Archives for category: Georgia

Myra Blackmon, veteran journalist, writes that people from all backgrounds in Georgia joined to defeat Amendment 1, the governor’s plan to change the state constitution to allow the state to take over low-scoring schools and turn them into charter schools. Whatever their race or their place, Georgians didn’t want to give up local control of their public schools.

Now that the ALEC plan for state takeover has gone down to defeat, Blackmon has some positive ideas for helping the 127 schools that were picked for state takeover.

First, we can use the same techniques to insist the Legislature fully fund the Quality Basic Education formula that promises equitable and sufficient funding for all schools. Changing the formula will do no good if we don’t know what would happen if we actually funded the one we have had in place for decades. We must also insist that money that would have been spent on the Opportunity School District be used to help those 127 schools on the original target list.

Second, we must advocate for allowing the state Department of Education to do its job. As state School Superintendent Richard Woods outlined in a recent piece, the state DOE has the knowledge and expertise to help struggling schools improve their performance. In recent years, however, the governor and the Legislature have regularly bypassed the DOE and its elected head, imposing new rules and ignoring any input from the one department of state government that has the personnel, experience and reach most likely to help solve our problems.

Third, we must insist on appropriate assessment of school performance. The College and Career Ready Performance Index is being misused to “grade schools” as passing or failing when it was designed to simply measure growth. Further, the CCRPI wrongly relies almost entirely on the results of the Georgia Milestones standardized tests.

Throwing money at schools doesn’t help them, but neither does starving them of resources they need. New funding should be used wisely to reduce class sizes, to hire experienced teachers, give them the supplies and support they need, and retain them, and to make sure that children have a full and rich curriculum, including the arts.

Getting the politicians out of the way of educators is a swell idea. For some reason, state legislators think they should tell educators how to do their job; they are wise enough not to do that to any other profession.

Blackmon points out that the Georgia tests have changed frequently and have never been useful for teachers or students.

Despite the hundreds of millions of our tax dollars invested in the Georgia Milestones, the tests have never been validated as reliable measures of education. That is, they have never been put through the statistical process that guarantees that the questions actually measure what they are intended to. For the last two years, at least portions of the test results have been completely unusable; the tests themselves have changed annually and the results provide no diagnostic information to help teachers zero in on what students need. The test is used punitively when a more effective use would be to provide individual data that would allow schools to tailor instruction to student needs.

Last, she suggests that all the energy that went into defeating Amendment 1 should now be channeled to help the schools and school boards do a better job for the children.

Such common sense is rare these days and much needed.

Jeff Bryant, a wise observer of politics and education, offers solace at a time when supporters of public education fear the ascendancy of a Republican President and Congress devoted to privatization of schools.

He reviews the electoral victories for public schools.

Chief among them, of course, were the overwhelming defeat of charter school measures in Massachusetts and Georgia.

Another victory occurred in Washington State, where Bill Gates spent $500,000 into an effort to unseat Supreme Court justices who ruled that charter schools are not public schools. The Justice who wrote that decision, Barbara Madsen, was re-elected with 64% of the vote. Two other incumbents were re-elected.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock, a strong supporter of public schools, was re-elected, running against an advocate of school choice.

California voters passed measures to assure school funding.

One other piece of good news–and these days, any piece of good news is welcome–is that Maine voters narrowly agreed to raise taxes by 3% on upper-income taxpayers, to increase education funding.

EduShyster (aka Jennifer Berkshire, a resident of Massachusetts) explains here how a coalition of parents, teachers, students, and civil rights activists defeated Question 2.

Question 2 was a measure on the ballot to expand the number of charter schools in the state by 12 every year, indefinitely. Opponents of the measure said it would drain money from the existing public schools, which enroll 96% of the children in the state. Advocates said it would not. Advocates claimed that they were fighting for opportunity for poor kids to escape failing public schools. Opponents didn’t buy it.

Support for Question 2 came mostly from out-of-state people of great wealth. These people, such as the Waltons and Michael Bloomberg, put up at least $26 million to advocate for more charters. I thought the charter advocates had put up $22 million, but Jonathan Pelto reported yesterday that they had actually spent $26 million. The opposition raised about $12 million, mostly from teachers’ unions and individual small contributions by teachers and parents.

For a billionaire to drop $2 million into a ballot issue in Massachusetts or anywhere else would be akin to one of us sending a dollar to the March of Dimes. They won’t miss it. At some point, however, if they keep losing, they might get bored and find a different hobby.

The election was a battle royal over the future of public education in Massachusetts, and large numbers of people mobilized to save their public schools. Support among black voters was the same as among white voters.

Question 2 was defeated by a vote of 62% to 38%. It was a knock-out punch for the billionaires and the many financiers whose names were hidden from public view because of arcane campaign finance laws that enable “dark money” to be spent without identifying its source.

Berkshire writes:

I could give you a long list of reasons why Question 2 went down in flames. It was a complicated policy question that should never have made it onto the ballot. Yes on 2, despite outspending the ‘no’ camp 2-1 couldn’t find a message that worked, and was never able to counter the single argument that most resonated with voters against charter schools: they take money away from public schools and the kids who attend them. #NoOn2 also tapped into genuinely viral energy. The coalition extended well beyond the teachers unions that funded it, growing to include members of all kinds of unions, as well as social justice and civil rights groups, who fanned out across the state every weekend. By election day, the sprawling network of mostly volunteer canvassers had made contact with more than 1.5 million voters.

Question 2 had not only unprecedented funding, it had the support of the Governor and the state’s Secretary of Education, James Peyser, who is a longtime advocate for charters and a member of the board of Families for Excellent Schools, the same organization that bundled money in New York and elsewhere to push for charters.

Berkshire writes that when people who had no particular interest in charters or public schools began to see who was behind Question 2, she realized that Question 2 was in big trouble:

Do you know why hating on the Yankees is such a popular pastime in Massachusetts? Because they’re regarded as rich, entitled assholes from New York. Which is why the decision to rely so heavily on well, rich, entitled assholes from New York to fund the Yes on 2 campaign puzzles one so. By the final tally before the election, Families for Excellent Schools, reduced to serving as a conduit for the offerings of rich Wall Street-ers, had gifted more than $17 million to the cause. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, meanwhile, kicked in an additional $250,000 on top of the $240,000 he contributed back in August. To average voters, unfamiliar with the reform trope of the billionaire changemaker, the outsized role being played by rich New Yorkers was utterly incomprehensible. It’s not enough to field the richest baseball team money can buy, now they want our schools too?

The Yes on 2 team insisted that the public schools would not lose any money if there were more charters, but school committees called out their lie:

By October it was clear that the Question 2 ship was beginning to list. The original claim, debuted in a massive ad buy during the Olympics, that expanding charter schools would actually increase funding for public education, had failed to resonate with voters, and so it was off to the next argument. It turned out that charter schools didn’t *drain* or *siphon* money away from district schools as team #NoOn2 kept insisting—and here was a press release about a study to prove it. But once again, Question 2’s proponents, including editorial page editors at the Boston Globe, which ran a prominent *no draining, no siphoning* editorial, ran into the buzzsaw of a whole bunch of people all over the state who actually knew stuff.

Those school committees, which just would not stop passing resolutions against the ballot question, could tell you exactly how much money their city or town was spending on charter schools. The Mayor of Northampton, which is about as far from Boston as you can get, pointed out that his town spends more to send kids to the specialized charter schools favored by affluent parents—a subspecies never mentioned during the campaign—than on an entire elementary school. Meanwhile, cities that are already home to the largest number of charters and would be most affected by the passage of Question 2, began tallying how much charters were already costing them. Lowell, for example, has seen a drastic spike in its charter school bill and now spends more than $16 million on a parallel school system, money that’s being diverted away from *extras,* like paving the roads in Mill City. The charter waitlist in Lowell, by the way, is dwarfed by the number of kids waiting to get into district schools.

The privatization movement lost in both Massachusetts and Georgia, where Governor Deal wanted to change the state constitution to allow the state to take over low-performing schools and give them to charter organizations. The lesson is that it is cheaper and easier to make campaign contributions to elect pro-charter candidates to state boards and state legislatures than to take a risk on a popular vote. In the case of Georgia, Governor Deal could not eliminate local control without changing the state constitution. And the voters said no, by a vote of 60-40.

Read the article. The defeat of Question 2 proves that big money can be beaten when citizens are informed, organized, and prepared to defend their public schools against privatization.

Please read Mercedes Schneider’s recap of the Georgia vote on an “Opportunity School District,” which was defeated by voters.

See who was funding this initiative in addition to the Walton family, the royal family of school privatization.

Voters in Massachusetts rejected Question 2, which would have authorized a dozen new charter schools every year. The margin, at last word, was 62-38%.

Voters in Georgia rejected Amendment 1, which would have allowed the Governor to take over low-scoring schools and put them in an “Opportunity School District,” a district of charter schools, whether for-profit or non-profit. Georgians apparently didn’t like the idea of abolishing local control of their schools. The vote was similar to Massachusetts, 60-40%. Voters were not fooled by the deceptive language.

Voters in Washington State re-elected the Supreme Court judges who declared that charter schools are not public schools, rejecting the judges supported by Bill Gates.

Our fight for public education continues. Now, with Donald Trump as President, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) works in our favor. He will turn over federal funds to the states without strings, and we will fight in every state to make sure that those funds are allocated to provide a better education for all children. From the results in Massachusetts and Georgia, we know that the majority is on the side of public schools.

We will win some, we will lose some, but we won’t give up. We will do what is right for children. We will defend teachers and the teaching profession. We will defend democratically-controlled public education. We will protect the public good.

Do not despair. Join the Network for Public Education. Plan to join us next October in Oakland, California, and help us plan for the future.

*PS: Wendy Lecker, civil rights lawyer, points out in the comments that voters in Kansas retained all the judges who ruled in favor of full funding for public schools, rebuffing Governor Brownback.

EduShyster and her colleague Aaron French created a podcast about the crucial vote in Georgia on changing the State Constitution to allow the state to take over public schools with low test scores and turn them into charters or do whatever else the state wants to do.

Through the medium of audio, you are able to hear the advocates’ deceptive advertising, urging people to vote for the amendment because it will only affect “those children,” not yours.

Jennifer Berkshire interviews parent advocates, who understand that the campaign for Amendment 1 is deceptive. 140 struggling schools might be taken over, and most of them will be schools that enroll children of color.

Kent McGuire, head of the Southern Education Foundation, worries that the goal is to re-establish a dual school system. He commends the governor for taking an interest in improving education for the kids with the lowest scores, but he sees no vision of how to do that, just a managerial change.

Unless EduShyster found outliers in the discussion, the outlook for Amendment 1 is not good.

I wonder if voters know–or if Governor Nathan Deal knows–that the New Orleans takeover did not close achievement gaps, the Tennessee Achievement District failed, and the Educational Achievement Authority in Michigan failed. If they do, why are they creating yet another opportunity to privatize public schools and call it a solution to a problem they are not addressing?

In case you don’t have time to listen to the podcast, here is the transcript:

Georgia Has Something on It’s Mind: When voters in Georgia go to the polls, they face another decision besides Clinton versus Trump. They’ll also be weighing in on a single divisive sentence. Shall the constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the State to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance? In this episode of Have You Heard, we head to Atlanta to talk to voters, including parents, about why the proposal to amend the state constitution is so controversial.

Aaron French: Hey, everyone. Welcome to this addition of Have You Heard, I’m Aaron French.

Berkshire: I’m Jennifer Berkshire. Aaron, I can tell by your, somewhat far away sound, that you must be in the remote Have You Heard production studios.

French: I am indeed, in a very super secret location.

Berkshire: Do you know where I am?

French: There’s definitely something different about your voice. I can’t quite place it.

Berkshire: If you’re picking up on a slight southern accent, it’s not because I’m making fun of you. I’m in Georgia.

French: What are you doing down there?

Berkshire: I headed down to Georgia with my microphone because there’s a hotly contested question on the ballot that voters are going to be weighing in on. They’re voting on whether to amend the state constitution to give the Governor the power to take over struggling schools.

French: My understanding is what makes this really unique is that it’s the first time in history that any state has put this kind of question on a ballot for elections.

Berkshire: That’s correct, and what I discovered as I went around and talked to people who are directly affected by the question is that they have a lot to say.

French: Let’s hear from them then.

Berkshire: When voters in Georgia go to the polls, they face another decision besides Clinton versus Trump. They’ll also be weighing in on a single divisive sentence. Shall the constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the State to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance? Got that?

Kimberly Brookes: You’re changing the Georgia constitution, that is major.

Berkshire: By amending the state constitution voters will the State the authority to take over some 140 struggling Georgia schools. It’s called an Opportunity School District, modeled on what happened with the New Orleans public schools after Katrina. While these independent state-run districts are now popping up around the country, what makes Georgia different is that it’s the first time the question has been put before voters. You can put parent advocate and Atlanta native Kimberly Brooks down as a no.

Brookes: It’s just misleading. Pretty simple, should the Governor’s Office intervene for failing schools. There are psychological triggers. That’s my own view of that. When you think of failing, that’s horrible. You think of these little kids. You think of the teacher. “Oh, my god, yes” but “no” because what is not said is very broad. How are you defining failing?

Berkshire: If you want to see just how intense the debate over Amendment 1 has gotten, go no further that a discussion around the preamble. Those are the 14 words on the ballot that introduce the school takeover plan to voters. “Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.”

Brookes: What does this mean? Will the parent be able to have a voice over a school in their area? If you’re a parent and you’re a tax payer and you contribute a lot to your taxes, do you want to not even have a say-so in your superintendent because they are going to be appointed? Do you not want to have any say-so in the operations and the spending of the school? Because you’ll lose those rights. Do you know that?

Berkshire: The answers to these questions are buried deep in the legislation that will go into effect if voters approve Amendment 1. With new powers the State can step in and close schools with persistently low test scores. It can turn them over to charter operators, it could run the schools directly or jointly with the local school board.

The decisions will largely be in the hands of a state-appointed superintendent. In other words, it’s complicated and, as Brooks sees it, political.

Brookes: Some of my, and I say my parents because they are mine, they’re hard working people, and they have a lot of other challenges. If the school system has the responsibility to do it. They should not be concerned about when their child goes to school any politics in one of the, supposed to be, most safest places and sacred structures, elementary school.

Berkshire: Brooks started advocating for parents back in 2012 when the Atlanta public schools closed a dozen schools. Community meetings were held for parent input. She says that even though parents spoke up, they weren’t heard. She’s worried that the Governor’s school take-over plan will eliminate the little voice that her parents do have.

Brookes: I decided to become an advocate because a lot the parents that I served as a PTA president, it was an eye opener for me. I didn’t realize the social problems that they had that influenced their ability to be involved in their children’s lives and to even understand what quality education looks like. I felt that it was my responsibility to start advocating for parents.

Berkshire: The question of whether of amend the Georgia constitution will be decided by voters across the state. The schools that dominate the take-over list are largely congregated in and around Atlanta. They have something else in common too. According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, the schools on the list are attended by students who are overwhelmingly African American and low income.

Valerie Williams: Washington High was established in 1924. It was the first African American high school in the southeast. People came from far and near to matriculate here. We’ve had proud alumnus such as Martin Luther King, Jr. We have Lena Horne. We have Pearlie Dove, Nipsey Russell, Louis Sullivan.

Berkshire: That’s Valerie Williams. She’s a alumni of Booker T. Washington High School on Atlanta’s west side. It’s been on and off the list of schools that could, potentially, be taken over. It’s not the only historic African American school whose fate hangs in the balance.

Williams: What this would means for us is that, how can a state even allow a school that’s on the National Historic Registry be even in this place? That’s not only the Booker T. Washington, it’s the Frederick Douglass, it’s the Benjamin E. Mays. The schools of whom are named after great African Americans. How can you not be intentional about the success of these schools?

Berkshire: When Williams thinks about community involvement she has in mind the huge community of people who attended historic black schools like Booker T. Washington. While voters may be determining the future of these schools, Williams says their potential take-over is also a threat to the past.

Williams: What this would mean to us is our 90+ years of legacy and history would be gone. There is no other school, there is no other place in the world like our Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Georgia.

Berkshire: If creating a state-run school district that scoops up struggling schools isn’t the answer, what is? Williams says that when she looks at successful schools in the Atlanta area, she sees a clear difference.

Williams: What I believe we need is the same equitable resources that schools that are being successful have. If we receive the equitable amount of resources in personnel that have made the north side successful, we would be successful.

Berkshire: Williams would also like to see the Governor whose the driving force behind the Opportunity School District, focus much more on the communities around the schools especially at a time when neighborhoods like hers in west Atlanta are gentrifying rapidly. It’s poorest residents risk being left behind or pushed out altogether.

Williams: If the Governor was very intentional about really pulling people up from the bootstrap, it’s not just education. You have to go into these communities. You have to show people a difference. You have to show people without displacing them.

Berkshire: By now you’re probably getting the sense that the debate over Amendment 1 in Georgia isn’t just about struggling schools or accountability. It’s about history and resources, who gets to make decisions and, above all, it’s about race. Take one of the ads that’s been airing in favor of the ballot question.

Audio of Yes on 1 Campaign ad:

I think it’s devastating that there’s 68,000 children that are in failing schools.

Our children cannot wait for a good education. They deserve a good education.

The Opportunity School District is not going to affect those that are already doing well.

This is an opportunity to help those students that have been failing for decades.

I just can’t imagine what those other parents have to go through. That’s why I’m voting yes for the Opportunity School District.

Vote “yes” on Question 1.

Kent McGuire: Even in the advertising that’s on television and, now, you have a person on camera, basically, saying to us, “Don’t worry, you can vote for this. This is about other people’s kids.”

Berkshire: Kent McGuire is the head of the Southern Education Foundation, a group that got it’s start 150 years ago as part of the effort to help Blacks in the South assimilate after the Civil War. He says that he can’t help but recall Georgia’s past when he considers the proposal to set up a separate school district for students who are overwhelmingly poor and African American.

McGuire: It makes you worry that this is about creating a dual system, not about creating one really high quality system for all kids. It does make you worry about that a lot.

Berkshire: The campaign to sell Amendment 1 to voters is heavy on feel-good buzz words, opportunity, achievement, accountability. McGuire says he’s noticed one notable omission. There’s no talk about what schools that are part of the Opportunity School District will actually do. Nothing about teaching or learning.

McGuire: There is no underlying vision for teaching and learning that has been expressed here or revealed, none. I don’t think people, the architects of this, believe we have a design problem in our education system. They just think we have a managerial one. That is the tip of the iceberg, is the point I would want to make.

Berkshire: Amendment 1 is running strong among backers of Georgia’s Republican Governor Nathan Deal. They’re not the only ones who support it. Priscilla Davenport says that while many of her DeKalb County neighbors are opposing the Opportunity School District, you can put her down as a “yes” vote.

Priscilla Davenport: For me, as a parent, I feel that I know what has not worked in more than 10 years. I’m willing to make a change, to try something new.

Berkshire: Davenport grew up in this metro-Atlanta county, and she says she can still recall a time when it’s schools were a draw.

Davenport: When I was younger and living in DeKalb County School District was the top school district. Everyone was moving to attend the schools in DeKalb County.

Berkshire: Today, though, Davenport’s daughter attends a high school that’s on the state take-over list. Davenport says she chose to send her daughter to the school instead of a charter or magnet because it had been slated to undergo a transformation. Four years in, she’s frustrated that not much seems transformed.

Davenport: The education level did not really increase even though the funding and the programs were put in place. A lot of those things, maybe they just didn’t work. I’m not sure but, for sure, the education level of the school did not increase. The enrollment dropped because a lot of people after seeing that, they decided to take their children to other schools.

Berkshire: Davenport says when she looks at the list of schools that could be taken over by the State, she notices something else they share besides the demographics of the students. Few of them have really active and engaged parents.

Davenport: If you check the research on parent involvement, most of the passing schools have high parental involvement and welcoming parents and gathering parents and doing things with parents and involving parents in the educational process of their children.

Berkshire: Listening to Davenport, I’m struck by just how much she sounds like parent advocate Kimberly Brooks who’s leading the charge against Amendment 1. If Brooks fears for what a state take over will mean for parental involvement in the future, Davenport says schools like her daughter’s make it way too hard for parents to make their voices heard now.

Davenport: I did realize that as parents are actively involved in the school, it’s always not a welcome door with the leadership. When you are going in school and you’re participating and you’re being very active in your child’s education life, that’s not always wanted on a higher level.

Berkshire: Davenport says she’s under no illusion that a state run take-over will be a cure-all to the problems confronting schools like those in DeKalb County. In fact, she’s aware that similar efforts in other states have been controversial and have produced, at best, mixed results.

Davenport: No one knows whether this will work or not but we are hoping that it will work if it pass because, at least, it opens a door for our community to address education.

Berkshire: Even staunch Amendment 1 opponent Kent McGuire says he has to give the Governor some credit for raising the issue of how best to educate students in Georgia who need the most help.

McGuire: We’re not saying schools that aren’t performing well don’t need help, we do. Let me commend the Governor for taking an interest in the lowest performing schools in Georgia. He was right to do so. The real question is, what’s the best way to do that.

Berkshire: Thanks for tuning into another installment of Have You Heard. If my math is correct, that brings us up to episode #8 which means that our 10-part series is almost over. If you really like what you’ve been hearing and maybe want to encourage us to do more, or have ideas about episodes we haven’t touched on, this would be a good time to drop us a line. You can find us on Twitter. I’m @EduShyster, and Aaron is @AaronMoFoFrench. Until next time, I’m Jennifer Berkshire, and that’s what we’ve heard.

Jack Hassard, retired science professor, refers to Governor Nathan Deal’s proposed “opportunity school district” as the the “misfortunate school district.”

He knows a hustle and a fraud when he sees one.

Governor Deal is angry that the state’s elected school boards don’t want him to have power to seize control of schools and turn them over to private entrepreneurs. So he calls them a “power hungry monopoly.”

Professor Hassard writes:

Deal, The Bully, Calls Local School Boards Power Hungry Monopolies Because They Oppose His Misfortunate School District

monopoly: exclusive control of a commodity or service in a particular market

bully: a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.

Governor Nathan Deal is calling local school boards a power-hungry monopoly because they oppose his Opportunity School District which would steal 20 schools per year from the same local school boards. Deal’s definition of a monopoly (according to an AJC report) are entities “that have no competition and see no reason to change.”

Deal, I suppose, is angry that local districts are really not monopolies, but in fact run by democratically elected school boards, which indeed, change. However, since the Federal No Child Left Behind Law, and Race to the Top, the biggest obstacle facing local schools is the State which carries out the laws of the Federal Government.

Schools districts are not monopolies (thank goodness) but independent entities that have the right and responsibility to educate the youth in its communities. The only monopoly in the State seems to be the Governor’s office which wants to control educating children in direct opposition to the Georgia Constitution.

The Georgia Department of Education rank-orders all schools in the state on a scale with 100 being the top score. This score is primarily based on achievement test scores. Any school that has a scale-score less than 60 for three consecutive years is put on the list of chronically failing schools.

It’s from this list that the Governor will be able pick his schools that are “chronically failing” and put them under his control.

Many school districts are opposed to the Governors plan. So now the governor is lashing out saying he will punish districts if his plan is defeated. He says he will mess with the districts use and access to money and will require districts to give parents a choice in sending students in “failing schools” to a better school in the district. This is nothing new. Districts have in place the ability to do this, but it often is simply not realistic for parents who would find it difficult to provide the transportation for their children.

The Governor is acting like a spoiled child. Maybe he needs detention.

T.C. Weber, a public school parent in Nashville, can’t understand why voters in Georgia would vote to create a state takeover of low-scoring schools to turn them over to charter operators. It hasn’t worked in Tennessee, despite the propaganda, and there’s no reason to believe that it will work anywhere else. What’s worse, it defunds public schools so that the charters get whatever they want.

“On November 8, Georgia residents will head to the polls, and, along with their presidential vote, will decide on whether or not to give the state the power to take over so-called failing schools. As a parent of two children who attend a school that sits right outside the periphery of the priority school list, I urge you reject this idea. No matter what they try to tell you, the Achievement School District in Tennessee has been an unmitigated failure. The only thing the ASD has been successful at is creating another government entity rife with financial mismanagement and becoming an endless source of debate as they constantly change goals.

“As I said earlier, I’ve got two children in a school that for all intents and purposes is a “priority school,” and I hate that term. First of all, I believe all schools should be “Priority Schools,” meaning that we should make it a priority that all schools have the resources they need. Taking schools and ranking them while ignoring their resource shortfalls gives us an inaccurate portrait of our educational system and allows us to ignore societal issues that need addressing. The focus becomes not on actual learning, but rather on standardized test results. I know the two should be the same, but unfortunately we all know they are not. Ranking schools in this manner further exacerbates an inequitable education experience for children because the emphasis becomes getting off the list versus providing the best possible well-rounded educational experience for all children.

“Let’s look at Nashville, for example. Currently, we have 11 schools on the state’s priority list. At a recent school board meeting, the newest plan was unveiled to rescue these priority schools. One of the elements of the plan was that we were no longer going to call underperforming schools “priority schools.” We were now going to refer to them as “innovation schools” because “priority” conveyed a sense of failure and punishment. That’s fine, you can change the language – something the reform movement is particularly adept at – but the state will still refer to these schools as priority schools. And if they fail to improve, the state will reassign them to the state’s innovation zone, the Achievement School District, which has proven to be not so innovative after all. Their idea of innovation has more to do with growing the charter sector than with their stated goal of moving the bottom 5% of schools to the top 25%. Any local action is potentially neutered by the vulture on its perch waiting to pounce.

“So if an ASD-type program gets approved in your state, what follows is a plan of action that focuses on getting these schools to show growth in the only measurement that matters to the state, the standardized test. Want to take a class on a field trip to the state museum? Well, that’s great, but how’s that going to improve literacy scores? Want to teach a novel to your class? Yeah, that’s nice, but we have other strategies that’ll have a bigger impact on test scores and we’d prefer you utilize that time for them. Thank God there are still teachers willing to buck the system or it would be test prep all the time, which is basically already happening in a lot of places.”

It is always hard to explain complicated issues to voters, especially when you don’t have much money.

Take Georgia, for example. Governor Nathan Deal wants to change the State Constitution to allow the state to take over low-scoring public schools and hand them over to charter operators. It hasn’t worked anywhere else, but no matter. The amendment is being sold as a way to help kids and improve schools, when it is a transfer of public schools to private management. It is privatization of public schools and squelching of democracy.

How do you reach voters?

Here is one way: Someone hired an airplane to fly over a University of Georgia football game flying a banner that said:

“No School Takeover. Vote NO on Amendment 1.”

Maureen Downey of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that there are signs that Governor Nathan Deal’s attempt to change the state constitution to allow state takeovers of low-scoring schools and turn them over to charter corporations is running into a groundswell of unexpected opposition.

The public is waking up.

The ALEC privatization crowd thought they could dupe the people of Georgia into giving up local control of their schools. The amendment is deceptively worded as a way to “improve” schools when it is a bald-faced power grab by the charter industry. It is one of the ironies of our peculiar time that conservatives and rightwingers now fight to eliminate democracy and life cal control. This makes it easier to turn public money over to corporate charter chains.

This is the deceptive language of the amendment:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?

( ) Yes

( ) No”

Deal calls it the “Opportunity School District,” when he really means the State Takeover District. It is modeled on Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District. There is zero evidence that a state takeover district improves test scores (“student performance”).

As Downey explains, the popular resistance is increasingly visible.

Here are one of the four signs that Downey identifies:

“This morning former Atlanta Mayor Andy Young and baseball legend Hank Aaron held a press event urging Georgians to reject the OSD. “We have to defeat this, we have to vote ‘no’ on Amendment 1,” said Aaron. Young took issue with Deal’s description of schools and students as failing. “Self-esteem is the basis of good education,” said Young. “To take that self-esteem away from families, teachers, principals and boards of education locally and turn it over to a corporate-oriented state structure is a sin and a shame and we cannot allow it.”

A great statement by an icon of the civil rights movement.