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Walker: State Charter Commission 'End of Universal, Free Public Education'

DeKalb County Board of Education chair and District 9 member Gene Walker said this week the proposed Georgia Charter Commission will lead to an unequal and economically segregated school system.

The creation of a Georgia Charter Commission would lead to an erosion of local tax dollars and an inequality of education in DeKalb County and other local school districts, DeKalb County Board of Education member Gene Walker said this week.

In a column published in Neighbor Newspapers, the board chair and District 9 representative said a charter school commission run by the state would siphon $430 million from local school districts and cherry pick the best students in each system, leaving the poorest and most troubled students to the leadership of under-funded school districts.

A revival of such a commission will be on the ballot on Election Day. The referendum seeks to ammend the Georgia Constitution to allow the state government to share oversight of local education.

From the column:

It goes without saying that in our current economy, local school systems cannot take a $430 million hit from the get-go, and be able to continue to provide a quality education for all students. The children of the rich will always be able to afford to go to any lengths to attend the best schools. Children of lesser means will be trapped into the underfunded remains of a once-great school system. This referendum places us back on the path to separate and very unequal educational system. No, children won’t be divided on the pure basis of race, but on the basis of economic class.

Read the column in Neighbor Newspapers for the rest.

Walker, however, said he does support the system's existing charter schools, which are funded through the school system.

Walker's superdistrict includes the North Druid Hills area, including nearby communities such as Oak Grove.

If you're unfamiliar with the debate over the charter schools ammendment, check out this story in CrossRoads News published last week. From the story: 

Here’s the bottom line:

Local school systems already are the approval body for charter schools. So there’s nothing new there.

What’s in question is whether the Georgia Charter Schools Commission should be revived as an “alternate authorizer” of charter schools and be allowed to override local school boards’ denials of charter school petitions with charters of its own.

What do you think about Walker's column? Do you support a state charter commission? How will you vote Nov. 6? Tell us in the comments section below.

Tammy September 28, 2012 at 06:02 PM
The DeKalb County Board of Education should be scared. They haven't been leading much at all lately. If DCSS had been doing their job then people wouldn't feel it necessary to put their kids in charter schools. The real losers here are the children and the administration should not keep looking at our tax dollars as their meal ticket to riches.
Sam Garvin September 28, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Education funding should be focused on funding the education of a child -- not funding the existance of a "system." Funding should be focused on the needs of children, not the whims of adults.
H.A. Hurley September 29, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Hear, hear! The Board communicates to the public that the mess they have created and continue to defend, is good for children? Taking one of the best school systems in the state, and destroy it with funding and personnel nightmares, is good for all children? The cherry on the nightmare cake, let's pay administrators' tuition for completing their Ph.D.!!! Are you kidding? Yes, parents have seen enough! They will not continue to to take chances that DCSS will get it together. NOT! It is true that parents with options will move their children to privat schools, charter schools or move. The children who come from homes without options will have to suffer under the inept leadership and their consequences of the board and the superintendent. You did not know the outcome of your incompetence? Everyone has been ringing that bell. But, the board and the superintendent kept defending their actions - meaning that nothing will change, most likely get worse. Wake up! Don't blame it on charter schools or privat schools. When neighborhood schools are of quality, parents keep their children there. There are many examples of excellent schools where everyone wants their children. Too many examples where children are stuck in your system where the board seems not to be able to improve anything. Let's blame it on charter schools. Afterall, it is the fault of everyone else that you cannot get it together and do the job you signed up for. Shame on you!
H.A. Hurley September 29, 2012 at 01:41 PM
When funding is limited in this economy, one should trust that spending the $$$ on children, instruction and educators. However, we keep reading about zillions of $$$ spent on ethics violations, attorney fees, paying for contracts, not vetting companies, paying for Ph.Ds. They seem to find those dollars, but not for the lowest paid emplyees in DCSS. The same people who keep the lights on, drive the buses, monitor students, interpret for parent meetings, libraries, instruct in overcrowded rooms, etc., etc. oh, let's blame it on the charter schools and state funding. Look around, most systems are not inmthe mess you are in.
Sally September 30, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Absolutely! I can't take any comments seriously from someone who has been a big part of wrecking what used to be the best school system in the state.
Tom Doolittle September 30, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Walker is correct. Proliferation of privately-run charter schools under an unelected, unregulated, MENDACIOUS charter commission would empty neighborhood schools--not only financially, but in student and family count. However, in DeKalb's case, collusion between the low-income housing industry and impotence (or complicity) by the school system going on 25 years has led us to a point where even the most ardent neighborhood school supporters are ready to "do something--ANYTHING". Thinking about it carefully: What moron would choose to keep his child in a traditional school with class sizes going on 35 kids when there are enough charter schools with 20 kids to a class? (note: charters can do that because their expenses will be lower, particularly teacher salaries). The answer of course, is that most who "stay" will not be morons at all--they will be those unfortunates in the underclass who can't afford to transport their kids--or just don't have the time or cultural inclination to pursue it...or maybe they will be parents who simply refuse to aid and abet the corrupt dismantling of neighborhood schools.
H.A. Hurley September 30, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Well said, sad but true! It is rather concerning that DC residents are feeling the urgency and the Board and superintendent are not demonstrating that urgency. they appear to operate 'business as usual' and expect a different outcome. Given that, residents have only the following options: leave DC, remain in marginal to poor schools, private schools or charter schools. The leaders are forcing the issue by continuing on the path of ignorance, apathy and ignoring the bells ringing all around the state. Can this many people be wrong? It takes some nerve to try to defend the current mess in DCSS.
Tom Doolittle September 30, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Ironically, DeKalb school board gets cover/distraction from its mess (our mess) by making an issue out of this. They get to align with a constituency that gets plenty of press--that which used to be the civil rights agenda, teacher unions and the public school lobby. What will result is an accommodation between the crooks on one side and the crooks on the other. There aren't any good guys in this--just money grubbers on both sides. Walker is just the most cynical of them all--its a game pure and simple. Education and kids are just currency to trade.
R.Alexander October 01, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Where there is confusion vultures will find opportunity. Let me clear it up for everyone. There are two problems: Public educators have continued to increase bureaucracies to where parents are frustrated and dissatisfied with the quality of the education being provided; while charter schools develop test-in standards that show how the middle and upper class can create separate but "equal" schools of "choice" using the tax payer dollars. Public education takes the mentality of the herd of buffalo, they are only as fast as their slowest runner. Meanwhile if you think your little Johnny is really a genius you need to sell out the American idea that everyone in the country is given an equal chance because of the public education system. So vote to divert as many tax dollars to your kid because they are more special than mine.
Tom Doolittle October 01, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Helpful discussion below this CL article: http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2012/09/25/georgia-charter-schools-amendment-opposition-ramps-up
Tom Doolittle October 01, 2012 at 06:36 PM
The Gulan outfit that was audited by Fulton County: the point of "engagement" was how they handled bond financing and contracting to expand facilities--that's where everybody gets paid and city schools get started. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57433131/u.s-charter-schools-tied-to-powerful-turkish-imam/?pageNum=2&tag=contentMain;contentBody
Leo Smith October 03, 2012 at 10:23 AM
Mr. Walker states: "Children of lesser means will be trapped into the underfunded remains of a once-great school system." It is clear to most by example and critique that children of lesser means are not being well served by the Dekalb, APS and many other traditional systems. Children and parents are trapped. With the charter referendum local parents and associations will be able to rally together with caring teaching professionals and create schools with more of their own governance. HB 797 does not allow funding to traditional schools to decrease. Mr Doolittle: If the traditional public schools become empty because parents choose to escape the trap for the sake of their children why is that a problem? Wouldn't the children remaining benefit from the now smaller classroom size and more focused attention? Isn't the ultimate goals improving outcomes for the children v/s protecting the status quo system? http://smyrna.patch.com/blog_posts/misleading-forums-and-mistrust-of-parent-boards-rampant-in-anti-charter-school-propaganda#comments
Tom Doolittle October 03, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Hi Leo: Answering the question about all parents evacuating schools (remember--the kids don't make the decisions, so this is the parents' bill): What you have with an independent unaccountable commission is a blank check to open as many schools as there is desired by a community that finds a profit-seeker. That means you have a "hot lane" for education--except the parents are actually paid by tax dollars to get into the lane. In fact, you have several Hot Lanes and they can proliferate, leaving no Cold Lanes. Worse, in the transition period while we're trying to project how many cars (parents) will shift to Hot Lanes, we'll build more instead of having tolls put on more and more of the exiting non-toll lanes. In addition to the destabiliation in communities (we've already done this once when we introduced low income apartments to estavlished single-family neigborhoods without account for a slower transition)--and schools that changed race from 85% white to 90% black that are now in Phase II losing their student base--the only people who win here are the onces that sell land, bond the new facitilites and build them--and of course the mobile classrrom vendore who will be needed when the charter schools run out of room until more charters are built. Pretty cfrenetic and chaotic ain't it?
Tom Doolittle October 03, 2012 at 01:51 PM
I've asked there are no estimates for what the demand will be for new schools or the number of schools in a given area. There are no plans for lotteries if thwe # of schools aren't enuf. There are no limits on the number that will be built or spaces leased. The only winners here will be property owners, bond merchants, contractors and mobile classroom vendors. Instead, what we have now is what is percieved to be recalcitrance by local school boartds, but in reality is they test the efficacy of charters and slowly and methodically approve others--funding them to the level needed based on lower expenses and more manageable demand (about half of what the new commission will fund). I'll take order in the ranks and neighborhoods thanks.
Cheryl Miller October 15, 2012 at 03:40 PM
The only schools that can exist on the state-only portion of funds are virtual schools. That is what this is really about.

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