School choice week: Does choice in Georgia now only mean charter schools?

A rally will be held at the Capitol Wednesday morning to mark National School Choice week.

The annual Georgia event has become more focused on charter schools than vouchers, which are seldom mentioned in education debates. Charters have become the centerpiece of choice in Georgia.

A rally at the Capital Wednesday will call for greater choice options. (AJC Photo)

A rally at the State Capitol Wednesday will call for greater choice options. (AJC Photo)

Charter schools are independent public schools freed from some state and district rules and instead bound by a performance contract. The contract includes academic goals that must be met over a period of years to assure the school’s continued operation.

Lawmakers fought to the state Supreme Court for the power to approve and fund charter schools over the objections of local school boards. When it lost in court, the Legislature turned to voters, winning their blessing in a 2012 referendum to change the constitution.

Georgia now has 415 charter schools and an entire division in the State Department of Education.

As for the performance of charters, the AJC reported in July:

Some studies, including one by the state entity that authorizes charter schools, suggests charters are about on par with traditional public schools. The Georgia State Charter Schools Commission recently issued a report that found that 62 percent of the charter schools it authorized did no better than comparison school districts on the state’s new report card, the College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI. Since charter schools are often accused of skimming the better-performing students from traditional schools, the commission also measured performance using a so-called “value-added method” that adjusted for student characteristics “so that schools can be equitably compared.”

Under that measure, no state charters outperformed their comparison districts in “relevant” grade levels. Only 8 percent performed at the same level as their districts, the report said.

And at least 18 state and local charter schools, more than one in six in Georgia, received a failing score on the 2014 CCRPI, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That’s about the same as the failure rate for all public schools. (Failure means a score less than 60 on the 100-point measure, according to a new proposal that would allow the state to take over bad schools.)

In an annual state-by-state charter school law rankings released earlier this month, Georgia ranks 18th, up five spots from last year. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said Georgia’s improvement in the ranking reflected its new regulations strengthening authorizer accountability, charter school monitoring processes and charter school autonomy.

Georgia lawmakers seem to have thrown in the towel on vouchers, in which parent are given tax dollars to pay for private schools. In 2007, the General Assembly approved a voucher program for students with special needs, but there’s not been a credible campaign for universal vouchers.

Nationwide, voucher programs remain limited and controversial.

A few days ago, I interviewed education reform scholar and choice advocate Paul E. Peterson about a study he just completed on state standards. The results are embargoed until tomorrow, so check back.

Peterson is the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government and director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

When I asked Peterson what he considers important drivers in school improvement, he cited choice.

“We need to give more choice of schools,” he said. “When schools are in competition with one another, they will meet that competitor.”

He mentioned the improvement in Washington, D.C., schools, which he credits to the surge in charter schools in the district. Half of DC students now attend charters, he said.

But what about vouchers?

“Well, I think we are having more success with charter schools than vouchers,” he said. “We are a little bit more careful with what we let charter schools do and we get higher quality schools. Some of the vouchers schools that have opened up have been pretty low quality.”

 

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33 comments
newsphile
newsphile

Problems with this theory:  1)  Most top schools can't handle many/any additional students  2)  IF your student gets into a school, poor people can't provide transportation  3)  Taxpayers would end up funding tuition for students who are already enrolled in private schools 

For the record, my child graduated from a private school.  I did not expect taxpayers to foot any portion of the bill because I believe that public schools are vital to our society.  Follow the millions of dollars at stake.  Winners will be Deal's contributors who are in the for-profit charter management business and parents whose kids currently attend private schools. This scheme solves no problem.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

School choice is alive and well - public, private, home, online, local ,boarding, etc. 


What the choicers want is to be able to buy private goods with community taxpayers' money. What a complete misunderstanding of the purpose of taxation and public goods.


Others might want choice to eschew the government provided/subsidized good and choose instead(at other taxpayers' expense):


-Country club instead of state and local parks

-Uber instead of Marta

-Dasani instead of tap water

-Private doctor instead of county health dept.

-Private security instead of police

-Sprinkler system instead of fire dept.

-Private lawyer instead of public defender

-Private arbitration instead of public courts

-Private college instead of public subsidized college

-Au Pair instead of pre-K

and the list goes on.


Parents and Grandparents of school aged children - you are not better or more deserving than other taxpayers. If you truly want your child to get a good education, it is really your responsibility. You can provide that opportunity for your child. It may require great sacrifice and extremely difficult, sustained effort on your part, but that is true for many taxpayers trying to achieve their goals.





Dick James
Dick James

@AvgGeorgian "What the choicers want is to be able to buy private goods with community taxpayers' money."


This is false.  What choicers want is to be able to be able to have a say in how they buy public goods.  Dasani water and Uber rides are not public goods.  Primary and secondary education have been considered public goods for at least a century.  


Once might argue whether access to parks or public transportation should be provided as public goods, but there is little argument that education at the primary and secondary level is in the public interest.  


The city of New Orleans converted to charters after Katrina, and the results have been impressive.



class80olddog
class80olddog

@AvgGeorgian By the way, AvgGeorgian - the people of Flint Michigan had the same "choices" you speak of here - they could have bought Dasani water.  When a public system is broken and no effort is given to fix it, other options are always welcome. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

There are several types of de facto school choice that are practice: Some people send their kids to private schools (if they have the money) and double pay for their kids' education.  Some move to a good schools district (again, if they have the money) in order to enjoy better schools.  The rest are just trapped by the status quo school district that WILL not improve.  Charters could help this last group of parents.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@class80olddog

You talk as if a school is like a car wash and a student is a dirty car - just run it through the "right" process and it will be perfectly clean. How simplistic.

JohnA1
JohnA1

Schools run by corporations  for profit are a waste if they can't provide a better education.  Every charter school is a business. NOT a school.

AVJ
AVJ

I would like to see REAL school choice, to address the article's title.  If it were up to me, our kids would go to private school.  But with the current emphasis on charter schools which have to still follow the same curriculum (Georgia's standards, which are basically Common Core), I don't feel like there IS a real choice.

I do take issue with the method of comparing charter schools with traditional schools, however.  Here in South Fulton, we have 3 charter schools that have been in existence for a couple of years, and while they may not be outperforming the district, they all are performing better than the traditional schools in S. Fulton and at least 1, KIPP So. Fulton, is performing on par with many of the N. Fulton schools.  So, I think it's a bit unfair to compare a singular school with an entire district, especially those that are really big, diverse and spread out like Fulton.  I think it makes more sense to compare them with the local area schools where they are pulling students from.

AVJ
AVJ

I used to be a huge supporter of charter schools. Now, I'm just "blah" about them. The fact that they teach using the exact same standards as a traditional public (which, with common core are very low standards with overly confusing methods of teaching in math and very weak language arts skills) makes me wonder.... what's the point?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Someone please answer:  What happened to the schools in Athens/Clarke County when they went to public school choice in 1995?  You could choose your top 3 elementary schools, and a first choice middle or high school, as I recall.  The county would even provide transportation, as I recall.  Parents signed up in the spring for which schools they wanted.  I got my first choice school for my daughter, but then right after school started I got a job and we moved.


Is that still happening?  Was it discontinued?  If so, why?  What did the research show?  This was right here in Georgia!

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady I found this:  " Before the Clarke County School District ended its school-choice policy in 2007, the elementary school was virtually all-minority, with most white, middle- and upper-class Boulevard families opting to send their kids elsewhere, mainly to similarly affluent Barrow. "  One issue I think they had was with realtors and people wanting to buy houses in a "good" school district (one of the biggest reasons people buy houses in certain areas - like Decatur).  Why should they buy a house in a good neighborhood, and then end up with their kids getting shuttled over to the failing school across the county.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@class80olddog @Wascatlady A problem pointed out way back when it was proposed.  However, many active parents thought they had it all over "those people" because you had to sign your child up in advance, and "those people" don't plan ahead or care where their kids would go to school.


Can you share your source?  I also wonder if there were modifications in the provision of transportation after they tried it.

class80olddog
class80olddog


What else would school choice mean?  The voucher system does not yet have the support it needs to be enacted.  Regular school "choice" does not work - you are free to choose Walton High School as your child's school, except that it is only if they have any extra space, and they don't have any extra space. Remember, also, that there are two different types of charters - conversion charters (which are just traditional schools, charters in name only, they are still controlled by the eduacracy), and start-up and state charters.  They are the ones who have promise: they may do what traditional schools WILL not do.  Things like real discipline: hold a child after school without having to ask "who is going to take him home", or even expel a student.  They can actually retain a student who is nowhere near grade level in school.  They can enforce attendance policies at their school.  All things that a traditional school COULD do, but because of PC rules, WILL NOT DO. And, being the "bandwagon" guy, people are supporting charters now because they are seeing the state of affairs in traditional schools and THEY ARE NOT HAPPY!  Being voters and taxpayers, they have concerns and they have power.  They are using their power.


cellophane
cellophane

Despite ho hum performance, the ERC recommends giving the commission charters big bumps in the state supplement (that they receive in key of local taxes). Why? I haven't seen any attention to this or a rational explanation. Amendment One legislation determined the supplement formula (which in Cherokee County gives them more money per child already than if locally funded), and these schools wanted the amendment and the funding that came with it. How many Commission schools can the state afford, paying more than double the QBE rate for each? Is it worth it just so we can say there is choice, even if it's a lousy choice?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@cellophane  If it truly is a "lousy choice", then parents will not send their kids there and the school will eventually close.  But there must be a group of parents who are not satisfied with the "status quo" schools and want something more.

Travelfish
Travelfish

Not sure what Prof. Peterson means by "voucher" schools.

Giving parents tuition vouchers would introduce true competition, and should empower them to use the voucher at any accredited school, public or private.

Thus affording them the freedom of choice only wealthier families like the Obamas now have.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Are ANY of those 18 state or local-approved charters that are failing the CCRPI on the takeover list?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady My question would be: are the failing charters conversion charters or are they start-up or state charters?

Travelfish
Travelfish

Maureen, is it fair to compare the success rate of charter schools with the average non-charter public school?

Charters, after all, are more heavily concentrated in areas where traditional public schools continue to fail the families they serve -- are they not?

Parents who send their children to charter schools have weighed the alternatives and made an informed choice ... one which your allies long sought to deny them.

bu22
bu22

@Wascatlady @Travelfish Look how many are in APS, DeKalb and Fulton County.  And they aren't in Dunwoody or Buckhead.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Travelfish Maybe you are the problem and not your child or school.  Schools can't fail only parents can! Get more involved, home school or private, no matter, your child should not need to depend on anyone but you to educate them. 

AVJ
AVJ

@Travelfish I'm not sure that your premise is correct. In South Fulton, most of our schools are struggling. However, we have very few charter school options available.  Yet, every time I turn around, I hear of another charter school opening in N. Fulton where they should be in less need of them.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

"Under that measure, no state charters outperformed their comparison districts in 'relevant' grade levels. Only 8 percent performed at the same level as their districts, the report said.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A poster on this blog recently said that "the people (in Georgia) are getting on the bandwagon for charters."  I reminded him that bandwagon thinking is no way to guide a comprehensive, cohesive, and quality instructional delivery to all of the students of Georgia's public schools. 

 In fact, as an educator, I taught those under my influence to be wary of bandwagon tactics and especially of bandwagon thinking.