The Georgia Opportunity School District Slips Away from the Hands of Privatizers

The Georgia Opportunity School District Slips Away from the Hands of Privatizers.  This is a great victory of teachers and their students, and the integrity of local control of the education of youth.

Source: NY Times Election Watch NYTimes.com, extracted 10/9/16
Source: NY Times Election Watch NYTimes.com, extracted 10/9/16

There were no professional educational organizations that were part of Nathan Deal’s plan to take “chronically failing” schools out of the able hands of local education school districts.  Deal was and probably still is on the wrong side of education, and questions related to provide a system that promotes continuous improvement.

He now much congratulate the groups that supported the opposition, and reach out to the State Department of Education, and turn the improvement of education in the schools over to local districts who may use the DOE as a collaborative partner, and resource.

If Mr. Deal intends to carry out his threat to “watch” how local districts use funds, then he should be called out, and told to stick to the business of Governor.  Much will happen as a result of this vote.  What kind of Governor will emerge from his office over the next week, or will he turn his attention to bigger and perhaps more important issues such as running for higher office, joining the Clinton administration.

Let’s Vote the Opportunity School District Down: Vote No on Amendment 1, Georgia Ballot

Let’s Vote the Opportunity School District Down: Vote No on Amendment 1, Georgia Ballot

For the past six months, we’ve documented why the Opportunity School District is a bad deal for Georgia schools.  Deal says that the OSD will enable parents and teachers to fix Georgia’s failing schools.  This is such a very big untruth.  The OSD will turn these schools over to a Czar appointed by Gov. Deal, and the Czar will be able to fire and hire at will.

I voted No on Amendment 1.  I hope you will join me tomorrow.

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.

Courage

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deal, The Bully, Calls Local School Boards Power Hungry Monopolies Because They Oppose His Misfortunate School District

Deal, The Bully, Calls Local School Boards Power Hungry Monopolies Because They Oppose His Misfortunate School District

  • monopoly: exclusive control of a commodity or service in a particular market
  • bully: a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.

Governor Nathan Deal is calling local school boards a power-hungry monopoly because they oppose his Opportunity School District which would steal 20 schools per year from the same local school boards.  Deal’s definition of a monopoly (according to an AJC report) are entities “that have no competition and see no reason to change.”

Deal, I suppose, is angry that local districts are really not monopolies, but in fact run by democratically elected school boards, which indeed, change.  However, since the Federal No Child Left Behind Law, and Race to the Top, the biggest obstacle facing local schools is the State which carries out the laws of the Federal Government.

Schools districts are not monopolies (thank goodness) but independent entities that have the right and responsibility to educate the youth in its communities.  The only monopoly in the State seems to be the Governor’s office which wants to control educating children in direct opposition to the Georgia Constitution.

The Georgia Department of Education rank-orders all schools in the state on a scale with 100 being the top score. This score is primarily based on achievement test scores. Any school that has a scale-score less than 60 for three consecutive years is put on the list of chronically failing schools.  It’s from this list that the Governor will be able pick his schools that are “chronically failing” and put them under his control.

Many school districts are opposed to the Governors plan. So now the governor is lashing out saying  he will punish districts if his plan is defeated. He says he will mess with the districts use and access to money and will require districts to give parents a choice in sending students in “failing schools” to a better school in the district.  This is nothing new.  Districts have in place the ability to do this, but it often is simply not realistic for parents who would find it difficult to provide the transportation for their children.

The Governor is acting like a spoiled child.  Maybe he needs detention.

I voted no today on Amendment 1.  Please join me and vote no on Deal’s plan.

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.”