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.








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.

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

The Real Deal: How the Opportunity School District Campaign to Pull the Wool Over the Eyes of Georgians is Being Funded

The Real Deal: How the Opportunity School District Campaign to Pull the Wool Over the Eyes of Georgians is Being Funded

Ever since the US Supreme Court agreed with Citizens United, a Political Action Committee (PAC) in Washington, DC, eliminating restrictions on how corporations and groups can spend money in elections, state and Federal elections, amendments, and other ballot initiatives, the political playing field has dramatically changed.

It’s enabled individual politicians the opportunity to raise untold amounts of money to get elected, re-elected, pay for inauguration parties, and so forth.  But one of the shady tactics that is used by individuals and small groups of politicians is to set up (with the help of their friends and associates) Political Action Committees (501c corporations that claim to do social welfare work to avoid taxes, and make contribution tax-deductible), and then hire people to run the PAC that will use media of all sorts to support a piece of legislation, that in most cases was written by said people.

Enter Nathan Deal, Governor of Georgia, and prime instigator of the Opportunity School District, which Deal claims is a moral obligation to save schools that are struggling–that, is struggling to get kids to pass state mandated tests that often have little to do with helping students learn and flourish.

For example, according to an AJC article, Deal has had experience setting up PACs for his re-election campaign (2014 election), called Georgia Leads.  And thanks to Citizens United, the names of the donors can be kept secret.  The AJC reported, however, that it had been able to find the identities of several big spenders ($150,000 or more), and they were special interest groups that had “business” with the state.  But all of this is not transparent.

These social welfare groups (PACs) are not just a sham, but a political device used to put out information for or against a politician, idea, bill, or amendment.  Deal is using this device to fund advertisements and information to convince voters in Georgia to vote “yes” on the November ballot on Amendment 1, the plan for the state to take over and run schools that are on “The List of Chronically Failing Schools,” twenty at a time.  The ballot language doesn’t give you this impression.  It reads:

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

Deal has set up two political action committees, Georgia Leads and Real Georgia.  Each is run by Deal associates, and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.

Jim Wallas, in a piece on Atlanta unfiltered, followed the money trail in Deal’s PAC called Real PAC, but discovered that Real PAC, even though it raised money, and shared its mailing list with Deal’s re-election campaign of 2014, was nothing more than a way to ask for money for Deal’s election.

Slippery at best, these state PACs seem to be ways to enrich and re-elect and advocate for policy, but offer little in the way of social welfare.  For example, its hard to find out what happens to funds that stay in these PACs.  Wallas writes:

Real PAC renewed its corporate registration in May after reporting a bank balance of just $841 in January. Its account could be much larger, though, if Deal follows the precedent set by former Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Perdue transferred all his remaining campaign money — more than $789,000 — into Perdue PAC in June 2007. The PAC filed regular disclosures of its finances for a while but nothing since 2010, when it reported $118,000 cash on hand. It’s anybody’s guess where that money is now or how it was spent.
Deals campaign, at last report on Oct. 25, had more than $1.1 million on hand. His final disclosure for the 2014 election is due next month (WALLS, By JIM. “Atlanta Unfiltered.” 3 Reasons Why Real PAC Deserves a Closer Look Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2016).

To give you an idea how these PACs co-mingle with “real” campaigns for re-election or to promote a policy, you might want to read these AJC articles, here, here, and here.  It’s clear that Deal is co-mingling with two PACs to influence the November ballot initiative on the Opportunity School District.

Again, without transparency, these two PACs are clearly in Deal’s pockets, and are being funded by corporations that have a big stake in state legislation.  Supporting Deal’s plan to create the Opportunity School District will be a Quid Pro Quo for organizations that contribute to Mr. Deal’s PACs.

Deal’s campaign to create the OSD, lacks support from school districts, professional education associations, Georgia state Universities, the PTA, Georgia School Superintendents Association, Georgia AFL-CIO state Chapter, Georgia Federation of Teachers, Georgia Association of Educators.

I don’t know about the Georgia Department of Education.  Richard Woods, Georgia’s School Superintendent, has been silent, at least publicly. A search of Georgia Department of Education website for “Opportunity School District” results in zero hits.  So, it seems that the DOE is not involved in the Governor’s initiative, although it has its own school turn-around strategies based on Federal turnaround policies.

The Governor is using PACs to put out propaganda that supports a failed system of working with struggling schools.  The fact that this amendment does not have the support of organizations and people who have a direct connection with teaching and learning should set off alarm bells.

But, for people like Nathan Deal, its his legacy, not real devotion to the improvement of education for Georgians.

Who Are the Elites Responsible for November Debacle Known as the Opportunity School District?

Who Are the Elites Responsible for November Debacle Known as the Opportunity School District? (Amendment 1 on your Georgia Ballot)

The Opportunity School District will be voted on by the citizens of Georgia on November 8.  It is amendment 1 on the Georgia ballot.

A very small number of political elites is responsible for this debacle, and putting thousands of students and their parents, as well teachers and administrators in harm’s way. The leader of the pack is of course the Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal.  Deal took a few legislators and the Georgia Commissioner of Education on a junket to New Orleans (on the dime of a charter group that stands to make a ton of money if the OSD passes on the ballot.).  They were wined and dined by elites in New Orleans who convinced them that the New Orleans Recovery Plan was so good, that they must carry out a similar plan in Georgia.

Unfortunately, the Georgia elites are ill-informed, and have disregarded significant research by Professor Kristen L. Buras, Georgia State University.  In one report (Review of the Louisiana Recovery School District: Lessons for the Buckeye State) which the elites should have examined.  The review of the report was published in 2012 by the National Educator Policy Center.  Buras concludes the Louisiana Recovery School District is a plan that advocates the replacement of public schools with privately operated charter networks.  The report, written by the Fordham Foundation is “thin on data and thick on claims, and be read with great caution by policymakers in Ohio and elsewhere.

The elites in Georgia did not read this report.  My belief is that reports that do not fit with their political views are not to be considered.  And indeed, if there is evidence that doesn’t support their view, there must be something wrong with the way the evidence was gathered, or the research on the issue is simply not “settled.”

The House and Senate of the Georgia General Assembly voted on separate bills, and the bills barely passed.  In fact, in the Senate it came down to strong arming two democrats who joined with all the Georgia republican senators, enabling the bill to pass by one vote (38 – 16).  Two-thirds majority was needed to pass the bill.  Who were these elites in the senate.  Connect to this page, and you can see them and read their names.

The Opportunity School District is an opportunity for these elites to tell the rest of that we don’t know a thing about working with struggling schools, the students and their parents, nor the teachers and their administrators.  They have convinced themselves, with the help of their friends in the charter school industry, that they know how to make kids do better on state mandated standardized tests.  And they know better how to work with families of color, and families that are struggling economically.

Instead of working with the State Department of Education, and coordinating efforts with local school districts, Nathan Deal barges ahead and if the amendment passes, he will appoint an Opportunity School District Czar who will work out of an office in Atlanta, and “service” a school district of 20 schools (year 1) that could range from Blue Ridge to Valdosta, and districts in between.

Such an idea pushed by these elites in Georgia is thick-headed, unintelligent, and scary.

You might read this post, and then when you go into the ballot box between now and election day, Vote No on Amendment 1.