Opinion: Who sees greatest opportunities from Deal’s Opportunity School District?

Dan DeLamater of Athens describes himself as a proud parent, a disgruntled conservative and an insurance executive.

By Dan DeLamater

As a lifelong conservative – most always voting Republican – I am disgusted. Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed Opportunity School District is certainly creating “opportunity” long before it even comes in front of Georgia’s voters.

Unfortunately, opportunity in this administration is defined by crony capitalism not beneficial education reform.

The flow of information to us and through us has never been greater.  And while we have this extensive information at our fingertips, I am compelled to summarize several news stories hiding deception right in front of our eyes. After all, social media has supplemented traditional media for many of us, supplanting it for some. We are literally barraged with a massive amount of information. Some of it is news. Some of it is propaganda. Much of it is a hybrid. Regardless, it can be overwhelming to process.  As I piece together stories from across the past few months, let me summarize several to paint an ugly picture regarding our state and its efforts to undermine education to profit a few.

First, we have learned about ALEC, a hideous national legislative-steering organization where lobbyists, private interests, and legislators craft legislation behind closed doors. There is no sunlight on this entity. There is no accountability. Participants are back-room puppet masters controlling the local and national political agenda. Until recently, most of us had no idea it even existed.

Regarding one important topic, ALEC is admittedly and proudly against public education. The for-profit education industry rules ALEC’s agenda here – including testing companies, consultants, for-profit schools.  And lest you doubt ALEC’s influence in Georgia, know that state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, has served as National Chairman for ALEC.

Second, we have learned that Gov. Deal has become enamored with state takeover of school districts.  The power play topped the governor’s education agenda in the last legislative session, in the form of the legislation to allow a state-wide referendum to create the “Opportunity School District.”

This state takeover is contrary to the long-standing “conservative” mandate of local control within the Republican Party since a state takeover clearly usurps locally elected school boards. This is contrary to any information provided by the governor’s appointed Education Reform Commission as their recommendations are still under construction to this day.  This is contrary to our state’s Constitutional mandate as Georgia state government is forbidden to control local school districts.

Third, we know the governor hired an inexperienced but eager-to-lead Erin Hames as his education expert. The statewide-elected Georgia state school superintendent was evidently not an appropriate expert for Gov. Deal.  This is not a surprise, of course.  After all, Deal has minimized and circumvented the voters’ superintendent for years – John Barge previously and Richard Woods recently.

The aforementioned Hames tirelessly shepherded Georgia’s version of ALEC legislation through the legislative process.  The “Opportunity School District” will allow the state, if our voters so permit by vote in November 2016, to take power away from locally elected school boards and run schools from the hallowed halls of the Gold Dome.

The statewide elected superintendent will not have any part in this OSD.  Rather, the governor will empower even more bureaucratic control by appointing a czar to distribute lucrative contracts to special interests with illusory ideas and political donations.

Fourth, we have recently learned Ms. Hames will depart the Governor’s Office on August 31.  Ms. Hames has gotten a quick jump on her upcoming employment – she launched an education consulting company on Aug. 5.

In a curious and somewhat alarming fact, we have also learned the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education has already voted (on August 10) Dan DeLamaterto retain Ms. Hames’ services under a no-bid, single-source annual contract valued at $96,000.

No-bid.  $96,000. Annually.  The APS was actually going to sneak that through via “Consent Agenda” until discussion was requested by education activists at the meeting.  The vote was not unanimous, but approval occurred 7-2.

Put the pieces together, friends. For-profit education proponents have steered their agenda through back room conventions at ALEC.  Our governor, along with friends in the Legislature, adopted this agenda to help large political donors.  The governor hired Ms. Hames to create his signature OSD proposal, thereby allowing statewide takeover of schools.

Before the OSD is even official, Ms. Hames is departing the Governor’s Office to consult within her newly created cottage industry.  She will help APS and presumably others avoid takeover by the OSD she helped create.  Her first contract has even been procured before she has resigned from office.  There is no doubt that Ms. Hames understands “opportunity.”

The APS Board has $96,000 available to hire Ms. Hames.  I fear for those who are not as fortunate as the APS.  Or Gov. Deal.  Or Ms. Hames.  Or their friends.  I wonder where public school children in Georgia fall in this pecking order… you’ll be hard pressed to find their interests represented by anyone involved in this sordid tale.

 

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Reader Comments 0

208 comments
Mom71555
Mom71555

Lots of criticism of teachers but I don't hear a lot of solutions that have been PROVEN to work in other high-performing states/countries.  For a view of what Ohio has done in terms of charter schools/funding/test results, check out this article:


http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/07/20/what-ohio-gov-john-kasich-is-doing-to-public-education-in-his-state/


SCARY (but not surprising, given the corruption and complete lack of ethics in Georgia politics) to think we are heading blithely down the same primrose path!!

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Mom71555 

The problems in education are caused by some basic problems in the American society, as a whole.  Those include a lack of compassion for victims in society, a narrowing one's vision only to what is best for me and for mine, a failing to see the interconnectedness of all people in this state and in this nation (and in this world, as history moves onward).


When we as a society stop allowing ourselves to deny these truths and start addressing society's problems, as well as our own personal demons (instead of pointing our fingers at others), which include subduing anger, hatred, racism, violence (both emotional and physical) and, then, believing that love, not power, is our solution to problems, we will have grown in consciousness enough to address the education problems in our state and nation through first addressing these overriding and root societal problems, which I have named.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Mom71555 Thank you for this excellent information.  We must all see into the privatization politics that are going on throughout our nation and work together to save and make better our traditional public schools which are not based on profit.


BKWK
BKWK

@bu2 Cherokee County School Board denied Cherokee Charter three times (so there was not enough support for Cherokee Charter among school board members), The State Supreme Court voted 4-3 to strike down The Georgia Charter Schools Commission Act, and it wasn't until House Bill 797 and Amenment 1 passed that Cherokee Charter came to be.

DanDeLamater
DanDeLamater

All, here is a related opinion on topic. This is by a highly qualified professional, the Superintendent of Cherokee County schools.

http://patch.com/georgia/canton-ga/petruzielo-state-takeover-plan-would-drain-money-risk-students

Especially note, “We don’t need labels to know which of our schools face these challenges... our teachers see it when their students come to class hungry or when their parents can’t help with homework that’s in English. We also don’t need the threats that always follow these labels... like the governor’s ‘opportunity’ state takeover plan. What we need is for Federal and State government leaders to give traditional public schools the full funding that our children and grandchildren deserve and allow us the same flexibility that is served up without question to profiteering charter companies.”

bu2
bu2

@DanDeLamater 

Based on the battles of Cherokee County with their charters and board members who supported them, I would rank the Cherokee County Superintendent around 180th of the 180 Georgia superintendents in credibility.

BKWK
BKWK

@class80olddog This poor horse has been beaten to death a hundred times over regarding APS cheating, but I digress. My personal opinion is education reform such as NCLB and RTTT as well as, largely, the-then superintendent of APS. Here's an article that may be interesting as well as the comments: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/01/how-and-why-convicted-atlanta-teachers-cheated-on-standardized-tests/                                            It is also my personal opinion that prior to a formal education, there is no formal tracking of children with their development. It's much easier to point fingers at schools when everything, and I mean Ev. Er. Y. Thing, hinges on a high stakes standarized test score. Unless and until this state addresses the needs of families falling below poverty levels with a hand up, not out, Things. Will. Never. Change. I know. I speak from experience having grown up with "separate, but equal" status in the Black Belt of Georgia. Even though this piece was written in 2002 and published in 2003, I can't say things are better today without doing more research but it is a starting point: http://www.poverty.uga.edu/docs/GA_Report.pdf                                                                                               Pervasive and persistent poverty. (Watch what a can of worms this opens.) That is all. Please.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Folks might want to look at The Re-education of New Orleans at neworleans.edweek.org, out today.

BKWK
BKWK

And P.S. @class80olddog I had great administrators at every level at every place. I was fortunate to surround myself with the best. I guarantee you anyone doing the things the general public feels teachers unprofessionally do would have been dismissed and relieved of their job and the PSC would have been contacted immediately. Yes, there is a Code of Ethics for Educators with a regulatory body overseeing this. I always grew up believing if one ever did anything wrong, the FBI woudl find you. I'm as honest as the day is long and at least as much as you respect @Wascatlady for her honesty. I've never had so much as a speeding ticket and I hope that's not the kiss of death! Thank you for your interest in education. I pray that every voter would be as impassioned as those commenting here.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@BKWK @class80olddog @Wascatlady I am very glad to hear that you always had excellent administrators who backed you up.  However, listening to many on this blog leads me to believe, at least in certain schools, you are the exception, not the rule.  So answer a question - the APS teachers who were convicted on cheating - why did they cheat? 

BKWK
BKWK

@class80olddog If I write a diatribe expounding the generalized assumption that "all teachers are created equal", does it sound as if I fit in that group? Categorically and undeniably not...and not that I need to justify what you ASKED. So in working for three districts in six schools for nine principals and five superintendents for 34 years of public education in Georgia, never, ever at any time did an administrator at any level ask me to inflate grades "or else" nor at any time did I ever socially promote a student. Please stop this exchange and splitting hairs. This isn't about me. It's counterproductive to any real reform or solution that all of us need to be working together to solve. And your response to this will tell me a lot about you.

GA_and_Education_futile
GA_and_Education_futile

For those of you that don't have a problem with ALEC writing the legislation and having the person you elected acquiesce to laziness thereby, blindly following ALEC's mantra...why do you bother to vote?  Let the corporations and elites create legislation for you...I mean...they've done well thus far, right?


For those of YOU bashing teachers no worries.... there is a severe teacher shortage coming...SOON! 

So finally, this discussion about their glorious time off (never mind the fact that teachers are paid for 190 DAYS, unless your county still has furloughs) will become old news. 


But I digress...you guys aren't thinking 4th dimensionally!!!!

bu2
bu2

@GA_and_Education_futile 


Because they use standard legislation doesn't mean they don't think.  When someone creates a bogeyman like ALEC and opposes anything they do, they just indicates that person isn't thinking in any dimension.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@bu2 But it does mean they don't have to think to the extent they otherwise would.  That's the whole point of having a standard.  Also, why would somebody create a bogeyman and then oppose anything it does?

Klondike Jack
Klondike Jack

@bu2 @GA_and_Education_futile ALEC is a real bogey man, and a virulently anti democracy one at that. They write legislation to order based on ideology and to advantage their favored cronies who are too lazy or venal to compete on a level playing field, not based on evidence and facts such that the citizenry benefit. Is it not the job of elected representatives to write legislation rather than wasting our time and money fundraising and scheming in preparation for the next election? Why should a secretive organization like ALEC have any say, let alone far more say than citizens and voters? ALEC enables and encourages special interest corruption, or do you think all legislation should be crafted behind closed doors with no input whatsoever from those the legislation will affect?

Astropig
Astropig

Two predictions:


1) We have just about 14 1/2 months until the public gets its say on this. I predict that we'll see an ever more strident series of slanted hit pieces in the media that will try to defeat it.


2) They will fail. It will still get about 56% of the vote statewide.The media no longer have the power to shape the debate in matters such as these.

DanDeLamater
DanDeLamater

1) Please correct any of the statements and or assessments made in the essay. I am interested in learning other opinions and observations. For the life of me, I cannot fathom how anyone outside of the private education industry could support this. If I am missing something, I am eager to understand that.

2) Do you base this on substantive assessment of the OSD and merits of the program? Or do you simply base that on the political game and weight the Deal administration will throw at this? If the former, I am interested in your assessment. If the latter, where is the "success" in that? It proves that political denominations are no different one from another... they are just interested in winning the War Game.

Dismuke
Dismuke

Slightly tangential, but while ALEC is a topic of discussion:  are Republicans, who get so het up about states' rights and local control, incapable of perceiving the irony that the legislation their beloved GOP lawmakers present and pass is actually written by ALEC, a *national* group funded by various large national and even multinational corporate interests?  There is no "local" in the legislation that passes in GOP-controlled states;  it's written and lobbied for by folks who have no interest at all in "states' rights"--except to the extent that they can abuse them to their own advantage.

Astropig
Astropig

@Dismuke


There aren't enough bytes on the internet to list all of the democrat- front think tanks, "policy institutes" and spending lobbies that get quoted and re quoted in the press every day. None of those panhandlers seem to bother you. ALEC makes you all weepy because they are effective.Period.


I'm not the least bit ashamed to support them and what they do. They win a few, they lose a few, but they're doing what a lot of people agree with,so stop with the name calling. Maybe if you oppose their ideas instead of who they are,you'll win one of these battles some day. 

Astropig
Astropig

@DanDeLamater


You've made your point. Now go join the Democrats. You hate Governor Deal. That's the only reason you've been given space here at cheap shot central.Got it. No need to beat it to a bloody pulp.

Astropig
Astropig

@Dismuke @Astropig


That is how I see things. ALEC is just another left wing boogeyman. As I pointed out, there are literally thousands of tax-dodge left wing organizations out there devoted to their cause,but proportionally a lot fewer on the right. That's why I roll my eyes (and I know others do also) when those orgs are quoted here regularly as authoritative on matters educational.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@bu2 

I am not a group thinker.  I have always thought for myself.

Moreover, not all Democrats have disowned Thomas Jefferson, nor have all Repubicans.

DanDeLamater
DanDeLamater

@Astropig - You have yet to explain how the OSD solves real issues facing at risk students in high need populations. You have yet to explain the merits of Ms. Hames' efforts to draft the OSD then leave the Governor's office to consult schools on avoiding it. You have yet to explain how Governor Deal's efforts to duplicate yet another administration - this one not elected like the state superintendent and certainly not the locally elected school boards - will institute real change for systemically impoverished families. I am very interested in understanding your thought processes, conscious assessment, and intentional considerations. Until now, though, I have only seen your anonymous status, your throwing barbs, and your now oversimplification of the issue as blindly partisan. Might I agree with the opinion of some Ds on this topic?  It appears so.  Other Rs do also.  I am proud of that bipartisan effort.

Dismuke
Dismuke

@Astropig @Dismuke I didn't call a name--please reread my post.  The simple fact is that ALEC writes legislation that is passed on to state lawmakers--there have even been cases where ALEC's name wasn't even taken off before being submitted to the legislature.  If your idea of local control is having one of your state's legislators submit a bill devised and written by ALEC, then I guess that's how you see things.

bu2
bu2

@DanDeLamater @Astropig 

You have yet to explain how the status quo solves the issues they have repeatedly failed to solve with high need populations.


Hames is making money and taking advantage of her familiarity with the legislation.  What's that got to do with the legislation being good or bad?  That's a red herring.


Who says OSD is a big bureaucracy?  That remains to be seen.  Maybe the local districts should shed some of their's.


I see you throwing barbs at whoever doesn't follow your paranoia about Gov. Deal and ALEC and absolutely no concern about the failure of the status quo.


Seems to me like the people supporting OSD are the ONLY ones who care about the students in these failing schools.  APS has clearly shown that they don't.  Nobody else can explain why they haven't already fixed the problem if they care and have any clue as to how to do it.




EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@bu2 How is it that you think or reason APS is something like a machine needing to be "fixed?"  Do you not understand the inherent nature of APS?

Klondike Jack
Klondike Jack

@Astropig @Dismuke ALEC has democrats on board as well, though they are predominately right wing as opposed to being actual conservatives. To support ALEC is to support a fascist oligarchy rather than a republic operated by the rules of democracy.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Dismuke 

I will add that Thomas Jefferson warned our nation in the late 18th century that the wealthy elite would invariably attempt to manipulate the unaware populace to serve their own monetary purposes.  That is why he had advocated for public education for all citizens. He felt that a republic, such as ours, had a better chance of sustaining, for the ages, a true democracy of self-government by the people if the people were educated enough not to be manipulated into establishing another wealthy ruling class (the top 1%?) that the colonies/states had left behind with the old aristocracy ruling classes in England and in Europe.  He also warned, at that same time, about the over-reach of the corporations and banking institutions in establishing that new American aristocracy of the wealthy elite to the detriment of self-government by the masses. (ALEC is made up of a combination of corporate CEOs and lawmakers, mainly today's Republican lawmakers.)

DanDeLamater
DanDeLamater

Best I can tell, those who support the ALEC way of legislating must fall into one of two categories: Those who see no intersection of ethics and politics -or- Those who are politically lazy and accept policy spoon-fed from political superiors. I honestly cannot fathom that anyone defends this group generally or this Governor and Ms. Hames specifically.

Klondike Jack
Klondike Jack

@DanDeLamater Based on what I have seen in multiple other jurisdictions, I think it unlikely that Hames has jumped to the other side of the fence on the issue of the RSD, rather, I suspect that her consulting will have everything to do with promoting the policy she has put in place and claiming to be the best positioned to help others comply with it  since she started it all. I did see your claim that she is now opposed, but seem to have missed the evidence for that. Those who go thru the revolving door seldom change sides in such a dramatic fashion. Thanks for being a conservative (as opposed to merely right wing) voice of reason, there is far too little of that remaining or published these days. FYI, the New Orleans RSD is an unmitigated disaster, and not surprisingly it is being sold as a miracle and a model for others.  http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/on-the-success-of-a-100-charter-recovery-school-district/

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

From the title:  Who sees ....or...Who seizes? 

irishmafia1457
irishmafia1457

As of August 2015 the average Georgia teachers salary was $63,000  , for about 200 days (less usually) or $315 @ day, the average worker salary in the USA is $56,000  for around 240 days or $233 a day teachers generally have an excellent benefit package and generous time off package. Yes they have to work nights and weekends just as salespeople, accountants, small business owners, and dozens of other occupations do. The undergraduate degree and Master's  in education is proven over and over to be one of the easiest programs in college . Time to end all the rhetoric about how underpaid teacher's are ! BTW I am a retired educator .

Intteach
Intteach

@irishmafiahigs Source, please? Many teachers never make this in their career because they max out at about 60K after 25 + years teaching with a Masters. Absolutely no idea where you got that information from but it is not true for Georgia.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@irishmafiahigs And what is the base STARTING teacher's salary?  That's what many systems pay.


And what kind of benefits did you have?  And generous "time off?"

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@irishmafiahigs


Well, gee.  Teaching over 25 years with a Masters and I do not make the "average".  Sure seems like I should.  I suppose if you include the salaries of those in administration and central office you might get that as an "average".  Sort of like how they include the media specialist and speech teachers when calculating "teacher student ratio".

FlaTony
FlaTony

@irishmafiahigs Wrong! I don't know where you got your information from, but $63,000 for the average is not even close.

irishmafia1457
irishmafia1457

former teacher ....only fix to education is when parents make it the number one priority to their children.... period! We spend more than 150% more (adjusted for inflation) per student then we did in the 1970's (before the Department of Education also) and no one can argue that students are better educated now

class80olddog
class80olddog

@irishmafiahigs Oh, a lot of the bloggers on here think there is absolutely nothing wrong with education these days.  Everything is just peachy!

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@class80olddog @irishmafiahigs


Really?  


One the one hand we are accused of "whining" all the time and being negative nellies. On the other hand we are accused of thinking everything is just "peachy"?  Which is it?  Seems to depend upon the way the wind is blowing.

gapeach101
gapeach101

@irishmafiahigs

What percent of the students were ESOL or disabled back in the 70s?  How many students stayed in the system until they were 21 back then? 

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@class80olddog @irishmafiahigs


Plenty wrong with education these days and it starts in homes and does not end at the inbred golden dome! Man, just think what good could be going on in Georgia if those guys just had other jobs. Demonuts are failed preachers and Repubs are failed businessmen. Save a child, retire a politician! 

Klondike Jack
Klondike Jack

@irishmafiahigs The reason more is being spent is almost entirely due to increases in special ed services, other mandated spending meant to address previously unaddressed problems and in technology spending. Student scores on the PISA, one of the reference standards for judging student outcomes have steadily increased here since we started using that metric.

BKWK
BKWK

@class80olddog There! You did it! Grab that brass ring for ASSUMING because I was a public educator in this state that I would stoop to cheating or coercion or social promotion. So tired of the assumptions and implications that all public school teachers are corrupt and can be bought.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@BKWK So answer the question - did you do any of the things I asked - I did not "assume" - I ASKED.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@BKWK You know, I respect wascatlady immensely, but she is honest about teachers being forced to do things they would rather not do in order to keep their jobs.  If you have not done these things, you must have had great principals that had your back.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@BKWK and - not but - one of the things I respect about wascatlady is her honesty.