Passing the Opportunity School District would be one victory. More must follow for real opportunity.

A school choice supporter holds a sign at a rally at the state Capitol. TAYLOR.CARPENTER@AJC.com

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 essay, he encourages Georgia voters to pass the Opportunity School District.

By the way, I asked Michael O’Sullivan, state director of StudentsFirst Georgia — who met with the AJC two weeks ago — to write a piece explaining how, as was cited at the AJC meeting, the OSD has learned from the mistakes of the Tennessee Achievement District and NOLA.  If that piece comes, I will post here. The AJC is also waiting for a piece from the pro OSD Georgia Leads, which I will run it if comes.

In the meantime, here is Delk’s piece:

By Glenn Delk

Watching the debate over Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District proposal reminds me of the speech given by Winston Churchill, in November, 1942, after his army defeated German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel at El Alamein, when he told the House of Commons “…Now this is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning…”

For 65 years, Georgia and the entire country have fought battles over how best to implement the Supreme Court’s admonition that, if the state decided to provide its citizens with the benefit of an adequate education, the Constitution required it to provide the benefit on equal terms to all citizens. Since 1951, we’ve argued about the best way to meet that constitutional obligation.

What Gov. Deal is really saying  with the OSD is that families who are forced, mainly by economic reasons, to send their children to failing schools,  have the same opportunity as middle and upper-income families to choose the best school for each child.

However, just as Churchill did not promise his country that victory at El Alamein meant victory in World War II was assured, Gov. Deal does not claim that passage of the OSD proposal, by itself, will provide equal educational opportunities to all students. Instead, if voters approve the proposal and admit we’re now failing a large segment of our children, we will be at the end of the first phase of providing equal opportunity to all. Following passage, if it happens, the governor, other political and business leaders, and all of Georgia’s citizens, must work together to make sure that the nearly 65,000 students now trapped in failing schools have quality choices.

If we don’t follow passage of the proposal with a concerted effort to attract providers of high quality schools to Georgia, combined with an equally strong effort to support home-grown operators, we’ll be repeating past mistakes, not learning from them, as Churchill and his military leaders did after a series of defeats preceding victory at El Alamein.  Instead of a new state agency to “manage” schools taken over, we should offer families more choices.

As Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen said recently, “…People like choice…They want to pick their president.  They want to pick their Happy Meal.  The concept of choice is appropriate in a country focused on democracy…”

To her credit, superintendent Carstarphen and her board have begun, even before passage of the OSD, to give Atlanta parents more quality choices by conducting a national search for operators of high-quality schools to open in Atlanta, while at the same time providing local operators to operate previously failing schools.

Like Churchill, Dr. Carstarphen has learned from past failures, heeding research such as the recently released study from Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance.  Published October 18, 2016, the report studied the differences in school takeovers in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

As a news report on the study said, “…The Tulane report emphasizes the commonsense idea that these sort of interventions work only when new schools are markedly better than the ones closed or taken over…The New Orleans data suggest that, at least in some circumstances, closures and takeovers can have significant positive effects on student outcomes, including test scores and high school graduation rates…”

Just as Winston Churchill correctly identified that one victory over Rommel did not eliminate the need for D-Day and hundreds of other battles, we must realize that winning the approval of the OSD will not eliminate the need for additional victories in the fight for equal opportunity for all.

 

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The easy solution is removing seven words from the constitution that were inserted in 1945. The words that restrict the number of districts to the ones who existed in 1945 and only county wide there after. Why not simply give all a chance to thrive in small one high school districts like Decatur City Schools, Buford City Schools, Marietta Schools, etc.. Or if you just google the top 20 school districts in the country all of them are single high school districts under 10,000 students. Most are single high school districts under 5,000 students. What do they have in common? They have their pulse on the community. They do not have a lot of make work jobs for adults. They do not have $300k traveling Broad Supt.

Annette Laing
Annette Laing

Good journalism: Pursuing truth. Not "he said, she said."

jarvis1975
jarvis1975

I've seen how well they do most things. The Department of Driver Services and the DOR....models of efficiency. What else isn't working that we could give to the State?



AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@jarvis1975

We could give it the chronically failing State Charter Commission School District, oh wait, they already run that.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

Glenn Delk: “As Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen said recently, ‘…People like choice…They want to pick their president.  They want to pick their Happy Meal.  The concept of choice is appropriate in a country focused on democracy…’”

11 October 2016

How dare she brazenly co-opt democracy and wrap it up Happy Meal commercial-style in the lies and deceptions of school choice, so as to promote privatizing hence destroying Atlanta Public Schools as a public institution?  [Her] apparent incompetence to bring and lead improvement of the district, pedagogically, is just plain astounding.  But, as before, as with Beverly Hall, the Atlanta business community, including APS current “partners” Wells Fargo, Bell & Melinda Gates Foundation, Walton Foundation, IBM, Delta, etc., are playing their enabling role.

I am just at a loss for respectable words, for the moment. Maybe you will be, too, after reading [Atlanta superintendent: School choice is as American as the Happy Meal].

Ed Johnson

Advocate for Quality in Public Education

Mack68
Mack68

Maureen, could you ask APS to clarify Mr. Delk's assertion that they are actively looking to open more/new "choice" options within the district?

I do not believe that is an accurate characterization of the intent of the Request for Information recently issued relative to the Turnaround efforts. 

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@Mack68 Carstarphen's and her school board members' intent is exactly what Delk says: "...more/new 'choice' options within the district."  And, therefore, more privatization leading to more destruction of Atlanta Public Schools as a public institution serving the common good based in democratic ideals and practice.  So shame on Carstarphen for co-opting "democracy" to promote so-called "choice."

Mack68
Mack68

Looking for someone in APS to dispute what Mr. Delk and Mr. Johnson allege....

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@Mack68

Why would anyone want the Fox to state her intention for guarding the henhouse, let alone for being in the henhouse, when the Fox’s behavior so clearly shows why?  https://youtu.be/wtS4xcgPYJ0

kaelyn
kaelyn

"...have the same opportunity as middle and upper-income families to choose the best school for each child."

Nonsense. Maybe upper-income families have a choice, but middle class families do not. I know a lot of hard working middle income families who bought homes with "good schools" only to see those schools deteriorate. They don't make enough money to send their kids to private schools, so they're stuck unless they win a coveted lottery seat. We bought a home with highly rated schools years ago and after living there for three years the attendance boundaries were changed. Only the very rich win with the way public schools work now. The rest of us are screwed.

BKendall
BKendall

If what Mr. Glenn Delk writes is true:

“If we don’t follow passage of the proposal with a concerted effort to attract providers of high quality schools to Georgia..”

“To her credit, superintendent Carstarphen and her board have begun, even before passage of the OSD, to give Atlanta parents more quality choices by conducting a national search for operators of high-quality schools to open in Atlanta…”

Then:

Remember when Georgia voted to change its constitution to address charter school growth?

Remember when questioned about bringing in outside private operators, and it was strongly denied?

The other shoe is dropping.

All I can say is, “I told you so!”

Politicians want to bring outside private companies to run charter schools, with even less transparency than we have currently have with both public and charter schools.

With little to no monitoring of where or how taxpayers taxes are spent.

And are supported by the likes of the Walton family, Gates foundation, and others who are only be too happy to make contributions placing Georgia Politicians on their donation payroll.

It has always been about the political money, wrapped up in the message, ‘It’s for the children’.

This is only one reason I agree with the NAACP, we need to put a moratorium on charter school growth, and stop jumping the broomstick without knowing the quality of what is on the other side.

There is one thing Deal may be able to do, if he actually wanted to help children before politicians.

Georgia passed a law that allowed the state to remove school board members from their positions.

Maybe Mr. Delk, another attorney, or even the AJC could comment on the following proposal:

“Fire the School Board members in the communities identified, and hold their replacements responsible for fixing the problem.”

I know that asking elected representatives to be responsible and holding them to it is extremely radical.

I also know the proposal will make it less likely for out of state funds to be placed in the political campaign contribution employment hat.

I also know why I do not trust the State of Georgia to be honest, and transparent about education.

Want to do something really different?

Let’s do something radical!

Passing this amendment puts Georgia in the same peed in pool with other states that have already had too many embarrassing moments of bad charter school exposure.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

Despite the fact that I agree with this particular piece, the AJC should know that Delk is school choice's equivalent of an ambulance chaser and is a joke within the community.


We OSD supporters would like a more credible advocate. Makes my wonder if the AJC might actually be trying to discredit the supporters with this particular pro-OSD column.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@RoyalDawg Still waiting for promised pieces from other OSD advocates. When they come, I will post. 

dg417s
dg417s

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein 


This model has failed students in 3 other states. I am not saying things don't need to change. We can see that they do. That being said, vote no on Amendment 1 and force the governor and general assembly to make some tough choices about how to best help our students. OSD may be easy and cheap, but that is it. The model has failed students. Do not let it fail Georgia students.

Astropig
Astropig

@dg417s


""Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein "


We do the same thing over and over again every day with the status quo.That's why it's called the status quo.


Just sayin'.

dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig @dg417s I have very clearly stated many times on this blog that I agree the status quo needs to change, but it needs to change in the right way. Amendment 1 is a system doomed to continue to fail Georgia students. We need a solution that will work, not one that has failed students in 3 other states.

Astropig
Astropig

@dg417s @Astropig


"OSD may be easy and cheap, but that is it."


I'm always puzzled when I read stuff like this.Doing absolutely nothing is even easier and cheaper and that's what you're advocating here. No responsible  politician has said that this will be easy or cheap.None.


No, the easy thing for governor Deal to have done would have been to come out as "tough on crime" "lock 'em up" and label these kids that drop out and go astray "superpredators" and cater to the worst fears of many (like Bill Clinton did back in the 90's).He could have easily looked the other way and kept his political capital in his back pocket for other things.Go along, get along...Just let these school boards have their little sandbox to play in-like always.Don't rock the boat...


But we all know that the bill will come due when these kids can't find a job that will support them and allow them to start or support a family.Then we'll demand more and bigger prisons (from the right) and more entitlement programs that destroy their self-worth (from the left) and the same old system will just keep rocking along because we did nothing when doing something could have made a difference.

dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig @dg417s It's easy to turn your problem over to someone else - that's what the Governor wants to do. It's cheap because it won't increase funding to local schools. It's a failed model. 

It's neither easy nor cheap to do what these children actually need - work to ensure smaller classes, have nurses on site in every school, help parents work to improve their skills to increase their earnings ability, etc. That will actually help these students and their schools. But then again, it's neither easy nor cheap.

Astropig
Astropig

@dg417s @Astropig


No problemo.


If this fails, I'm going to start getting behind efforts to require drug,alcohol and means testing for public assistance recipients,tougher felony sentencing,gigantic expansion of our prison system and property tax cuts in counties where these schools are failing.


We're already trying all of these "wrap around" services at the federal level and they have only made the problem unmanageable.


Two areas that the state has explicit responsibility are law enforcement and education. If the out of state teachers unions won't allow some reforms to education for their selfish,greedy ends,then-Lock 'em up! Put 'em under the jail.In Georgia,that will be an easy sell.That will be the easy way to deal with the problem.

Astropig
Astropig

One minor quibble: The governor put the figure at 68,000 students.Mr. Delk says 65,000.That a fair sized divergence.I only point this out because every one of these kids is important.


Other than that, spot on. If the voters approve the OSD (by no means certain), then these kids and their families will finally have an advocate for their educational needs at the highest levels of state government. It will be impossible to ignore them for decades,as is being done now.There will be some accountability for doing less than all we can do to help them.


If the voters say no (by no means certain),then you'll see the initiatives begun by APS and other systems phased quietly out and it will be back to business as usual,with these school boards redlining these kids,their families and these schools and practicing the basest,most cynical form of racism and class destruction.


I say that if the voters say no,it will be time to focus reform energy on these local races at the ballot box.Pour resources into removing these school board members and replacing them with real advocates for school improvement.I would laser focus on the top 5 school boards in the next election cycle and throw these bums out.

daks_
daks_

We have yet to hear how staying with the status quo of failing inner-city schools will ever help the situation. What has the education establishment learned from decades of failure?

Why shouldn't we look elsewhere for solutions?

creative
creative

@daks_ What are we going to do about kids with no dads.  APS spends more money per child than most private schools.  No dads equals failure.  With that said APS is run by people that might make it 3 weeks in a private company.  Lastly, its hard to get the cracker teachers down in the ghetto to speak English to the chudrin as they are not looked at as saviors anymore.  Its more what are you doing here white bit%^, your racist!!! It's a win win situation really.  My proposal is to make sure that the boys and girls club stay open later paired with every child getting an IPAD and were golden.