Teacher leader on Atlanta’s selection as school choice friendly: ‘Like saying Chicago is the most murder-friendly city’

A Washington think tank named Atlanta a school-choice friendly city.

A Washington education policy think tank named Atlanta a top school-choice friendly city.

The AJC had a story today about the Thomas B. Fordham Institute ranking Atlanta among the top 10 cities nationally for “school choice,” which includes charter schools as well as private-school vouchers and public magnet schools.

The charter school community applauded the story, except for one quote from the head of state teachers’ group. Here is the quote in AJC reporter Molly Bloom’s news story that upset charter school supporters:

Calling Atlanta one of the most “choice-friendly” cities isn’t much of a compliment, said Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers. “That’s like saying Chicago is the most murder-friendly city in the nation, ” she said.

Turner said charter schools haven’t delivered on their promise to be incubators of change. They can attract the kinds of parents more likely to be involved in their children’s schools, siphoning resources away from traditional public schools, she said. And they can lack oversight, she said.

Among those upset with Turner’s comment was Tony Roberts, president and CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. He sent me a statement praising “Meria Carstarphen, the APS Board of Education, and the many dedicated staff and teachers of Atlanta Public Schools for their progress in improving the education of children by all practical means available—including public charter schools.”

But Roberts blasted Turner:

The President of the Georgia Federation of Teachers, reacted to this news in what we consider to be inappropriate and inflammatory words regarding the accolades given to APS and Atlanta.  She said, “That’s like saying Chicago is the most murder friendly-city in the nation.”  Really?  Giving parents options for their children’s education is comparable to “murder?”  Thousands of parents and students in APS would take issue with such careless language.  I would imagine that the citizens of Chicago would reel from such an assessment of their city as well.

These “sticks and stones” of hurtful and destructive words from the GFT President do not help or encourage anyone—most especially students and their parents. Nor do these inflammatory words support the teachers, many of whom may be members of the GFT and now wondering why.

We adults may not seem injured by the inappropriate words of the AFT President.  But our children, their parents and the dedicated teachers who are doing their best to help these children succeed deserve nothing but encouragement, support, and kindness.”

Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, also shared her indignation with the comment:

“Parents want high-quality public school options for their children and have turned to charter public schools as the solution. Ms. Turner’s comments that compare school choice to murder are not only tone deaf but horribly disturbing and offensive. She owes charter school families and teachers an apology.”


Reader Comments 0


Charters haven't lived up to their promise because no one remembers what the promise was, which was to test creative approaches to schooling that WHEN SUCCESSFUL could be adopted by 'regular' schools so that they too could prosper. Charters instead have become "choices" for parents to racially and economically segregate their children from the rest of us. YES there are wonderful exceptions. Exceptions don't make the rule.

Ed: Bravo. But I still want to postpone judgment on Meria. I so want her to be better than the criminal sociopath that created the testing scandal.



Jerry, to ramble a bit, here…  Early on it was by her invitation that I sat down with Carstarphen several times to share certain information about journeying to systemic improve and not just implementing systemic change and firefighting, to encourage avoiding Hall-style behaviors and traps, to go shy of charter schools and, perhaps most importantly, to see into her heart through her eyes.  I glimpsed our time together would matter.  It didn’t, and hasn’t.  Much hope went out the window with her “horsewhipping and cheerleading” (as she recently put it) the public to go alone with turning APS into a Charter System consistent her narrative that “APS is broken” and requires a “school turnaround” strategy.  APS is neither broken – in fact, APS cannot possibly be broken -- nor does it require being turned around.  APS requires improvement, as always.  Carstarphen has made it clear for all to see she is on a mission, likely directed from afar, to pave the way to privatize APS through charter schools – not necessarily because she wants to but rather because she has been trained to, with yesteryear’s Tayloristic and Behavioristic practices so clearly having been aspects of her training.  The loss of all hope came with learning Carstarphen disrupted an APS high school’s leadership that was improving the school in a way that did not echo her “school turnaround” narrative.  Can’t have that.  In the end, unlike with Hall, for some reason I had cared Carstarphen would always do the right thing simply because it was the right thing to do.  Perhaps that caring comes from knowing Carstarphen is about the age of my oldest.


@EdJohnson @jerryeads 

Both of your comments are appreciated. Time will tell Carstarphen's intent (and/or that of those above her), but your words have very much been needed to have been stated on this public forum NOW so that Georgians can keep their eyes, ears, and minds open as to what may be going on with the APS, as time unfolds the plan for the APS more fully.

Thank you both for your timely comments.


No matter how much you wish it to be, a "demanded" apology is not a real apology.  The only real result is continued attention to the offensive comment and the person who uttered it.  

A real apology is offered as the result of personal growth.  Implicit in a real apology is the intent to refrain from making such remarks in the future.  

Closing the circle on a real apology is gracious acceptance by the offended person(s). 

None of the above seem to be forthcoming.

Stamping your feet, pitching a tantrum, and railing against perceived "injustices" are all yesterday's news.  A demanded apology is, as Mary Poppins would have put it, a "piecrust promise; easily made and easily broken." 


Roberts’ and Rees’ response to Turner brings to mind Ackoff f-Law 35.   Other Ackoff f-Laws very likely apply.

Ackoff f-Law 35: The offence taken by an organization from negative press is directly proportional to its truthfulness.

“Nothing can offend an organization more than the truth about itself.  It is easy for it to defend itself against lies but very difficult to do so against truths.  This is why so many organizations would rather settle suits out of court; doing so conceals truths.  The rationalizations given seldom reflect this fact.

“What organizations seek from others, including the press, is reinforcement of the delusions they have about themselves.  They never see themselves as others do, nor do they see others as they do.  The result is an equitable distribution of distortion.”

Example: “Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council decided to give Laquan's unfit mother $5 million to keep her from revealing the video that showed her child being executed by a city cop the month before a heated election.

Murder-friendly of a human life and of ever improving it?  Yup.  

Example: Carstarphen’s “horsewhipping and cheerleading” (her words) the public with, for example, her and the school board’s Charter System application to the state as a front for concealing from the public their true prescriptive, non-rational drive to execute a contract with the state to structure and operate every Atlanta public school as if it were a charter school and not a public school.

Murder-friendly of public education and of ever improving it?  Yup.

Latanya Lowery
Latanya Lowery

I have read the article and I will provide you with my feedback based upon my experience with KIPP WAYS Academy and Primary.


My son is now in Kindergarten and he did have to make adjustments from playing and learning to Learning then playing. I must say, the entire staff at KWP have embraced my son, his education, and treat him like family. I have also witnessed staff do this with every other scholar. I love how at the beginning of the year, I was asked about my goals for my child. To see the staff, take my wishes seriously is amazing, they truly stand by their word. What I love most of all is the promotion of the overall outcome for my son. He sings songs and plays learning games that instill the importance of 2032. Yes, his graduation year from college. They are planting seeds that will grow with him forever. As parents, we may wish for our children to attend college, but at KIPP, they make the thought of it part of everyday life.

Not saying that it would not have been the same in a traditional setting; however, I am saying it is done at KIPP and I love it.


I have two children who attend KWA. The goals I had for them were 1) Improve Behavior toward academics and in school, 2) Complete and Submit Assignments, 3) Improve Grades.

Since my children have transferred to KWA, I have seen a major improvement in goal number 1. My children are actually excited to go to school. That is half the battle. They now recognize the value of being in school and around a teacher staff who care about their education, not teachers who have play referee all day. The school expectations, rules, and consequences are clearly explained. The teaching staff also made it fun for them to learn the rules through songs, dances, rap, and grade level competitions. All of these tactics are FREE, EASY, and engage the students.

Completing assignments with my children is not as hard as it used to be because the school has their buy-in and my children want to participate.

I am very pleased with my experience thus far, it only makes me want to be involved even more with the school.


@Latanya Lowery 

Make sure you see and analyze your children's standardized test scores yearly for how they compare, in reading and mathematics especially, to national norms and how much advancement yearly your children are making academically on these standardized tests.

Also, google all you can about the finances and profit factor in KIPP schools and size up that element objectively.

It is rewarding to read that your children now love to go to school and that your child wants to go on to college.  As a wise parent, you can make sure that happens by keeping up with his or her yearly progress on the standardized tests given at KIPP.  Don't let years go by in which you assume that your child/children are keeping up with national norms when they are not.  That fact alone (not advancing academically as they should) will limit their opportunities to attend college/universities equivalent to their individual potential. 

Keep at home an individual file on the standardized test scores of each of your children and ask your child's counselor to interpret those standardized scores for you until you can do that for yourself.  Ask the counselor for a copy of the results of your child's standardized test records so that you can keep them in your home file and refer to them over time in order to weigh the degree of your child's academic advancement (or not) by national norms.


GFT claims to represent the economic, social and professional interests of classroom teachers."  Its affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers claims to "champion fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high quality public education ..." (all of the things charters are all about).   I daresay Ms. Turner or her counterpart at the AFT have not turned away a single membership check of a charter school teacher.  They falsely misrepresent public education AND marginalize public school teacher members.  It is shameful behavior of those who are supposed to be doing what's right for kids. 

Ironic - "federation" means a centralized body with divisions that operate autonomously (kind of like ... charter schools). 

A question somewhat related (actually really related since they have lobbied so hard against charters) .... since the GFT is a 501(c)(3), can they publicly lobby/campaign? http://ga.aft.org/

I thought 501(c)(3) organizations could not be engaged in this type of political activity?  True?


From the report, America’s Best (And Worst) Cities for School Choice:

“[T]he city receives high marks for NGO, business, and philanthropic support, funding for charter authorizers, and its willingness to close schools with low enrollment. Last year, the Atlanta Board of Education, in conjunction with the new superintendent, Meria Carstarphen, submitted a letter of intent indicating they would apply to the state for Atlanta Public Schools to become a charter system.” (p. 18)


“Atlanta Public Schools is a member of the Portfolio School District Network, and the city receives high marks for its willingness to close schools with low enrollment. Atlanta also benefits from several choice-friendly policies at the state level.” (p.68)

Now, since when has APS been a member of the Portfolio School District Network?

Why is APS a member of the Portfolio School District Network?

What does it mean for APS to be a member of the Portfolio School District Network?

How did APS get to become a member of the Portfolio School District Network?

Obviously, Carstarphen and the APS board are striving hard to impose upon the district a selfishness-inspired charter schools structure necessarily murderous of the district as a public institution.  Rather than serving selfishness, public schools generally exist to serve the common good generally in the interest of sustaining and advancing democratic ideals.  So the question is, why their bent to murder Atlanta public schools?  Is it because of Eli Broad who is known to be out to disrupt and murder public education in especially urban areas?  A source believed reliable tells me “Carstarphen has a dotted-line relationship reporting to Eli Broad.”  Has she?

Absent answers to such questions, then indeed, saying Atlanta in charter-friendly is much like saying Chicago is murder-friendly.  The only difference is that whereas human murder Chicago-style happens much in an instant, public school murder Atlanta-style happens slowly, over time, much by destructive psychological qualities such as betrayal, deceit, disinformation, duplicity, falsehood, hypocrisy, lying, mendacity, etc. – in short, bamboozlement.


Chicago's as famous for its failing public schools as it is for its murder rate.

And its teachers are unionized, even if many are forced into joining the union.

Furthermore, railing against school choice is an unpromising strategy for union bosses eager to protect their dues revenue.

Parents just won't settle anymore for failing public schools.


A word to the wise:  Be sure to follow the money with public charter schools.  Make certain that the proprietors of your chosen charter school have, as their overriding focus, establishing a quality educational environment for all of their students and teachers, instead of on their own personal profit.  Trust, but verify.


Mary Elizabeth,

I am in complete agreement with you.  In ANY public enterprise, whether it is charter or traditional, trust must always be verified.  That's exactly why charters are required to have independent audits and to submit annual reports to the state AND their authorizers (who are supposed to be the secondary oversight by law after the governing boards).  It is also why districts are supposed to have audits that are overseen by the state.

I'd be very interested to hear your solutions for the continued malfeasance and mismanagement of public funds in districts like Dekalb and Clayton County (evidenced by those actually indicted), or the persistently failing districts with boards of education that have a LEGAL obligation to ensure students are learning.  

To be honest, I'd like to see ANY governing or district board member who fails in their fiduciary duties to have some pretty stiff consequences that are actually enforced. I believe that issues in charter governance is to some degree due to poor oversight by authorizers.  I also believe that failure in districts occurs because of poor oversight and lack of remediation by the state agencies.  Charters, at least, can be shuttered.  There must be accountability, otherwise students, teachers/staff, and whole communities are impacted adversely.



Can you cite "continued malfeasance and mismanagement of public funds in districts like DeKalb and Clayton County (evidenced by those actually indicted)"  I recall they made unpopular decisions with respect to the Great Recession but I don't recall what you have mentioned.  

I do recall the former COO for DeKalb being found guilty of having business go to her husband however no one mentioned that the work was still performed and delivered.  Though their family enriched themselves the citizens still got the expected deliverable at a market cost.  Who was indicted in Clayton County?



Johnny does not have a good argument to his teacher when his primary point of reasoning is that Billy engaged in the same infraction that he had done, and was not corrected.

Public schools must remain institutions of public service, not agents for profit.  Students and teachers must never be used as pawns for personal profit because, if that were to happen as a given with the public's eyes and minds closed, then public education will have become prostituted.


@MaryElizabethSings @CharterStarter_Too

My point was NOT that the traditional public schools could do be fiscally irresponsible, so give charters a pass. On the contrary, my point was that ANY public institution (including charters) should be held to a high degree of expectation and scrutiny.  My second point was that this is impossible if there is no one to provide oversight and actually enforce fiscal responsibility.  


@ErnestB @CharterStarter_Too

I should have said indictments and loss of accreditation.  Apologies for my oversight.  Clayton lost its accreditation in large part due to fiscal mismanagement and poor governance.

In DeKalb indictments for racketeering were Patricia Reid and Crawford Lewis.  As you know, their entire board was replaced by the governor for poor governance.