raised almost a half million dollars and, according to Morris News Service, 96 percent of those funds have come from out of state, including from for-profit management companies.

He adds, "I feel safe in saying that those dollars are not being spent purely for the altruistic purpose of providing school choice. As noted in a recent opinion piece in The Macon Telegraph, one need only 'follow the money.'"

Garrett reiterates that the position of his organization, the Georgia School Superintendents Association, is in support of charter schools as a "tool in the tool box" for improving public education in our state.

"We simply believe that the best venue for deciding whether a charter school should be located in a local community is at the local level," he says, "Such a decision should take into account the feasibility of opening a new cost center, whether such a school would offer educational opportunities that are significantly different and better than those already offered by the local school system, and what the fiscal impact would be on both the school system and its taxpayers. I simply do not see those considerations being made properly in Atlanta."

While the advantage at this point seems to be with the well-funded proponents and their political muscle under the Gold Dome, don't underestimate the backlash from the grassroots groups around the state that oppose the amendment and think legislators could do more for public education than they are doing. This is shaping up to be a battle between David and Goliath. And we all know how that one came out.

Email columnist Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/dickyarbrough.


kevin 2 years, 11 months ago

You have written quite a few words lately about this amendment. I would like to bring up a few points why you are wrong. If it wasn't for the local control board and the lawsuit that gave us a ruling from the Ga, Supreme Court, maybe we would already have more Charter schools. In my opinion, the local board is against such schools and has been holding back on getting them because they are more scared that those schools will succeed where the current public school system has not.

I will take Charter schools anyway I can get them. They work and should be allowed to exist to compete with a failed system. We might even get more respect and attention from students towards their teachers because those schools will not tolerate the current atmosphere in a classroom.

"Such a decision should take into account the feasibility of opening a new cost center, whether such a school would offer educational opportunities that are significantly different and better than those already offered by the local school system," This is correct. Charter schools will offer new opportunities for students to learn in various ways that are not tolerated in today's classrooms. Students might have to work harder and drop all the outside activities to be able to learn something that will make them better citizens. We need better educated kids for they are our future in this country. Right now we have hardly any strict classrooms nor methods to get these students to conform and educated for life.

We must give private systems at least 5-8 years to see how it works. The current local boards have not allowed this to be possible. Bring on the vote. Everyone I speak to says yes to this amendment.

This is not a battle between David and Goliath Mr. Yarbrough, but against the current failed system that can't get rid of poor performing teachers and bloated assets to a system of choices.


Say_that_again 2 years, 11 months ago

Wow, you are still self deluded! I thought their might be hope for you checking facts when you finally realized that you constant claim of "teacher unions at fault in Georgia" was ridiculous because we have no teacher unions. Now you want to make another false claim that under performing teachers cannot be fired. Here is a link to the personnel handbook. which you will find that, not only can they fire under performing teachers, they can even have their teaching certificate revoked which means they cannot teach in any public school system, but still can get a teaching position in a for profit charter school which are not required to prove all teachers are certified. http://www.gwinnett.k12.ga.us/careers/careershr.nsf/pages/PersonnelHandbook5~HRServices[link text][1]


harmum 2 years, 11 months ago

The most comprehensive study undertaken to compare regular public schools and charter schools was undertaken by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). This study, published in June, 2009, studied charter schools in 15 states, and the District of Columbia. CREDO'S web address is: credo.stanford.edu/

Their Summary states:"...the group portrait shows wide variation in performance. The study reveals that a decent fraction of charter schools, 17 percent provide superior education opportunities for their students. Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools....". (I personally don't think 17 percent is a "decent fraction, however I am quoting what was written.)

In other words, 83 percent provided eduction to their students that was either the same, or worse, than traditional public schools.

Georgia's own Department of Education has found for Georgia schools "..the same general performance trends..." between regular schools and charter schools.

Amendment 1 proposes adding seven (7) political appointees to the state school bureaucracy. That is just what our floundering education system needs---more state interference and more political appointees. Perhaps they could appoint some of the MARTA board members--we all know how well they have done.



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