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The Real Truth About Who is Against the Charter School Amendment

There are two sides to every story. Before you decide which way to vote on the Charter School Amendment, you should explore which groups are for and which are against.

There has been much recent discussion regarding Georgia’s upcoming Charter School Amendment, which would amend the state’s constitution to allow state authorization of charter schools. I’ve also seen many comments on the supporters of the amendment and where the funding is coming from and what they are going to gain from this. Now, I am not a politician and I am not an educator. I don’t serve on any boards. I am a simply a parent of children in a charter school that wants to keep her options.

Because I have a personal stake in the outcome, I talk to a lot of people about the amendment. Many are in agreement, some want to learn more about it. One night after coming out of a town hall meeting, I found a flyer on my car with a big red apple and a mean looking teacher that shouted, “VOTE NO – The Vote Smart Campaign.” I wondered who actually went to the trouble to print these color, two-sided cardstock flyers and how could they afford it?

I sat down to read over the flyer. They listed the reasons the amendment was bad and listed the “bad people” that support it: Georgia Parent Advocacy Network (GPAN), Governor Nathan Deal, Georgia Chamber of CommerceAmericans for Prosperity100 DadsBrighter Georgia Education Coalition and Students First.

Then they listed the opposers, but not fully by name. The flyer said: “Every major state education organization in Georgia, including PAGE, GAE, GPTA, GSSA, GSBA, GREA and GAEL is working with the Vote Smart campaign to defeat passage of this amendment.” It goes on to ask for contributions: www.votesmartgeorgia.com. Well, that name sounds kind of familiar. It sounds like www.votesmart.org, a non-partisan reference for biographies, voting records, issue positions, ratings, speeches and campaign finance information for all politicians. It is pretty clear that this flyer is supposed to represent votesmart.org, except that the real votesmart.org doesn’t tell you how to vote, it simply gives the information and lets you make your own choice. 

Now it is time to have some open dialogue about who is funding opposition to the amendment and why their names are not spelled out in the flyer: Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE), Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), Georgia School Superintendents Association (GSSA), Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA), Georgia Retired Educators Association (GREA) and Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL). These are not education organizations, but EDUCATOR organizations that protect the interests of school employees and administrators that are paid with our tax dollars. And all of them have links to the votesmartgeorgia.com website.

Now I know what you are going to say: “There are no teachers’ unions in Georgia.” Let’s be clear-there is no legal collective bargaining. But the unions exist! Let’s start with Georgia Association of Educators. Their mission, according to their own web site: “GAE exists to support, protect, and strengthen those who nurture Georgia’s children.” GAE averages $9 million in annual revenues. The National Education Association (NEA) is the parent to Georgia’s GAE. NEA is one of the most powerful political groups in America. NEA spent over $50 million in political activities and lobbying alone in 2009. They have over 3 million due paying members. Like most unions, it exists solely to protect its members. It rises to challenge education reform in the form of school choice, especially charter schools. Georgia Federation of Teachers is another union. They contributed to the campaign funds of many Georgia elected officials in the state House and Senate. Union state level political contributions from Georgia groups total at least $1 million annually.

The next time that you see news coverage of a charter amendment debate or political forum, take note of who represents each side. They are easy to recognize: supporters are parents, students and charter leaders. They have a positive attitude and try to engage in meaningful debate. Opponents are even easier to spot: they are union leaders, lobbyists, special interest groups and politicians. They frown and look angry and demand you to listen. They don’t like to be questioned, and they try to motivate you with fear. And they never bring along children.

Don’t be fooled…vote kid smart, Georgia.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Vote-Kid-Smart-Georgia/422487624453474

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Common Sense October 02, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Steely, 1162 (Amendment 1) creates another layer of government (this is conservative how?), that will attempt to solve a 'problem' (for those of you that hate all-things traditional public school related) that the government itself has created (red tape for districts and teachers, coupled with under-funding these incessant mandates). And who is leading the pack? The Mighty Chip Rogers - who wouldn't dare send his own children to public school - along with Reps like Alisha Morgan who stands to make oodles of dollars if this amendment passes - after all, her husband is a LOBBYIST for a group that promotes school choice! I'm oh-so glad that these people are 'looking out for my kids.' Funny joke!
Jim Beam October 02, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Frank, you've never refuted a single thing I've typed. Instead, you use a bunch of nonsense to try and obfuscate the facts. Fact is...we got to the bottom of the rankings after DOUBLING per-child spending. Fact is...Cherokee County SAT scores just hit record highs in spite of SPENDING CUTS! More refutation of your insistence that 'more spending' is the solution to every problem. Why is it that pointing out our dismal state HS grad rate is "uncivil"? Why is it that pointing out the repeated failures of increased-spending is "uncivil"? Why is pointing out the corruption of APS, DeKalb, Clayton, and Bibb "uncivil"? That's the problem with your side of this debate, Frank - you're more concerned with 'hurt feelings' than in discussing the facts. Fact is, employers of today and tomorrow do not care about one's hurt feelings. They only care about having qualified people to do the work that's out there. Right now, our TPS is failing to provide that for at least 33% of the HS kids who aren't graduating and an untold number of students who are but who still need remedial assistance. Why is it "uncivil" to point this out? It's telling that your numerous personal insults to me are OK and not considered 'uncivil'. Hypocrisy, thy name is Frank Jones. Your long-held beliefs don't need to be challenged. History has already judged them to be failures.
No More Bullies October 02, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Kara, I am not confused, you are not as informed as you have been led to believe. The Georgia Charter Educational Foundation, the governing board that "appoints" your local council, was founded in 2008. Actually, they were incorporated in Florida first in 2008, then reincorporated in Georgia in 2009 in order to meet the legal requirements to hold a charter. Their first meeting was June 2, 2008. Why were they incorporated in Florida first? Not sure why five Georgia residents who were interested in charter schools went to Florida to form.... maybe because 20 Charter Schools USA staff members were at their first meeting, before they were even hired? See page 3 for discussion of "growth strategies" on entering the Georgia market. There are still vacancies at your school (mostly middle grades) and most people do not believe there was ever a list of 2,500 students-- mainly because no more than 200 parents ever came to a public meeting in support of the school when the school board was considering the petition last summer. Minutes from the first GCEF meeting can be found here-- http://www.cherokee.k12.ga.us/Lists/News%20%20Announcements/Attachments/113/G-%20GCEF%20minutes.pdf
Monty Brewster October 02, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Dan, thank you for finally recognizing the success of CCSD.
Jennifer Hall October 02, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Danny, when HAVEN'T you been insulting toward someone who doesn't agree with you? That's the question that would be easier to answer. And.... one more time... a 67% graduation rate DOES NOT MEAN a 33% dropout rate. It means that 67% graduate in 4 years and 3 summers. Some students require an extra summer, an extra year. They graduate, but later! So, please, for the love of pete, stop equating the inverse of the graduation rate as a dropout rate. It's just not so and your continued insistence will not make it thus. This has been explained to you many times, online and publicly, and it's time for it to sink in. And, as to your snide remark hoping that I don't teach logic and deductive reasoning -- I sure do, and I am excellent at what I do. I also teach reading and listening comprehension. My classroom is crowded, but there's always room for one more.
Monty Brewster October 02, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Oh Dan... the 67% graduation rate doesn't mean that 33% are not getting their diploma. That's only if you are silly enough to take the inverse, which would make sense if you didn't know that the 67% only includes students that graduate in 4 years. Many of those 33% graduate the following year or take part in another type of program to gain their diploma. Yes, some do drop out, but there are many that are counted as a drop out when they transfer schools and the transfer school does not report back the enrollment of those students, which happens more often than one would think. Janet Read did an excellent job of explaining this in her debate for School Board Chairman. Here's the link - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3WIclLDABI&feature=relmfu
Monty Brewster October 02, 2012 at 09:42 PM
David - Here is a site that shows more factual evidence about those SAT scores that cause our state to be ranked so low. http://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/policyblog/detail/sat-scores-by-state-2011 Please not that 80% of the student population took the SAT in GA. Compare that to those ranking higher than GA. Most of the top 20 had fewer than 10% of their student population take the SAT. If you compare the top 10% of students in any state, they should rank much higher than 80% of any other state. Now, what you really need to do is compare the top 5% for each state, or have every state require all students take the SAT to be able to have a fair comparison. If you compare the top 5% of the worst school system in the state, you'll likely see them perform better than the top 80% of any other school system. Also, I've seen people talk about this previously on here, so it is a bit redundant, but not all students can be educated at the same costs. Special Ed and ESOL/ESL students cost much much more than an Honor's or regular ed student, especially those with a lot of parental involvement.
Rae Harkness October 02, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Let's draw a parallel here. Let's say Sally loses her job and gets an EBT card with $400 a month to feed her family of 3. She could go to Publix and spend it in one trip. She might go to Sam's club, buy in bulk and trade excess with another friend. Or she might study weekly flyers and visit several stores to maximize her money. She might buy generic food, or she might buy gourmet cuts of meat. Whatever she does with her $400, it is her decision and she has to live with the consequences. She has CHOICE. Why should we have less choice than EBT users when it comes to educating our children?
Rae Harkness October 02, 2012 at 09:48 PM
You say you don't want links-when you go to the Georgia Federation of Teachers site-it calls itself a "union of professionals". Say what you like, but let's call it what it is.
Monty Brewster October 02, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Dan, most students are not just going to start failing after a few years of "austerity" cuts and underfunding of schools. These students that performed so well in Cherokee County have been going though a system that has been setting them up for success for the past 13 years. So maybe we need to look back 13 years ago and see what change occurred? Well, that is when the county was on the brink of losing accreditation and a new Superintendent was brought in - Dr. Frank Petruzielo. Since that time, many people would agree with me that this school district has gone from worst to first in our state during his tenure. So, what did he do? He attracted teachers from all over the country to come to Cherokee County, GA of all places to help our children become better prepared and be successful in college and the business world. See your son, for instance. Cutting funding won't have an immediate affect because the pieces for our school system to be successful are already in place. But over time, you will see those pieces start to crumble, the best teachers will go somewhere else where they are appreciated and valued and we will no longer see an influx of those teachers from other areas moving in to help rebuild our schools if the funding isn't there. This is about the only thing you've ignored about how schools should resemble the business world. You want the best? Then "show me the money".
Jennifer Hall October 02, 2012 at 10:32 PM
CSUSA didn't address how they would handle their special ed students. Their application only planned for 2 special ed teachers, which didn't seem adequate for an enrollment of 1000 students. The application proposed contracting many of the services back to the school district, yet that process was very unclear. The minutes for the CCSD board meeting on June 16, 2011 have these documents, all are under section B. Hope this helps.
Jennifer Hall October 02, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Rae, again... amendment 1 is NOT about, "should there be choice?" There IS choice! There's been choice for a very long time, and more choices have mushroomed in the past 20 years with charters and technology. Amendment 1 is about who will run part of that choice. I'm not against charters. I AM against a state agency, non-elected, that will harm the public schools in the process of running that choice. THAT is the issue. THAT is what amendment 1 is about. Now, I'll go with your analogy for a moment. Sally does have to live with her consequences within the boundaries given her. But, there are boundaries. The EBT card will not pay for beer, cigarettes, nail polish, dog food, etc. She does not have ANY choice open to her. However, this is getting away from the issues that amendment 1 deals with.
Monty Brewster October 02, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Rae, the only parallel I'm seeing is that this is a handout... welfare for people that want the private school feeling without having to foot the bill. Why not say that you want a choice in how your child is transported to school since the taxpayers are paying for it anyways? /// I don't feel safe with my child riding the bus, but I don't want to have to pay with my own money to drive him/her to school. I want a choice, and the state should send a limo driver to pick up the child.\\\ See how ridiculous that sounds? But at least it would give us another choice (that we don't have to pay for).
Scott October 03, 2012 at 07:43 PM
There is a correlation, state's that have teachers' unions have higher test scores than states that dont. MS, AL, GA, SC are right at the bottom of the education barrel. Of course states that spend the less on education also get the worst results... MS, AL, GA, SC.
Common Sense October 04, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Amen, Scott.
Jim Beam October 04, 2012 at 08:28 PM
But students who require more time to graduate == students who are COSTING MORE TO EDUCATE. Surely I don't have to point out that a child who requires an 'extra summer or extra year' costs more to the already-broke taxpayer? All due to a failure of the TPS model to provide them with the basic remedial skills needed to graduate in the first place. 1 of 3 HS kids aren't graduating on time with the rest of their peers, no matter how you libs try to obfuscate that fact. Someone somewhere along the lines of the TPS system is FAILING to do their job in educating 1 of 3 kids. 33% of kids being left behind isn't a statistic I'd be happy to hang my hat on....but then, I'm not in GA public education, where mediocrity is the standard. Most private sector workers lose their jobs with a 67% success rate. You TPS supporters accept it as 'normal'. With that sort of C- attitude, no wonder we're getting our educational butts handed to us by the rest of the world. I guarantee you Asian HS students don't adhere to such below-average levels of achievement. And Jennifer, your complete silence of the internet bullying of Frank Jones, who always resorts to personal insults, is quite telling. YES on 1162 allows parents to bypass this C- mentality.
Jim Beam October 04, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Monty, Perhaps these 'austerity cuts' resulted in teachers & staff realizing that they need to be doing all they can to educate students, given the dismal economy we're in and potential for job loss? Certainly the 3 decades of doubling per-child spending isn't the reason, else we would've seen improvement (rather than stagnation) years ago. I don't see any correlation between CCSD's half-billion-$$ budget and improved performance based on 1 year of great SAT scores. I credit our teachers more than our funding, which is already substantial. As you probably already know, my position all along is "Fund the teachers and classrooms first". And you clearly seem like a parent who is involved with your child's education, so I tip my hat to you and wish you & yours good luck in education and life. Being in the wealthy CCSD means we both have it better than many other parents around the state of GA, which is why I'm voting YES to 1162. For them and my son if he chooses to stay in GA and raise a family here.
Jim Beam October 04, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Jennifer, school districts legislate parenting too. Ask any parent of a child who is borderline ADD what the district requires about ADD medication. The district will flat-out boot the kid out of school unless the parents medicate and will threaten to report them to DFACS unless they medicate. That's Parental Legislation 101.
Monty Brewster October 05, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Dan, I'm sorry if I'm misinterpreting what you've said above, but it sounds like you're saying that the teachers were not working as hard prior to "austerity" cuts. I have multiple teachers in my family and know that they pour their heart into what they do and care for those kids as if they were their own. They work well beyond the hours they are at school. Having their job on the line, if anything, will make them less efficient and make them teach MORE to the test than actually teach the children. Teachers are going to work their butts off regardless of whether or not they work for a public school, charter school, or private school. They are not in it for the money, they are in it to help the kids. However, if you start cutting their paychecks to the point that they cannot provide for their family, they will go somewhere else. So my question is, why are we not putting more pressure on our government officials to provide the funding they are supposed to be to the school districts? If schools were fully funded, none of this would be an issue. When schools are not receiving the funding they are supposed to be, and millions of dollars are being allocated to pay "management" fees of $1 million dollars or more (this is profit in addition to salaries for those people that don't know the difference), there is a problem. Dan, for someone so obsessed with pointing out excessive spending, I can't believe that you could support using for-profit EMO's in a recession.
Jennifer Hall October 06, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Danny, that is just plain flat-out wrong -- you're making that up. I teach many children who have a diagnosis of ADHD. Some of them, their parents choose to medicate. Some don't, and choose other options to handle the issue. I work with the children and their families in both instances. I don't have to ask the parents. I know these parents and work with them already. This is just getting ridiculous. Can we keep this on the issue at hand please? We do not need the state to create a parallel system when there are already two means by which to create a charter school. I'll be voting NO in NOvember.
Jennifer Hall October 07, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Danny, there are very, very few people that pay enough into the tax base that they would completely cover the cost of their child's education. According to this kind of logic, if I install an alarm and sprinkler system in my house, I should be able to take back "my" tax money that goes to fire and police protection. Your posts here and in other forums show that you are so full of venom towards our public schools that reasonable discussion isn't possible.
Jennifer Hall October 07, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Danny, you'd rather have them in the hands of a seven member appointed board with no accountability? Boy, THAT makes sense.
Jennifer Hall October 07, 2012 at 12:37 AM
OK, Danny, let me give you a few real-life examples of students who need more time to graduate and the reasons have ZERO to do with the school's end. Children with severe medical issues, such as cancer. What about the child who has to battle for their life, putting their education on hold? They need more time. What about the child whose family life is so dysfunctional that DFACS needs to step in and remove the child from the home? Children aren't going to be focused on their education when they are wondering if they will be in their fifth foster placement tonight (older children are harder to place.) What about the child who ISN'T removed from the home, but has a parent who is non-functioning, terminally ill, unemployed? School isn't necessarily first priority for kids who are concerned about what's going on at home. What about learning disabled students who need more time? Our public schools work very hard to help these children to keep them in school and give them the support they need, and more time to graduate is a blessing that they desperately need without judgment from bitter people. But let's keep this on issue: Do we need this amendment to open charter schools? No. Since the Georgia Supreme Court declared the commission illegal, 16 charters have applied to the state, and all were approved. It shows the amendment isn't needed. We don't need another layer of government.
Monty Brewster October 09, 2012 at 12:41 AM
I was told there was a threat of a lawsuit based on Amendment 1... apparently the folks claiming they feared lawsuits would close their schools were the ones planning this the whole time. Good luck suing the teacher's unions that don't exist. I'm surprised the Koch brothers couldn't find you a better lawyer.
Me October 09, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Fulton has done none of the things cited in this suit, so why are they named? http://www.wabe.org/post/taxpayers-sue-school-districts-alleged-use-taxpayer-funds-campaign-against-amendment Rae (who is posting on the Canton Patch while living in DeKalb because...?) and Kara Martin are named as plaintiffs in this suit. THANKS, girls, for wasting my tax dollars in Fulton on this one. I hope there's a countersuit against you, because you DO NOT represent me, in either my role as taxpayer OR registered voter in this state. http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/wabe/files/201210/lawsuit.pdf Maybe you filed in Fulton because you were judge-shopping? I hope Wendy Shoob thinks about taking this one on, because your case for filing in Fulton is WEAK, WEAK, WEAK. There's an FAQ, with no position taken, and as a taxpayer, I APPRECIATE that my school system administrators provided a place to which interested voters could be referred for FACTUAL information on the amendment, rather than a) taking the time of already over-stretched staff to answers those questions and b) risking personal interpretation of the issue during explanations. There have been no PTA flyers, no faculty meetings, nothing at my local schools. Bad move on this one! http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/de30a3e16d2941ddb68cc02a86b2155d/GA--School-Boards-Lawsuit-1st-Ld-Writethru
Kara Martin October 09, 2012 at 09:40 AM
ME- While I appreciate your comment about the law suit the statements you made are actually false in regards to Fulton county and their taking no position on this amendment or passing out anti charter material. As a matter of fact, if you read the article their is a recording about how Superintendents (while on the clock, being paid by the tax payer) went to a meeting where they were given step by step instructions on how to LOBBY against this amendment in schools, board meetings and reaching parents using school email systems. There have also been anti charter material distributed at curriculum night at many schools through out GA and by PTA's. This law suit is not about whether or not you agree or disagree with the Amendment. It is about whether you feel that elected officials or those employed by the tax payers should be allowed to lobby for or against a constitutional Amendment while using tax payer funds when it is clearly a violation of the law. Their personal opinion is available after they clock out of work for the day. The PTA is a non-profit 501C3 and therefore is NOT allowed to lobby against or for an amendment as that is a violation of their status and also grounds for losing that non profit status. This is simply about following the law. Are you saying that the boards, schools and PTA"s should not have to follow the law?
No More Bullies October 09, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Kara- you are wrong about PTAs and other 501c3s not being able to lobby. 501c3 organizations can and do lobby, but it cannot be their sole purpose. There are provisions within their 990 tax form every year for these activities to be specified. Governor Deal has clearly been advocating for the amendment while "on the clock." Does he not also need to "follow the law"? Get up to speed on IRS facts and STOP spreading misinformation. Note that amendments and ballot issues are considered legislative issues and are covered as acceptable lobbying activities. http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Lobbying
Jessie October 09, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Thanks, NMB for setting the record straight on what 501c3s can and cannot do. I have been involved with non-profits for years and cringe whenever I hear others say what we can and cannot do. We are permitted to campaign for an ISSUE, not for a candidate or a political party, as long as that is not our sole pupose. PTAs are well within the guidlines here. PTAs have always taken a stance on issues, that is why we have hot lunches in the schools, mandatory school age and school nurses, just to name a few of the issues that PTA has supported in the past.
Me October 10, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Kara, No, YOUR statements are false and several have already been rebutted above. Fulton has taken no stand on the amendment. That is clearly stated on the FAQ. Attending the school superintendents' conference is against the law? Ummm... Again, in my district, there have been NO materials distributed at open house or curriculum nights (OR home in backpacks), NO e-mails or phone blasts. "This law suit is not about whether or not you agree or disagree with the Amendment." Really? Then why does it specifically state "political activity using taxpayer resources IN OPPOSITION TO a proposed constitutional amendment?" (Emphasis mine.) If the school boards, PTAs, etc., supported it, this wouldn't be a problem? Gov. Deal using taxpayer funds (lots of it) isn't a problem because he's in support? Just THINK about it. (Perhaps you might want to read exactly what you signed and had notarized a bit more carefully...).
John October 11, 2012 at 01:19 AM
Judge Shoob sent the shills for the so call "School Choice" movement packing...as she should have.

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