Today, the Georgia Senate voted and passed (38 – 15) Governor Deal’s “chronically failing” school bill which would turn these schools into charters under the appointment of a “state” superintendent. Senate Resolution 287 proposes an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia that will allow the General Assembly to authorize the establishment of an Opportunity School District which will intervene into failing schools. Here is a quote from Resolution 287:
The General Assembly may provide by general law for the creation of an Opportunity School District and authorize the state to assume the supervision, management, and operation of public elementary and secondary schools which have been determined to be failing through any governance model allowed by law. Such authorization shall include the power to receive, control, and expend state, federal, and local funds appropriated, all in the manner provided by and in accordance with general law (Miller, et.al. (2015, January 1). Senate Resolution 287. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/20152016/148454.pdf). Emphasis mine.
This is an unfortunate state of affairs.
It will lead to an operation in which private charters will essentially be given the right to spend state and federal money that was earmarked for public schools, and create a system that will be “thin on data and thick on claims,” as Kristen L. Buras stated in her critical report of the Louisiana Recovery District (Buras, K. (2012, March 1). REVIEW OF THE LOUISIANA RECOVERY SCHOOL DISTRICT: LESSONS FOR THE BUCKEYE STATE. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/TTR-NOLAOhio-Fordham_0.pdf). We all know that the Georgia plan being pushed by the Governor will be a replica of the Louisiana plan. According to Dr. Buras’ review of the Recovery School District’s program (RSD) by the Fordham Institute, the success of the reforms in the RSD:
is simply asserted rather than established. This is a troubling omission since adequate data and studies are available that address these points in general and for the RSD in particular. (Buras, 2012)
There are a number of troubling parts of Dr. Buras’ report that will have direct implication for Georgia’s struggling schools. For example, in 2006, she reports that when veteran teachers in the RSD were fired en mass they were replaced largely by uncertified and inexperienced recruits from Teach for America and The New Teacher Project. Here are some figures from Buras’ report that are shocking. Prior to 2006, only 10% of the teachers in the RSD were in their first or second year of teaching. In 2007 – 2008, 60% of the teachers in the RSD had one year or less of experience. Only 1% had 25 or more years of experience.
But the most atrocious aspect of the Buras’ report is her discussion of how cut off scores on the state standardized tests seemed to drift up or down depending upon the kind of results that would benefit the RSD. She puts it this way:
In sum, state standards of “success” and “failure” were manipulated to justify converting public schools into charter schools, and then to justify keeping them as charter schools, Buras, 2012).
Her report also shows that the financial “performance” of the RSD charter schools closes in on being corrupt, clearly not as effective as public schools. I quote her at length here to show what she found:
In terms of financial performance, there is little evidence that the charter-intensive RSD is more efficient in its use of resources. In fact, the performance assessment issued by the Louisiana legislative auditor, which is cited in the Fordham report, found the following: “Overall, the Office of Parental Options (OPO) and RSD did not effectively monitor [its charter schools] in fiscal year 2010 and need to improve the process to annually collect, review, and/or evaluate [their] performance,” including “student, financial, and legal/contractual performance.”30 The Fordham report does not mention these problems, even as it criticizes New Orleans public schools for mismanagement, corruption, and a lack of transparency (Buras, 2012).
Beware of this Resolution. It is not intended to improve education in communities that have struggling schools. It is designed to reform schools based on people who know very little to nothing about education, but know a lot about taking advantage, and seeking the opportunity to privatize public education.