It’s a Must: Say YES to Fixing Georgia’s Failing Schools

200px-Georgia-state-capitol-dome

The opposition to Georgia’s opportunity school district referendum has stockpiled millions of dollars to fight against desperately needed measures to help students in failing schools.  The opponents of Amendment 1, which voters will consider this November, include the Georgia Association of Educators and the Geogia AFL-CIO, along with many other members of the public school establishment.  The National Education Association has dedicated 1.5 million dollars for an ad campaign to oppose the Opportunity School District, and opposition groups recently spent $730,000 to run television ads against the initiative.

The Opportunity School District initiative, known as Amendment 1, addresses the 127 failing schools in Georgia that have not attained a 60 percent score for the last three consecutive years on the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Ready Performance Index.  The Opportunity School District (OSD) is a proposed constitutional amendment that must receive voter approval on November 8th, and is modeled after similar initiatives in Louisiana and Tennessee.  This legislation will allow the state to temporarily step in to aid schools that have struggled for years to successfully educate students, who are compelled to attend based on their zip code.  The state’s involvement would last anywhere between 5 to 10 years and then would return to local control.

Recently, Governor Nathan Deal presented his case in support of the OSD at the Georgia Education  Leadership Institute:

Let’s start talking about the children.  Let’s make sure that our schools serve their best interests and change them when they don’t.  Let’s end a status quo that does not produce results, despite ever-greater sums of money.  Let’s listen to the numbers – which have no agenda – instead of to the advocacy groups and resentful partisans who do.

He addressed the constant demands by opposition groups to simply spend more money on education in Georgia:

…I worked with the General Assembly to allocate a total of $8.9 billion in state funds for K-12 education in the FY 2017 budget.  That includes $300 million in additional funds for salary increases for educators….You know, it’s funny that we often get accused of cutting spending on education, when in actuality we’ve increased it every year that I’ve been in office.  In fact, my administration has spent more of the state budget on education than any administration in the past 50 years since Governor Carl Sanders was in office.

He continued his address stating:

But as I said at this very same venue last year, the underlying issues facing our classrooms today – the challenges that often lead to academic failure – cannot be solved by simply throwing more state dollars at the issue.  And we know that money alone does not result in improved student performance because over the forty-year period between 1970 and 2010, education spending nationally increased 185 percent in the United States while performance on our national exams remained the same.

Many opponents of Amendment 1 argue, as they almost always do, that improving education can be done by allocating more funding for education.  Current opposition also includes a rejection of the state’s involvement in education in favor of continuing local control.  But if local control has continually yielded schools that cannot properly educate students, then why should that failure continue to be enabled and funded?

The Georgia Federation of Teachers website includes this dubious statement on why voters should oppose the referendum: “What parents, educators and community members really want is schools where educators are respected and well-supported, and children can get a well-rounded, vibrant curriculum.”  As a parent, I can assure you that my chief priority in the education of my own children is, instead, a stellar education that guarantees a bright future for my kids, rather than propping up a school that continues to fail.

Georgia must improve these schools that have already failed to educate 68,000 students, regardless of how loudly powerful bureaucrats, lobbyists, and interest groups that act in the interest of adults may complain.

-Rhonda Gatch

For more information, click here.

 

 

 

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Press Release: Charter Schools Work! RALLY in Atlanta

“CHARTER SCHOOLS WORK!” RALLY
Sen. Chip Rogers confirmed to speak

ATLANTA
– (October 17, 2012) – Moms for School Choice, in collaboration with Heritage Preparatory Charter School and Georgia’s Voice for Educational Choice, is organizing a grassroots, bi-partisan charter school rally on Oct. 27. The rally will showcase students from some of the outstanding, high-performing Georgia public charter schools before the Nov. 6 vote on Amendment 1 – The Charter School Amendment (HR1162).

The event will take place on Sat., Oct. 27, 2012, at 10 a.m. on the campus of Heritage Preparatory Charter School (3350 Greenbriar Parkway SW, Atlanta, Ga., 30331). Check-in will begin at 9:30 a.m.

The rally is drawing bi-partisan support from Ga. Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Cherokee), Ga. State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell), Dekalb County Board of Education Member Nancy Jester, Cherokee County Board of Education Member Michael Geist, and Rich Thompson of 100 Dads, who are confirmed to speak to the students and families at the event.

Georgia currently ranks near the bottom – 48th nationally – in education with a 65 percent high school graduation rate statewide.  Public charter schools play an important role in providing parents with school choice options to address these staggering statistics. Unfortunately today, too many in Georgia still are not aware of the existence of charter schools or their mission.

The theme of the rally is “Charter Schools WORK!” because charter schools work for students, families, communities, and Georgia.

Students from Heritage Preparatory Charter School, Cherokee Charter Academy, and other Georgia public charter schools are set to perform. Students attending the rally from public charter schools will be dressed in their school uniforms/colors with signs handmade by the students themselves.

Visit our Facebook event page (Charter-Schools-WORK-Rally)
for additional details.

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About Heritage Preparatory Charter School
Heritage Preparatory Academy serves the needs of middle school students in Atlanta neighborhoods with high crime rates. The school offers its students a challenging, globally relevant academic program in a community-building environment meant to counteract the negative influences of drugs, gangs, violence and crime. To learn more about the school or to enroll your student, visit
http://www.heritageprepcharter.org.

About Moms for School Choice
Founded in 2012, Moms for School Choice is a grassroots, non-partisan, non-profit organization that exists to promote the many school options for families: public, charter, private, homeschool, or virtual. Each child is unique and deserves a school environment where they can reach their full educational potential. For more information, visit
momsforschoolchoice.ning.com.

About Georgia’s Voice for Educational Choice
Georgia’s Voice for Educational Choice was formed by parents and citizens residing in Cherokee County.  We are passionate about providing the children of Georgia every opportunity available within education to secure their continued success throughout life.  We believe that school choice is an absolute necessity in reaching this goal. For more information on Georgia’s Voice for Educational Choice, visitschoolchoicegeorgia.org.
Kimberly Cochran
Moms for School Choice
Become a member: http://www.momsforschoolchoice.ning.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MomsforSchoolChoice
Twitter: @Moms4EdChoice

http://eastpoint.11alive.com/news/events/141049-bi-partisan-rally-drum-support-charter-schools

Column by UNCF President Michael Lomax Supporting Charter Schools

In this column from February 19, 2012, Michael Lomax makes the case for charter schools.  He argues for the need to pass HR 1162- the Charter School Amendment before the Georgia legislature. He emphasizes the need for students who are better prepared for college and the work force demands of today.  This excerpt is even more relevant when you consider the extensive experience of the writer as an educator at the college level:

…But to produce more college graduates, we have to produce more college-ready high school graduates. And right now, we are not getting the job done. One of every three college freshmen have to take at least one remedial course to learn what they should have been taught in high school. Just four of 10 ninth graders go on to graduate from college.

This is where public charter schools come in. Like system schools, they admit all students, up to the limits of their capacities. But they are smaller and more flexible than system schools. They can try new approaches, more focused on their students’ needs. Like any well-run business or organization, they can keep what works, and discard what doesn’t. And they can be held accountable for the education they give their students.

Open and free to all, innovative, flexible and accountable: We don’t need fewer charter schools. We need more.

Charter schools are not the answer to improving our public schools. But they must be part of the answer. For thousands of students in Atlanta, across Georgia, and around the country, they are a right-now choice for parents to seek educational opportunities for their children and hold system schools accountable. And the choice they afford parents provides powerful but constructive competition to system schools, and powerful leverage for change.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

Parents and Students Can’t Wait for the Parent Trigger Act

Georgia has been a leader in school choice, but recent events have slowed the progress of authorizing more public charter schools.

After the ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court last summer that struck down the ability of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission to authorize charter schools, approval for new charters and extensions of charter petitions has declined. Families who do not have the bank accounts for private schools or live in a zip code that does not provide the benefits of successful public schools often are left without alternatives.

Parents need pathways that speed improvement in school situations that seem dire, and that bypass the roadblocks erected by traditional educational systems. As schools in Georgia continue to rank near the bottom, families need the bold change that the proposed Parent Trigger Act would provide.

The first parent trigger legislation was signed in California in January of 2010 and was aimed at chronically low-achieving schools. It transfers power directly to parents allowing them to mobilize and make transformational decisions. After gathering the signatures of a 51-percent majority of parents, there are several options such as hiring a new principal, closing the school completely, or converting it into a high-performing public charter school, all of which are federal “Race to the Top” interventions.

The process begins with parents coming together for unprecedented decision power. A key advantage of parent triggers is keeping existing schools intact within the neighborhood: no search for a new building or lottery needed for enrollment.

Parent triggers have had little implementation so far. The first attempted trigger occurred in Compton, California. After signatures were collected, they did not withstand a court challenge since some signers did not include the date. Rather than converting the school into a charter, a public charter school was opened nearby.

Texas and Mississippi also have enacted parent trigger legislation. Twenty-two additional states are considering trigger bills.

In Georgia, the proposed Parent Trigger Act- HB 731 would provide for charter petitions by a majority of parents or guardians for “low-achieving” schools. Schools qualify as “low-achieving” when they fail to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) for two years in the same subject. The Parent Trigger would apply to accreditation problems, such as probation. A majority of parents of enrolled students could simply vote and submit a petition to the local school board. A petition could also be submitted if a faculty majority agreed to do so. As in California, the parent board could choose to implement one of the four federal “Race to the Top” interventions.

Traditionally, parent involvement amounts to volunteering in the school library or attending meetings. Rarely are parents given the opportunity for genuine, direct input in educational decisions affecting their children. Instead, families are asked to wait while the massive, unresponsive educational system gradually inches along without demonstrating much progress.

The parent trigger process is underway for the second time in Adelanto, California where Principal Mobley at Desert Trails Elementary expressed his preference for gradualism: “We need to work within the system to make the changes. There are [union] contracts and budget constraints, but that’s going to be the process. We’ll get there.”

However, back in Compton, Gregoria Gonzalez, involved in her local school for years, described her support for the trigger stating, “We are very tired of being told if we want to help we simply should stand outside watching recess or making something for a bake sale.”

The Parent Trigger Act would give parents the freedom to enact crucial transformation of persistently failing schools in Georgia with dispatch.

-Rhonda Gatch