State Charter Schools: Follow the Money

by Diane Sandifer 2 Comments November 1, 2012

As a lifelong advocate for public education and a local board of education member in Georgia for ten years, I hold strong convictions when it comes to charter schools. I totally support charter schools when approved by a local board of education. But, what about state charter schools?

We already have more than 200 charter schools in Georgia. More are in the pipeline. Like all schools, some are good, some need improvement. According to the Georgia Department of Education’s Charter Schools Annual Report, charter school children do not exceed other public school children’s performance:

“Over the past five years, the overall performance of charter schools compared to traditional public schools has been mixed but both groups have traditionally demonstrated the same general performance trends.”

What are state charter schools really all about?

  • Accountable: to whom?

Rather than local school boards’ accountability to us, a very small (seven people) state appointed group in Atlanta will be able to create a separate system of schools if we pass amendment 1 on November 6. They will use our tax dollars to pay for them but this little group isn’t elected; if you don’t like what they do, too bad. You can’t vote them out of office. A huge amount of power will be in their hands to decide how and where schools operate. There’s nothing, not one word, in the law that provides for parental involvement or improving student achievement. Nothing.

  • Our tax dollars: It gets worse.

They can siphon off our tax money that goes to public schools to pay for this group’s “new schools” and – surprise – to pay for for-profit companies that will actually manage those schools. Corporate profits are the overriding goal, not education or student achievement or parental involvement. Rest assured, many of these companies contributed to state legislators’ campaigns. Many are behind campaigns for state charter schools. No wonder some of our politicians are in favor of this. I for one can’t afford a dual school system that answers to no one or stand by and watch scarce state money be spent by a small group making decisions in Atlanta.

  • Expansion of state government?

We in Georgia recently voted for or against a penny sales tax to fund transportation. In many regions, it failed. The main reason given? Distrust of government. If you distrust government to build or improve roads, do you want to really want to expand its power with unchecked authority over schools?

The push to pass this amendment in our Georgia state election means expanding state government, no accountability for using our tax dollars, budget cuts to public schools (how else is the state going to pay for these new beings?), larger classes, shortened school years, teacher furloughs and layoffs. Locally, our school system is one of our largest employers in Harris County; the same is true with our neighbors in Columbus/Muscogee. None of us wants to see this kind of jobless economic impact.

As the old adage goes, follow the money. Those who favor expanded state government, lack of accountability and a separate, unequal, dual school system are spending millions promoting state charter schools. Don’t be deceived.

Further Reading:

State Charter Schools: A Trick or Treat?

Vote Smart Georgia

Sufficient Oversight at Charter Schools?

Categories: Accountability, TransparencyTags: , , , , , , ,
2 Comments to “State Charter Schools: Follow the Money”
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  2. avatar Melanie Plame says:

    Ms. Sandifer,

    While I appreciate your dedication to public education, I’d like to challenge you to consider some other things not included in your blog and expand your research just a little bit so that the public is FULLY apprised of what is going on in public education across the charter sector and in traditional districts.

    First of all, are some (not all) charters managed by for profit companies? Yes, they are. Here is what you did not tell the public:

    1) That these schools are operating on much less funding than a traditional district school operates (even with paying their management company). State charter schools are operating below the bottom 5 districts in the state with funding. Same job – costs tax payers less to educate the kids.

    2) The for-profit companies pay employees, which accounts for the majority of their costs. Why does that matter? Because traditional public school central offices don’t have anyone working for free either (not even their boards … charter board members receive $0 in compensation). Somebody “profits” with either model.

    3) We have school districts in this state spending LESS than 60% on instruction and extensive amounts on central office staffing (some in excess of 10, 16, and even 20%!) You can look for yourself on Open.Georgia.Gov and on the state DOE website under District Revenue and Expenditures and see.

    We have a nice employment agency going on in Georgia that has nothing to do with increasing achievement. Increases in non-teaching staff has increased dramatically over the last few years while class sizes have increased, teacher pay has been cut, and morale has plummeted.

    Critical funds that COULD go towards restoring teacher salaries and into the classroom for technology and instructional materials are diverted to the central office and positions for positions that do not directly work with students. But that doesn’t bother anybody because they aren’t “for profit.”

    “For profit” is a tax designation – nothing more. If you want to address something, then address the excessive waste going on in public education in this state. Showcase the charters showing high achievement with the same population of students as their district counterparts who are doing it for LESS. Showcase the traditional districts doing the same.

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