Archive for the ‘Georgia Charter School Association’ Tag

Georgia's Charter School Law: A Tale of Two (conflicting) Reports   2 comments

There is a saying invoked when a person is obviously in over his or her head in their professional role: It’s not what you know, but who you know. I thought about this when I read that Georgia was ranked #4 for its charter school law, by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. This is especially interesting when you consider that the Center for Education Reform’s recent Charter School Report Card assigned a grade of ‘C’ to Georgia. One of the explanations cited for Georgia’s ‘average’ grade was the fact that the newly-formed Charter School Commission is still, in large part, controlled by the Georgia Department of Education. For further explanation on Georgia’s grade, see ‘Georgia’s Charter School Law receives a ‘C.’

Out of curiosity, I visited the alliance’s site to see how Indiana ranked. According to this report, Indiana ranked 29th. I find that laughable considering the fact that the state has had two independent authorizers: The Mayor of Indianapolis and Ball State University. In fact, Indiana was one of the first states to use the mayor of a major city as an authorizer. Furthermore, all charter schools must be non-profits and oeprate as such. This practice has been called into question here in Georgia, as EMOs/CMOs are making up to $1 million per charter school in management fees, facility leasing fees, and professional development costs. The CER report assigned a grade of ‘B’ to Indiana; again, Georgia received a ‘C.’ How can the results from these two reports be so different?

So what’s really going on? Sometimes, peoples actions and motives are transparent; other times, a little digging and connecting the dots is required. I checked the bios on the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools board of directors. Interesting to say the least. One of the directors has ties to KIPP; another is the CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Believe it or not, former Mayor of Indianapolis Bart Peterson is also a member. Yes, that is the same mayor responsible for supporting and growing the charter school community in Indianapolis. Damn. That almost makes me want to retract the nice things I said about him earlier. I wonder if he actually read the report and noticed that Indiana received such a horrible ranking? Probably not. Oh yeah, Joel Klein is also a member of the board of directors. One thing positive that I can say about the board’s membership is that it accurately reflects the population of students being served by charter schools across the country; that is certainly more than I can say for the Georgia Charter School Commission, Charter Schools Association, and State Board of Education. Minorities are truly a minority in those arenas.

I guess Indiana should (and probably doesn’t) feel too slighted. Afterall, the CER report is likely more reliable and least likely to be influenced by board members and donation sizes. Besides, it could be worse: They could have received an ‘F’ like Virginia. I guess that explains why Charter School Commission member Gerard Robinson jumped ship and accepted the Secretary of Education position in Virginia. I guess that also explains why he has not extended me the professional courtesy of responding to a letter sent December 12, 2009. Oh well. Upon seeing him interact with the ol’ boys, I knew exactly how to categorize his intentions and motives.

I still don’t know how these two reports could have such disparities in grading charter school laws. But I do know that those who travel in the TFA, KIPP, New Leaders New Schools cults elitist circles certainly look out for each other. Afterall, Andrew Broy is a TFA alumnus. At this rate, I think the charter school movement could put the old-school mafia out of business for good. I guess those who believe that politics make for strange ‘bedfellows’ have never delved into the underworld of public education.

Georgia’s Charter School Law: A Tale of Two (conflicting) Reports   2 comments

There is a saying invoked when a person is obviously in over his or her head in their professional role: It’s not what you know, but who you know. I thought about this when I read that Georgia was ranked #4 for its charter school law, by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. This is especially interesting when you consider that the Center for Education Reform’s recent Charter School Report Card assigned a grade of ‘C’ to Georgia. One of the explanations cited for Georgia’s ‘average’ grade was the fact that the newly-formed Charter School Commission is still, in large part, controlled by the Georgia Department of Education. For further explanation on Georgia’s grade, see ‘Georgia’s Charter School Law receives a ‘C.’

Out of curiosity, I visited the alliance’s site to see how Indiana ranked. According to this report, Indiana ranked 29th. I find that laughable considering the fact that the state has had two independent authorizers: The Mayor of Indianapolis and Ball State University. In fact, Indiana was one of the first states to use the mayor of a major city as an authorizer. Furthermore, all charter schools must be non-profits and oeprate as such. This practice has been called into question here in Georgia, as EMOs/CMOs are making up to $1 million per charter school in management fees, facility leasing fees, and professional development costs. The CER report assigned a grade of ‘B’ to Indiana; again, Georgia received a ‘C.’ How can the results from these two reports be so different?

So what’s really going on? Sometimes, peoples actions and motives are transparent; other times, a little digging and connecting the dots is required. I checked the bios on the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools board of directors. Interesting to say the least. One of the directors has ties to KIPP; another is the CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Believe it or not, former Mayor of Indianapolis Bart Peterson is also a member. Yes, that is the same mayor responsible for supporting and growing the charter school community in Indianapolis. Damn. That almost makes me want to retract the nice things I said about him earlier. I wonder if he actually read the report and noticed that Indiana received such a horrible ranking? Probably not. Oh yeah, Joel Klein is also a member of the board of directors. One thing positive that I can say about the board’s membership is that it accurately reflects the population of students being served by charter schools across the country; that is certainly more than I can say for the Georgia Charter School Commission, Charter Schools Association, and State Board of Education. Minorities are truly a minority in those arenas.

I guess Indiana should (and probably doesn’t) feel too slighted. Afterall, the CER report is likely more reliable and least likely to be influenced by board members and donation sizes. Besides, it could be worse: They could have received an ‘F’ like Virginia. I guess that explains why Charter School Commission member Gerard Robinson jumped ship and accepted the Secretary of Education position in Virginia. I guess that also explains why he has not extended me the professional courtesy of responding to a letter sent December 12, 2009. Oh well. Upon seeing him interact with the ol’ boys, I knew exactly how to categorize his intentions and motives.

I still don’t know how these two reports could have such disparities in grading charter school laws. But I do know that those who travel in the TFA, KIPP, New Leaders New Schools cults elitist circles certainly look out for each other. Afterall, Andrew Broy is a TFA alumnus. At this rate, I think the charter school movement could put the old-school mafia out of business for good. I guess those who believe that politics make for strange ‘bedfellows’ have never delved into the underworld of public education.

Higher Ed takes notice of Georgia's preference for privatizing Education   Leave a comment

Monday’s AJC will feature an Op-ed piece by University of Georgia professor William G. Wraga regarding the obvious (my word) move towards privatizing education in Georgia. Wranga acknowledges the ‘intent’ of charter schools, i.e., curricular innovation and greater autonomy for teachers; however, he also addresses an issue of late for the charter community: More charters are increasingly being controlled by for-profit or faux non-profit (again, my word) management companies. I have shared my opinion on this all-too-common practice here in Georgia in this blog as well as this one.

What’s really interesting are the posts from people who, appear to be charter supporters, but do not really read what Wranga has written. They only ‘see’ an ‘attack’ on charter schools. I do not believe that was Wranga’s intention. If I am not mistaken, his concern is the fact that money, and lots of it, has become the main motivation for furthering the charter school movement in Georgia. I will admit to being a supporter of charter schools, but I am also a vocal supporter of quality education, school choice, and including parents in the education decision-making process. Charter schools are supposed to be governed by parents, teachers, and community members; however, many of us know that does not always happen. If you don’t believe me, just Google Imagine Schools and Dennis Bakke. Let me know what you find. It also appears that some people with a great deal of technical knowledge about charter schools are posting comments to the blog, under fictitious names. How do I know this? According to the Charter School Commission, a majority of the groups that submitted petitions did not have the technical knowledge or experience necessary to govern schools. By process of elimination, if the petitioners are not knowledgeable then that leaves the Commission members themselves, as well as the members of the Georgia Charter Schools Association and the state’s Charter School Division. Not a conspiracy theory, just common sense and basic observation. Man-up! Post your rebuttal or argument using your real name, since you attempt to sound like an expert on charters.

Higher Ed takes notice of Georgia’s preference for privatizing Education   Leave a comment

Monday’s AJC will feature an Op-ed piece by University of Georgia professor William G. Wraga regarding the obvious (my word) move towards privatizing education in Georgia. Wranga acknowledges the ‘intent’ of charter schools, i.e., curricular innovation and greater autonomy for teachers; however, he also addresses an issue of late for the charter community: More charters are increasingly being controlled by for-profit or faux non-profit (again, my word) management companies. I have shared my opinion on this all-too-common practice here in Georgia in this blog as well as this one.

What’s really interesting are the posts from people who, appear to be charter supporters, but do not really read what Wranga has written. They only ‘see’ an ‘attack’ on charter schools. I do not believe that was Wranga’s intention. If I am not mistaken, his concern is the fact that money, and lots of it, has become the main motivation for furthering the charter school movement in Georgia. I will admit to being a supporter of charter schools, but I am also a vocal supporter of quality education, school choice, and including parents in the education decision-making process. Charter schools are supposed to be governed by parents, teachers, and community members; however, many of us know that does not always happen. If you don’t believe me, just Google Imagine Schools and Dennis Bakke. Let me know what you find. It also appears that some people with a great deal of technical knowledge about charter schools are posting comments to the blog, under fictitious names. How do I know this? According to the Charter School Commission, a majority of the groups that submitted petitions did not have the technical knowledge or experience necessary to govern schools. By process of elimination, if the petitioners are not knowledgeable then that leaves the Commission members themselves, as well as the members of the Georgia Charter Schools Association and the state’s Charter School Division. Not a conspiracy theory, just common sense and basic observation. Man-up! Post your rebuttal or argument using your real name, since you attempt to sound like an expert on charters.

Dear Celebrities: Public education needs your ‘celebrity’   1 comment

Gazillionaire Oprah Winfrey recently donated $1.5 million dollars to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, GA. I applaud Ms. Winfrey’s commitment to improving educational options, especially for students from low-income families as they tend to get fed the short-end of the stick. There has been a great deal of fanfare around Ms. Winfrey’s donation, as there was this time last year when she sent Ron Clark a check for $365,000. I will admit that I was a bit envious: Of the donation, not the donor. As a staunch advocate of quality education, school choice, and increasing access to the arts, I would have been so gracious that I may have actually broken out in song-and-dance (the sarcasm is back). Seriously, this time last year our organization was nearing the 30-day deadline we were given to raise $1 million dollars if our charter petition was to receive consideration for approval. That’s an entirely different blog in and of itself…Any way, I can truly understand Mr. Clark’s enthusiasm upon receiving that check, but more so the one he received this week. I would like to attempt to explain some of the criticism surrounding Ms. Winfrey’s donation.

First, Ron Clark Academy is a private school, which means not everyone living in the school’s vicinity is afforded the opportunity to attend. As a private school, a limited number of students are able to attend. Furthermore, the ‘cost’ for educating each child is roughly $14,000, almost twice the amount alloted for public school children. I completely understand the school’s leader wanting to give children the best education possible, but I do not believe that it requires more money. Someone with Ron Clark’s connections could just as easily have started a public charter school and still received the same levels of donations and fundings as the private school. Why do I believe this? Well, the first reason is obvious for obvious reasons. Another reason is because Ron Clark was shown how to properly network and raise funds, as he traveled in the ‘right’ circles. For many grassroots educators, it has never been about the money or the recognition for that matter. It has been about giving back to their respective communities, leading by example, giving hope to students who may not otherwise have any or reason to believe they can change their circumstances through education.

Another issue of concern is this image of students singing and dancing all the time. As a lover of the arts, I completely understand the benefits of an arts-based education; however, art should not be limited to rapping. I have often vented about exposing kids to Mozart, Beethoven, or Vivaldi (my favorites). Better yet, why couldn’t the kids go to D.C. and recite a speech by W.E.B. DuBois or Martin Luther King, Jr.? Could they not have performed ‘We Shall Overcome’ or ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing?’ Either selection would have been more appropriate. Why, you ask? Because Blacks are always (or at least 99% of the time) portrayed in commercials singing, dancing, or jive-talkin’ Sadly, that is how many people outside of our race perceive us. I can’t speak for every Black person in America, but I am tired of being stereotyped!

Lastly, I would like to offer my opinion (because I know it only matters to me, no one is going to consult me before making any major donations): There are a lot of kids who could have been served by a $250k donation from Ms. Winfrey. Recently, the Georgia Charter School Commission approved 7 of 21 charter petitions received from organizations. Of the 7 approved, I believe only 2 were submitted by grassroots organizations. What exactly does that mean? It means that management companies stand to make at least $1 million dollars for the first year that each of those other charter schools is in operation. That means approximately $5 million of Georgia tax-payer dollars will leave the state during the 2010-11 school year. As someone who has been unemployed, I know for a fact that if that money remained in Georgia a few more people would be able to return to work next year. Instead, those funds go to CEOs of those organizations, located elsewhere. Many of the grassroots organizers were told that they should seek the services of a management company, as the Commission did not think they were competent enough to handle school operations. If Ms. Winfrey (or some other celebrity) had donated $15K to each of those 14 organizers (non-profit), they could have used those funds to attend training on opening and operating a charter school, offered by the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Then she could have happily donated the remaining funds to the Ron Clark Academy which, by the way, charges for site visits. So much for ‘best practices,’ but I digress.

So what am I really trying to say? Well, in a nutshell: Celebrities, if we are to fix what is wrong with public education, we (the everyday, average Joes & Janes) are going to need your help! Now I know all of you can’t give $1.5 million like Oprah, but giving your time and lending your name (and face) would certainly help bring focus to our educational system. Better yet, the next time you are at the White House rubbing elbows with the Obamas, please tell them that there are everyday educators out here, like Dr. Steve Perry and Baruti Kafele, who are getting things done, sans the fanfare and million dollar donations. I am sure the students at their respective schools could use those funds wisely.

Dear Celebrities: Public education needs your 'celebrity'   1 comment

Gazillionaire Oprah Winfrey recently donated $1.5 million dollars to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, GA. I applaud Ms. Winfrey’s commitment to improving educational options, especially for students from low-income families as they tend to get fed the short-end of the stick. There has been a great deal of fanfare around Ms. Winfrey’s donation, as there was this time last year when she sent Ron Clark a check for $365,000. I will admit that I was a bit envious: Of the donation, not the donor. As a staunch advocate of quality education, school choice, and increasing access to the arts, I would have been so gracious that I may have actually broken out in song-and-dance (the sarcasm is back). Seriously, this time last year our organization was nearing the 30-day deadline we were given to raise $1 million dollars if our charter petition was to receive consideration for approval. That’s an entirely different blog in and of itself…Any way, I can truly understand Mr. Clark’s enthusiasm upon receiving that check, but more so the one he received this week. I would like to attempt to explain some of the criticism surrounding Ms. Winfrey’s donation.

First, Ron Clark Academy is a private school, which means not everyone living in the school’s vicinity is afforded the opportunity to attend. As a private school, a limited number of students are able to attend. Furthermore, the ‘cost’ for educating each child is roughly $14,000, almost twice the amount alloted for public school children. I completely understand the school’s leader wanting to give children the best education possible, but I do not believe that it requires more money. Someone with Ron Clark’s connections could just as easily have started a public charter school and still received the same levels of donations and fundings as the private school. Why do I believe this? Well, the first reason is obvious for obvious reasons. Another reason is because Ron Clark was shown how to properly network and raise funds, as he traveled in the ‘right’ circles. For many grassroots educators, it has never been about the money or the recognition for that matter. It has been about giving back to their respective communities, leading by example, giving hope to students who may not otherwise have any or reason to believe they can change their circumstances through education.

Another issue of concern is this image of students singing and dancing all the time. As a lover of the arts, I completely understand the benefits of an arts-based education; however, art should not be limited to rapping. I have often vented about exposing kids to Mozart, Beethoven, or Vivaldi (my favorites). Better yet, why couldn’t the kids go to D.C. and recite a speech by W.E.B. DuBois or Martin Luther King, Jr.? Could they not have performed ‘We Shall Overcome’ or ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing?’ Either selection would have been more appropriate. Why, you ask? Because Blacks are always (or at least 99% of the time) portrayed in commercials singing, dancing, or jive-talkin’ Sadly, that is how many people outside of our race perceive us. I can’t speak for every Black person in America, but I am tired of being stereotyped!

Lastly, I would like to offer my opinion (because I know it only matters to me, no one is going to consult me before making any major donations): There are a lot of kids who could have been served by a $250k donation from Ms. Winfrey. Recently, the Georgia Charter School Commission approved 7 of 21 charter petitions received from organizations. Of the 7 approved, I believe only 2 were submitted by grassroots organizations. What exactly does that mean? It means that management companies stand to make at least $1 million dollars for the first year that each of those other charter schools is in operation. That means approximately $5 million of Georgia tax-payer dollars will leave the state during the 2010-11 school year. As someone who has been unemployed, I know for a fact that if that money remained in Georgia a few more people would be able to return to work next year. Instead, those funds go to CEOs of those organizations, located elsewhere. Many of the grassroots organizers were told that they should seek the services of a management company, as the Commission did not think they were competent enough to handle school operations. If Ms. Winfrey (or some other celebrity) had donated $15K to each of those 14 organizers (non-profit), they could have used those funds to attend training on opening and operating a charter school, offered by the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Then she could have happily donated the remaining funds to the Ron Clark Academy which, by the way, charges for site visits. So much for ‘best practices,’ but I digress.

So what am I really trying to say? Well, in a nutshell: Celebrities, if we are to fix what is wrong with public education, we (the everyday, average Joes & Janes) are going to need your help! Now I know all of you can’t give $1.5 million like Oprah, but giving your time and lending your name (and face) would certainly help bring focus to our educational system. Better yet, the next time you are at the White House rubbing elbows with the Obamas, please tell them that there are everyday educators out here, like Dr. Steve Perry and Baruti Kafele, who are getting things done, sans the fanfare and million dollar donations. I am sure the students at their respective schools could use those funds wisely.

Are grassroots charter groups at a disadvantage?   2 comments

For those who have been following my blogs or Tweets, you are aware that I do not claim to be an expert on anything. Instead, I choose to rely on my common sense and observations to draw conclusions and offer my two cents on anything Education-related. My passions are, in no particular order: (1) Actually closing the achievement gap, instead of just talking about it; (2) more free school choice options for students who happen to be minority or from low-income families; (3) smaller schools; (4) ending racial barriers to Gifted Education programs; and (5) addressing the over-representation of African American students, particularly males, in Special Education. Perhaps I am most passionate about creating more school choice options because, when done correctly, it can alleviate the other issues.

In one of my blog posts, I asked ‘Can Education really be fixed?’ because there are so many companies jumping into the business of Education for the sake of making a profit. Whether they are publishers of Education-related textbooks, masking their companies as non-profit CMOs (See: Imagine blog post), or charging charter schools nearly $1 million dollars in management fees per year, a lot of people are getting very rich off of the ‘economically disadvantaged.’ When these new ‘miracle’ plans do not work, critics begin to point the finger at the victims, also known as students. In reality, we need to start addressing some of the other disparities in Education before we can really claim that we are trying to close the achievement gap.

Let’s take a quick look at the charter school movement, as these schools have become increasingly popular with parents who cannot afford private school tuition. For the states with charter school legislation (39 and D.C.), it is expected that each would have unique chartering process and policies. Since I have only studied the legislation of Indiana and Georgia, I will only comment on those two. Until this year, Georgia only had one charter approval process: Submitting applications to the Board of Education in the district where the school would be located. The local board then had two options: approval or denial. If the application is denied, the group could submit it to the State Board of Education to be approved as a State Chartered Special School. Unfortunately, this special status would mean less per pupil funding; schools would have to operate on a significantly smaller budget. Last year, Georgia’s Charter Commission was approved in an effort to further the charter school movement and as a response to the high number of denials by local school boards

While I applaud the state representatives, politicians, and others who support the move to increase charters, we still have a problem: Grassroots groups, mainly minority-created, are still at a disadvantage in the charter school movement. Some groups are required to raise exorbitant amounts of capital to guarantee approval; others are told that their projected salaries are too low to attract and retain qualified staff, even though salaries mirror those in the district. There are no stipulations for such requirements in Georgia’s charter school law; instead, the leadership determines who will receive approval based on whether one’s attitude is in line with their expectations. Parental support, student needs, and potential success are not factors. Also troubling are insinuations made that applicants must participate in charter school leadership training provided by the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Again, the law does not stipulate that this is required; however, it has been implied. The cost for GCSA leadership training is $10,000 for members and $15,000 for non-members. Most grassroots organizations are staffed by individuals who have full-time paying jobs, which usually support their families. Expecting someone to pay this amount of money for a school that may or may not be approved, is…well, a bit careless. Agree? Unless, of course, attending the training guarantees approval of your application. I certainly hope no one is stupid enough to charge people for an approved application. That’s almost as absurd as appointing one of your Teach for America colleagues to sit on the state’s Charter Committee, but I digress.

So again, how can we close the achievement gap when all stakeholders do not have a legitimate voice in offering solutions? There is a lot to be said about the charter school movement become an exclusive club only meant for people with access to millions of dollars of capital. Chances are, they don’t look like the ‘poor, disadvantaged’ people they plan to help.