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

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 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 |

If Poverty & Financial Hardship Affect Cognitive Function, Then is the Opportunity School District a Good Idea?

If Poverty & Financial Hardship Affect Cognitive Function, Then is the Opportunity School District a Good Idea?

The Opportunity School District is a plan by the Governor’s Office in Georgia to take over “chronically failing” schools across the state.  To be voted on in the November 8 election, if passed, schools will be selected by an OSD Superintendent (Czar), from a list of schools that fall at the bottom of a rank ordered list of schools across the state based on state-mandated multiple choice achievement tests along with other factors such as progress to round out a complete score called CCRPI.

A school’s CCRPI is an over all score and values are used to rank order schools from high to bottom.  Schools producing CCRPI scores below “60” are on a list called “chronically failing” are eligible to be pulled out of their local district and pushed to the state Opportunity School District with administrative office presumably near the governor’s office.

It might be better for the OSD to rent a hangar at the Charlie Brown Airport, in Fulton County.  As I mentioned in an earlier post having a private pilot’s license might just be the ticket  to get folks to visit OSD schools spread across 59,425 square miles.

Oddly the Georgia Department of Education is not privy to the OSD, meaning that there will be two independent state-wide administrative bodies competing for the same pool of resources.

Seems to me like a bunch of bull promoted as a vanity project to make Governor Deal look righteous.

Many (perhaps all) of the schools eligible for OSD have very high percentages of students living in poverty and/or economic hardship.  To remedy this fact, the Governor is going conduct mass firings of principals and up to half the teachers and support staff.  So half the teachers that have worked and may have lived close to the school community will be given the boot.

The evidence based on experiences in New Orleans is that the teachers who replace the fired educators will be non-certified teachers from the temp agencies, Teach For America and the New Teacher Project.

Free or reduced lunch is not a perfect measure of the poverty level of students attending a specific school, but it the best measure we have that we can use to predict how well kids will do in school, especially on state mandated achievement tests.

Many of the students whose school will taken by the OSD are living in poverty and face some form of economic hardship.

A longitudinal study (1985 – 2010) of 3,400 young adults was carried out to investigate the relationship between poverty and economic hardship, and cognitive function. The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, in advance of Volume 52, Issue 1 (January 2017).  In this report, “Sustained Economic Hardship and Cognitive Function: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study, by Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, the authors collected income data over the period of the study, and in 2010, tested the participants using three cognitive aging exams.

Four groups of participants emerged:

  1. Never in poverty
  2. Less than 1/3 of time
  3. From 1/3 to nearly 100% of the time
  4. Always in poverty

The results showed a strong and graded association between greater exposure to economic hardship and worse cognitive function.  The researchers concluded that poverty and economic hardship may be important contributors of cognitive aging.

The lead investigator, Dr. Zeki Al Hazzouri, said that maintaining cognitive abilities is a key part of health.  He made it clear that poverty and economic hardship most likely contribute to premature aging.

Not only that, there is clear evidence that poverty has a direct association with performance on academic scores and other school measurable (Graph 1 & Graph 2).

Using data from the Georgia Department of Education, Graph 1 plots CCRPI and percent poverty.  For these data there a strong relationship between CCRPI scores and student poverty.  Lower test scores are associated with higher poverty rates.  The same relationship is true when we plot achievement scores and poverty percent (Graph 2) (CCRPI and Achievement Scores and Percent of Poverty, Georgia Department of Education).

Graph 1: CCRPI Score and Percent Poverty


Graph 2: Achievement Points and Percent Poverty



Are charter schools the answer to the problem of chronically failing schools?  Is it a valid idea to replace public schools with charter schools and expect the outside force of a charter school to do better than regular public schools.

The OSD is a misplaced idea simply to give a few politicians a feel good experience at the cost of thousands of Georgia parents and their children.

We have already dismissed the idea that charter schools are miracles falling out of the sky.  In the last post I showed how P.L. Thomas put this to rest with his analysis of the charter school sham.

Secondly, and perhaps even more important is the fact that charter schools foster a re-segration of schools.  In Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for ESSA. Ed. By William J. Mathis and Tina M. Trujillo. Charlotte: Information Age, 2016, Gary Orfield, in his chapter entitled “A New Civil Rights Agenda for American Education, 279 – 313 provides critical information for policy makers about charter schools, race and civil rights.

Orfield makes it clear that so-called “choice” in education (ergo, charter schools) leads to a stratification of educational opportunity, and in my view, the Opportunity School District is a perfect example of stratification.

Charter schools do far worse than regular public schools.  In earlier posts, I’ve cited the research of Michael Marder, at the University of Texas.  He has examined the relationship between poverty concentration and percentage of students meeting SAT criterion scores across all Texas Hugh Schools. Take a look at the chart below.  We see here that Marden’s graph is similar to the Georgia graphs.  The higher the level of poverty, the lower the test scores.

But look.

Charter schools, irrespective of poverty level, are at the bottom of the graph.  They form a straight line, showing how ineffective they are compared to regular public schools.



The schools that will be part of the OSD will most likely be in metropolitan areas of the state (Atlanta, Athens, Columbus, Savannah, Augusta).  Most of the students attending these schools will either be living in poverty, or facing some form of economic hardship.  Simply changing a school from a public school to a charter does nothing to improve the economic status of the parents and their children in this schools.

Gary Orfield says that a new civil rights agenda is needed to remedy this and many other problems.  We need to understand that identifying each school as chronically failing without considering the context of the school raises serious civil rights issues. Orfield offers this is something to think about:

Educational stratification and inequalities today are basically defined by school-district boundary lines, much more than by problems with on district (or school, my addition), so civil rights remedies must have a metropolitan dimension.  This is vital not just for the central cities but to provide stability and block resegregation by race and class in growing sectors of suburbia. Boundary lines and the housing segregation which makes them so significant must be central foci. If opportunity is allocated on the basis of space within a metropolitan area, crossing boundary lines and regional cooperation arrangements in schools and housing become urgent priorities. (Orfield, G.  “A New Civil Rights Agenda for American Education,” Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for ESSA. Ed. William J. Mathis and Tina M. Trujillo. Charlotte: Information Age, 2016. 293).

As Ed Johnson and others have spoken and written, the issues of students in any school need to be embraced within a systems model of education.  There is an interconnectivity among schools in a district or region, and separating one from the other because of performance of achievement tests is bogus.  But more than that, it leads to a non-solution.

In order to make sure that students have a chance to be fully functioning and healthy human beings, they need to be living in an environment where they see hope and love, and that the community pulls together to help each other.  A community based agenda is needed for schools to improve for our students, not one of isolating the school from the community to be run by outsiders.

Deal’s OSD is not only a bad deal, its without merit and is violating the civil rights of the students involved.







P.L. Thomas On “Miracle” Schools or Political Sham?–Take Heed Georgia

P.L. Thomas On “Miracle” Schools or Political Sham?–Take Heed Georgia

Georgia is on the verge of approving a constitutional amendment (Amendment 1 on the November 8 Georgia ballot) that would enable the Governor’s office to go in and rescue children who are enrolled in “failing schools” across the state, that got on a list based on student performance on state mandated multiple choice tests.  The cut off score is 60–who knows why this number was selected. There is no acceptable rationale for an arbitrary number to classify children as “failing.” But…

The Governor intends to set up the Opportunity School District, which will mean 20 new charter schools per year, run by an appointee out of the Governor’s office, which is in downtown Atlanta, quite far from Brunswick or Toccoa.  It will be a state-wide school district encompassing 59,425 square miles.  Imagine a supervisor, curriculum director, test coördinator, indeed, the new superintendent of the Opportunity School District driving around the state to visit these schools.  I suggest an airplane.  My friend and colleague Mr. Dallas Stewart, who was the science supervisor for the State Department of Education many years ago when I first moved to Georgia, had a pilot’s license, and often flew around the state to visit schools across the landscape.

And two other points. The first is all the schools in the OSD will be charter schools based on the state/federal turnaround policy in which the local school principal and up to half the teachers will be shown the door in a mass firing, whose replacements are to be determined by the superintendent in Atlanta. Financial responsibility rests with local school board.  The charter schools will be managed by for-profit charter management organizations, who no doubt will be enriched with public funds.

This a map of Georgia's Opportunity School District, which covers 59,425 square miles. This will mean that Georgia will have the largest school district in the USA. Maybe a pilot's license should be required along with administrator certification.
This is a map of Georgia’s Opportunity School District, which covers 59,425 square miles. The distance north to south on I-75 is 365 miles from Ringgold to Valdosta, and east to west from La Grange to Savannah is 260 miles. This will mean that Georgia will have the largest school district in the USA. Maybe a pilot’s license should be required along with administrator certification to be the new superintendent of the OSD

The second point is Governor Deal’s Opportunity School District is modeled after Louisiana’s Recovery School District and Tennessee’s Achievement District.  He and a small group of legislators and other government officials went to New Orleans to see the Recovery operation up close and personal.  They were treated to flashy slide shows portraying the 10 year Recovery district as h-u-g-e success.

As you will read, the Louisiana and Tennessee recovery districts have been shown by multiple sources not to be cracked up to what they claim.  They are not the successes they claim to be.

They have been discredited. Read ahead.

Will the Governor’s OSD be the next Louisiana or Tennessee recovery shame?

Enter the Research and Writing of P.L. Thomas.

In a chapter in the recent book entitled Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms, (Mathis, W. J., & Trujillo, T. M. 2016) Dr. Thomas has called into question the so-called “miracle schools,” promoted by Rod Paige, superintendent of Houston School District (in the 1990s), and George W. Bush, then, the Governor of Texas.

Bush and Page made outlandish claims about how Houston schools had shown great increases on student test performance, only to be discredited later.  But, as Thomas points out, it didn’t matter because when Bush became President in 2001 he took Page with him to become Secretary of Education.  This was quickly followed by the passage of the No Child Left Behind fiasco, which put American public schools and their students into a test-based punitive system of education–the Houston “miracle schools” on a national scale.

It too has been discredited.

The “miracle schools” that Dr. Thomas talks about were not just a marvel in Houston, but the idea spread around the country like a virus infecting Washington DC under Michelle Rhee, the Harlem Children’s Zone which, was directed by Geoffrey Canada, and then spread south to invest New Orleans, and Tennessee.  It’s gone berserk in California according to Carol Burris, who is writing a four-piece research study how charter schools are corrupt and unregulated.

But Dr. Thomas makes it very clear that there is something sinister behind these miracle schools.  In the cases he’s investigated, nearly all use politics to claim how great the schools are for kids.  Yet, these have been discredited.  Here is how he puts it,

The “miracle” school story is a political charade, one that works for political gain, but it is built on a fishnet narrative of public schools in crisis, “bad” teachers, and corrupt teachers’ unions that can only be saved through a potpourri of neoliberal and free-market reforms. Even more disturbing, “miracle” claims as a basis for education reform policy have resulted in three decades of wasted time and funding without any legitimate attempts to address social and educational inequity (Thomas, P. J. “”Miracle” Schools or Political Scam?” Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for ESSA. Ed. William J. Mathis. By Tina M. Trujillo. Charlotte: Information Age, 2016. 223-31. Print. The National Education Policy Center Series).

I believe that what Dr. Thomas has described in this research paper, is an exact description of the Georgia Opportunity School District. It will not result in “miracle schools” but is in fact a political scam, led by the Governor of Georgia.

Nathan Deal has based the legislation which will be voted on by Georgia electorate on November 8 on failed and discredited initiatives in other states.

Ballot initiative no. 1 will enable to the Governor to pull off a political scam that could well be one of the biggest “charades” in Georgia’s education history.

Vote No on Georgia Ballot Initiative No. 1 on November 8