Opinion: Governor is using excuse of failing schools to privatize education

Jamie C. Atkinson is a Ph.D. student and graduate teaching assistant at the University of Georgia in the College of Education’s Department of Educational Theory and Practice. In this piece, he challenges the governor’s justifications for his Opportunity School District, a state-run entity that, if approved by voters in November, will give the state the power to take over failing schools.

By Jamie C. Atkinson

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

Who would vote “no” for such an amendment?

In November, voters will face this very misleading ballot initiative, which on the surface, seems grand. We all want the best for the children of Georgia, so if Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assembly want to help our children, then we should vote for this, right?

TimBrinton.NewsArtAs usual, the devil is in the details. What does it mean for the state to actually intervene? First, let me say that this amendment is about securing a concrete foundation for privatization and the charter school initiative, not about helping Georgia’s children. Gov. Deal plans to centralize the state’s authority over education by appointing an education czar that will operate outside the normal purview of and beyond accountability to the Georgia State School Superintendent’s office and the Georgia Department of Education.

The Opportunity School District superintendent will have absolute authority over which schools become part of the OSD, become a charter school, or are shut down. The schools most likely to end up in this district are the schools that serve poor, urban areas and have a high percentage of minority students. Georgia voters may remember that in 2012, a similar misleading ballot initiative, the Charter School Amendment, came under a great deal of scrutiny. That resulting “yes” vote helped usher in this year’s ballot initiative.

In addition, what does chronically failing mean and how is that determined? Chronically failing schools are defined as having a score of “F” for three consecutive years on the state’s accountability system that include state standardized tests and the College and Career Ready Performance Index. Though seemingly a legitimate way of determining chronically failing schools, these assessments are assumed to adequately identify academic aptitudes and infer that other evaluation methods are less objective and less effective in assessing children’s academic abilities.

More importantly, these evaluations are based solely on standardized testing instruments that have shown to be of limited value. If we base student performance and school success purely on standardized test results, then we ignore the fact that education and learning are extremely complex and difficult to measure with standardized exams.

How many of us would be willing to take a multiple choice test, designed by someone other than our teachers (e.g., a profit-based testing company), often biased toward middle-class, white, sociocultural knowledge, and feel that we received a fair evaluation? Tests are just one tool designed to evaluate knowledge of a given subject and they are often only marginally effective in reflecting the breadth of knowledge students possess.

Also disturbing is the trend to utilize vague, misleading ballot measures for the purpose of swaying the voter. Misleading ballot initiatives have come up several times and have led to expensive lawsuits.

For example, in 2012, the Georgia Charter School Amendment, mentioned earlier, was taken to court for its vague, some might say, deceptive language, and plaintiffs argued that it almost certainly guaranteed the passage of that amendment. An interesting fact regarding that case materialized on Feb. 3, 2012, when state Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, responded to a constituent in an email that “the vagueness of the ballot wording is something they want to keep. They think if they keep it vague it will more easily pass.”

Now in all fairness, he told the AJC this was taken out of context, but it calls into question the motives of the governor and Georgia’s General Assembly. According to a Georgia Supreme Court case in 1974, Sears v. State of GA, the court affirmed that “to the extent to which the legislature describes proposed amendments in any way other than through the most objective and brief of terms…it exposes itself to the temptation…to interject its own value judgments concerning the amendments into the ballot language and thus to propagandize the voters in the very voting booth, in denigration of the integrity of the ballot.”

The Georgia voters should understand Gov. Deal’s strategic goal is to increase the extent of privatization and the number of charter schools in the state, similar paths taken by Louisiana, Tennessee, and Michigan. Moreover, these schemes tend to be presented as necessary and under the guise of crisis-related language such as “chronically failing schools.”

The governor’s primary purpose has less to do with conservatively maintaining local control and more to do with turning the public schools over to for-profit corporations. I encourage each voter to read in its entirety, Georgia Senate Bill 133 whose language comes straight out of the playbook of the American Legislative Exchange Council and numerous other groups that are proponents of charter school privatization.

Gov.Deal and Georgia’s General Assembly assume the Georgia voter is too distracted to discover the devil in the details. Are you? I encourage everyone to vote “no” in November in order to save our public schools, protect our most vulnerable children, and protect the integrity of the ballot.

 

Reader Comments 0

112 comments
slay14198
slay14198

I think it's a good idea the article is a little misleading without providing actual facts on the statements that were made, I didn't vote for Gov. Deal but this is common sense the schools should be held more accountable and Teacher need more PAY the public schools of Today are not the public school we went to, parents need a choice and I'm all for that P.S How about getting rid of common core. as well

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I believe these words to my core. This attitude, and this vision for one's life, are what I wish to inspire all educators to embrace. These words were penned by the great playwright, George Bernard Shaw.  (My father had introduced me to Shaw's words, here, when I was a senior in high school, 56 years ago.)

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


"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no 'brief candle' for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

George Bernard Shaw

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

For a peek into the future of state run schools, try to find the salaries, vendors and payments from the current state run charter schools. Get back to us and let us know if that's the kind of taxpayer accountability you want.


Do the same for the private schools that take taxpayer education money in the form of tax credits.


Many of the state charter schools are failing CCRPI and nobody seems to notice or care - seems like the Governor would tell us what the plan is for those schools before the state takes over a passel more.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@AvgGeorgian  But before we do that, let's take a look at where DeKalb county spends their education money. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@class80olddog


I totally agree. Before any schools are taken over by the state, the legislature needs to legislate a full accounting process that lays out in easy to understand detail, all spending by school districts, including state charter schools and private schools that take taxpayer money.


They should then legislate that a certain high percentage be spent in the classroom.


However, seeing as how the failing state charter system keeps the spending a secret, I don't think financial accountability is much of a concern to them.

newsphile
newsphile

You will notice the paid bloggers are surfacing to express the views of those who stand to make a lot of money if OSD is approved. 

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

You would think educators, of all people, would be smart enough to know that if you only support one political party (dems), and that party loses EVERYTHING in your state, then you are....Irrelevant.


As someone (Obama?) once said, elections have consequences.  


And now you get to sit and watch the adults in the room actually do something that works, rather than the approach that has failed so miserably over these past 30 years.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@dcdcdc Your command of generalities is only rivaled by your peers on this blog.

dg417s
dg417s

@dcdcdc We've tried very different approaches since 2002 than we did in the 90s. You're right - what we have done since the turn of the century has failed- privatization, testing, testing, testing, and testing some more, cutting funding, blaming teachers, etc have all failed. Perhaps we need to reform the reform at this point because it has failed our students. I don't hear one teacher calling for more testing and more of what we are doing.

Joeleejohnson
Joeleejohnson

Using, for instance, illegal drugs as a chart; Best government policy toward promoting an interest in education would be to pass a law prohibiting the acquisition of knowledge, values, morals, etc.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Judging from the comments on this thread, racism is still alive and well in Georgia and so is ignorance of how to educate our young.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@MaryElizabethSings Ahh, such loving "tolerance" of opposing opinions.


And from a liberal, no less.  Dang...who could have seen that coming.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@dcdcdc 

 The Nazis and the Allied Forces had opposing opinions during WWII.  Not every difference in opinion is meant to be accepted with "loving tolerance."  Our hearts and our minds inform us when to oppose that which should be opposed.  Racism, sexism, etc. should always be opposed.  So, should ignorance.

Anita Tucker
Anita Tucker

The price for freedom is never ending vigilance.  Please don't give up.  Democrats in the state are organizing and getting the word out.  Talk to everyone you know about the amendment.  Even the Tea Party doesn't like what this is proposing.  This is a non-partisan issue.  We have to fight for the children.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Anita Tucker "We have to fight for the children."  Why?  You never have before?  All you fight for is the status quo of failing schools and good employment for lots of people who might not otherwise find a job.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@class80olddog @Anita Tucker


The status quo is now the failed policies of the reform crowd; they insist in following down the same path, spending and wasting millions on the way. Instead of investing in policies that would produce better results, they want to privatize our schools. Just like the right to work laws have diminished the ability to get a good paying job.

Legong
Legong

Parents trapped in failing zip code schools aren't likely to think an "excuse" is needed—to upend a system which has consistently failed to reform itself. 

Nor will Georgia's voters.


AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Legong Yes. We need secret systems like the private schools that get tax credit money, and the state charter school system.

Cere
Cere

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

So Maureen, any chance you could find out the exact text of this proposed amendment they refer to in the question posed to voters?

jezel
jezel

@EdJohnson @Cere Do you know if there are any questions of legality surrounding this bill ?

L_D
L_D

@Cere SR 287 (http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/152973.pdf)


Actual proposed text for the Constitution:

Paragraph VIII. Opportunity School District. Notwithstanding the provisions ofParagraph II of this section, the General Assembly may provide by general law for the creation of an Opportunity School District and authorize the state to assume the supervision, management, and operation of public elementary and secondary schools which have been determined to be failing through any governance model allowed by law. Such authorization shall include the power to receive, control, and expend state, federal, and local funds appropriated for schools under the current or prior supervision, management, or operation of the Opportunity School District, all in the manner provided by and in accordance with general law."

Ugaboss
Ugaboss

I was a teacher for 30 years. I have many friends who are teachers. My son is a teacher with 11 years of experience. We are fighting a losing battle. The government plans on destroying our occupation. Get out if you can and by all means don't go into education. One of these days this country will be without teachers. Signed, Giving up

WardinConyers
WardinConyers

@Ugaboss I'm with you.  I retired 3 years ago after 33 years.  The politicians always think they know best. 

Teedubs
Teedubs

Protect our most vulnerable children from.....the people who have failed year after year to educate them?  And please, exactly why are teachers supposed to be free to teach whatever material they want?  Is the level/quality of education supposed to be a crap shoot based on what Mr. Jones decides to teach versus Ms. Smith?  APS is not proposing to do anything today that could not have been done yesterday.  Unfortunate that it took the threat of someone outside of APS holding them accountable to convince them that the status quo was unacceptable.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

And yet you want to see our children turned over to a corporation who will decide if the student is profitable enough to teach. The child will be a number, a data point, and considered am asset if he/she makes enough money to help pay for big salaries with handsome bonuses.

jezel
jezel

Does anyone know how much is appropriated for public education in America ? Maybe 1 trillion dollars per year ?


What capitalist or group of capitalist would not go after those funds using any means ?


Their efforts are what we are seeing this very day. Do we really want to lose control of this money....for ANY reason ?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@jezel No, the school systems want to abuse that money THEIR way.  Why do you think the DeKalb counties of the world are fighting so hard to keep their money?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@jezel @class80olddog What I would like to see in transparency in ANY system. And both systems are given a finite amount of money - the only difference would be what results they achieve with that money.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather @Cere @jezel Do you think DeKalb is?  HAhahahahahahha.  It doesn't matter about altruism - if they give a better product (education) for equal or less money, they are better than the most "altruistic" (but inefficient) system.

jezel
jezel

@class80olddog @jezel Well..would you rather have local folks abuse the money or some nebulous corporation. People can vote in new school boards. Corporations will not answer to local people and will decide how much they need to RUN the schools. There are no checks and balances in this scenario.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

They certainly aren't in it to make a profit and they don't get to arbitrarily set their own salaries or pay themselves huge bonuses.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@class80olddog @dg417s @jezel


So when our political system doesn't work the way some people want it to, we should have our systems taken over by the next higher level of government government? 


Wouldn't the federal government have to take over the state of GA according to all the areas where we are failing?

Cere
Cere

@jezel  DeKalb county's consolidated budget (operations plus funds, etc) is over $1.2 Billion every year. Billion - with a B. The leaders of the system will only discuss the operations budget which hovers around $800-900 million. See why control of the school system is such a coup? It's certainly not about educating children -- first and foremost -- it's about jobs and contracts.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@jezel @Cere Yes. Notice that they don't demand financial accountability or spending in the classroom - that would kill the golden goose.


They are not mad DeKalb is enriching families and friends, they are mad that it is not their families and friends. 

dg417s
dg417s

@class80olddog @jezel I certainly don't believe the governor's unaccountable crony is any better. At least I can vote against DeKalb board members.

redweather
redweather

@class80olddog @redweather @Cere @jezel There is plenty of available evidence showing that they don't "give a better product (education) for equal or less money," but then that has been pointed out every time we have this discussion.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

The squeals from the pigs who have eaten at the public education trough of an endless supply of ever increasing taxpayer money, but are now scared that they'll lose control of this massive funding, is truly hilarious.


Let's see..how does it go?


1) Send us more money

2) Shut up, because you aren't a member of the eduacracy.

3) Oh...and DON'T try to actually measure how effective we are at teaching "the little children", because....shut up, they said.


Yeah... that'll work.


Can't wait until the effective teachers are no longer saddled with the baggage of the eduacracy, and can go back to making a huge, incredibly positive difference in the lives of their students.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady @dcdcdc I don't blame them for leaving - but MOST of the issues I believe arise from their ADMINISTRATORS and not from the State actions.

Lynn43
Lynn43

@class80olddog @Wascatlady @dcdcdc It IS the state and federal (mostly state) actions that are driving people out of teaching.  There are too many people making decision that do not know anything about what is happening in the place called "SCHOOL--just like most people who are commenting on this article.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@dcdcdc There won't be any.  They are leaving Georgia, or teaching, by the droves.