Deal’s former education adviser is working for him and APS. A conflict?

The Atlanta Public Schools hired Erin Hames, the governor’s recently departed education adviser, to help the district avoid absorption of  its struggling schools into a proposed new state school district.

And Gov. Nathan Deal has also retained Hames in an advisory role to help him promote and develop his Opportunity School District idea that goes before voters next year.

Is Hames wearing one too many hats?

Erin Hames will go from advising the governor on his Opportunity School District to advising APS how to avoid losing its schools to the OSD.

Erin Hames will go from advising the governor on his Opportunity School District to advising APS how to avoid losing its schools to the OSD.

As the AJC’s Greg Bluestein explains:

The architect of Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to allow the state takeover of Georgia’s most struggling schools is advising one of the state’s biggest school districts on how to avoid state intervention while also consulting the governor on education issues.

Documents released in an Open Records Act request reveal that Erin Hames will make $30,000 over the next year consulting Deal on education policy even as she draws from a no-bid $96,000 consulting contract with the Atlanta Public Schools system.

The dual contracts raised concerns of government transparency advocates who accuse the school leader of trying to serve two competing interests. Clint Murphy, the chairman of the Common Cause Georgia watchdog group, called it a “clear conflict of interest and an insult to the people of Georgia.”

“Ms. Hames needs to pick a boss. She can’t have it both ways, ” he said. “This further illustrates the need for comprehensive ethics reform that includes very clear conflict-of-interest rules for legislators and state employees.”

Hames said Thursday that she is honored to continue working with Deal to “do the bold work necessary to give our children the opportunities they deserve” and that she will continue to seek other government clients.

The governor, meanwhile, said Thursday that he doesn’t view it as a conflict of interest. Deal earlier said in a statement that he is glad “the governor’s office will continue to be one of those organizations benefiting from her expertise and work ethic.”

Bill Willis, a professor emeritus of sociology living in Winston, Ga., raises several questions about the ethical and practical issues here.

Willis writes:

I am sharing a concern raised by the recent hiring of Gov. Nathan Deal’s architect of the Opportunity School District as a consultant to the Atlanta Public Schools (supposedly on how to avoid being taken over as a failing school) while remaining a consultant to Deal.

I see the dual roles as ripe for conflict of interests. Will Hames be committed to helping districts avoid being taken over in a plan the governor is aggressively pursuing? Or will she feel obliged to identify schools that can feed into the take-over program which the governor and his allies are pushing so vigorously that it is scheduled for a referendum next year?

The governor has invested in an elaborate proposal that will include an OSD superintendent and a system into which failing schools will be transferred from the jurisdiction of local school boards (supposedly to rescue them over a period of as many as 10 years) though the governor gives no clue as to what will be done during the take-over period that will enable the schools to operate more effectively than under their present structure.

If Erin Hames is capable of helping a school avoid the pitfalls that would designate it for take-over, why would she not rescue them all? And if she managed to spare schools from take-over, what would be the fate of the governor’s elaborate OSD system? Would a superintendent and staff be maintained at taxpayer expense if all APS units rose above failing status in the first year, for example?  For how long?

There has been no discussion of what the OSD would do to enhance the performance of local schools. There has been no discussion of what kinds of skills the OSD office would bring to the schools. Would the OSD hire professional educators? Management experts? Social and/or behavioral scientists? People who have demonstrated excellence in the ability to turn failing school districts around?

In addition to the possible conflict of interest in Hames’ dual roles, I believe these and many other questions need to be answered.

Without a doubt, schools that are failing to provide our children with a quality education and adequately prepare them for productive lives and career opportunities need to be held accountable for doing just that. However, the insinuation of some heavy-handed grab into the mix without providing parents with some assurance the governor’s plan has a better chance for success than the current system would be a mistake.

I hope the citizens demand evidence that whatever reform model is proposed can achieve what it purports to do. It would be a shame to have schools taken out of the public domain and transferred to a for-profit enterprise where consultants get wealthy and Georgia’s children continue to languish behind the national average.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

55 comments
DrJohnTrotter
DrJohnTrotter

This situation with Ms. Haynes is certainly disturbing. The OSD model is all about the money. It's the transfer of PUBLIC monies to PRIVATE pockets...all under the guise of improving public schools. Nothing will improve without the drastic improvement in student discipline, an oxymoronic concept in Atlanta. The MACE Mantra is simple and undisputed: You cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions.

jerryeads
jerryeads

Wasn't Deal rated as the most corrupt governor in the country a few years back? Looks like he's trained Hames well. Might want to repave her driveway while he's at it. Let's not forget this is also a black mark on Carstarphen. I'm not at all surprised by the antics from the governor and Hames. I'm saddened that Meria bit on it.

mensa_dropout
mensa_dropout

Of course Deal doesn't view it as a conflict of interest.  He doesn't think that taxpayers paving his private road is an issue either. 

gapeach101
gapeach101

Deal wouldn't recognize a conflict of interest if it smacked him right in the head.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

“Deal’s former education adviser is working for him and APS. A conflict?”

Shoot, let’s dispense with the interrogative and make it a declarative:

“Deal’s former education adviser is working for him and APS. A conflict.”

Cere
Cere

"Is Hames wearing one too many hats?" 

 Yes.

newsphile
newsphile

This is different than a consultant simply having multiple clients simultaneously.  Two streams of taxpayer dollars are paying her to advise two opposing sides.  Her role in establishing the state's OSD adds another conflict of interest to the equation.  Taxpayer dollars deem this to be different than a consultant paid from private funds.  Where is our state ethics commission in all of this?  Are they still out to lunch?????

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

I don't agree that Hames needs to "pick a boss."  If she's a consultant, then she can have many clients and they're all her bosses in some shape and form.   She has to meet their needs.


Having said that, it does give the appearance that she has a conflict of interest.  You either advise the school districts or you advise the states.   She's trying to play both sides and make some serious cash exploiting her work as one of the key architects of the OSD.  True, very large consulting/professional services firms may play both sides, but they have VERY strict guidelines and protocols that clearly separate the two - almost like firewalls.


For someone who is just starting out with her advisory services, I think she's made a major strategic mistake because she should have known that leaking her clients to the public would create a backlash.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

It would be great to see a report on the level of corruption within the charter school industry. A recent study states that the charter industry has created fraud and wast costing the American public over $1.5 billion. Astonishing that we don't hear about this in our media.


http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32728-how-jeb-bush-s-florida-plan-for-school-choice-created-an-industry-of-corruption


Here is a story about what has happened in Florida with the influx of charter schools. some of which take hundreds of thousands of public dollars and close down just a few weeks later. Shameful. This is what the public needs to hear about and demand that it doesn't happen in our state. Unfortunately, with conflicts of interest like Ms. Hames and the continual flow of money to politicians campaign funds I feel very confident that if the OSD goes through, it will happen. 


http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32728-how-jeb-bush-s-florida-plan-for-school-choice-created-an-industry-of-corruption

jezel
jezel

@sneakpeakintoeducation Yep...call it what you want...a whitewash...gangsta....thuggin and muggin...robber baron..esque...Do hope the public can see through this mess. Sometimes I wonder.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

This seems like shrewd strategizing by Superintendent Carstarphen, who apparently intends to turn many of the APS schools into charters whether or not the amendment is approved....and who apparently has the funds to hire this fancy, inside "consultant."

ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

@OriginalProf

I predicted over a year ago after David Jernigan was brought onboard as #2 that we will see the KIPP-ification of some parts of APS.

Would like to see what happens if KIPP has the balls to take over a whole attendance zone for a school here in ATL. They did that once in another state, and it didn't work for them. So I don't expect that to be the program for them or whatever charter operator takes over a school.

They will take "applicants" and the rest of the kids whose parents don't apply will be shuttled off to some other traditional school that will increasingly become the repository of kids with unmotivated parents or who are difficult or expensive to educate. 

I find this stratification to be very disturbing.

gactzn2
gactzn2

I can see the potential for this to be a good thing- if it is being applied fairly across the board with fidelity and equity, and will remove the problematic leadership that paralyzes the progress of some of these schools.  There is no reason that the OSD's cross-hairs  be set specifically on majorily Title 1 districts.  The argument that they need "centralized control" I don't buy.  Get asst. superintendents for your North and South Georgia schools that are "struggling".  Those in the centralized regions are "struggling" just as well.  Unfortunately, if your hired consultant is working both sides of the fence- you have to question transparency of the ENTIRE process since it starts with her.

straker
straker

"Is Hames wearing one too many hats"


Not in Georgia, apparently. 

gactzn2
gactzn2

OSD will be a fiasco.  One of Georgia's biggest fails if it passes.

popcornular
popcornular

It's not about the kids, it's about the $$$. 

redweather
redweather

Conflicts of interest abound in public education, and the more they become politicized the worse they get. Wish it wasn't so.

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather


"Conflicts of interest abound in public education"


Amen. Pass the collection plate. I wonder if Bill Willis ever required any of his students to buy his textbooks.He also seems to be a minor Democratic Party kingpin in his home county,a fact that was omitted herein.

ReaderWriter
ReaderWriter

@Astropig @redweather You flatter me with the suggestion of my being a "kingpin" (albeit, minor) :-)  Yes, I did use my own text in some of the classes I taught (what professor does not?).  Students knew when they were selecting courses what textbooks were required, and could choose a section in which a professor was using a text authored by someone else if that was a concern. What does that have to do with the facts I cite about the lack of any evidence that the Governor's office or his appointee has offered any ideas about how they would improve schools?  I tried to raise objective criticisms and acknowledged that failing schools need to be held accountable. What my political affiliation has to do with the issue escapes me.  Are only opinions expressed by members of the Governor's party considered to have merit? 





jezel
jezel

Ohio Supreme court has ruled that the failed and closed Charter schools operated by White Hat management....must buy the computers back from White Hat. Tax payers money was used to buy the computers initially for White Hat. So this is education reform ? Someone correct me.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@jezel



This is an absolute travesty and shows the intention of the charter industry is to get their hands on public money under the guise of "it's for the children". The White Hat charter system has an awful record in the Ohio Schools. Not only is their record of educational success questionable but they use public money to by desks, computers etc..... and then when the school fails they get to sell them back to the public. Not only that, but some of the justices who voted in their favor have been compensated very nicely in the form of campaign donations by the very company same company they rule in favor of.


http://www.ohio.com/news/break-news/ohio-supreme-court-justices-deliver-blistering-attack-on-charter-schools-white-hat-management-1.624356


http://www.10thperiod.com/2015/09/ohio-supreme-court-justices-take-money.html


redweather
redweather

@sneakpeakintoeducation @jezel I'm thinking this decision might be appealed. Unconscionable contracts can be voided on that basis. Why the OSC chose not to is another story, but the small dollar amounts of the campaign contributions referenced in the second link are not persuasive.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@redweather @sneakpeakintoeducation @jezel


I hope that they do appeal on that basis. Also, I don't agree that the dollar amounts are too small to have created a conflict of interest. Money in our political system creates conflict of interest and the judges should have recused themselves on that basis.$15k is no chump change.

Looking4truth
Looking4truth

Absolutely - she helped design the legislation and she's coaching a system on how to avoid it.  It's definitely a conflict!


I'm all for selling your talents to the highest bidder - that's capitalism.  But this is just plain wrong.  She should choose one side or the other. 

Niobe
Niobe

Notice how the "story" about the education adviser ... morphs into a diatribe against the Governor's reform initiative for perennially failing public schools?

Déjà vu? No, just a device this newspaper column uses again and again in its crusade against education reform.

Astropig
Astropig

@Niobe



Good catch. The players here are not important-It's the overall outcome.This is serious "inside baseball" stuff that will not matter a particle when the matter comes up for a vote next year. The general public doesn't really care about the minutiae of these kinds of "controversies".They just know that they don't like what they're seeing from the status quo as it relates to these schools.



Astropig
Astropig

She needs to work for one or the other,but not both. This is like a flashback to the worst days of Democratic rule of this state.


However,this does beg the question: Why has APS not called her in and essentially said "You're working both sides of the table here,ditch them or we ditch you"? 

MD3
MD3

@Astropig Because she is giving APS exactly what they want -- a direct link to the governor's office that will keep their schools off the hit list. They don't want her to work for one or the other, because APS's goal is to use the connections that come from her working both sides of the issue.

Astropig
Astropig

@MD3 @Astropig


I agree that APS is "playing the game", thus sanctioning "the game". That said, I don't see this being any more than another manufactured controversy that won't make a dent in the overall arc of the way this plays out.

gactzn2
gactzn2

I concur with both points.  Hames has her hand in both money pots.  You cannot serve two masters- she must pick one.. Create a problem then pay me to be your "great white hope". Become the pivotal axis by which we stick our feet into the proverbial river of reform- scrupulously determining how best to proceed with caution so as to not appear money grubbing.  The OSD theory stinks to high heavens.  The failing schools are the poorest schools, with parents who most lack a voice loud enough to change the momentum of this process- if they are even aware.  In an earlier post, someone discussed that   our demographics were much poorer than pre recession.  How can we proceed blindly as if SES is not a factor in the state of our public schools?  Nothing is going to change under the OSD except the money coffers of Charter agencies. We will not know the impact this will have on these students and schools for at least 10 years.  Talk about  giving someone the keys to the kingdom- tax dollars plus no oversight or accountability for 10 years (because it will take that long to get oversight- by design)

CSpinks
CSpinks

Lost in the public furor over underperforming public schools and "opportunity school districts" are two irrefutable facts: (1) "a mind is a terrible thing to waste," and (2) too many of our GA kids are wasting theirs.

TheDeal2
TheDeal2

Don't worry. If she manages to keep all of the APS schools out of the OSD, DeKalb already has enough schools that qualify for it and would take the state to its max allowed in the OSD anyway. There's plenty of failure to go around.

Astropig
Astropig

@dg417s


"If they were honest in the ballot language, we wouldn't be having this conversation because it would lose big time, and the Governor, Ms. Hames, and General Assembly know that."


Sounds like you are already planning to lose. Good choice.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@dg417s The models Deal is using -- Tennessee's Achievement School District and NOLA's Recovery District -- recommend focusing on a limited area for purposes of management. resources and cohesion. Tennessee's efforts are largely in Memphis with a few Nashville schools. Here is a link to the map of where the ASD schools are: 

http://achievementschooldistrict.org/campuses/


I believe most of the schools in Deal's district, if endorsed by voters, will be metro schools. Charter companies have the same worries about rural areas that all schools have -- recruitment of teachers to places without Starbucks and, in some cases, without a Dairy Queen. Of course, organically grown charters started by local educators offer a solution, but that requires a core group of educators in a rural community willing to turn their lives over to proposing and creating a charter school. Nationally, charters remain largely urban. And almost all the top performing charters are in cities big enough to appeal to young professionals. 


I believe voters everywhere in Georgia will vote "yes" on the Opportunity School District; the language of the amendment assures passage. But I don't think we will see the OSD reaching out to the low performing rural areas, although we may see it in the Macon area.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney @dg417s


"I believe voters everywhere in Georgia will vote "yes" on the Opportunity School District; the language of the amendment assures passage."


Another person that has made a good choice.

Astropig
Astropig

@dg417s @Astropig


The governor will not "take YOUR schools away". Almost by definition,the kind of people reading these words won't tolerate the kind of schools that will be taken over. They already demand that their schools succeed.


Try again.

Astropig
Astropig

@gactzn2 @dg417s @Astropig


You don't like it? Then vote "no". This isn't some banana republic. You have a choice.


Again, your little diatribe there has way too many moving parts for the average voter to agree/disagree with. It's going to be a yes or no choice,and I believe that the voters are so fed up with eduacracy excuses that they will vote yes.

Astropig
Astropig

@gactzn2 @Astropig @dg417s


Continue till your fingers bleed. Make your case. Maybe you'll convince enough people to vote no to defeat it, but I wouldn't bet any serious money on it. None that you can afford to lose,anyway.

dg417s
dg417s

Do you really think the governor wants to take over schools in Twigg, Macon, or Colquitt Counties? No. There's no profit there and that is all that the OSD is about. It's not about helping children or they wouldn't have written the ballot language the way that they did. If they were honest in the ballot language, we wouldn't be having this conversation because it would lose big time, and the Governor, Ms. Hames, and General Assembly know that.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@dg417s @Astropig I just had a chance to read the language of the amendment.  I thought it was interesting that the schools- if unoccupied- could not be opened by their local school districts for three years; I also looked at the QBE funding for those schools- the same money based on STUDENT PROFILE- TITLE 1- with 3% going to the OSD and Charter Commission- Yep- looks like a money grubbing Trojan horse

https://gov.georgia.gov/sites/gov.georgia.gov/files/related_files/site_page/OSD legislation.pdf

gactzn2
gactzn2

@dg417s I have not seen the ballot, but it looks like these are all large urban, TITLE !, districts that receive lots of Title 1 funding.  That is suspect.  Either you pull all the schools that are failing, or none of them.

dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig @dg417s Oh, don't count me out yet. Listen up people - the amendment, if passed, will allow the Governor to TAKE YOUR SCHOOL AWAY FROM YOU and give it to his unaccountable crony. You won't have a say. You won't be able to do anything if they shutter the school and your local district can't use the building that your tax dollars paid for. This is not in any way, shape, fashion, or form about helping children. It's about helping the Governor's friends. 

There, dear Astro, go with that.

redweather
redweather

@sneakpeakintoeducation @MaureenDowney @dg417s I'm guessing the AJC understands that (1) most people vote by party affiliation, and (2) there are more voting Republicans in Georgia than there are voting Democrats.  In other words, simple arithmetic. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@sneakpeakintoeducation@MaureenDowney@dg417s   Below:  The AJC cannot MAKE voters move from low-information to informed.  It takes responsibility, intelligence, and a willingness to overlook party affiliations, traits that are markedly lacking in Georgia voters.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @sneakpeakintoeducation @MaureenDowney @dg417s


We finally agree. (Mark your calendars). If the people are too lazy to sift through all of the publicly available information about this issue,then they shouldn't even vote. But they will, so there has to be a winner and loser here.The AJC has frittered away any reputation it may have had for objectivity,so the only people that they can reach are the people that would vote against this anyway.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Astropig @gactzn2 @dg417s This is the language of the amendment.  IT has too many parts.  My "diatribe" references the language of the amendment.  While it is a yes or  no answer- it is important to look at ALL parts since so much is lumped together and reduced to a single answer. Have a good day Astro- I will continue with my analysis and present my view- excuse me diatribe- in this lovely, public, and open forum.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@MaureenDowney @dg417s


Maureen, if you believe that the voters will vote yet then the AJC hasn't done it's job of telling the real story behind the purported and sham successes of NOLA and Tennessee. Why disrupt our schools that serve the most needy with the false promises of success by companies whose first responsibility is to make a profit. See what is happening in all the other areas around our country, from Florida to NOLA; the charter industry is raking it in and, in turn, creating more conflicts of interest by making large donations to the politicians who help them further their agenda. 

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Astropig @gactzn2 @dg417s How would you know? Stop pouting and act as an adult.  We may not all agree- but we can argue different sides of an issue and still be civil(ized).