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BOE: Vote Against Charter Amendment

The Cherokee County School Board voted 4-2 to approve a resolution, which asks Georgians to vote down the charter school amendment in November.

After a discussion that, at times, seemed to grow heated among the , school board members on Thursday night voted 4-2 to approve a .

Board member Michael Geist, who with Kim Cochran voted against the resolution, said that although the school system lost $2.1 million this year because it had 575 fewer students than anticipated, the county saw $4 million more this year than it would have otherwise because of the funding that was allocated to . And, that money is being spread among all the students because Cherokee County School District students attend the charter school. The charter school also helps alleviate overcrowding and increased class sizes, Geist said.

“This truly is a win-win, and frankly, I don’t understand why we don’t all agree with that,” Geist said. “We had $4 million more in this county than we would have had otherwise.”

“But that was out of reserves,” board member Janet Read said.

“But it was still spent on kids in our county,” Geist said.

This year, school system employees had four furlough days while charter school employees had none. Next year, CCSD employees likely will have eight furlough days as part of a plan to combat a $22 million budget shortfall, Superintendent Frank Petruzielo said.

“I’m dead serious about what the real problem is here,” Petruzielo said. “The real problem is that public education and funding it is not a priority for the Georgia legislature. We have a different kind of lawmaker out there today. Years ago, lawmakers went to public schools themselves. They appreciated them. They supported them. I can’t remember the last time I heard a query from legislators about what they could do to help public schools. The notion that somehow everybody can have everything is just not the case.”

Cochran said she couldn’t vote for anything that looks like propaganda of anti-charter lobby in form of a resolution. She said she opposed inflammatory language in the resolution, such as stating that those who advocate for school vouchers don’t support public education.

“I can’t believe we’re deliberating putting this kind of idea into a published opinion,” Cochran said.

Not all students attending charter schools come from rich, privileged or well-educated families. For example, at in Gwinnett County, more than 80 percent of students are African-American girls from low income homes who Cochran said are hoping to achieve American dream.

“This resolution says that their parents and supporters are trying to widen the divide between classes,” Cochran said. "Since when is it our position to stereotype people?”

According to House Resolution 1162, the state is authorized to expend state funds for special schools, such as charter schools, but should not be taken from any state funding that a local school system is authorized to receive. Cochran said she didn’t understand why the resolution says that tax dollars will be reverted.

“The only way to argue this takes money from local schools is to speculate that maybe money going to charter schools would go to public schools,” Cochran said. “You can make the same argument for anything. That health programs shouldn’t be funded. It should go to the local board.”

Read said she had hoped that someone who took issue with the resolution would have emailed her prior to the board meeting.

“I was hoping to maybe see something (earlier) instead of tonight,” Read said. “If you just wrote that today, it’s pretty awesome. One intention was so we could have some discussion about this ahead of time.”

Read said that Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) mentioned during a that money to fund charter schools will come out of the state budget.

“Anytime you take money out of the state budget, as we say, the pie is going to get smaller,” Read said. “We have not been fully funded, which is why we’re looking at 32 kids in a fourth grade classroom, which is why we’re looking at furlough days. If not furlough days, we probably would have 45 kids in a class. That’s just a reality of life.”

Though he agreed that the resolution is inflammatory in some regards, Board Chairman Mike Chapman said the state’s constitution gives the responsibility of money management to the local school systems.

“The state has usurped that already,” Chapman said. “We as a board are here to help that school succeed. We are not here to fight with Cherokee Charter Academy. I have no dog in that fight.”

Residents on both sides of the issue spoke during the meeting. Allison Campbell said that Cherokee Charter Academy is a good fit for her daughter.

“My child would cry to go to school because she felt stupid because she couldn’t read as well as the other children,” Campbell said. “My child would hide in the bathroom, and the school would have to call me. Here, she has three teachers in her classroom. She doesn’t have to leave to go to other classes anymore. She gets to stay with her friends, and she gets to make friends for the first time in three years."

Campbell said that, while she can understand that many are afraid the charter school will take money away from the county school system, it doesn’t receive local funding.

“I don’t understand why we’re making this so much about money when it’s about the students, and it’s about choice, and it’s about education,” Campbell said. “We are state-funded. If we could just all work together, we could make this a great place, great for the schools, for everybody if we could just work as a team instead of butting heads.”

Kelly Anfuso said that Cherokee Charter Academy hasn’t taken one dime from the local school system.

“Nothing that was cut this year was because of the charter,” she said. “I’m tired of people saying, ‘It’s the money, it’s the money. We need to find the money.’ This has been the nastiest, the most crazy (situation). It’s like a controlling situation of I’m going to get what I want. We need to put the children back on the priority list.”

Carol Taylor said she supports the school board’s resolution, citing a growing student population and a decreasing budget. She said she’s not opposed to special schools but is opposed to funding special schools when existing schools in the local school system are not adequately funded.

“Before offer additional options, why not fully fund schools that already exist?” she said. “If the claims are there isn’t enough money, how would they fund a special school?”

Elizabeth Crook said that it’s “implausible” that there is room in educational funds or the overall state budget for state-approved charter schools.

Cherokee County residents will vote on the constitutional amendment in November.

Cherokee Mom April 20, 2012 at 01:50 PM
I am still trying to figure out the purpose of this resolution. What is the benefit other than to continue to stir the pot? As parents and citizens of Cherokee County we need to start thinking about what we say before we say it. Our children are listening. This mean spirited resolution probably had nothing to do with the children of Cherokee County, but more of a payback to the legislators who left Janet Read and Mike Chapman without a district. However these mean spirited attitudes may have an impact on our children. A negative impact. The existance of Cherokee Charter Academy had no effect on CCSD's budget this year. Yet CCSD still has budget problems. If you put the children at CCA back into the mix the class size is going to be even higher. What then? Dr. P was "outraged" that no one was contacting the legislation about the budget cuts for CCSD. If he is so "outraged" why doesn't he have the teachers and PTA special interest groups focus on that rather on Charter Schools. That would be such better use of their time and energy. Dr. P knows that CCA is not impacting his budget, he knows that is not the issue. The issue is CCBOE has no control over CCA, and that is what keeps him angry. The nation is watching our state. Behavior like this is why the makes jokes about the south. This resolution is the type of behavior that creates an us against them mentality. We could accomplish so much more if we all worked together.
Ed April 20, 2012 at 02:07 PM
The Amendment would provide more money for all schools (CCSD schools and a State Commissioned Charter Schools). The Resolution clearly states it won't take local funds and it won't deduct state funds. This means that for every Cherokee County student that chooses another form of education (public charter, public online learning, homeschool, and private school) the more of the local funds CCSD students will receive for their education! At a time when the school system is furloughing teachers because of less revenue (mainly because of the economic downturn and decreasing property values), I'm shocked that Mrs. Read and others would encourage people to vote against a measure that would increase the amount of local funds per CCSD student. Unbelievable!
Common Sense April 20, 2012 at 06:10 PM
I support legislation providing funding for charter schools. If the citizens are going to be forced by the state to pay taxes for public education then they should have some alternative to the county-run systems. Parents that have preferences other than the government school system should not have to pay taxes to send everyone else's children to school and also pay to send their own children to an alternate school. It concerns me when one entity (BOE) has all the power to decide how all of our children are educated. We need a Board of Education that understands that it should not to have the sole mandate for shaping our children's minds.
Frank Jones April 20, 2012 at 07:34 PM
I believe the purpose of the resolution was to show the citizens of Cherokee County and the Cherokee Delegation, that the CCSB believes: 1. That education should be left in the hands of duly-elected board members who are accountable to their constituents; not in the hands of political appointees selected by the Governor, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House. 2. That Gold Dome operatives are undermining the will of a majority of our county citizens and courting special interest groups, lobbyists and big business. 3. That before the state establishes a parallel education system, that they should first fully fund the existing system. A parallel education system (i.e. Charter system) will incur additional bureaucracy and administration costs leading to less education dollars for the students. Dr. P was right last night when he stated that he's outraged that no one is demanding the state honor its commitment and fully fund education. Instead, the state cuts education, forces increased class sizes, causes local systems to implement furlough days which leads to discontent among parents. All the while, cutting business taxes, implementing corporate welfare, and sending $51 million/yr to private schools. CCSD schools are pretty darn good. Not perfect; but nothing is! If both sides would work together to improve our schools and hold the Gold Dome accountable, just think what we could accomplish.
heyitsmatt April 21, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Maybe the legislators have quit asking local school districts how to help because the answer they receive is always "we need more $$$" instead of new ideas. The classroom hasn't evolved in 50 years and the kids are bored. More money for smart boards and text books will not keep their attention. Dynamic teachers utilizing the same technology kids are using outside of school, i.e. iPads, tablets, smartphones, etc.., will do more to keep their attention than anything else.
Frank Jones April 21, 2012 at 02:57 PM
@heyitsmatt...Welcome to the conversation. I agree with you that qualified, dynamic teachers that make education fun, engaging & challenging is key to a successful education system. The challenge for any organization is finding enough of those teachers. When you say that the classroom hasn't evolved in 50 years", could you elaborate? What changes would you bring to the classroom and why? I agree that legislators have quit working with the schools districts and it's evident in the fact that the Gold Dome is intervening in local education affairs; CUTTING funding, gerrymandering board member districts to reshape the board, and seizing control from local communities via the state charter school commission. It's a shame that they're not listening to and working with the front-line experts! IMO, technology is great and has a place in education. But education starts with fundamentals, basics of learning, repetition, creative thinking, discipline, desire and more...Simply adding iPads, tablets, smartphones to the classroom won't make the kids smarter but will require additional funds to purchase, maintain, support, replace, train users/teachers, provide wireless access, filter content, etc. Where's the money? Gold Dome-NO. Raise Taxes-NO. IMO, a dynamic teacher is better than any technology; consider that Gates, Allen, Jobs, Wozniak were educated without technology but I'm sure had dynamic school teachers and dynamic parents. Look forward to your ideas.
heyitsmatt April 21, 2012 at 06:29 PM
There are always ways to find money for technology. Grants, vendors, etc.. IMO, education has become more about the fight and less about what works. As far your comment of "Simply adding iPads, tablets, smartphones to the classroom won't make the kids smarter," I'll cite only one of many articles about how merely adding tech will increase test scores. http://tinyurl.com/7wphh9h My theory is that when kids are not in the classroom, they are bombarded with entertainment, technology, media, etc.. and when they enter the classroom, immediately become bored b/c they are asked to shut off all of their increasingly normal forms of inputs and open a text book or take notes with pencil and paper. I suggest watching the following video as it is far more informational than I and much more entertaining. http://youtu.be/zDZFcDGpL4U
Frank Jones April 21, 2012 at 08:49 PM
@keyitsmatt...Nice, entertaining video and I agree with all of it in varying degrees. and agree that improve education, we as a society must identify and strike the right balance of: Independent vs. Group Study Grade Level by Age vs. Grade Level by Ability Creative Thinking/Problem Solving vs. Book Learning Academic Teaching vs. Academic then Trade Teaching ADHD Meds vs. Reasonable Accomodations Curriculum vs Inherent Strengths, Interests The question as to technology remains...Does it truly help learning & knowledge or is it merely an easier way to get existing information? Time will tell. As to how to fund the technology...grants aren't free (i.e. the money comes from somewhere-taxes or endowments), vendors can't give everything away (i.e. they're in business to make money), and not all parents can afford the it.
hope April 22, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Asking the entire state to vote against 1162? The rest of the state doesn't care what the Cherokee County  BOE recommends.  This is pompous propaganda and thankfully not the opinion of the entire board.  My vote, my voice.
Choice April 22, 2012 at 03:46 PM
I agree with you all 100 percent but the reason I choose Charter is because the county wastes so much of the money, they cut the special needs department, and you have to fight for any kind of help. The red tape and road blocks were nuts. I had tried homeschool but my child did not respond well with it, and if you don’t have a special needs child then you don’t understand how hard it can be. For three years, I begged for help from the head office, the school office, If it was not for A Miller, C Shaw and V Pharis I don’t think I would have received the help I did get. It was not easy I worried over it, I went and did research, I went to all the info meetings charter held, but when it came down to it why not try something new. I will forever be grateful to the CCSD teachers who did everything that red tape and road blocks would allow. All I want is what is best for all the children; I wish we could all find a common ground to stand on. I will fight for your child too, whether in Charter or CCSD. Working as team is better than divided. So why not come up with ideas to help raise money for all. We could do a county chili cook off, or a BBQ cook off, there are a ton of ideas to make a difference. We could make money for all of the schools in Cherokee County. Working together for better education, why not?
Choice April 22, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I will be voting yes to the bill HR1162.
Frank Jones April 23, 2012 at 01:59 PM
@Mikael...Where can we find the CCA budget, expenditure listing and actual vs budget comparison? If you want to compare the 2010-2011 budget to actual, the CCSD audited statements are in the finance department. FWIW...HD 1162, if approved, does not require state charter schools to provide audited financial statements and it does not prohibit related party transactions.
Chris Knowles April 23, 2012 at 05:32 PM
For actuals on budget spend, open.georgia.gov has CCSD salaries for 08 - 11. All expenditures are only kept on-line for the previous year so only 2011 actual spend is available. NO reconciliation to budgeted numbers exist that I am aware of. We'll see where things land on transparency with CCA - that is the one fair statement in all of the anti-charter discussion on this thread. Parents deserve the right to have a choice in their children's education and at least part of their tax dollars should go to support that choice. The current CCBOE voting majority and SD are not interested in parent's rights or in what is best for the children of Cherokee County. Please stop quoting Frank P's erroneous statements about budget shortfall. It is political smoke and mirrors. EVERY BOE in the state knows that the QBE formula is broken and every School District has the same "budget shortfall". This is just about power, politics and control.
hope April 24, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Heavy on the smoke & mirrors!

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