“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”
― Alexis de Tocqueville
If Amendment 1 passes the money would follow the child. The percentage of the FTE money depends on who approves the charter. If the local BOE approves a charter then all of the FTE money goes with that child. If the local BOE denies the charter and the charter gets approved by the charter commission (state) then the local BOE keeps 38% of the FTE money. The charter must operate on about 62% of the normal FTE spend. Right now the average FTE spend in Georgia is $9000 per student and the average charter FTE spend is $5500 per student. The difference between the $9000 & the $5500 is the 38% local property tax money that State approved charters do not receive. Many of these charters are doing just as well or better even with 40% less funding. The real question people should be asking is how are charter schools performing equal or better to traditional schools with 40% less money.
Local BOE’s are denying charters in some cases without really studying them simply to keep the 38%(local property tax dollars). The commission was established to simply serve as an appeal board. This was working well actually until the Georgia Supreme Court said it was Unconstitutional. This is why Amendment 1 is needed to allow the commission to hear appeals again. One interesting point is that it’s actually better for a school system if a student leaves for a charter school because the system keeps 38% of the FTE money. If that same student goes from Bartow County to Cartersville they lose all of the FTE money. Local systems would keep 38% of the FTE for NOT educating the student that left. A study actually concluded that systems would in fact net more money on a student leaving for a charter. Systems keep almost 40% of the money but don’t have the “cost” of educating that student.
The great thing about this process is that parents will be able to come together and create a charter school that meets the needs of their children. The parents create the charter/board of directors (local control) & then contract with a private entity in some cases to run the day-to-day operations of the school. The private company works FOR the parents and if they are not meeting the terms of the contract they can be replaced. This is no different that the Bartow Career Academy except that the local BOE is in control of that proposed charter school. You can’t be in favor of the Bartow Career Academy and against Amendment 1. It is just not being intellectually honest with yourself and probably a bit hypocritical too.
There is a lot of bad information on this and I am trying to get the word out. We need this option to have a robust, innovative and flexible educational system in Georgia. Educators are taught that the best way to meet the needs of children is to differentiate instruction. This is taking that concept and leveraging it at a system and state level. Teachers in this state have to get past this protectionist mentality and be willing to try new approaches or we will keep getting the same results. Charters may fail and this whole thing may not work but Atlanta and some local systems have had 20+ years to fix the problem with mixed results at best. Kids deserve an option if they happen to live in an area that requires them to attend a failing school. Kids also need options if they live in an area with a good school that just may not be meeting their individual needs.
What is the educational establishment so scared of? Is it that some of these schools might actually get results faster than their traditional counterparts? We should be focusing on what is best for all children and not drawing lines in the sand because the teachers association, school boards and the DOE don’t want to share the credit.
**Be sure to check out my follow-up post: Debunking Charter Amendment Myths**
There is a growing debate in Georgia right now on Amendment 1 the Public Charter Amendment. Teachers, parents, & legislators are all scrambling to vie for votes on the controversial issue. I have been asked by a lot of people where I stand on this issue so I thought I would write about own personal journey to SUPPORT public charter schools and Amendment 1. I am the son of a retired teacher, my wife is a teacher and I am a certified teacher myself. I served over 6 years on a local school board and spent almost 3 years teaching in a public high school. I am a conservative, but for most of my life I have been part of the educational establishment. In my case this has always meant that I am a huge advocate of public schools (and I still am by the way). There have been 3 moments that have changed my view on the charter school and voucher debate and I would like to address each of those quickly:
About a year ago I was asked to be part of an education forum on school choice and it was my job to be the lone representative speaking out in favor of traditional public schools. I really feel like I did a good job in spite of the fact that I was clearly outnumbered and probably should have factored that in to my agreement to accept the invitation. I love education so I felt like it was important to give my view as a former teacher, board member and parent. At this meeting, I had the opportunity to hear Rich Thompson of 100Dads speak and it left a lasting impression on me. Rich really forced me to think about this issue in a way I had never considered before. You can hear Rich Thompson too at the Northwest Georgia Education Roundtable on Oct 23rd at 7:00pm at the Clarence Brown Conference Center.
I finally realized that I must broaden my view of what public education really means. In Bartow County and the City of Cartersville we are fortunate to have great teachers and great schools. As a student, teacher, board member & parent I have been pleased for the most part with all of my public school experiences. In our community I do not believe charter schools will be a major issue because of the success of our schools and school professionals. This sadly is not the case in cities and other communities across the state. The question you have to ask yourself is: Would you want to be stuck in a failing neighborhood school with no process to offer your child an opportunity for a better education? This IS the situation many Georgia parents find themselves in. In many cases the schools have been underperforming for years and the efforts made by local boards and state officials have made little to no progress. Our children deserve better and offering choice is the best way to bring that about.
Waiting for Superman- I would encourage anyone on either side of this debate to watch this movie. This documentary really brings to light why so many parents want more public school choice. Watch this movie and decide for yourself if parents across this state and this country need more choice.
The education establishment will say that this is somehow violating local control but I would submit that parents taking action to improve the schools in their community is the ultimate form of local control. The educational establishment is really fighting for political control not “local control”. Others argue private companies will come in and set up charter schools and that means they will want to make money…is this bad? Is making a profit somehow anti-education? Some public school systems should adopt common sense business principles and stop wasting money & raising property taxes. We have already seen this model work successfully in colleges and universities and it can be scaled down to K-12 classrooms. Some private companies are already offering K-12 services in an on-line format in Georgia. In almost every aspect of our society free markets and competition have made this country stronger. Why should public education be exempted from this universal American truth? Competition will force innovation and lead to new strategies that benefit poor, rural and urban schools. Some charters will fail and mistakes will be made as we enter this new era in Georgia education. We will also learn that some of the innovation in these laboratories of advancement work across all of our demographic groups and that innovation can be applied to traditional schools around the state. The risk of doing nothing is far worse than trying this new approach. If you want more choice, more innovation, more competition then Vote YES on Amendment 1.
The Man in the Arena quote from Teddy Roosevelt from 1910 is appropriate for this debate in my opinion:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
I have been getting asked a lot over the past few days and weeks about my thoughts on the current state of the school board. I have tried to stay out of this mess but think it is time to go on the record with my disappointment on how things are going. Public education is at a crossroads right now, and there are lofty debates happening as we speak on what the future of public education will look like (charter schools, vouchers, etc.). As our economy turns around (we all need to vote for Romney by the way), we must have a school system that instills confidence into prospective employers who want to locate into our community. The success of our schools and school governance is an economic development issue that we cannot afford to screw up. Here is where I land on the current state of the BOE:
Board Member Conduct:
There are very clear standards for board member conduct that are currently in the ethics policy that has been adopted by the Bartow County School Board. No board member has the authority to ever pressure or reprimand ANY school system employee for any reason. In practical terms, there are really only two people who work “directly” for the members of the BOE…the superintendent & school board attorney. Everyone else in the school system reports through a predetermined chain of command that ends with the superintendent. It is highly inappropriate, unprofessional & a violation to ever mention a personnel matter in an open meeting. Serving as a school board member is an important public service and you must always put the system & children before your own desire for power & privilege. School board members essentially have no official individual authority and any action to the contrary should be considered self-serving. The BOE must be willing to censure any board member who fails to take the necessary action to protect the integrity of the school system.
We are seeing these same kinds of actions in Clayton County and it puts system accreditation at risk.
This is not as simple as SACS deciding not to investigate. In my opinion, it is a conflict of interest for the current Bartow BOE chairman to also serve in any capacity with SACS. The perception will continue to be that calls for investigation are being ignored or manipulated in some inappropriate way. At the very least, it looks bad and the Bartow BOE chairman needs to choose which organization he wants to serve on.
In my almost 7 years on the board I cannot remember having a “retreat” outside of Bartow County. The truth is that this meeting was held in Rome to limit public participation. If you remember, this meeting happened when staff reductions, elimination of middle school sports & tax increases were being proposed. There are conflicting statements from the Superintendent & BOE Chairman on what happened. One board member & a member of the media left the meeting when it was adjourned. Does anyone really believe that they both misunderstood? After these two people left, the meeting continued for as much as 2 hours in violation of the law. Someone is lying to us and to date they have not corrected the record on this issue.
What should have happened?
The meeting should have been held in Bartow County. There is no excuse for purposely trying to exclude the citizens of Bartow County. Once the meeting was reconvened the Superintendent or Board Chairman should have called the board member in question and media representative to return. Now that the error has been made public, someone should officially take responsibility and make sure that this does not happen again. Repeating a lie does not make it any more truthful.
Rome Volleyball/Excel Baseball Issue:
Excel is not the issue here, but the school board is supposed to have a written agreement with non-profits, private entities & governments for facility use. This did not happen and as a result, the impression is that something inappropriate happened.
What should have happened?
Any organization should have to fill out the appropriate paperwork to use school facilities even if the charges are going to be waived. ALL organizations must provide proof of liability insurance PRIOR to using BOE facilities. Excel & the BOE should have put on paper in advance what each party was doing. The value of the facility being used and the value of the services and materials provided. Liability insurance should have been given in advance of anyone using the property. When board members are involved with an organization using BOE facilities the standard should be even higher to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
Finally, the school board does not have to function in inappropriate ways. We must hold our elected representatives to a higher standard. The events that have unfolded over the past few months are unfortunate but self-inflicted because the board failed to operate consistent with policies and historical precedent. This pattern of behavior is suggestive of an organization that is operating from a lack of leadership. No single board member should have the power to manipulate the direction of the school system or intimidate system employees. We have great teachers and students and we must demand better if we want this community to reach its full potential. Bartow County deserves better and it is time to end this nonsense and become a system that everyone can respect once again.
Earlier this week in Toledo, Ohio President Obama said the following about Right to Work legislation being passed all over the country:
“So, Toledo, what you need to know is this: When they’re trying to take your collective bargaining rights away, when they’re trying to pass so-called “right to work” laws that really mean right to work for less and less, you should know this isn’t about economics. This is about politics.” ~ Barack Obama
From 1990-2010 Right to Work states (non-union) experienced better economic growth than union states http://t.co/f6e2RKzF The President is not being honest again on this issue. These states like Georgia keep adding population and growing influence with new Congressional seats while union states keep seeing a net loss in people living there. Americans are voting with their feet and moving to states with MORE opportunity. The National Right to Work Committee posted these statistics about young people in right to work states:
In the Right to Work states as a group, the number of 25-34 year-olds increased by 20.0% — more than double the national average — between 1999 and 2009. (Oklahoma, which adopted its Right to Work law in 2001, is counted here as a Right to Work state for the entire period.)
Meanwhile, the 28 states without Right to Work laws collectively saw their 25-34 year-old population grow by just 3.3% — barely over a third of the national average.
The clear indication is that right to work states have performed much better than the states that pander to union interests. The President has proven once again that propping up his Big Labor base is more important than being honest with the American people. We have seen the influx of people here in Georgia as they flee anti-competitive states from other parts of the country.
The President was right about one thing…It is about politics and he is letting his disdain of our market economy color his rhetoric. The only way to climb out of this economic downturn is to embrace American Exceptionalism and let our entrepreneurship society once again lead the world in innovation education and job creation. We must have a leader who believes more in the spirit of individual opportunity than group think collectivism. Our country must always be a place where freedom is celebrated and opportunity available to anyone willing to work for it.
Here are some additional links:
A few months back I wrote a series of blog posts about my objection to vouchers for public education…I was Wrong. Since that time I have had a chance to observe this debate more closely and re-evaluate my position. I have been fortunate to attend good public schools and so have my children. I let my own frame of reference color my views on a problem that reaches far beyond my own local community. There are many children who are born into failing schools because their parents cannot move to a better neighborhood. This is wrong and in America we can and should be doing better. No child should have their future determined by the unfortunate circumstance of residing in a bad zip code.
As a conservative, we fight constantly for free market solutions to economic problems. That is what this presidential election is about. Do you want freedom or more government control? The Romney/Ryan team will return this country to a path towards prosperity and a philosophy of market solutions. We can make the same bold choices in education and our children will be the beneficiaries of this new dynamic. I have come to the conclusion that I can be a public school advocate and still support a robust voucher program. In fact, it probably makes me a better public educator to want and demand more choice. Giving parents educational freedom will move the needle on school performance in poor, middle class and affluent communities.
If my children were being forced into a failing school I would want the option to seek a better solution for their education. Public school will never go away but we can make it BETTER by forcing schools to compete and improve to survive. Competition is an inherently American value and it is time that we extend it into public education. Technology has finally progressed to the point that parents have a wide range of traditional, charter and virtual options. The money should follow the child so that parents can secure the best path that meets the individual needs of the student.
School systems will continue to say that allowing this will be a catastrophe but our own history shows us that products, companies and organizations faced with competition meet the challenge or wither away. Schools must be willing to do the same in order to produce the best possible result. This will change the educational paradigm but we can no longer pander to teachers, systems and unions who place their own interests ahead of the future of our children.
Democrats & Obama want to socialize our government and create a command economy with no risk. This republic(not democracy) and our capitalist economy succeeded because people knew the risks and still wanted to change the world.
Democrats will never be successful because they do no realize that America unlike any other nation was established on an idea….Freedom. Freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail. Democrats have tricked the poorest in our country to believe that poverty is about money…It has nothing to do with money. Poverty still thrives in this country because of the collapse of the traditional American family, poor education, and a cyclical reliance of government support.
Freedom and the desire for a better life transcends party, race, nationality, gender or any other demographic category. When a person or society finally decides to be free no economic status will ever hold that person back from reaching that goal.
You wanna change this country…Start Here (these things are cheap or free):
2. Read to your children
3. Stop smoking and save that money for their college
4. Go to Church
6. Read Books…Educate yourself.
7. Tell your child they can be anything
9. Never Give UP!
10. Take Responsibility
11. Finally admit it is not George Bush’s fault
12. Pay your bills on time
13. Live within your means
Is it really any surprise that our economy is not improving? President Obama came into office with cabinet members who had the lowest level of private sector experience dating back to Teddy Roosevelt. His team is full of government bureaucrats and academics who have never had to worry about the same challenges confronted by corporations and small business people everyday. Our economy will not turn around until President Obama is gone. We are not Europe….The experiment failed.
President Obama campaigned and came into office promising to “fundamentally transform” this country…and he has. Is this the change you wanted? Our country is economically weaker and so is our standing throughout the world. President Obama is proposing and has made decisions that harm our military and impact our ability to project our strength globally. We cannot afford for President Obama to do for our National Security what he has done to our economy.
America is standing at the most significant crossroads in our countries history since Thomas Jefferson first drafted the Declaration of Independence over 200 years ago. We have two choices and they are not about party or politics. Those two choices are freedom and institutionalized socialism. It is time for another group of Americans to send a message to our elected tyrant and issue a “Deceleration of Freedom” so that our children will have the same opportunity to experience what an America blessed by God really looks like. Never forget what this country was so we can ensure once and for all what she will continue to be!