Archives for category: Georgia

Parents, students, educators and other citizens are invited nvited to learn about the hoax of Amendment 1on the ballot. It is an effort by the far-right to change the Georgia state constitution to allow the state to take over schools with low test scores and give them to charter corporations. Tea Party Governor Nathan Deal says it is for the poor minority kids, whom he wants to “save.”

Please join civil rights activists to learn more about Amendment 1 and the myth of the New Orleans miracle.


Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia is pushing a constitutional amendment to allow the state to take over low-scoring public schools. He calls it an “opportunity school district” and points to New Orleans and the Tennessee Achievement School Districts as models. He brought called together a group of African-American ministers and asked for their support.

Here is the response from one of the attendees, who knew that neither New Orleans or the Tennessee ASD had helped the neediest students. Governor Deal couldn’t answer his questions, because the ALEC model legislation doesn’t explain why cessation of democracy helps schools or what to do after privatizing the schools and giving them to corporations.

Here is the report by Rev. Chester Ellis:

Governor’s Ministers Summoning Meeting was a School Takeover Sales Pitch
By Rev. Chester Ellis 912-257-2394
Pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia

Governor Nathan Deal is working hard to sell the voters on what he calls an Opportunity School District. But this is an opportunity that Georgia should not take.

Recently, The Governor made a pitch to twenty-nine African American ministers in the basement of the mansion. No media was present. But I was one of those ministers.

If Amendment One was about education and opportunity for our communities and children, we could at least hold a logical discussion about evidence-based solutions. As a retired educator and community activist, it is very clear to me that his Opportunity School District is not about education or the community. He has no plan or roadmap to improve schools.

Gov. Deal was looking for our support. He stated, “I need your help.” But we left with more questions than we had answers. It truly is a takeover, and one whose extent is clear to very few voters.

I was disappointed. I thought the Governor would be able to lay out his plan in detail to us. But, what I got from the Governor is he’s making it up as he goes. There’s really no plan. At best, it was guesswork.

Bishop Marvin L. Winans, who has a charter school in Detroit, was the first to speak to us. Brother Winans is a minister and an award winning Gospel singer. He does not live in Georgia. Marvin talked about why he had established his school in Detroit and why he thought it was a good idea that the Governor was willing to do something to help failing schools. But we didn’t have a chance to dialog with him, ask questions or shed light on anything here in Georgia for him. He left for a concert, almost as quickly as he appeared!

Afterwards, the Governor followed with a spiel about why he thought he needed to take over the schools and why the Black clergymen needed to be in support of Amendment 1, The Opportunity School District. He then opened the session up for questions.

I asked him, what is the student to teacher ratio per class of all the schools on your list for takeover? He said he did not have the answer to that question.

My rationale for asking that question was that research tells us ideal pupil to teacher ratio should be 18 to 1, and the further schools and classrooms go past that recommended ratio, the more they are setting students up for failure. Districts need resources to address that problem. The A plus Act of 2000 provided such resources. In fact, this Governor has taken more resources from our public schools. The governor added that he needed to do more research on that issue, so I invited him to do that and gave him some websites he could Google.

I also asked the Governor if all of the schools that are having trouble, as defined by him, are predominately African American schools. He replied, not so much, but that when they looked at schools that were failing they looked at schools that were in a cluster. And that the ministers summoned to the meeting were invited more for being in those identified clusters of schools.

One of my colleagues asked the Governor for the specifics of his Opportunity School District plan. Deal replied that he was using different models, and two of the models he mentioned were the Louisiana Recovery School District and the Tennessee Achievement School District models. Then the question was raised about both of those state’s backing away from the models because they failed to accomplish their achievement goals. In fact indicators prove that New Orleans is worse off now The Governor replied, “We are going to look at what they did wrong, and correct their mistakes so that ours will be right. You know, we have to do something, we are willing to try this and then if it doesn’t work, we are willing to work on what doesn’t work and straighten it out.” The problem with the Governor’s logic is that he is asking the voters to change the state’s constitution. We can’t back up if the voters do that!

The Governor says OSD is a “plan in the works”. . So I urged the Governor to use Massachusetts as a model rather than one from Tennessee or Louisiana, which have both failed.

According to a recent article in Education Week, scholars at the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation and Philadelphia-based Research in Action organization found that some states are proposing to mimic “opportunity school district” takeover models despite evidence that prototypes of these models have gone awry. The esteemed Education Week reports that imitating these models are not an appropriate prescription for providing support for schools that needs it.

Massachusetts put their plan in place with on the ground, in the classrooms education practitioners. . Legislators met with them and applied the educator’s advice and professional know how. They set out on a course working together and didn’t change the course until they got the results they were striving for. They are now one of the celebrated and better school systems in the country. I asked the Governor, why didn’t his planners and plans look at that type of successful model?

He replied, “It’s because of demographics.” I responded that clearly Massachusetts doesn’t look like Georgia but education isn’t rocket science …..It requires an understanding of what you are working with. I also referenced just one of many of our state’s successful public school model, Woodville Thompkins High School in Savannah. I’m a graduate of that school and I have worked since 2006 with that school and the community. As a result it is an award winning school in many disciplines.

For the last two years, Woodville-Tompkins Technical and Career High School has had a 100 percent Graduation rate. They have also been cited as being one of the top 30 programs worldwide in Robotics. There is a way to turn schools around and it doesn’t require a Constitutional Amendment. I don’t see the need. It takes a little elbow grease and total involvement from parents, community and legislators to sustain evidence based solutions and models that are already working.

I don’t buy the Governor’s program or plans. He’s selling the public on a quick fix. I think the Governor has some friends who see education as a carte blanche card; something they can make money off of. It’s about the money, not about the children. The legislation doesn’t even define what a failing school is. The Governor has spent little or no time educating the public on the thirteen pages that compose all of the little devils in his plan per Senate Bill 133. He is spending lots of time though, selling his plan.

The Governor is a lame duck, yet he’s asking citizens to trust him blindly and give him all the power over their schools, public property, pocketbooks and children by changing the constitution.

I thanked the Governor for inviting me, but I told him before I left that there are too many uncertainties and too many unanswered questions to go before my congregation and say we should support this. I’m not comfortable with the Governor’s answers or his solutions. His Opportunity School District has no facts and no plans to improve schools. This is an opportunity that citizens can’t afford to take. It is all about the money. It’s just that simple.

When most of his peers were silent about the governor’s dreadful plan for state takeovers, one school superintendent Steve Green of DeKalb County spoke out. He is a hero of public education. He joins the honor roll of this blog.

Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia is working hard to promote his constitutional amendment to allow the state to take over public schools with low test scores and turn them into charter schools. He calls this an “Opportunity School District,” modeled on the Achievement School District in Tennesssee, which failed to meet its goals. The OSD is an ALEC-inspired ploy to privatize public schools and gut local control.

Do you believe that right wing politicians like Nathan Deal can be trusted with the lives of Georgia’s most vulnerable children? If you do, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you.

One superintendent has spoken out loud and clear about the Governor’s misguided plan: Steve Green of DeKalb County. Green lived through a similar battle in Kansas City. He knows that the state doesn’t have a plan or an idea about how to help low-scoring schools.

He writes:

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again now: I am opposed to any state takeover of local schools no matter what it is called.

For me, the state of Georgia’s effort to take control of 26 DeKalb County schools … and schools elsewhere … is déjà vu all over again.

When I became superintendent of the Kansas City (Missouri) Public Schools in 2011, my team and I found ourselves in a desperate fight for survival and for control of public education. An appointed Missouri state employee was attempting to take over the school system under a conspiratorial smokescreen – by creating a special statewide district for low-performing schools.

Sound familiar?

In Georgia, the state wants control of schools it has stigmatized as “failing,” based on standardized testing. This takeover effort comes despite strong evidence that standardized tests can’t fairly take into account … or accurately measure … the extreme complexity of teaching and learning in a district like DeKalb County, with 135 schools and 102,000 students from 180 nations and with 144 languages.

We fought … and won … the battle to keep schools in Kansas City under control of parents and professional educators and out of the hands of politicians. I am probably the only school superintendent in the state of Georgia to lead a system through this unique experience. Key members of today’s DeKalb schools leadership team also worked beside me in Kansas City. These academic professionals are battle-tested in holding onto local control of schools.

Striking parallels can be seen between the struggle in Missouri and ours in Georgia.

The real issue in Kansas City involved powerful, ambitious officials exploiting a political situation rather than working with local school systems to address root causes of underachievement and provide what schools needed to succeed.

It was ruthless aggression – like predator and prey. A rapacious state political system wanted to take over the weakest, most vulnerable schools.

Georgia feels painfully similar. We see racial, socio-economic, and political parallels. The names are different, and the titles of the people who want to take over are different, but the goal is still the same – seize local control of public education….

As Green and fellow citizens fought the state takeover, they knew the stakes were high:

“We’d seen the failed results of state takeovers of local schools in New Orleans and Memphis. (After being unable to take over schools in Kansas City, the Missouri commissioner did manage to take over the school system in nearby Normandy. That state-controlled education experiment failed miserably – students performed more poorly under the state regimen than under local control.) It was also abundantly clear to us that too much power and secrecy concentrated in the hands of a detached, uninformed, faceless state bureaucracy would ultimately fail students, schools, and society.”

Green and his team created an effective plan to improve the Kansas City schools:

Progress came by design – our team made strategic, systematic, intentional, student-by-student improvements. The key? We built a foundation of trust and a sense of purpose among parents, school leaders, teachers, and the community.

Here in DeKalb, our own progress in just two years using this same model has already earned national and international attention. Of the specific 26 DeKalb schools targeted for takeover, 15 are within five points of the 60-point threshold. Ten others need more intensive support, and we’ve launched strong remedial measures. In all schools, we’re laser-focused on the classroom experience, where any lasting improvement in education must start.

There are no quick fixes, no short cuts. Turning around schools takes deep, hard, intimate work. It means fighting poverty and all that it brings. It means helping new arrivals to our country anchor lives and hopes to our communities and country. It means giving special needs and pre-school students and others among our most vulnerable the schooling, security, and stability that allows them to be their best.

That’s the kind of work going on right now with our most challenged schools and at others all through our system.

We stand for something in DeKalb County – education with rigor, relevance, and relationships. Our goal is nothing less than to be recognized nationally for academic excellence and for world-class service to kids, caregivers, and communities.

In my opinion, you’ll look far and wide before you find a politician in Georgia who goes to bed at night and gets out of bed in the morning with this same ambitious goal.

In DeKalb, we have 15,000 teachers and staff who work 365 days a year to reach our goal of excellence. We are professional educators … not predatory politicians.

Who do you want teaching and looking out for our children?

Jack Hassard is a Professor Emeritus of Science Education at Georgia State University. A former high school teacher, he usually blogs about science education. But he has seen through the hoax of the Governor Deal’s constitutional amendment this November. The ballot asks voters whether the state should have the authority to intervene to help failing schools, yes or no. Readers of this blog know that this is a hoax, intended to deceive voters. The real purpose is to creat a special non-contiguous district consisting of the state’s lowest performing schools. They will be removed from their district and handed over to state control. The state will then transfer them to charter chains.

Every so-called opportunity school district has failed. This is a hoax and a fraud. The governor must know this. Since when were conservative politicians concerned about “saving” poor kids? Note that this reform is a substitute for reducing the poverty that blights children’s lives.

This is an ALEC-inspired program to erode local control and expand privatization.

Hassard explains that Governor Deal is taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s horrendous Citizens United decision that removed limits on political contributions. In this post, he describes the twisted trail of big-money that’s behind Governor Deal’s push to privatize public schools, which will create a money pot for entrepreneurs. Deal is pulling the wool over the eyes of the public.

Myra Blackmon is one of the most astute commentators on education in Georgia. She writes often for AthensOnline. In this column,she takes issue with the advocates for an “Opportunity School District,” which is on the ballot on November 8.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow the state to take over schools with low test scores. It guts local control. As we have seen again and again, state takeovers have repeatedly failed, because the state doesn’t know more than the local school board. The Tennessee Achievement School District, which is a model for Georgia, has not produced any results in its four years of operation. The low-performing schools in the ASD are still low-performing, still eligible to be taken over yet again, but by whom? The Educational Achievement Authority in Michigan has been a disaster.

So why is Georgia following these failed examples? Well, eliminating local control is recommended by the far-right ALEC. ALEC’s goal is privatization, not “rescuing” poor kids.

The proponents of this measure claim that they will “rescue” poor kids from “failing schools,” the usual mantra of privatizers. But the claim is a hoax and a deliberate effort to deceive voters.

Blackmon writes:

These rescuers must have been living on another planet if they haven’t seen their proposed “solution,” a state takeover with no accountability, go down in shame all over the country. They tried it in New Orleans and gave up because it didn’t work. They’ve been trying it in Nashville, and the confiscated schools are doing worse than they were when their “rescue” began. They tried it in Detroit and 11 of the 14 schools that were “rescued” are still failing.

The so-called “Opportunity School District” is among the worst of a long string of dangerous ideas and policies forced on local school districts in Georgia. It is a power grab, pure and simple, moving control of local schools from those closest to them to an unaccountable gubernatorial appointee who, from on high in Atlanta, will dictate local education policies and practices.

The language both on the ballot and in the enabling legislation sounds like a plan for everyone to hold hands and happily work to improve education. But that’s a lie.

These self-styled rescuers of poor children want to turn education over to their buddies in the privatization movement. They want accountability for everyone but themselves.

Rescue, my eye. Keep our opportunities local. Vote “no” on Amendment 1.

Leonie Haimson, parent activist in New York City, crusader for reduced class size and student privacy, lays waste to the charter privateers in this hilarious post!

First came the devastating resolution passed by the national convention of the NAACP, calling for a charter moratorium.

Then came the attack on charters by Black Lives Matter.

And the topper was John Oliver’s funny and accurate portrayal of charter school graft.

But the privateers (or privatizers, as I usually say) continue their assault on public education with propaganda and lies.

In Massachusetts, they claim that expanding charter schools will “improve public education,” when in fact it will drain money from neighborhood public schools and take away local control.

In Georgia, a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November authorizes the creation of a state district that will eliminate local control, like the failed Tennessee ASD, yet says it will empower communities.

This is Orwellian. That means when you say one thing but mean the opposite. Another word for lying. Like saying “reform” when you mean “privatization.”

The Georgia PTA, representing PTAs and a quarter million parents across the state, unanimously endorsed a resolution criticizing Governor Nathan Deal for deceptive language in a proposition that will be presented to voters in November.

A group that represents a quarter million Georgia parents says Gov. Nathan Deal and state lawmakers are being “deceptive” and even “intentionally misleading” with wording they have chosen for November’s constitutional amendment affecting schools. The amendment to the state constitution would eviscerate local control and create a statewide district modeled on Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District. In Georgia, the takeover district would be called the “opportunity school district.” The Governor says it would “increase community involvement” when it would actually supersede local control and tax districts to pay for schools no longer in their district.

It is a classic case of charter lies, and the Georgia PTA is irate.

Amendment 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot would create a statewide school district with a superintendent answering only to the governor. That superintendent would have the power to requisition local tax dollars and to take control of schools that perform poorly on a state report card based on measures such as test results, attendance and graduation rates.

Critics slammed the ballot measure itself as misleading when lawmakers and the governor authorized its two dozen words last year. Now, opponents of the proposed “Opportunity School District,” or OSD, are critical of 14 new words published this week, and are demanding what they feel would be clearer language.

The state leaders responsible, however, appear unwilling to change their wording.

This week, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp publicized the “preamble” that will introduce voters to the ballot item. Since many will not have done their research, the language could be influential. It was written by Deal and the two leaders of the state House and Senate, who by law write ballot preambles. The words the three men approved at a meeting in Deal’s office on Aug. 2 introduce the measure this way: “Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.”

That, says the Georgia PTA, is simply untrue.

“This deceptive language must not be allowed on the November ballot. … The preamble, and indeed, the entire amendment question, is intentionally misleading and disguises the true intentions of the OSD legislation,” the group said in a statement Friday. “Parental and community involvement is not increased by or required by the OSD enabling legislation.”

PTA delegates voted 633-0 in June against the ballot item itself because, the organization says, the resulting constitutional amendment would take funding from local districts and place their schools in the hands of a political appointee.

Lisa-Marie Haygood, president of the Georgia PTA, said in an interview that both the preamble and the ballot question mislead with “flowery language” that does not reveal what the legislation would actually do. The ballot question asks if the state should be able to “intervene” to improve failing schools, when the state would actually take them over.

Haygood fears the OSD will become a “profit hub” for charter school corporations, since the OSD superintendent would be able to convert OSD schools into charter schools. “There’s nothing in that legislation that improves schools,” she said. “It’s just about the money.”

Senate Bill 133, the legislation that would take effect if voters approve the constitutional amendment, lets the state take a school building and responsibility for its students while forcing the local district to pay for certain facility costs. The local district would also have to turn over local and state tax proceeds for the school’s operation and for the OSD administration.

The language is false, fraudulent, deceptive. It is ALEC-inspired. And it will turn children over to corporations.

Georgia’s K12 Cyber Academy rakes in millions yet gets poor results for many of its 13,000 students.

The state’s largest “school” collects $82 million a year, but the Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement gave it a D for poor performance.

Georgians spend tens of millions of dollars a year on one of the biggest online schools in the nation, yet nearly every measure indicates the high-tech, online education model has not worked for many of its more than 13,000 students.

Georgia Cyber Academy students log onto online classes from home, where they talk to and message with teachers and classmates and do assignments in a way that will “individualize their education, maximizing their ability to succeed,” according to an advertisement. But results show that most of them lag state performance on everything from standardized test scores to graduation rates.

The charter school’s leaders say they face unique challenges, with large numbers of students already behind when they enroll. They have plans to improve results but also claim the state’s grading methods are unfair and inaccurate. However, the state disagrees, and if the academy cannot show improvement soon, the commission that chartered the school could shut it down.

Since it opened with a couple thousand students in 2007, the academy has grown to become the state’s largest public school, with students from all 159 counties. In the 2015 fiscal year alone, it reported receiving $82 million in state and federal funding.

The academy earned a “D” for 2015 from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. The academy scored near the bottom in the state that year for “growth,” a measure of how each student did on standardized state tests compared to others with similar past performance.

The graduation rate of 66 percent lagged behind the state average by 13 percentage points. Reading ability in third grade, a key marker of future academic success, also lagged, with 47 percent of its students able to digest books on their grade level versus a state average of 52 percent.

The State Charter Schools Commission, established in 2013 as an alternative to going through a school district to start a charter school, authorized the academy in 2014-15. The commission requires its schools to meet annual academic, financial and operational goals in three of the first four years of operation. The academy, which had operated for seven years under the Odyssey Charter School in Coweta County before obtaining its own charter, did not perform as required in its first year as an independent school. It scored one out of a possible 100 points on the academic portion of its evaluation, which assesses performance, mainly on standardized tests, compared to traditional schools. The results for 2015-16 are still being calculated.

There have been similar reports about virtual charter schools from other states, most recently from California, where the K12 operation is being investigated by the State Department of Education and the Attorney General’s office.

CREDO at Stanford reported that a student attending a virtual charter school lost 180 days of learning math and 72 days of learning in reading.

If the K12 school were a public school, state authorities in every state would have shut it down by now.

The burning issue is why don’t they?

Jack Hassard, emeritus professor of science education at Georgia State University, warns his fellow Georgians about a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that will allow the state to cancel local control.

This is Governor Nathan Deal’s so-called “Opportunity School District,” modeled on Tennessee’s failed “Achievement School District.”

Read the language of the proposed 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

If we posit that the state of Georgia does not know how to improve student achievement in “chronically failing public schools,” then what is the amendment really proposing? Let the state take control of schools away from their local school district and give them to out-of-state corporate charter chains. Even though this was tried and failed in Tennessee, let’s do it in Georgia too.

Jack Hassard, professor emeritus of science education at Georgia State University, notes that Georgians will vote in November on whether to create a special district for low-performing schools, modeled on Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District.

If it passes (and who is against “opportunity”?), that means the state will gather together its lowest-performing schools and hand them over to charter operators, most from out of state. The charter operators will have years to demonstrate their stuff. If (and when) they don’t, the schools can be given to other charter operators.

In November when we vote to pick a new president (topic for a future post), citizens in Georgia will vote on a ballot amendment to the state constitution. If passed, this amendment (Senate Bill 133) will create a school district (Opportunity School District) that would authorize the Governor’s office to supervise, manage, and run a new school district made up of schools from across the state that have been determined to be failing, based on scores on standardized tests.

The state calls it the “Opportunity School District.” Hassard calls it the “Misfortunate School District.”

In what sane world would policymakers choose a model that has been tried and failed?