Ed Johnson responds to the Atlanta Association of Educators and explains why he is running for the school board.

I am posting two of his responses because I don’t think you will find any school board candidate in the nation who has responded as thoughtfully as Ed Johnson.


Ed Johnson
Candidate, Atlanta Board of Education District 2

1. What is your concern and goals for the students of District 2?

In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote:

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. … We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Because I am practiced in and hold great respect for the profound, seemingly uncommon wisdom the word “interrelatedness” implies and carries, my concern and goals are for ALL children, which obviously includes the children of District 2, as well as the children’s teachers.

Specifically, my overarching goals are to influence and collaborate with school board members in learning to carry out the following two touchstone responsibilities the 2002 revised Atlanta Independent School System (AISS) Charter requires of them and of the superintendent, respectively:

“Adopting district-wide policies that support [providing] an environment for [continual] quality improvement and progress for all decision makers in the district, as well as for students.”

“After adoption of policies by the Board, [the superintendent is responsible for] providing a supportive environment for [continual] quality improvement and progress for all decision makers in the district, as well as for students.”

The inclusion of these responsibilities of the school board and the superintendent, respectively, in the 2002 revised AISS Charter are a direct result of my intervening with the school board’s Charter Review Commission to protest what otherwise would have been included in the charter, namely:

“Adopting district‐wide policies that provide incentives for progress and consequences for failure for all decision‐makers in the district, as well as for students. These policies must meet or exceed the state policies that provide incentives for progress and consequences for failure.”

Because this blatantly stipulates practicing behaviorism, which has roots in slavery, and because it is totally contrary to, and inherently destructive of, Dr. King’s legacy teaching of “interrelatedness,” my protest before the Charter Review Commission Chairman was:

“Hell, no! You are not going to do this to the children!

Thus my concern simply is that school board members and superintendents we have had over the past nearly 30 years have been either ignorantly or intentionally practicing behaviorism on especially children labeled “Black” and their teachers. The detrimental consequences have compounded over time, with behaviorism having been made a normal “best practice” in educating children labeled “Black,” especially in “no excuses” charter schools such as KIPP and in public schools outsourced to charter school operators—what the school board and superintendent call “partner schools.”

It is way, way past time to elect someone whose maturity and 30 years of learning and experience can help the school board learn to do differently, to do better, to start a never-ending journey of continual quality improvement per the 2002 revised AISS Charter and do it anchored in a public-serving purpose of the Atlanta Public Schools system rather than a mostly “partner”-serving purpose. Elected or not, my goal is to help make it so.

2. What is your knowledge of the community school model, and where do you see it as a part of District 2?

I understand the community school model is that of a school engaged in partnerships with community resources operating to benefit the school and including objectives such a dropout prevention, health screenings and care, adult literacy, and potentially much more. I have observed from afar the popular national demonstration of the community school model, that being McDowell County, West Virginia. And I am familiar with Georgia Senate Bill 30, entitled, Sustainable Community School Operational Grants.

I am supportive of the community school model in District 2 public schools, and in public schools in general, to the extent partnerships contribute directly to improving the schools’ internal capabilities to continually improve so as to eventually not need the partnerships and not compromise any school’s educational purpose. A District 2 public school implementing the community school model will make no difference for teaching and learning by teachers and children if the school has not the internal capabilities to improve in the face internal challenges that would be effectively outsourced through partnerships. Moreover, I am aware some privatizers of public schools have co-opted the community school model to serve their selfish profit-making interests. Accordingly, vigilance is warranted, lest public schools adopt the community school model only to change and acquiesce to external private purposes and agenda just to attain the “carrot” resources and grants put in front of them.

3. Given the data around the charter model, what is your stance on charter schools and funding for those programs?

First, let’s understand, charter schools are not public schools. Charter schools serve private interests first and foremost, inherently. Public schools serve public interests first and foremost, inherently. Charter schools are rivalrous and excludable, as by lottery. Public schools are non-rivalrous and non-excludable. Charter schools appeal to and feed on parents’ selfishness. Public schools rely on “All for one and one for all.” Thus the oft stated expression “public charter school” is a contradiction in terms; there is no such thing.

I am keenly aware of qualitative and quantitative data around the charter schools “no excuses” model, such as KIPP, for which data say charter schools do no better than, and very often do worse than, public schools. I just this week drafted a PowerPoint presentation using State of Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) school-level Letter Grades for all APS schools available since 2014. KIPP charter schools operating in District 2 represent nothing remarkable compared to the public schools. The GOSA school-level Letter Grades, quantified, make this plainly clear. Thus my unequivocal position is charter schools are a total and absolute waste, academically, fiscally, and operationally. Our Atlanta public schools can be improved, but not in the presence of charter schools. Charter schools function as a drain on our public schools, much like a sink drain. And much like water that disappears down the sink drain, our public schools will disappear down the charter schools drain, unless we plug the drain.

4. What is your stance for the Excellence School model? Do you feel that each school should have an equitable amount of special needs services?

I am keenly aware of and unequivocally opposed to the so-called Excellent Schools model. The model is the currently serving school board chairman and superintendent’s deceptive marketing to implement The City Fund’s free market ideological Portfolio of Schools “idea.” The “idea” is to treat and manage APS schools like a portfolio of stocks—namely, in order to continually maximize the total value of the stock portfolio, periodically rank the stocks by performance, and then sell off the lowest performing five percent or so and buy better performing stocks.

It is an “idea” that has absolutely no basis in pedagogy nor in research nor in actually intending to improve schools. Purveyors of the Portfolio of Schools “idea” expressly target large urban, heavily Black populated cities, such as Atlanta. The “idea” is given different catchy names in different cities. If implemented within APS, the “idea” must necessarily operate cyclically to identify the five percent or so so-called lower-performing public schools and close them so as to move funding to open new charter schools to benefit privatizers and investors, primarily. Many District 2 public schools will stand to be among those the Excellent Schools model would target, GOSA letter grades data suggest.

More about this matter at these references:
https://dianeravitch.net/2019/03/09/atlanta-a-public-protest-against-the-portfolio-model/
https://dianeravitch.net/2018/12/09/ed-johnson-time-to-grade-the-leadership-of-the-atlanta-public-schools-zero/

As to the second question, “Do you feel that each school should have an equitable amount of special needs services?,” I believe each school should have the adaptive capability to provide special needs services as might be required of it and to be capable to adsorb demand for such services, within limits. Each public school having such adaptive capability can only be a consequence of the school continually improving in quality. So school improvement is essential, not merely school change.

5.What is your knowledge-base of the charter school programs? Are you familiar with the latest evaluation of the charter school contracts?

APS charter schools represent nothing remarkable compared to APS public schools. Virtually all available measures of school performance are clear about this.

I am aware the school board and superintendent will this coming school year turn a newly constructed facility over to KIPP to operate. It represents yet another instance of them effectively using APS as a pass-thru entity of public funds to private interests. Their behavior is unethical and immoral and reprehensible.

6. Are you aware of the proposed consolidation and closings, and what is your opinion?

To the extent one considers the so-called Excellent Schools model a proposal, consolidating and closing our public schools will be a requirement of that proposal, necessarily. Not at all an opinion but rather a fact, consolidating and closing the public’s public schools signals failure on the part of the school board to abide by the 2002 revised AISS Charter stipulating adopting policies to provide for improving the quality of our public schools. Subsequently, the superintendent fails to provide a supportive environment for improving the quality of our public schools.

An example is the school board and superintendent’s closing Adamsville Primary and consolidating it with L. P. Miles Elementary. Their action was absolutely unnecessary. Later, it was found out they took that action so as to give the Adamsville Primary building and attendant resources to the private Kindezi Charter Schools, although Kindezi Charter Schools did not request the building, the AJC reported.

7. Do you feel administrative autonomy is the best fit for school management?

I am keenly aware so-called administrative autonomy and, in general, the notion of “flexibility for accountability,” packaged profane selling points the school board and superintendent employed to get the public to acquiesce to their changing APS into a Charter System, rather than exercise the courage to commit to improving the district starting with where it was at the time, although as a derisively named “Status Quo” district.

In reality, no one has “autonomy.” Schoolhouse administrators must exist and function interrelatedly (see Dr. King quoted, above) with all others, especially the school’s teachers. Imposing so-called administrative autonomy does not rationally substitute for a school needing the capability to improve. Administrative autonomy merely allows the superintendent to escape the responsibilities the AISS Charter stipulates for her role, so as to then be able to stand back and hold schoolhouse administrators accountable for failures she spawns. Same for the school board. With her holding schoolhouse administrators accountable for results having not contributed at all to improving any APS public schools over the past five years, the superintendent’s recent hiring of yet more “school turnaround principals” exemplifies the absurdity of “doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

8. Do you feel that abolishment of jobs is best practices for ALL students?

Absolutely not. Moreover, it is not a “best practice” for ANY students. Again, the 2002 revised AISS Charter stipulates responsibilities for the superintendent’s role. Not one superintendent responsibility stipulates or even implies abolishing jobs is a best practice. Abolishing jobs as a best practice can only rationally be taken as evidence of the superintendent leading as a “trained” behaviorist more so than as a learned educationist—that is, a professional educator. This way of thinking and leading borrows from General Electric’s Chairman and CEO, Jack Welch. It is much the same as The City Fund’s free market Portfolio of Schools “idea” the school board and superintendent market as their Excellent Schools model. Beverly Hall, with involvement by General Electric’s John Rice, then in Atlanta, did this and we all know the outcome was a massively systemic cheating crisis.

As an “I told you so” footnote, here, my first run for a seat on the school board in 2005 was an effort to prevent the crisis, which was plainly predictable to anyone who had the wisdom and experience to see it coming. The cheating crisis exposed the foolishness and stupidity of “running APS like a business.” Yet, sadly, today, the school board and Superintendent Carstarphen run APS more like a business than even some businesses run business like a business—meaning, to run business in more regressive ways than in progressive ways, especially as related to the education of children labeled “Black.”

9. What policies or actions are questionable that Atlanta BOE has gotten wrong or failed to do in the last four years, such as teachers’ raises, teacher retention, inadequate bus service, overcrowded classes, inexperienced administrators, etc.?

I will here address two critical matters and reference a third. There are more.

Without question, the most damning action the school board took with the hiring of the currently serving superintendent nearly five years ago was to change APS into a Charter System by terms of a performance contract they and the superintendent executed with the state. That “bold action,” as the school board and superintendent proclaimed it, aligned with the superintendent’s “school turnaround” training by Harvard University and resulted in requiring every Atlanta public school be treated as if it were a charter school because the performance contract incorporates, by reference, The Charter Schools Act of 1992. This fact is not commonly known and understood.

Consequently, GO Teams in all Atlanta public schools. GO Teams are meant to be the functional equivalent of autonomous charter school governing boards. Unlike PTAs that are inherently democratic in function, GO Teams are inherently autocratic and authoritarian in function. GO Teams are the means by which the school board fractured their being held accountable for “control and management” of APS systemically per the AISS Charter, so as to then push the fragments of accountability down upon individual public schools and call the fragments of accountability, GO Teams. GO Teams lend credibility to, and provide a ready-made excuse for, maintaining schools segregated by so-called race and other social factors.

From the standpoint of policy, the school board got horribly wrong their new Policy BBBB, Ethics. Because racialist ideology was the central theme of their very first draft of the policy, I heavily involved myself in influencing the final outcome that considers human differences, not just so-called race. To their credit, at the urging of at least three school board members, the final ethics policy reflects my influence, verbatim. For example, although the school board’s Policy Review Committee Chairwoman, Cynthia Briscoe Brown, resisted even defining “ethics” in the policy, the approved ethics policy states:

“The Atlanta Board of Education recognizes equity means the quality or ideal of being just and fair, regardless of economic, social, cultural, and human differences among and between persons.”

These are my words, exactly. Nonetheless, ironically, in the majority “Black” school district that is APS, the school board’s new Policy BBBB, Ethics, institutionalizes regressive racialist ideology, although science shows so-called race is, in reality, just an illusion. Ironically still, the new ethics policy provides for loading school board and superintendent leadership failures to improve APS and to close “opportunity gaps” and such onto so-called race, ethnicity, and other external factors. Arguably, the non-democratic, anti-learning attitude is, “We, the school board, are the reverent authority. So if failure happens, it cannot possibly be our fault. It’s our job to make the hard decisions and hold other people accountable.” This attitude and attendant matters render the school board’s new Policy BBBB, Ethics, unethical.

On the matter of teacher pay and specifically the $3,000 pay increase for teachers, read my position at this reference:

https://mailchi.mp/7db0732bd7f1/aps-leaders-cut-short-amount-of-raise-promised-teachers-blame-city?e=%5BUNIQID%5D

10. Do you feel that the current superintendent should be offered a new contract for 2021?

No, I do not. The superintendent demonstrates being a diehard practitioner of the “school turnaround work” she has boldly and publicly proclaimed Harvard University “trained” her to do. However, neither APS nor any of its public schools have ever needed “school turnaround work.” Rather, the district and its public schools have always needed, and always will need, improvement. But to improve requires learning and being able to unlearn in the face of new knowledge. Persons “trained” for a job will generally seek to apply their training to a problem—that is, make the problem fit their current training—rather than open up to study and learn from the problem and what the problem may be trying to teach.

The superintendent has continually shown having a predilection for deceitfully deflecting, avoiding, hiding, and otherwise refusing to reveal facts that would reflect unfavorably on her personal aspirations. Take, for example, that the superintendent, as well as the school board, refuses to tell the public the fact of what “graduate rate” means. She, and they, refuse to call it by its official name, which is Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR). If the public understood what ACGR means, the public would then understand “graduation rate” is an inflated lie. Understanding ACGR, the public might then enquire: “Well, what about Unadjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (UCGR)?” And if the public were to do that, then the public might discover ACGR for Atlanta public high schools appears to have gotten better but only because UCGR got worse. And that happens simply because most high school student loses occur in the earlier high school grades—9th and 10th—thus leaving fewer students in the later high school grades—11th and 12th—that turn out to be the basis (i.e., the denominator) for calculating “graduation rate.”

Improvement cannot occur based on deceit and lies.

11. Do you feel it is a conflict of interest that the chair of the APS Board is an attorney for the law firm that also services the charter school (for-profit) industry?

Yes, I do feel it is a conflict of interest. While it may be legal, it is not ethical. Moreover, the school board chairman and the many other attorneys and lawyers involved with APS seem to have debased the district to the point where law subsumes ethics. For example, it is perfectly lawful that the superintendent refuses to make public counts of students who started ninth grade for the first time at the start of any given school year, so as to prevent the public from determining unadulterated, non-politicized graduation rates. But is the superintendent’s behavior ethical? Ironically, I have learned not one bona fide ethicists serves or serves on the school board’s Ethics Commission; however, three attorneys and lawyers do.

12. Do you support a forensic audit investigation of the Atlanta Public Schools’ Charter School Systems by the GA Department of Education?

Actually, on 30 January 2019, I appealed to both the Georgia Senate’s Youth and Education Committee Officers and Members and the House of Representatives’ Education Committee Officers and Members to conduct a forensic financial audit of the school board and superintendent’s fiscal process and spending, especially spending in the category “Instruction.”

I wrote, in part:

“However, the APSL’s Excellent Schools project is not an excellent plan, as it aims to merely implement the ideological ‘portfolio of schools model’ that serves closing and privatizing public schools, especially public schools serving mostly children labeled ‘black.’

“The collective indication that the financial efficiency of the APSL fiscal process is out of control is only strengthened by the case that GADOE used three-year averages, so as to ‘smooth out variation in the data.’ In other words, although GADOE calculated averages, so as to ‘smooth out variation in the data,’ variation in the three-year averages attributable to the APSL fiscal process nonetheless remained great enough, and strong enough to still show up as detectable non-random variation, or variation due to something special going on.

“Thus the collective indication of the APSL fiscal process being out of control strongly suggests a forensic financial audit of that process is necessary in order to truly answer the essential question of why, at root-level.

“Moreover, any such audit might also take account of academic outcomes due to the quality of Atlanta Public Schools Leadership.”

Once on the school board representing District 2, I will see to it that a forensic financial audit happens.