Poverty, Learning and Nathan Deal’s Georgia Opportunity School District Assumes…

Poverty, Learning and Nathan Deal’s Georgia Opportunity School District Assumes…

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s Georgia Opportunity School District (OSD) assumes that replacing public schools with charter schools will improve the test performance of students in “chronically failing” schools.  Georgia governor Deal’s OSD is a copy of the New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD).

However, research presented by Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig, indicates that NAEP scores in math and reading in the New Orleans RSD schools were lower than the New Orleans public schools scores were before Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Yet, in spite of these results, the Governor of Georgia has been out campaigning to convince Georgia voters to approve the OSD, which is the first ballot measure on the Georgia ballot.

The Governor is convinced that the school alone can not only improve the test scores of “chronically failing” students, but that by doing so, poverty and crime will be reduced. And he campaigning using this unsupported claim.

This is simply not the way things work in the real world.

The question that politicians such as Deal ignore is what role does poverty play in the life and school experience of students?  Deal brings in the topic of poverty by claiming that improved test scores will somehow affect the poverty level of children in a school community.  He has it completely backwards.

Addressing Poverty, the title of a research chapter by David Berliner, Arizona State University in Federal Market-Based Reforms, (Mathis, W. J., & Trujillo, T. M. 2016) tells a very different story about the role of poverty in the life and educational experiences of our youth.

In fact, one of the outcomes of Dr. Berliner’s research was that “small reductions in family poverty lead to increases in positive school behaviors and better academic performance.

Poverty Research

Here are the other major outcomes of Dr. Berliner’s research.

  • Poverty in the US is greater and of longer duration than in any other rich nations.
  • Poverty, particularly among urban minorities, is associated with academic performance that is well below international means on a number of international assessments.
  • Poverty restricts the expression of genetic talent at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. Dr. Berliner suggests that among the lowest social classes environmental factors, particularly family and neighborhood influences, not genetics, is strongly associated with academic performance.  He explains that among middle class students it is genetic factors, not family and neighborhood factors, that most influences academic performance.
  • Compared to middle class children, severe medical problems affect impoverished youth.  As Dr. Berliner notes, this affects academic performance and life experiences (Berliner, David. “Addressing Poverty.” Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for ESSA. Charlotte: Information Age, 2016. 437-86. Print, Library Copy).

To improve the life and experiences of students in so-called chronically failing schools  the Governor needs to get out of the way, and authorize the Georgia Department of Education to create and fund community-based programs that improve the safety, health, welfare and financial health of families in these school zones.

The schools that Deal wants to target are not isolated entities but are part of a larger system of schools, community services, organizations, businesses, transportation, parks, recreation centers, and more  The school is part of a system and the best way to make improvements is to examine and strengthen the relationships and links within in the web of the system.

From Stand Alone Schools to Community Schools

The DOE needs to waive many restrictions on these schools, and work with school and local community leaders, very much like the Cincinnati plan.  In the Cincinnati plan finances were directed at communities as a whole, than simply using the notion that the school- alone can rescue struggling schools.

I believe the Georgia OSD is flawed and will not carry out the goal of improving test scores or any other aspect of student life. I don’t think Gov. Deal is flawed but he is acting without regard to the wide range of research that we have unearthed in the last decade or so.

Why the Governor has not consulted the Colleges of Education at any of the Universities in the state is a mystery and failure to utilize the research of world renown educators at Georgia State University and the University of Georgia, just to name two our higher education schools.


Why, in Georgia, hasn’t the DOE’s superintendent, Richard Woods, taken the courageous step by opposing Nathan Deal’s ill thought out and unsupported plan.  Is this because it could cost the Superintendent his job in the next election? If he did, however, he would standing  in good company with the previous Georgia School Superintendent, Dr. John Barge, who opposed a similar plan, and angered members of his own political party, but he continued to serve the citizens of Georgia with courage and conviction.

In the next few days we need as many of you to go the voting centers to cast your NO vote on Amendment one.








Georgia Doesn’t Want the State to Take Over Its Schools by Mercedes Schneider

Georgia Doesn’t Want the State to Take Over Its Schools by Mercedes Schneider

With only two weeks to go, Georgia voters will decide to approve or reject Governor Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District, a plan that will authorized a Governor appointed OSD Czar to take over 20 schools/year in Georgia that are on the “chronically failing list.” The OSD plan is based on the New Orleans Recovery School District, which has been in affect just before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

The New Orleans (RSD) has been shown through peer reviewed research that the plan has been a failure (in terms of academic performance, and drop out rates.

The Governor of Georgia convinced enough members of the Georgia Legislature to pass Senate Bill 133, thereby enabling the question to appear on the November 8th ballot.

Mercedes Schneider, Ph.D., is a high school teacher of English in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, located close to New Orleans. She has taught high school not only in Louisiana, but in Rome, Georgia as well.  She is one of the leading thinkers and writers in the field of educational reform.  She is author of three books on educational reform:  A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education (2014)Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools? (2015), and School Choice: The End of Public Education? (2016).

I am re-blogging Mercedes Schneider’s post “Georgia Doesn’t Want the State to Take Over Its Schools“, from her blog with her permission. She blogs at deutsch29. It’s an amazing blog.  You should check it out.

Georgia Doesn’t Want the State to Take Over Its Schools by Mercedes Schneider

On November 08th, 2016, Georgia voters will decide whether they will allow the state to take control of public schools that the state labels as “chronically failing.”

The ballot measure, Amendment 1, is vaguely worded– it does not disclose the fact that school districts will lose money when the state takes control of schools.

As Ballotpedia notes, here is the ballot question that Georgia voters will see:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?

( ) Yes

( ) No

And if Amendment 1 passes, here is the language that would be added to the Georgia constitution:

Paragraph VIII. Opportunity School District. Notwithstanding the provisions of Paragraph II of this section, 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 for schools under the current or prior supervision, management, or operation of the Opportunity School District, all in the manner provided by and in accordance with general law. [Emphasis added.]

The bolded, Georgia-constitution-altering, text above is what Georgia voters will not see as part of the Amendment 1 ballot question text.

However, it seems that word is spreading among Georgia voters, as the October 21, 2016, Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes:

Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed Opportunity School District has significant opposition just weeks ahead of the Nov. 8 election, according to a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll.

The results released Friday found likely voters siding nearly 2-1 against Amendment 1, the referendum that would create a statewide school district to take over Georgia’s lowest performing schools.

The poll question revealed more about the proposal than does the ballot question itself, which has been criticized by opponents as misleading because it does not clearly say that the state would take over schools. …

The resulting state charter schools have no access to local school district funding, but charter schools created as a result of Amendment 1 would get those local tax dollars.

Opponents claim the constitutional amendment would harm school districts financially and undo a history of local control over education.

They also say the ballot wording is misleading, since it does not mention that the state would take over schools and local tax dollars.

Only three days prior, on October 18, 2016, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution also published a piece entitled, “Four Signs Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District May Be in Trouble,”

One of the four “signs” involves Deal’s trying to sell state takeover of schools as a proven solution for keeping pre-high-school dropouts in school:

In a speech last week at the Commerce Club, Deal made a bizarre pitch for the OSD to an engineering association. Johnny Kauffman of 90.1/WABE-FM reported the governor tried to sell the OSD to the engineers as a way to decrease crime threats to their nice cars and nice homes. The governor said:

Why is it that we don’t have so many chronically failing high schools? Those folks are already gone. They’ve already dropped out. So, their bad test scores don’t show up in those high school scores. They’re already out there amongst us. And one thing about crime, there is an entrepreneurial element to it.

If you think that those who are coming out of bad schools and are dropping out and going to crime are going to only steal from people in their school district, you’re wrong. Those people don’t have anything worth stealing in many, many cases. They’re going to go where people have nice cars, nice homes, things that are worth a criminal’s attention. It’s time that we stop that. It’s time that a young person has an opportunity to see that if you will stick with me, and get an education there are jobs that are going to let you make a decent living and you will not have to resort to a life of crime. I’m passionate about this. I hope it comes through. I really am. I believe we have an opportunity, with all the other good things we have done, we have an opportunity to change the dynamic, not only of our state, but of our nation. Because we can show that people regardless of the color of their skin care about children and their education and if we work together we’re going to make a difference in that regard.

Deal’s argument is meant to tap into the fears of the well-to-do. However, a major problem with Deal’s sales pitch that state takeover will keep students in school is that state takeover of schools in New Orleans did not solve the issue. On the contrary, the decentralized nature of the New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) actually fosters the ability of students to leave one independently-operated charter school without confirmation of enrolling in another. Charter schools operate as their own little school “systems”; even an RSD deputy superintendent publicly admitted that he “didn’t know” exactly how many students “fell between the cracks” of RSD’s decentralized school “system.”

Given that Deal is trying to emulate New Orleans’ RSD, Georgia voters should be aware of such perils of decentralization, which is sure to come to any state-run setup that is actually an “opportunity” to proliferate charter schools.

Georgia voters should also realize that state takeover is being phased out in Louisiana; beginning May 2017, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) will gradually resume oversight of the RSD schools. Of course, the complication is that OPSB will actually inherit scores of charter schools that will be run by their own independent, non-elected boards but that will have to answer to some degree to OPSB. It will be possible for charters that do not meet their chartering agreements to once again become traditional, locally-controlled schools. However, it is also possible that a pro-charter OPSB will continue to promulgate charter churn as one charter school closes and another takes its place. In short, it is very difficult to convert an all-charter (formally “state-run”) district back into a traditional, locally-elected-board-controlled school district.

If New Orleans is your model, Georgia beware. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it seems you are.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s four “signs” of Amendment 1 resistance also includes the appearance of a proliferation of anti-OSD yard signs as well as an October 18, 2016, joint press event held by Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and baseball great Hank Aaron.

In his remarks, Young criticizes the top-down approach of Amendment 1:

The family values, the traditions that have made us great as a nation, have very seldom come from the state down. They’ve come from people up. And public education controlled by communities is the basis of a continued, growing, creative society.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Aaron as adding, “We have to defeat this. We have to vote ‘no’ on Amendment 1.”

Interestingly, the Young-Aaron press event occurred within days of the NAACP’s October 15, 2016, ratification of a moratorium on charter schools. One of the NAACP’s concerns is the diverting of public funding “to charter schools at the expense of the public school system.”

The diverting of public school funding to charter schools is also a concern in Massachusetts, which has its own ballot question up for vote on November 08th– Question 2– which involves raising the state’s charter school cap by 12 schools each year. As of this writing, 198 Massachusetts school districts have formally opposed Question 2, which has an astounding $32 million in funding behind it to date, almost 2-to-1 in support– and most of it from a single New York-based, pro-charter organization, Families for Excellent Schools.

Despite the heavy spending pushing Question 2, the public isn’t buying it. According to a poll conducted October 13-16, 2016, 52 percent of Massachusetts voters are against Question 2; 41 percent are in favor (the remaining 7 percent are either undecided or chose not to respond).

As for the funding behind Georgia’s Amendment 1: According to Ballotpedia, any ballot committee spending $500 or more must file its first report 2 weeks prior to the November 08th election, which means Georgians do not get to know about any Amendment 1 spending until October 31, 2016.

Even so, it is pretty clear that the Georgia public is already showing a healthy skepticism towards a bleeding of public school district funding to charter schools in the name of “state-run.”

Truth Be Told: Power, Money and the Georgia Opportunity School District

Truth Be Told: Power, Money and the Georgia Opportunity School District

Some politicians not only seek office, they relish in the power that elected officials have once they get there.  There is also a lot of money in politics, and there is money to be made, especially if you have connections.  You know what I mean?

The Georgia Opportunity School District is a politically motivated plan to enable the Georgia Governor’s office to take at least 20 schools per year out of the hands of local public schools, fire the principal and nearly 1/2 of the faculty at each school, and then turn the schools over to a for-profit charter management company which will come in create charter schools.  There is power and money here.  New Orleans did this just before Katrina, and we now know that destroying the public education system was a disaster, and the devil is in the details of recent NAEP test results.

Governor Nathan Deal is at the center of this effort. He adores the New Orleans Recovery School District.  He took a group of cronies on a junket last winter on the dime of a private company that stands to profit from Deal’s Opportunity School District.

Deal has, without any research evidence to support his view, decided that there are schools in Georgia that need to be rescued, and the best way to do that is to copy plans that have been enacted in New Orleans (New Orleans’ Recovery School District (RSD), and Tennessee.  These plans have been shown to be ineffective and have instead ripped the public schools in question from local control, and turned them over to outside charter groups.  In New Orleans, there is documented evidence that the RSD has been a failure.

University of Arizona researchers Francesca López and Amy Olson, using NAEP data, compared achievement between charter schools and public schools. The study compared charters in Louisiana, most of which are in New Orleans, to Louisiana public schools, controlling for factors like race, ethnicity, poverty and whether students qualified for special education. On eighth-grade reading and math tests, charter-school students performed worse than their public-school counterparts by enormous margins—2 to 3 standard deviations (please see “10 Years After Katrina, New Orleans’ All-Charter School System Has Proven a Failure, In These Times, August 2015)

Maybe this research was not available to Governor Deal, and the officials at the Georgia Department of Education.


Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig collated research in August 2015 from Louisiana authors including Jason France, Mike Deshotels, Mercedes Schneider, Francesca Lopez, and Amy Olson.

In the research reported by Dr. Heilig, Louisiana had the largest disparity in student achievement between charters and traditional public schools.  Most of the charters in Louisiana are in New Orleans.

What was Deal and others in state government thinking when they modeled the Georgia Opportunity School District after the New Orleans’ Recovery School District?

Well, how about power and money.

When politicians such as Nathan Deal use questionable ethics, and little to no research to make a sweeping changes in Georgia education, it is our responsibility to question Deal, and vote NO on question 1 on the November 8th ballot.

The Opportunity School District is a politically charged football that is providing just the kind of outcome that unethical politicians love to have a hand in (and perhaps a hand out).

Questions for the Governor

  • Governor Deal, why don’t you tell the truth about the Opportunity School District?
  • Tell us who is being enriched by your plan, and why is it that your relatives are benefiting financially from the OSD?
  • Will you follow the same plan carried out in New Orleans in which they laid off thousands of staff and teachers?
  •  Will you tell us how the plan will be financed, and how much it will cost the citizens in Georgia?

Give us a shout, or email me at jhassard@mac.com.

Gov. Deal’s Opportunity School District is Now About Poverty and Crime!

Gov. Deal’s Opportunity School District is Now About Poverty and Crime!

That’s right.  In a paid TV advertisement, the Governor is pleading with folks in Georgia to Vote Yes on Question 1 on the November 8th ballot.  His message is that if you vote Yes, then poverty and crime will be affected.

Where did this language come from?  Why is Deal using it to promote his pet education project?

In particular, Gov. Deal is claiming that,

If you vote Yes on Question 1 on the November 8th Ballot, then the Opportunity School District will somehow

  1. End the cycle of poverty and crime
  2. Carry out a rescue operation from 127 failing schools

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-9-04-02-pmThese two new outcomes will result from changing 127 public schools to 127 private charter schools. Now, mind you, in all the documents that were filed in the Georgia Legislature related to Senate Bill 133 during the 2016 legislative session, poverty and crime were not discussed as part of this bill.

In fact, I ran a search of Georgia Senate Bill 133, and neither the word crime or poverty appear in the document.

So it looks like there has been a shift in the rationale for the OSD.  Instead of just improving kids’ test scores on the OSD will reduce crime and end the cycle of poverty.

The 127 schools will do this.

Are you kidding?  The Governor has it backwards.

Georgia citizens will have an opportunity on November 8th to tell the Governor and his cronies that the OSD is a fraud.

According to Nathan Deal’s comments on a 30 second video, the OSD is going to break the cycle of poverty and crime, rescue children trapped in 127 failing schools.

And if you watch another video from Georgia Leads on Education, Gov. Deal’s political action group, you will have to have brown bag handy.

The language and the imagery of the Georgia Leads video tape propaganda serves only the Governor, his daughter-in-law (Denise Deal) whose company (Southern Magnolia Capital) will earn 5% its raising for Deal’s opportunity pac, as well those people who will come into the state and set up private charter schools in local Georgia districts, use the local communities’ money, and have little to no tie to the school community.

This equation was never part off the legislation (Senate Bill 133) that went through the the Georgia Legislature
This equation was never part off the legislation (Senate Bill 133) that went through the the Georgia Legislature

Words like fix, crime, criminal justice system, crisis, less fortunate propagate the Georgia Leads video.  Combined with the Deal 30 second video, we have a newly reconfigured OSD based on poverty and crime.

The one who gets an F is the Governor and his staff that have pushed the OSD.
The one who gets an F is the Governor and his staff who have pushed the OSD, not the 127 schools in the chronically failing list.

But the fundamental problem here, is ancient thinking suggesting that the schools can have the major impact on poverty and crime, when we know that these are more complex issues, and simply holding professional teachers as the one’s responsible for solving a massive problem is unfathomable and unconscionable.

Deal’s view of education, poverty and crime is without any base of research and knowledge.  It is based on undemocratic politics and questionable ethics. The Opportunity School District is rooted in Deal’s ethical and financial problems, and has nothing to do with improving education in Georgia.

Improving School Achievement

The solution to school achievement, as presented by David C. Berliner in his research article, Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform, in Learning From the Federal Market-Based Reforms (Library Copy), edited by William J. Mathis and Trina M. Trujillo is embedded in the problem of poverty.

In 2005, Berliner analyzed the relationships among educational achievement and poverty.  His 2005 article was republished in the Mathis & Trujillo research book, and as Dr. Berliner says, the relationships he describes and arguments he made are exactly the same as today.

In Berliner’s original study, his work is summarized in this sentence.

The data presented in this study suggest that the most powerful policy for improving our nations’ school achievement is a reduction in family and youth poverty (Berliner, p.439)

The fiasco that Deal has run through the state legislature and now put before the voters of Georgia to plunder Georgia school districts by taking possession of more than 120 schools over the next year and beyond is a fraud.

It must be stopped.  It must be voted down.

Vote NO on question 1 on the November 8 Georgia ballot.


If We Vote Yes on Georgia’s Opportunity School District, We’re Doing the Wrong Thing

If We Vote Yes on Georgia’s Opportunity School District, We’re Doing the Wrong Thing

The Artofteachingscience.org blog is up and running.  All of my sites were hacked around October 5, and its taken quite awhile to get all the files cleaned and free of malicious content (malware) that attacked my sites.  This site is one of thousands that are compromised every day.  I spent more than 20 years traveling to Russia, maybe I was acted by some Russian cyber sleuths.  Or maybe, since I responded on Donald Trump’s Twitter account telling how incredibly awful his candidacy for President is, and that if anyone is corrupt, unlawful, a misogynist, or racist, it’s him. In any case, I’ve purchased protection against further incoming viruses, worms, adware, and any other malicious programs lurking in cyber space ready to attack at any time.

I thought it was important to continue with the campaign to defeat Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District (OSD) by bringing Ed Johnson into the conversation.  Ed Johnson has been an active critic of the Governor’s OSD, which is Amendment 1 on the Georgia ballot on November 8.  Those voting yes will approve the Governor’s take over of so-called “chronically failing schools,” while those voting no will keep the integrity of community based education, and keep these schools away from the profiteers waiting on the boarders to stream into the state and set up charter schools.

So, here we begin.

I received a letter from Ed Johnson as a follow-up to a conversations he had with Rep. Joyce Chandler (GA) at an Opportunity School District issues public forum in Atlanta about three weeks ago.

Ed Johnson, who is not only an advocate for quality public education, but is a disciplined scholar on systems education, which has been championed by W. Edwards DemingRussell L. Ackoff and others.

Good day, Rep. Joyce Chandler.

Just a short follow-up to say it was a pleasure meeting and talking with you at last evening’s public forum on OSD issues hosted by BOOK, or Better Options for Our Kids.

As I mentioned, I hold a keen, long-standing interest in improving our public education systems and in inviting others to understand they can be improved and not merely changed, as the Opportunity School District would do (this link takes to an in-depth analysis of the OSD, and supports the views of Ed Johnson).

But, alas, some people conflate improvement and change. Whereas improvement requires the hard, complex work of learning and getting ever newer knowledge, change requires only the easy, simplistic work of doing something different, as OSD and charter school proponents so often assert. Do the wrong thing – and OSD is so obviously the wrong thing to do – will only make matters worse, much worse.

This is much the reason, earlier on, in an open letter, I informed Gov. Nathan Deal of several proven better ways than the known-to-fail Opportunity School District way. Of course, others know of better ways than the OSD way.

I invite you to my open letter to Gov. Deal and his reply, at the link below. The link will take you to the web site of Jack Hassard, Professor Emeritus of Science Education at Georgia State University and a former high school teacher.


If you would care to discuss further, it will be my pleasure.

With kind regards, I am

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA
(404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com