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.

 

The Undemocratic Character of Georgia’s Chronically Failing School Turnaround Amendment

The Undemocratic Character of Georgia’s Opportunity School District

Over the next several weeks, leading up to the November 8th election, we will explore the Opportunity School District from the standpoint of research just published by the National Education Policy Center.  The 697 page book of 28 research chapters addresses the nature of schooling entitled Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms (Mathis, W. J., & Trujillo, T. M. (2016). Learning from the federal market-based reforms: Lessons for ESSA (The National Education Policy Center Series). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing).  Much of my criticism of the Opportunity (aka Misfortunate) School District will be based on the research reported in this new publication.

The misguided Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, has pushed through an amendment to the Georgia Constitution (if approved by the electorate) to will enable a czar within the Governor’s office to name 20 schools per year from around the state that are considered “failing schools” based on the state’s use of high stakes testing.  Using an arbitrary cutoff score if 60 on Georgia’s school evaluation measure, the state has identified a list of schools around Georgia that they believe are chronically failing.

The Georgia plan is essentially a “turnaround” strategy of school reconstitution.  There is a quartet of plans out there including transformation (fire the principal followed by changing around the school and testing the heck out of students to see if worked), turnaround (fire the principal and no more than 50% of the teachers, and then test the heck out of the students), restart (bring in a charter school), and closure (a devastating measure, as Chicago can attest). Closing schools is probably the worst strategy to be used in that communities are weakened and massive void of a school affects the entire community.

According to Senate Bill 133, which authorized an amendment to be placed on the November ballot, the state will use the “restart” model, and turn all “chronically failing” schools into charter schools.

The plan to restart chronically failing schools was a power play by the Governor, and 159 members of the Georgia General Assembly, as well as the charter school lobby, and funds from several philanthropic market-based reform groups.  There was nearly no advice from the 181 school districts and school boards around the state, nor the 114,000 teachers and the families of 1.6 million students.  Yes, the amendment will be put on the ballot, but as most amendments are written, it is biased in favor of Governor Deal’s pet idea.

The proposed ballot title is:

“ 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

Most citizens will not know that if they vote “yes” they are authorizing a czar in the Governor’s office to fire every principal in the chronically failing schools, and most likely start mass firings of up to 50% of the teachers in these schools.  They also do not know that a charter school management company will be hired to manage the schools, and the funds to manage these schools will come from the local school budget.  They also will not know that the charter school management company will be able to use millions of dollars worth of school buildings and land paid for by local citizens.  So in midst of local public school districts will be solitary schools, say in Kingsland or Bainbridge, that belong to a district whose superintendent works out of an office in downtown Atlanta!

Worse, the research on test-based sanctions does not support Governor Deal’s takeover plan.  The plan is a punishment model, that will turn 20 schools into economic and profitable commercial ventures, at the cost of these communities’ students, teachers and parents.  The Deal plan is based on the New Orleans Recovery School District, a corporate take-over of schools in the city, which has not been a very successful plan.

The punishment model has largely been implemented in school districts of low-income families and children of color.  And the largest form of turnaround mentality is that of mass layoffs.  And according to research reported in Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms, with over 40 years of study, the use of mass firings is not supported by empirical evidence (Mathis, W. J., & Trujillo, T. M., 2016).

The character of the Deal model is not only undemocratic, but goes against the basic principles of American public education.  It is best described in Diane Ravitch’s book, Reign of Error when she quoted one of the founders of liberty, John Adams.  He said:

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expense of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.

This is the first of a series of posts detailing why the Opportunity School District is a bad idea for education in Georgia, and why it must be voted down on November 8th.

Vote NO on Amendment 1 on the November 8th ballot.

 

 

 

 

Beware of Senate Resolution 287: The Opportunity to Take Over Public Schools

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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.

Watch out.

Stop the Louisiana Style Take Over of Georgia’s Struggling School Communities

Ted Terry, State Campaign Director, Georgia AFL-CIO and I have been communicating about the plan being proposed by Governor Deal to take over Georgia’s “failing” schools by implementing a Louisiana style state-wide recovery school district.  Ted Terry is organizing a campaign that we all should support to fight against this take over by the state of schools that need direct assistance community wide, and not becoming a charter school run by corporate charter companies that will be interested in only one thing: making a profit on the backs of the students by indoctrinating them with a diet of worksheets and drill and practice to get ready for tests that will be used to decide the school’s profitability.

Oh, and if they really use the Louisiana Recovery School plan, there is a very good chance that many teachers will be fired (surely the principal will be ousted), and replaced with teachers from America’s top temp agencies: Teach for America and The New Teacher Project.

Research by Professor Kristin Buras of Georgia State University shows that experienced teachers in New Orleans were replaced with non-certified and inexperienced teachers.  The average number of years of experience for many of the New Orleans school in Recovery Project is very close to 1 (one).   Do you want that for Georgia schools?

So, here is some material prepared by Ted Terry.  I urge you to use this information, and the link below to take action on Governor Deal’s plan to take over Georgia’s struggling schools.

Subject: Send a letter: STOP Louisiana Style School Takeover Scheme

I wrote a letter for the Action Network letter campaign “STOP Louisiana Style School Takeover Scheme”.

Politicians in Atlanta have cut billions from local school districts for over a decade. This has resulted in larger class sizes, teacher furloughs, and an increased property tax burden. Nathan Deal was just elected to a second term, as Governor — now he is proposing that he also become the education Czar of Georgia by holding the power to put schools on a list that could be taken over by central command, in downtown Atlanta at the Twin Towers.

This Louisiana style school takeover scheme would give a special set of bureaucrats in Atlanta, appointed by the Executive Branch, the power to declare your local school or school district “failing” and then take it over. This simply is a bad deal for schools that are put on a failing list based on uncertain and fluctuating “data” points, that sets up some schools for failure, according to the state’s definition of failure.

There is no disagreement about the importance of turning around so-called failing schools. However the scheme that the Governor is proposing simply has been shown to be the wrong approach. After nine years in New Orleans, Louisiana, only 4 of the 107 schools taken over by the Recovery School District score above the state average. Please email (right side —>) your State Senator and State Representative today. Tell them to vote NO on Senate Bill 133.

Can you join me and write a letter? Click here.

The work being done by Ted Terry is important and crucial to defeat this unjust plan.