Ed Johnson is a systems analyst in Georgia who is a strong supporter of public schools. He has consistently criticized efforts to multiply privatized charters and charter chains in Atlanta. Much to his chagrin, the Democratic nominee for State of Education is a veteran leader of charter schools and a graduate of the Broad Academy, which is hostile to public schools. Consequently, the Georgia Association of Educators has endorsed the Republican incumbent, State Superintendent Richard Woods. Johnson says: “The BIG lie is ‘charter schools are public schools.’”

Johnson wrote a post for his regular mailing list, explaining that charter schools are not public schools. He was responding to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that profiled the two candidates—the Democrat, Alisha Searcy, and the Republican, Richard Woods.

Johnson’s critique was titled, “No, AJC, charter schools are not public schools, even if Alisha Searcy pretends they are.” Searcy is a proponent and veteran leader of charter schools.

Johnson wrote:

In profiling the candidates, AJC reports that the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) is endorsing Richard Woods and suggests why GAE is doing so:

The Georgia Association of Educators is endorsing Woods, saying [school choice] policies like those [Searcy stands for] leave less money for traditional public schools. (Charter schools are publicly funded public schools governed by independent boards with government oversight.)  Her [Searcy’s] “school choice” advocacy has also rankled members of her own party.

Now, see that parenthetical statement AJC makes right after reporting that GAE is endorsing Woods?

Why would AJC do that? Why would AJC perpetuate the “Charter schools are public schools” lie?

Charter schools are not public schools, plain and simple.

Rather, charter schools are private business enterprises operating within the so-called public education industry. And that does not make them public schools.

Heck, the private business enterprises themselves have told us they are not public schools.

Take, for example, Ivy Preparatory Academy, where Alisha Searcy was, at first, Executive Director then Superintendent, so-called:

After leaving the state House, Searcy became executive director of Ivy Preparatory Academy, a network of charter schools in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties. […] Searcy said her title at Ivy Prep was changed to superintendent a year or so after her hire.  She wields that in her campaign against Woods, asserting she has more leadership experience than he does.

Ivy Preparatory Academy applied for and received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan of more than one-half million dollars, all the while suckling public money from DeKalb County and Gwinnett County public school districts:

PPP Loan Amount: $643,603.00
Date Approved: 2020/04/14
Number of Jobs Protected: 53
PPP Loan Amount per Job: $12,143.45

Ivy Prep applied for and received a PPP loan because it was eligible to do so, as the private business enterprise it is in reality:

In order to be eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, an applicant must be a small business, sole proprietor, independent contractor, self-employed person, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, 501(c)(19) veterans organization, or a tribal business.

Public schools were ineligible for the Paycheck Protection Program.

But charter schools were eligible.

In Atlanta, a breakdown of charter schools that applied for and received PPP loans goes like this: 

  • $4,822,200.00 to Purpose Built Schools Atlanta, Inc.
  • $4,039,752.60 to Drew Charter School, Inc.
  • $3,855,982.00 to The Kindezi Schools Atlanta, LLC
  • $1,850,000.00 to Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, Inc.
  • $1,659,400.00 to Centennial Place Academy, Inc.
  • $1,085,420.00 to Wesley International Academy, Inc.
  • $750,400.00 to Westside Atlanta Charter School, Inc.

That comes to more than $18 million dollars ($18,063,154.60) in PPP loans that went to these charter schools.

So, here are these charter schools telling us they are private business enterprises and not public schools.

Yet, also, here is AJC saying, “Charter schools are public schools.”

One would be wise to believe the fox when it tells one it is a fox although some may choose to believe the fox is a hen.

One would be wise to not believe the “Charter schools are public schools” lie.

And one would be wise to not want to have Alisha Searcy (aka, Alisha Thomas Searcy; aka, Alisha Morgan; aka, Alisha Thomas Morgan; aka, Alisha Thomas) be Superintendent, State of Georgia.

On her campaign website, Searcy boldly and shamelessly calls attention to her charter schools track record and associations with school choice enterprises, such as EdChoice (à la Milton Friedman), Broad Superintendent Academy (à laEli Broad), and such others. See more here.

The school choice enterprises with which Searcy associates are known to be about undermining and ultimately destroying public schools, so as to then privatize and commodify them, especially when it comes to education for children labeled “Black” and other minoritized (not “minority”) children.

Thus, out of her own mouth, Alisha Searcy tells us she has not the wisdom to perceive, understand, and appreciate public schools and public education being fundamental common goods essential to the sustainment and continual advancement of democratic practice ever closer to realizing democratic ideals.

She tells us that aspects of her school choice advocacy necessarily and unavoidably begs selfishness, immediate gratification, and wanton consumerism—all attributes that, in excess, make circumstances fit for giving rise to oligarchy and such other societal dysfunctions hence the demise of democracy and civil society.

So, let’s believe Alisha Searcy when she tells us she is a far-right Republican dressed as a Democrat.

But, for Pete’s sake, do not believe, or stop believing, the “Charter schools are public schools” lie.

Moreover, let’s understand there are no such things as “traditional public schools” because that implies other types of public school exist—charter schools, specifically—and they don’t. It’s just “public schools,” so let’s just drop the qualifier “traditional,” already.

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

A comment by Diane:

Bravo for Ed Johnson for calling out the blatant hypocrisy of privately managed charter schools applying for and receiving Payroll Protection Program money that was available to private businesse , but not to public schools.

How can a “public school” receive federal money for which public schools are ineligible? They did, but doing so was hypocritical, and the Trump administration didn’t care.

If you open the last link in Johnson’s post (“see more here”), you will learn that Searcy champions high-stakes standardized testing and co-authored a teacher evaluation bill based on test scores, although she was never a teacher.

If Georgia wants to maintain public schools with elected school boards, voters should re-elect State Superintendent Richard Woods.