Pass the Opportunity School District. Then, pass real school choice.

A choice advocate says the status quo isn’t working in Georgia and parents deserve real choice that is not limited by zip code. (AJC Photo)

Atlanta attorney Glenn Delk has been urging greater school choice in Georgia for 25 years and has done legal work for charter schools, most of it pro bono.

In this piece, he defends and endorses the Opportunity School District and goes a step beyond: He wants Georgia to give parents $7,500 to spend anyway they see fit on their children’s education.

By Glenn Delk

Gov. Nathan Deal has been the subject of an unrelenting attack from members of the Education Industrial Complex over his proposed Opportunity School District. School boards, representatives of the teacher’s union, the superintendents’ association and the PTA have regurgitated every argument used to oppose any attempt to change the status quo.

Most recently, DeKalb Superintendent Steve Green resorted to an ad hominem attack upon the governor, calling him a “predatory politician,” a “predator,” and a member of “a rapacious political system.”

Perhaps, Dr. Green stoops to personal attacks because he can’t defend his position with facts.  While claiming to have made great progress in DeKalb, he ignores the facts that less than 20 percent of his low-income black or Hispanic students scored at a proficient level on the 2014-2015 state tests in math and science, 77 of his schools, or over 50 percent, scored a D or F on the 2015 Georgia College and Career Ready Performance Index, only 29 schools, or less than 20 percent, scored an A or B, and less than 1 in 4 high school graduate in Georgia in 2015 was deemed “college ready” by the ACT.

Dr. Green and the Education Industrial Complex continue to ignore the clear language of Brown v. Board of Education decided more than six decades ago that: “…education is perhaps the most important function of state and local government…In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.  Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available on equal terms.”

I would argue Gov. Deal, far from acting like a predatory politician, is, in fact, urging Georgia to take real action to finally fulfill Brown’s promise of providing access to education on equal terms to all, not just those who have the financial means to buy a house in the right school district, or pay for private school. Today, the barrier to equal opportunity is no longer state-sponsored racial segregation, but rather state-sponsored economic segregation based on zip codes.

According to Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean James Ryan: “…Right now, there exists an almost ironclad link between a child’s ZIP code and his/her chances of success.  Our education system traditionally thought of as the chief mechanism to address the opportunity gap, instead too often reflects and entrenches existing societal inequities.”

Dr. Green and the rest of the Education Industrial Complex engage in personal attacks on the governor to obscure the reality that the fight over the OSD is really a fight over control of the $17 billion in tax dollars spent annually on K-12 education in Georgia. While claiming to support “local control” in education, Education Industrial Complex members are attempting to maintain their monopoly control over how those state, local and federal taxes are spent each year.

Voters need to ask themselves these question in deciding whether or not to approve the OSD:

What has the government monopoly known as public schools delivered in exchange for the money?

Consider these statistics used by Gov. Nathan Deal in a recent speech supporting the Opportunity School District:

  • Only 33 percent of entering 4th graders read at grade level.
  • Among 3rd to 8th grade students, 39 percent are proficient in English/language Arts, 40 percent in math, 37 percent in science, and 33 percent in social studies.
  • Our high school graduation rate is still less than 80 percent.
  • Only 9 percent of all 9th graders, and just 2 percent of minority students, ultimately achieve a two or four-year college degree within six years of high school.
  • College graduates, over their lifetimes, on average, will earn 68 percent more than peers with just a high school degree.
  • 70 percent of all prisoners in Georgia lack a high school degree.

All of the above statistics begin to describe why metro Atlanta ranks 48th of 50 major metro areas in terms of economic mobility.  A child born into poverty in Atlanta has a 4.5 percent chance of escaping poverty.

Since over 50 percent of the 1.6 million students in k-12 public schools are low-income students, without a dramatic improvement in academic achievement, those students will be consigned to a lifetime of failed expectations.

As Stanford Prof. Eric Hanushek has shown, improving school quality has a dramatic impact on a state’s economy. In December 2015, Hanushek published research which showed that if Georgia’s students raised their academic performance to equal the current No. 1 academic performer, Minnesota, Georgia’s gross domestic product would increase 600 percent.

Who benefits from the current monopoly?

Certainly not the 60 percent the 1.65 million students in Georgia’s K-12 public school system who qualify as low-income who can’t afford a house in the right school district or private school tuition. Those 1 million students, most of whom are Hispanic or African-American, are trapped in schools run by less than 2000 local school board members who have delivered such poor results.

The real beneficiaries of the state-sponsored monopoly are the members of the Education Industrial Complex, especially non-teaching staff and administrators.

According to a 2013 report by Kennesaw State researcher Ben Scafidi, between 1992 and 2009:

  • The number of students in Georgia’s public school system increased by 41 percent, while the number of staff members who were not teachers increased by 74 percent,
  • If the number of administrators in Georgia had merely increased as much as the increase in students, Georgia’s teachers would be earning $7,786 more annually; in fact, Gov. Deal recently gave a speech in which he accused the Education Industrial Complex of diverting money intended for teacher salaries to other uses.
  • If the increase in administrators and other non-teaching staff in Georgia had merely increased at the same rate as the increase in students, Georgia’s taxpayers would be saving over $900 million annually,
  • Nationwide, between 1950 and 2009, the number of teachers increased by 252 percent, while the number of administrators and other staff increased by 702 percent, or seven times more than the 96 percent increase in the number of students.

Dr. Green’s own editorial highlights the problem when he brags “we have 15,000 teachers and staff…”  In other words, given an enrollment of 100,000, DeKalb has an adult to student ratio of 6.6 to 1.

Is Gov. Deal’s OSD a viable solution?

While the OSD is a first step toward equal opportunity, and deserves voter approval, the real solution to the problem of unequal opportunity is giving all students an equal opportunity to a quality education by eliminating zip-code based assignment of students and funding of schools.

In addition to approving the OSD, Georgia’s voters should insist that Gov. Deal and the General Assembly provide all parents with the funds and the freedom to pursue equal educational opportunities that they, the parents and students, choose, without regard to zip code, or whether the provider is traditional public, public charter, or private.

How? By taking the $7.5 billion the state now spends annually on K-12 students and establish up to one million education savings accounts in the amount of $7,500 annually for each student to use at the school of their choice.

Georgia has led the nation in school choice at the pre-school and college level with the adoption of the HOPE Scholarship. A five-year-old in Georgia can qualify for lottery dollars to pay for preschool tuition at any public or private school, anywhere in the state, regardless of his or her zip code.

Likewise, an 18-year-old high school graduate can receive HOPE to pay for tuition at any public or private college in Georgia, again, without regard to zip code. However, kids who are ages 6-17, unless their parents can afford private school tuition, or to buy a house in a “good” school district, are consigned to public schools according to zip codes. What sense does that make?

On Nov. 8, Georgians should pass the OSD as a first step in making Georgia the first state to fulfill the promise of equal opportunity for all students.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

47 comments
FlaTony
FlaTony

Oh the panacea of school choice. Too bad it hasn't worked anywhere.

Tom Green
Tom Green

Well, at least he's upfront about privatizing our schools instead of hiding behind fraudulent ballot wording.

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

choice is long overdue. there are issues with it...certainly. BUT to continue as we have been is ludicrous. I ask people all the time why they think people with money should be the only ones with choices as to where their kids go to school. I never get an answer.

Education_Patriot
Education_Patriot

How will state control be better than local control?

That's the question supporters of this measure can't answer.

The two states whose system the OSD is based on are both backing away from this model. Louisiana is returning its schools to local control, with some shared governance between the school system and the state (http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2016/05/new_orleans_schools_reunify.html). Tennessee has seen little to no improvement in schools taken over by its Achievement School District, but significantly MORE improvement in schools that remained LOCALLY controlled but were given flexibility/autonomy (http://www.tnconsortium.org/data/files/gallery/ContentGallery/ASD_Impact_Policy_Brief_Final_12.8.15.pdf).

What's more, the state school board already have plenty of power to take over failing schools – including:

-removing administration and staff,

-converting the school to a charter school,

-allowing students to transfer to other district schools, and

-bringing in its own management team (See Section 6 of the following Georgia law:  O.C.G.A. § 20-14-41)

In other words, the state can do everything it wants to do with the OSD already – except rip the schools away from the local board completely. If the state can already do all of these things, why haven’t they taken full advantage of these powers?

The answer is simple: money and power. Deal wants the power, through a State OSD Superintendent that is appointed by him and him alone, to control schools throughout the state. (Yes, the OSD Superintendent does have to be confirmed by the state Senate, but getting an appointee through a supermajority Republican state Senate will be a rubber stamp.) He wants to have them taken over by charters, regardless of what the local communities want. And, he wants the companies running those charter schools to be his "preferred" friends in the for-profit charter industry. I’d also point out that, unless you know of some research I don’t, FOR-PROFIT charters have NEVER been proven more effective at educating children than traditional public schools without kicking hard-to-teach kids out, etc. (unlike NONprofit charters, of course).

This proposed amendment isn't about children. It certainly isn't about meaningful "choice" for students and parents, since all the "choices" will be at the discretion of Deal's appointed OSD Czar. It's about power and money. Don't let desires of school choice, well-functioning charter schools (which are welcome), and meaningful, parent- and student-centered reform blind you to what this is about, and what it will do. The OSD is antithetical to our values as a society - and it should be soundly defeated.

L_D
L_D

1.  It is disingenuous to use the 2015 Milestones test scores as a metric - those scores did not count for students - and the students knew it!  Many schools witnessed anything from a dip to a large plummet because students did not take the test or did not take the test seriously.  And the 2016 results are barely better considering all the implementation issues.


2. That $7,500 for 1,000,000 students sure sounds nice, but a couple of questions:  what do the other 700,000 public school students get?  Nothing?  (There are over 1.7 MILLION public school children in Georgia).  And not every student is just at $7,500 - depending on medical and learning needs, some students cost over $100,000 to "educate."  How do you recommend supporting them?  Or any other student with different needs?  My school has a deaf program; many of those students have aides/interpreters.  That $7,500 sure won't cover those costs. Are the parents suppose to come up with the difference? Equally dividing funds for choice will just further segregate schools into economically "haves" and "have nots."  


3.  If Dekalb has 15,000 employees and 100,000 teachers, it has an adult to student ratio of 1 to 6.6, not 6.6 to 1 as you have stated (1 adult for every 6.6 students).


4. Do you support the existing law, OCGA 20-14-41 which allows for the same and additional state interventions?  The law that the state is already using to successfully intervene and turn-around priority and focus schools?


5.  Would you support this governance model in any other aspect of government?  Would you support the Federal government coming in to turn around Georgia's failing hospitals in the same manner (an executive branch appointee being able to utilize state funds without input from the state legislature and/or governor)?  While taxpayers are still expected to pay for all capital improvements to the hospital?

L_D
L_D

#3 should read, "If Dekalb has 15,000 employees and 100,000 students, it has an adult to student ratio of 1 to 6.6, not 6.6 to 1 as you have stated. (1 adult for every 6.6 students.)"

glenn delk2749
glenn delk2749

I'm always amused by those readers who feel compelled to claim my motivation for my position is to make a profit.  How about questioning the motivation of Dr. Green and the thousands of administrators who make six figure salaries without having to show any real academic progress.

I would also remind my critics that our state constitution gives the right to an adequate education to "citizens", not local school boards.  Given the choice of continuing the current monopoly in which less than 5000 school board members, superintendents, head of the unions and politicians control $17 billion in annual spending, or allowing 1.5 million parents to exercise their constitutional right, I'll choose the latter.

Education_Patriot
Education_Patriot

@glenn delk2749  You cite statistics about Dekalb's current performance levels, and insinuate that administrative malpractice is the cause. Tell me, what gives you confidence that nonelected bureaucrats at the state level can do a better job running these schools?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Education_Patriot @glenn delk2749

Yes, the constitution gives the right to citizens, not parents. Keep your money grubbing hand out of the pockets of citizens without children. Quit trying to take choice away from citizens without children.

2xAPS parent
2xAPS parent

@glenn delk2749 That is a laughable statement. The OSD takes control away from parents and it does not give them choice. They don't get to go to another school, they get to go to the same failing school only now its run by a bureacracy in Atlanta rather than a local bureacracy where they might at least have some input. I agree public education is broken, but the problems are far more complex and intractable than the OSD and/or school choice can fix.  

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Mr. Delk decries unfavorable descriptions of our governor yet then turns around and maligns those spending their lives as full-time educators by calling them the Education Industrial Complex. Nice.

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

I suspect that the metastasizing number of public school administrators parallels the growth of federal regulation of the public schools. More compliance requires more people and money..  


Non-teaching personnel would seem also to become more necessary as the ability to discipline students becomes more difficult.  Who would have thought, in the1950s, that many public schools within 50 years would require armed guards, metal detectors and  huge disciplinary apparatuses?  


Both these costs fall disproportionately on public schools.


Past a certain point, the overall result of too much well-intentioned regulation becomes worse than what each new rule was designed to fix. 


The same goes for imposing exacting, pervasive due process requirements on authority figures trying to keep order over minors in their schools.


Is there research out there on these subjects?   I don't know, but I would suggest  that a doctoral dissertation written on either subject  would rarely bring a  faculty  appointment at a  "normal school" ' to its writer.






atlmom
atlmom

@Carlos_Castillo the numbers show that schools spend so much money to get the federal funding they shouldn't even bother...

2xAPS parent
2xAPS parent

School choice is great until you don't get into the school of your choice. I guarantee you every parent who supports OSD would have an entirely different opinion if they knew they would not win the lottery for their top 2 or 3 choices. Delk is wrong to suggest OSD will change the status quo. Creating a new bureacracy does nothing but exacerbate everything that is wrong with the current status quo. 

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

@2xAPS parent There's a fundamentally wrong assumption beneath 2xAPS parent's comment -- that the number of alternative choices to the public schools would stay the same.  After the first couple of years, there would be many more non-public schools around to compete for public school students. 


In a country where the oldest state enterprise is the Post Office, it ought to come as no surprise that public schools, particularly those in poorer areas, turn in similar dismal performances.

newsphile
newsphile

@Carlos_Castillo @2xAPS parent . Do you really expect for-profit management companies to  race to the rural areas of our state?  There are few students in the poorest, most rural areas.  I believe you are focused on the money-to-be-had in the metro area. 

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Absolutely not!  Kids must stay stuck in their local failing inner city school, simply because their mom is struggling/unable to afford a apt in a better school district.


Must!


Why?  Well...for the good of the children, of course. 


Sick.

Astropig
Astropig

@dcdcdc


I may have you confused with someone else,but didn't you write that your wife is a teacher?  If so, apologies,but if not, what did you make of this damning statistic above?


"If the number of administrators in Georgia had merely increased as much as the increase in students, Georgia’s teachers would be earning $7,786 more annually; in fact, Gov. Deal recently gave a speech in which he accused the Education Industrial Complex of diverting money intended for teacher salaries to other uses."


That's a new Toyota Camry every three years for hard working classroom  teachers.I wonder how their resistance to any reform of education squares with the diminution of their lifestyle to support battalions of worthless educrats?



Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig @dcdcdc If you think that money would EVER go to classroom teachers, I have beach-front property in the mountains.  It would just be cut from the state budget and reallotted to important things like tax write-offs for the wealthy.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@Astropig @dcdcdc You are sort of right.  She was an amazing teacher, recognized as one of the best in her HS.  Unfortunately, that meant that every semester her classes filled up to (beyond?) the max, while the awful teacher's classrooms (and their workloads) shrunk, since parents would do all they could to get their kids in her class.  


And since she was a professional prior to teaching, and thus was early in her teaching career, she was getting paid significantly less than these same awful teachers (who were well known as damaging students by fellow teachers and parents alike).


Her love for the kids, and of teaching, kept her motivated for a while.  But eventually anyone wears down as they see those around them who don't care getting rewarded regardless of the damage that they are doing.  


And you are spot on...as more money goes to the non-teaching eduacracy, we will lose even more of our best and brightest teachers.

newsphile
newsphile

@dcdcdc @Astropig If public school districts were allowed to function as for-profit charter schools in our state, more money could go to classroom teachers.  Instead, we have to have all the support staff at the district office to comply with all the rules and regulations.  Even so, some of the public school districts in our state are doing it right.  Check out the number of administrators and the costs for running admin in some of the counties.  We should be learning from the best. 

daks
daks

Allowing parents to choose the schools which best meet their own children's needs would quickly establish which schools are successful at educating.

This couldn't happen too soon.

And it would equally quickly isolate those, such as the National Education Association (which by the way is quite insistent it's a union) with a vested interest in maintaining the failed status quo.


atlmom
atlmom

@daks Everyone should read the book "the beautiful tree"  -- it is astounding

Astropig
Astropig

Delk's right...The eduacracy in Georgia in our day and age doesn't exist to provide opportunity for a quality education,but to provide comfortable middle class jobs for educrats. Especially in the larger urban areas.


Delk also pulled the curtain back for an ugly peek at the truth with his statistical indictment of the status quo:



  • "Only 33 percent of entering 4th graders read at grade level.
  • Among 3rd to 8th grade students, 39 percent are proficient in English/language Arts, 40 percent in math, 37 percent in science, and 33 percent in social studies.
  • Our high school graduation rate is still less than 80 percent.
  • Only 9 percent of all 9th graders, and just 2 percent of minority students, ultimately achieve a two or four-year college degree within six years of high school."


Sharp parents should ask themselves how (roughly) 94% of Georgia's teachers can be judged "effective" with statistics like these.We're being conned and ripped off by the incompetent,corrupt educrats that are essentially giving these kids a life sentence in poverty to feather their own nests.Its shameful.


I'm voting yes and urging everyone I meet to do the same.






newsphile
newsphile

@Astropig What is your magic solution for schools in the poor, rural areas of our state?  The tri-county high school in one area has few students.  How does your plan help them?

Astropig
Astropig

@newsphile @Astropig


There is no magic.Magic doesn't really exist.I hate to burst your bubble,but all "magic" is an illusion,like rising test scores at APS were an illusion.

decaturgirl
decaturgirl

Thank you, Mr. Delk! I completely agree, and highly doubt that the commenters have school age children in a failing school district. I have two children zoned for South DeKalb schools that are failing. I drive them both to private schools each day. It wouldn't be possible without a tax credit scholarship. Georgia legislators, parents need as many options as possible. My children are now receiving a quality education, which they were NOT in DCSS. More school choice is always a plue fpr parents and children.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Delk stands to profit from charter schools and the OSD. he writes this article for his business regularly. Free advertising?


The OSD has already been tried in GA and has failed. It is called The State Charter Schools Commission school district and:


1. Its schools are mostly failing or close to it

2. It is run by political appointees

3. It hides the money it spends from the taxpayer

4. The average taxpayer can't find out who is hired, salaries, or corporate contracts. The money could be going to friends, family members and campaign donors - hard to tell when the spending is hidden from taxpayers.

5. Its failing schools are not on the takeover list.

6. Its failing schools don't even have to meet their own charter goals-they just changed the rules to a new "framework" based on progress instead of CCRPI scores like the real public schools have to meet.


This is the model for the OSD - take the money from local school districts, hide the spending, and make no difference in achievement.


Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian


"Delk stands to profit from charter schools and the OSD"...


Right. I called a few lawyer friends from my bail bonding days and they told me to a person that surest way to get "buy your own island" rich is to do pro bono work for a couple of decades for entities that are fighting a government monopoly.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian You ignored the fact that Glen will profit nicely when this passes. That is the reason you are pushing for it while ignoring the facts that it's a failed policy. 

Astropig
Astropig

@sneakpeakintoeducation @Astropig @AvgGeorgian


Profit? Working pro bono? You DO know that that phrase means " work undertaken for the public good without charge, especially legal work for a client with a low income."


Did Beverly Hall work  pro bono?  Does Steven Green? Crawford Lewis? What about that gang in the status quo in Polk County that swiped $4 Million in money raised for education? Any of them work for free? 

dg417s
dg417s

I have a logistics question for Mr. Delk. How does he expect the parents that are working 2 ir 3 jobs to physically get their children to the choice school? Most parents in New Orleans, once given "choice" continued to enroll students at the closest school to their home. Mr. Delk, since the majority of the students in Takeover District potential schools are free and reduced lunch, and poverty is a known cause of poorer academic results, just how will the Takeover district solve that problem? There is no plan in the legislation to meet students' basic needs that prevent or hinder learning. Mr. Delk, Takeover Districts in 3 other states have failed to improve student performance. How is Georgia going to be different? Take into account that Tennessee Takeover District officials said when they started, 8 schools was too many to take over at once, and we are authorizing the Governor's unaccountable education czar to take 20 a year up to 100. I have read countless times people who do not like how DeKalb runs things say that we need small districts, but we are asking voters to authorize not only a large district - 100 schools - but a large geographic district. How can such a district be effectively run? Amendment 1 is a blank check to the governor to completely ignore communities throughout Georgia. While I will agree with you that how we are currently doing things isn't working, just doing something in the name of doing something.... especially when *this* something has not helped students yet where it has been tried.... cannot be the answer. Amendment 1 is bad for Georgia. By voting no, we are telling the Governor and General Assembly they need to go back to the drawing board and really address the question of how we can support student learning in Georgia. By voting no, we are sending a strong message that our children are too important to the future success of Georgia to give to the highest bidder.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@dg417s Much better not to even give them the option!