This letter by the head of the Atlanta AFT local was addressed to the chair of the board of Atlanta Public Schools, who is an alumnus of Teach for America. Four members of the school board are TFA alumni, presumably trained by TFA’s Leadership for Educational Equity and primed to support charter schools, not public schools. What is the connection between TFA and privatization? Why does TFA favor charter schools over public schools? Why would a locally elected school board want to relinquish its responsibilities to corporate charter chains controlled by out of state entities?

February 18, 2019
Jason F. Esteves, Board Chair
Atlanta Board of Education
130 Trinity Ave., SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Dear Board Chair Esteves:

You are now privileged to hold the position of Treasurer of the Georgia Democratic Party. That party has been pro-public education. Yet you are supporting the “Portfolio of Schools” model for Atlanta Public Schools.  This model is called “Innovative Schools” in Denver. And per your leadership, it is called “Excellent Schools” in Atlanta. “Excellent Schools” is not pro-public education. As you may or may not know, seven cities are being courted in order to turn their schools over to this model. 
In the interest of time and since I’ve not heard back from you, we are asking you once again to meet with some concerned Atlanta public school stakeholders and you are requested to walk away from the Portfolio of Schools plan.   We understand that you, one other board member, and the superintendent chose the facilitator to sell the Portfolio of Schools model to the board.

You, Eshe Collins, Matt Westmoreland, and Courtney English are TFA products.

  • What is the connection between TFA and KIPP?
In short, the direction of the board has amounted to preying on citizens and selling the district short. Black elected leadership has closed schools and brought in partnerships.
  • Does the board decide the partnerships or does the superintendent decide?
This superintendent served without goals or an evaluation for years.
  • Did the superintendent do her own evaluation, scorecard, and narrative?
  • How close to contract renewal did the board receive that information from the superintendent?
The superintendent’s contract is over in 2020. Unlike the previous process where Ann Cramer conducted various activities, we also want to discuss, vet and publish a process for a superintendent search that should be real and open. Unlike the last superintendent search, where we the union had reports from Austin, Texas, and St. Paul, Minnesota, it is time that Atlanta, all of Atlanta, know who is doing what. Atlanta taxpayers are being exploited. It is insane that you are awarding 25 to 40-year contracts to companies that are not about real evidence-based solutions for our children. The superintendent’s School Turnaround Strategy was a failure. The Strategic Plan was a failure. “Excellent Schools” is a private takeover with failure built in. You are closing schools, giving large charter companies contracts at the taxpayer’s expense and restructuring communities. Some members on the board are disengaged in the community, keeping big funding sources pleased in order to stay in the political arena.
  • Are you planning on running for City Council?
You ran for the state house and now you are on the Board of Education. You are Afro-Latino.
  • Are you aware of the Austin Latino Chamber of Commerce Op-Ed per the now Atlanta Superintendent?
We applaud you for forming relationships with the Latino Business Community, but per the Latinos and Hispanics in APS, we have not seen a comprehensive engagement plan with them.
Please walk away from the Portfolio of Schools plan and paradigm and, when and if you are ready, we are ready to help with evidence-based solutions that work in public schools. Please review the NCSL, OECD and PISA reports. The GFT asked former Senator Vincent Fort to sponsor the Community Schools Bill. It passed the Senate 50 to 1 a few years back. Senator Emmanuel Jones is sponsoring it during this session. By the way, when you close schools you destroy communities and gentrify.  Controlled agendas hurt people at-large. Please help champion the Community Schools Bill as the Chair of the Democratic Party supports it.

Thank you.

Verdaillia Turner, President, Atlanta Federation of Teachers