Georgia PTA: Opportunity School District doesn’t engage parents; it circumvents them

Statement today from Georgia PTA president Lisa-Marie Haygood on Gov. Nathan Deal’s recent comments on his state takeover plan, which voters will decide in November: 

Thank you for coming today.  I am Lisa-Marie Haygood, president of the Georgia PTA.  I am also a proud parent of two daughters who have been educated in the Cherokee County School System.  I have been a conservative my entire adult life.  I am joined by Otha Thornton, immediate past-president of the National PTA, and members of the Georgia PTA Board of Directors.  We represent a diverse group of Georgia parents: diverse geographically, economically, and politically.

Georgia PTA President Lisa-Marie Haygood

Georgia PTA President Lisa-Marie Haygood

We stand here today to speak up for the children, the parents, and the teachers in Georgia.  We stand here today to support public education, the 1.7 million students in public schools, and the educators who work every day to help our children succeed.  We stand here today, as parents, to voice our opposition to the state takeover of schools known euphemistically as the “Opportunity School District,” which will appear as a proposed amendment to Georgia’s Constitution this November.

PTA’s mission is to speak up and to stand up for every child – to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.  Our 250,000 members are contributing hundreds or thousands of hours in their schools and communities to improve children’s lives.  PTA supports laws, policies, and initiatives which will benefit children.  The members of the Georgia PTA do not believe AMENDMENT 1, known as the Opportunity School District, is in the best interests of children, and our delegates voted, unanimously, 633 – 0 at our summer convention to oppose Amendment 1.

We come reluctantly to this battle; the Georgia PTA does not wish to engage in the political squabbling that takes place under the Gold Dome.  However, we can no longer sit by while our children are used as political pawns for those who wish to privatize our public education system and in order to profit from it.

The members of the Georgia PTA do not represent special interest groups; we represent every school, every child, every parent, and every teacher in this state. The children do not have a voice so we must speak up for them.  We must speak up to advocate for every child, all 1.7 million, who are enrolled in public education.  We must speak up for the parents who want a say in their child’s education. We speak up for all those who want accountability in how their taxpayer dollars are spent.   Our board and our membership chose to fight the state takeover of our public schools, and unlike those who support Amendment 1 for financial gain, all we stand to gain is this battle is the opportunity to improve children’s lives.

Georgia PTA felt compelled to hold this press conference after recent comments by Gov. Deal at an Education Leadership Conference.  At that conference the governor attacked the many local boards of education who have exercised their right to speak out against his state school takeover plan.  He also praised school superintendents for “keeping their mouths shut” even if they didn’t agree with his plan.

We stand here today in support of those brave superintendents who have spoken out against a state takeover.  We stand in support of the brave school boards who have taken the initiative to pass resolutions condemning the proposed state takeover of schools.  We also speak out for the many school board members and Superintendents who have felt threatened or intimidated by Atlanta politicians looking to impose their political agenda on our public school system.

The school superintendents and school board members, teachers, and other educational leaders are the ones working with and for our children.  They work everyday to improve our schools for our children.  They should be brought into conversations at the state level, not be told to “keep their mouths shut” when they don’t agree with a flawed and opportunistic plan, or threatened with state takeover if they dare to speak out.

School takeover districts currently exist in three states; none have been successful. Louisiana and Tennessee have recently voted to end their programs and return state-run schools to the local districts.  We cannot support an expensive policy experiment that has continually failed children in other parts of the country, especially when our state Department of Education already has the tools to help schools.

Georgia PTA supports existing Georgia law OCGA 20-14-41 which permits the Georgia Department of Education to provide assistance to struggling schools deemed “focus” or “priority.”  These interventions are the same ones provided for in Amendment 1 but require a review by school boards and communities and establishes a clear appeals process to the State Board of Education.  The Department of Education has shown success in improving schools under this existing law, and Georgia PTA supports this PROVEN, successful method to assist our struggling schools.  Rather than endorsing an amendment which diminishes the power of our votes, eliminates accountability to taxpayers, increases the size of state government, and has failed in every other state where it has been attempted, the State of Georgia should charge and support our elected state superintendent of schools to fully leverage existing laws for intervention to aid struggling schools.

Where Amendment 1 goes beyond existing law 20-14-41 is the governor-appointed superintendent of OSD schools and school funding.  This political appointee would have the sole power to select the OSD schools from the list of struggling schools and determine the interventions prescribed for these OSD schools – including closure or turning over the school building to a charter school.  These powers would come without any oversight, as the superintendent would report directly to the governor.  Amendment 1 would also change the constitution of the state of Georgia to allow for local taxpayer money to be used for state charter schools, to transfer locally funded buildings and equipment to state charter schools, and to allow private management companies to charge a 3 percent “administration” fee to local districts for the privilege of taking over a school.

PTA engages parents and the larger community to support children.  Amendment 1 circumvents the parents, community, and local school board to implement the appointed superintendent’s plan.  This does not increase community involvement; it diminishes it.  We want parents to be an active, respected voice in their schools.  Amendment 1 could effectively silence parents.

The governor claims that thousands of Georgia’s children are “trapped” in schools that are failing. He has a very narrow definition of “failing,” however, that is based on the College and Career Readiness Index.  The CCRPI, in turn, is based primarily on standardized test scores.

The tests used for this measure are the Georgia Milestones, which have had so many issues over the past two years that many have called for the test scores to be thrown out, and the 2016 results were waived for promotion/retention requirements.  The weighting system given to achievement and growth is constantly in flux, leading to a ratings system that is constantly changing.  Schools are being graded by ever-changing formulas based on flawed tests.  Any teacher could explain why this is an inaccurate measure of our children, but sadly, teachers are not a part of this conversation.

Our schools are a reflection of the communities they serve.  We agree the schools on the potential takeover list are struggling, but Amendment 1 in NO WAY addresses the underlying cause of the struggles.  On average, standardized tests scores are simply a good indicator of household income – the higher the income, the higher the score.  Every school on the governor’s list has over 80 percent of its students living in poverty.  We need to look holistically at the issues impeding student achievement in these school communities, but Amendment 1 does not provide any increased levels of community support.

At a recent education conference, the governor stated that if opponents of his takeover plan really cared about our children, we would be fixing our schools instead of fighting his constitutional amendment.  This sentiment is incredibly insulting to the hundreds of thousands of hardworking parents who strive every day to ensure their children receive the best possible education: parents who work multiple jobs so their children will be able to eat; parents who take precious time off from work to attend parent-teacher conferences or to read to their child’s class; parents who will lose their voice because the appointed OSD Superintendent is not accountable to them and therefore does not have to listen. Opposing a Constitutional Amendment that would allow for a state takeover of our schools does not equate our support or acceptance of “failing” schools.  Our schools aren’t failing; our schools and our students are being failed by a system that doesn’t provide the resources they need.

Even the governor admits that, in the decade since the Great Recession, Georgia has seen an 11% increase in graduation rates and increases in literacy scores.  Schools achieved these increases despite billions of dollars of austerity cuts to the state education budget and a 16% state increase in child poverty rates.  Failing?  No, our schools are ACHIEVING, despite a lack of full state funding!  They are accomplishing great things in the face of the harsh conditions of increased class sizes, reduced resources, fewer supports, ever-changing requirements, and more high-needs students.

Are there schools that need more assistance?  Yes, of course.  But we cannot continue to deny our schools needed funds and resources, to grade them on flawed data, and to call them failing.  We must not allow private education companies to come into our state and make a profit off of our children’s backs – all the while offering a quick fix that doesn’t exist.

Even with all of our concerns with this amendment, the members of the Georgia PTA might not feel the need to be as vocal if the true intent of the bill were reflected in the language of the amendment.  This is a proposed amendment to the constitution of the state of Georgia, yet the wording is deliberately vague and deceptive.  Parental and community involvement is not increased or required by the enabling legislation, yet the preamble to the amendment proposes to “fix failing schools through increased community involvement.

If the governor and state legislators believe the best way to fix struggling schools is to put them under state control and to either close them or turn them over to charter schools, then let the language on the ballot reflect this initiative.  As it stands, the preamble, and indeed, the entire amendment question, is intentionally misleading and disguises the true intentions of the OSD legislation.

Gov. Deal, you said last week that instead of opposing you, we should be focusing on improving the schools – wow, that hurts! I am actually surprised at the audacity of such a statement. Did you know that Georgia PTA is an all-volunteer association?  We are in the schools, and we are making huge changes. I personally spend 60-plus hours a week traveling this state hundreds of miles working tirelessly to ensure every child has a chance at a quality education.

Look around, some of these board members have served this association for more than 20 years.  We make copies, serve healthy snacks, clean messes, fluff premises, we read, we cut, we serve.  We care enough to be in the classrooms for the parents that have to work extra jobs to keep food on the table, heat on in the house, clean clothes on their kids.  We represent the front line, and the one thing your legislation doesn’t address: help for the poverty that ravages their communities-and a chance to believe that they can do better.

Governor, I campaigned for you, contributed to your causes, and have tremendous respect for your family.  I personally think you have made very positive strides in the economic landscape of our state, and certainly your changes in Criminal Justice reform are to be applauded.  But this constitutional amendment is misguided and flawed. It does not in fact invite community involvement, but instead enables more back-room politics and allows for political “quid-pro-quo” to donors who contribute money to campaigns in exchange for the “opportunity” to run takeover charter schools and siphon our local taxes in order to earn a profit on the backs of our children.

While you may have no plans to engage in this type of political back-scratching, you will only be our governor for two more years – this is an amendment to our constitution that would allow ANY future governor to sell off our public schools.

Simply put, Amendment 1 takes control away from local communities and places it in the hands of appointed state bureaucrats and private interests.  Amendment 1 uses a flawed grading system to justify transferring local funds and buildings to state control.  Amendment 1 adds an additional layer of government bureaucracy to our school system. Georgia PTA does not believe Amendment 1 is in the best interest of improving children’s lives.  We will be at the ballot box Nov. 8 speaking for every child with one voice.

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

80 comments
Wascatlady
Wascatlady

The local school district is REQUIRED to provide, at a "reasonable" cost (who decides?) services such as extensive repairs if needed, transportation, cafeteria, custodial, broadband, utilities, special education, and alternative education!!  What exactly will the private company, if that model is used, be providing for the local, state, and federal money it gets?  Oh, yeah, and the OCD gets 3% of federal, state and local funds for administration!


This is from my earlier post.  Be sure you read the list of things the school district (LEA) MUST provide at a "reasonable cost" as decided by someone (who?).  Lots of expensive stuff, INCLUDING SPECIAL AND ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION SERVICES MUST be provided by the school system whose federal, state, and local funds have been taken by the OSD! So, the OSD will take the money, but it is not responsible for providing what are arguably the most expensive areas of education!  And, I might add, the very most challenging.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Wascatlady

Thanks Cat, for pointing this out. I guess the private company will only provide a big profit to it's owners.

insideview
insideview

You can not leave race and poverty out of this discussion because the majority of schools eligible for takeover are those filled with poor and minority children. Improving schools is simple, make it about children and not adults. I don't believe the state should take control of schools,because if they have the magic elixir they should give it directly to schools. However, I do believe they should hold schools accountable for the work they do. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

Hey, here is an idea- for tracking student performance, bring back the GHSGT and track first attempt scores. That would give you a good idea of performance levels. Then you could use that measure to track improvements. (Will never

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

There is no reform because the OSD HAS NO PLAN. If there was a plan, the State would use it to turn around their own failing State Charter Commission Schools that were created with the last amendment to the constitution. What did that amendment do? It created failing charter schools that spend tax payer money and hide it from the public. Where does the money for these schools go? Jobs for families and friends? Out of state charter corporations that donated in the last campaign? Who knows?-not the public, because the spending is kept secret.


The state leaders have shown you what will happen-a money grab and more "failing" schools. If you are for this amendment, you are:

1. Planning to profit from it

2. Against local government control in your own county

3. Too lazy to research the OSD (lack of a) plan. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

People on this blog have said that the feelings about this amendment are driven by money, and they are correct. The local school boards are fighting tooth and nail to protect their little fiefdoms and be able to spend the money ( county and state money) any way they choose, even on outrageous legal bills. They don't care about the students; it is evident when they won't address even basic issues such as discipline attendance and social promotion

L_D
L_D

@class80olddog Just remember, this amendment would have your LOCAL dollars transferred to an appointee, unaccountable to you, the tax-payer. The appointee may then spend these funds where and how s/he pleases. And this isn't just for a few years, this is from now until another constitutional amendment.  Are you really ok with your LOCAL dollars being spent out of your LOCAL system?


What happens 15, 20, 35 years from now and the political winds shift and the Democrats again control the state?  Do you want to grant this amount of power to the executive branch?

ute
ute

These anti-reform articles will no doubt continue appearing every few days until the November election, if the teachers' union money doesn't run out.

But neither will parents desperate for change back down.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The main effect of the OSD in New Orleans was to take jobs and money from black workers chosen by the local school boards and give the money to white workers and white run out of state corporations chosen by the governor.


If this passes, watch closely when the money changes hands.


ute
ute

@AvgGeorgian 

When all else fails there's always the race-baiting to fall back on, eh?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@ute @AvgGeorgian

Not race baiting. I spent about 7 hours researching the New Orleans OSD before I formed an opinion about the Governor's OSD plan for GA. I had no agenda other than to understand the process and results. 


This was the only visible and lasting effect of the school takeover. I was surprised and disgusted when I found out.


You are welcome to research and ref"ute" the statement.

CharterStarter_Too
CharterStarter_Too

@AvgGeorgian @ute


I have been reading as well.  Here's what I read - 


The Recovery District did improve performance, which is what it set out to do.  They are going back to the districts now and  must continue to toe this line.


Workers that had been in the original ineffective schools were displaced when the schools took on new charter management and new staffing.  The displaced workers happened to be black.  


I am not sure why this is a race issue.  It is not about adults keeping their jobs at all - either black or white.  It is about making sure kids excel.  


It is NOT an adult issue.  It is NOT a race issue (other than to make sure economically disadvantaged children of ALL races obtain a quality education.)  And for heaven's sake, it is NOT a money issue (except as it relates to ensuring our states and country have a qualified work force with citizens able to support their families). This is a kid issue.  Period.



AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@ute @AvgGeorgian


I used google and 7 hours of reading. I will not spoon feed you. it's time for you to post like a grownup.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

I heard the Governor was going to take over all hospitals(that take a large number of poor people) in the state because too many poor patients with pre-existing conditions were not as healthy as richer people with no pre-existing conditions. He will however not be taking over the plastic surgery clinics in North Atlanta.

class80olddog
class80olddog

A better analogy would be if the Governor decided to take over the hundred worst hospitals, where patients were dying at an alarming rate, even though the hospitals spent nearly double the amount treating them. Hospitals where lots of people have been suggesting returning to basics of care such as good hand-washing, which these hospitals had discarded as not in keeping with their new mission.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@class80olddog You mean hospitals where 80% or more of the patients have sat at home, getting worse, for 5 or more years, with nobody much caring,and who then show up at the hospital, which has been underfunded to the tune of billions of dollars over the last 10 or more years (by the governing body's own requirements), on the verge of death? Those hospitals?

class80olddog
class80olddog

Yes the hospitals where the patients don't care about staying healthy, but where they spend $14000 per patient when other hospitals spend only $8000.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@class80olddog Dead is dead.  No reviving. When you have been starved yearly to near-death, you are unlikely to be revived by ANY hospital.

L_D
L_D

@class80olddog A better analogy for this would be if the President decided to take over the 'failing' hospitals and all the funds (federal, state, and local) were transferred to the president's appointee. Could you support your state and local dollars being used with no accountability to you or the state legislature or governor?

ute
ute

The teachers' unions are financing this nonstop attack against education reform in the media. And no doubt using out-of-state money to do so.

But parents are voters and they will be heard.

ute
ute

@dg417s @ute 

The National PTA was co-opted by the unions long ago. School staffers are coerced into joining. Their dues money is put to use fighting accountability and school choice in all 50 states.


dg417s
dg417s

@ute @dg417s The unions are the teachers and other educators who take care of your children every day.. NEA President Lily-Eskelsen-Garcia proudly displays her active teaching license in her office. The decision making body of NEA are 8,000ish active professionals still in the classroom every day. Union has the same root as unity - come together because we know what is right. Would you trust a doctor who didn't have the backing of the AMA or a lawyer who isn't a member of the Bar?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@ute Teachers are also voters, and they will be heard.

BRV
BRV

I'll have to let my Repblican voting neighbors and the Forsyth BoE know that they are union dupes. We'll all have a good laugh. The pro-OSD money is overwhelmingly from out-of-state, but why let inconvenient facts get in the way of your insanely repetitive union rants.

NikoleA
NikoleA

@BRV No matter where the money comes from, it doesn't change the facts. The language on the ballot is misleading and if Gov. Deal truly wanted to help, he'd do so without a constitutional amendment.

dg417s
dg417s

@ute @dg417s Frankly, I belong because it is my professional association. If someone chooses not to, that's on them... however, if you look at Finland, the top country in the world for education, they all belong. 

With regards to the partisan politics, public education is partisan. Frankly, supporting some in the GOP (not all, Johnny Isakson has a grade of B from NEA, and the friend of education this year was Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray - one of each). GAE's friend of education was David Ralston. I was one of the 8000ish educators that did vote to endorse Hillary over Donald this year - but frankly, an educator supporting Donald Trump is the proverbial chicken supporting Colonel Sanders. One should also note that the Cobb affiliate endorsed Governor Deal in the 2010 primary. While it is the effort to be bipartisan, the GOP is making it very hard right now.

ute
ute

@dg417s @ute 

GAE has only endorsed Democrats for president or governor. Never a Republican or independent. 

If there be any fools among its membership, it's that they haven't googled "NEA" and "contributions."

dg417s
dg417s

@ute @dg417s As a member who gives to our PAC voluntarily at the state and national level, I am fully aware of where our independent PAC donations go. Again, chicken and Colonel Sanders analogy with the candidates we've seen on the GOP side lately. 

CharterStarter_Too
CharterStarter_Too

We will see every membership organization in the state (PTA, GAE, PAGE, GAEL, etc.) come out against this, as they are deeply aligned with the districts.  We'll see ads, commercials, flyers, "round tables" at the local Chambers, and at pastor breakfasts.  We'll see information shared with teachers and principals told to tell educators how to vote with false or misleading information about the effort.  


My question is WHY?  Why in the world won't people hold stewards of our children's education and our tax dollars ACCOUNTABLE for performance and outcomes?  If you have slammed your head against a wall trying to raise achievement and have been unsuccessful, even if you have tried, even if you've done all you can, WHY would you fight letting someone else TRY something different. Will you really fight against the possibility of children being positively impacted so that you can retain "control?"  


I just don't understand.

dg417s
dg417s

@CharterStarter_Too Why try what has failed Tennessee students, Detroit students, Louisiana students? Why make Georgia students suffer what has failed? I'm not saying to not do anything, but we have to invest in what works. Amendment 1 sets 68,000 + Georgia students up for true failure.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@CharterStarter_Too Because if the state really CARED,they would have found out what works (perhaps by studying successful schools for poor kids) and then made that available to school systems statewide. However, improvement is NOT what this is about--it is about MONEY.  You need to ask yourself why the state won't let these schools in on the secrets!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Wascatlady @CharterStarter_Too


The state run charter schools are failing and have no academic or financial accountability to the taxpayer. 


The state's own failing charter schools are not on the OSD and their money is hidden from the taxpayer and paid to out of state corporations. 


Are you in line to profit from the OSD? Hmmmm.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@CharterStarter_Too THERE IS NO QUICK, MAGIC ANSWER.  


How about you give your local taxes, and your school, to someone in Atlanta.  Surely YOUR school could also be improved a little!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@EdJohnson 

You are not serious because we all know THERE IS NO EDUCATIONAL PLAN for the Governor's OSD.


sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

Ed, my belief is that the Astral porcine will personally gain from this amendment passing. He is fervent in his stance; so much so that it defies logic for someone who is a lawyer. Know any lawyers who will gain financially if this passes?

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@AvgGeorgian @EdJohnson

Yes I am serious because I want to see the @Astropig and his sidekicks do that thing with their collective foot.  It does no good to feed the @Astropig or run round the mulberry bush with him or them.

L_D
L_D

@CharterStarter_Too  How is this holding anyone accountable for our tax dollars?  This amendment allows an appointee of the governor to take local tax dollars from the locally elected body which  levied them.  The appointee may then spend these dollars however and where ever he or she wishes (i.e. - your property tax dollars may not stay in your county).


How is this holding anyone more accountable for our children's education? There is already a state law (OCGA 20-14-41) which allows the Department of Education to intervene (including closing, replacing up to 100% of staff, or implementing a charter school) WITHOUT moving local tax dollars out of the local system - and the DoE is being successful!  How is this holding anyone more accountable when the governor already has the ability to replace local school boards?


In the past I have found many of your remarks thoughtful and reasoned.  With this amendment, I would ask that you look behind the curtain of "education" and truly examine the governance model it would establish - taking the funds from an elected body to be utilized without the body's approval or even input. In addition, the elected body (and by extension the tax payer) is still responsible for the continuing capital building maintenance and repair, even though the body (and tax payer) has no say in how the building is used. 

The elected body is accountable to us, we the people, but the appointee is accountable to neither the body, nor we the people.   Is there any other aspect of government in which you would support this model?  Would you support the Federal government taking state funds to give to an appointee of the executive branch to use in a similar manner? 


This "model" has been implemented without success in other states - Louisiana has repealed its law, Detroit's contract has been cancelled, and Tennessee has put a one-year moratorium on acquiring new schools after a Vanderbilt report showed local schools with flexibility waivers were outperforming schools in the takeover district. 


Again, you come across as someone who is quite thoughtful.  Please take the time to read the actual amendment language (SR287) and the enabling legislation (SB133) and ask yourself if you would support this in any other area of government.  Amendment 1 is poor governance.

class80olddog
class80olddog

How about enforcing discipline, attendance, and disallow social promotion, for a start!

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@CharterStarter_Too @dg417s

Might work?  We know it doesn't. Try interventions that have been proven to work. This one is a no-take back and this year the governor wants 100 schools. What about next year and the year after that? Will he continue to take the bottom 100 schools and eventually make them all for-profit charters?