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Charlotte Thomson IserbytNo Way, ESEA!

Rub­ber-Stamp­ing Char­ter Dis­trictsRubber Stamp

By Cyn­thia Weath­er­ly, 3D Research Group

Last week it was my dis­tinct dis­plea­sure to open our local paper, The Athens Ban­ner-Her­ald of Feb­ru­ary 10, 2015, and read “Draft of Clarke char­ter plan calls for school­health clin­ics, stream­lined teacher eval­u­a­tion, local gov­er­nance teams—andbetter per­for­mance.” Clarke County’s recent­ly elect­ed “Out­stand­ing School Super­in­ten­dent of the Year for Geor­gia,” Philip Lanoue, announced that he is propos­ing that Clarke Coun­ty (Athens) become a char­ter dis­trict.

Clarke County Schools Superintendent Phil Lanoue

Clarke Coun­ty Schools Super­in­ten­dent Phil Lanoue

Under a recent state law going into effect this year, every school board in the state must declare by June 30 whether they plan to become a char­ter dis­trict, remain sta­tus quo, or seek “Invest­ing in Edu­ca­tion­al Excel­lence” sta­tus (which par­al­lels the “Oppor­tu­ni­ty School Dis­trict” amend­ment that our gov­er­nor wants passed to be able to cre­ate a New Orlean­s/Ten­nessee-style, state/governor’s office-run school dis­trict of takeovers that don’t meet des­ig­nat­ed cri­te­ria in three years). If “approved” by the Clarke Coun­ty School Board, it will sub­mit its char­ter for State School Board rub­ber stamp.

Some of the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a char­ter sys­tem are as fol­lows:

· “Local School Gov­er­nance Teams” would have real but some­what lim­it­ed author­i­ty at each school;
· The coun­ty would devise its own teacher eval­u­a­tion sys­tem;
· School-based health clin­ics would be cre­at­ed;
· There would be increased com­mu­ni­ty and neigh­bor­hood involve­ment in schools through par­ents, busi­ness­es, non-prof­it and oth­er neigh­bor­hood agen­cies, and
· The Clarke Coun­ty School Dis­trict will be renamed “The Athens-Clarke Coun­ty COMMUNITY SCHOOL Dis­trict” with all that that name implies. [See Ruth Feld’s “Com­mu­ni­ty Edu­ca­tion Exposè”]Georgia

Because char­ter school dis­tricts must sub­mit plans for how they will meet the terms of a per­for­mance con­tract with the State Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion in order to get waivers to do the things out­lined above, Clarke Coun­ty has pro­posed to

· Install inno­v­a­tive pro­grams that will pro­duce above-aver­age per­for­mance on “col­lege and career readi­ness” mea­sures;
· Change the way course cred­its can be allowed—a stu­dent can be allowed to gain aca­d­e­m­ic cred­it for a part-time job with an auto­mo­bile mechan­ic shop or oth­er trade, and
· Do away with the “Stu­dent Learn­ing Objec­tives” (SLO), a series of pre- and post-tests to mea­sure stu­dent progress.

Stat­ing that “Clarke County’s elect­ed school board would retain final author­i­ty in deci­sions” (which waste man­age­ment com­pa­ny to hire?), Lanoue out­lined how the school gov­er­nance teams would be cho­sen, and that they would begin “train­ing” this sum­mer.

Judia Jackson Harris Elementary School

Judia Jack­son Har­ris Ele­men­tary School

The gov­er­nance team mem­bers would be select­ed by teach­ers, and some by parents—3 each. The Athens-Clarke Coun­ty police chief will appoint one police offi­cer to each team or school.

All of those team mem­bers from each school would pick two more mem­bers from the neigh­bor­hood or local orga­ni­za­tions. There would be an option to choose one or two more at-large mem­bers, and in the mid­dle and high schools the prin­ci­pals would choose one stu­dent to serve on each team.

Lanoue said, “This is the very begin­ning of the process,” and details could change when pub­lic hear­ings (two are planned) are held..

This is all hap­pen­ing as Con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tees are mak­ing changes to the Ele­men­tary and Sec­ondary Edu­ca­tion Act of 1965 reau­tho­riza­tion—Every Child Ready for Col­lege or Career Act of 2015 in the Sen­ate and the Stu­dent Suc­cess Act in the House. Many of those changes are plac­ing into Fed­er­al law oppor­tu­ni­ties for states and locales to ini­ti­ate and solid­i­fy these very proposals—with Fed­er­al back­ing.

Georgia’s Repub­li­can gov­er­nor, as men­tioned ear­li­er in this arti­cle, has pro­posed a state con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment to form an “Oppor­tu­ni­ty School Dis­trict” that would allow the gov­er­nor to appoint a super­in­ten­dent to take over the direc­tion of schools that are iden­ti­fied as “fail­ing” for three years in a row. This would put the con­trol of those schools—20 per year can be stip­u­lat­ed as need­ful, up to 100 overall—in the hands of the governor’s office and appointees. They would report progress to the state board, but the board would not have gov­er­nance over them. They could be turned into char­ters, closed, or giv­en over to some oth­er form of selec­tive man­age­ment. These types of pro­pos­als are being dealt with all over the country—Louisiana, Ten­nessee, Flori­da, Indi­ana, just to name a few states—and are pre­sent­ed in var­i­ous forms and with dif­fer­ent names. But the aims are the same—remove the con­trol of schools from local­ly elect­ed offi­cials.

While local­ly elect­ed offi­cials are not always the most informed, hav­ing been force­ful­ly trained to abide by the guide­lines of the Nation­al School Board Asso­ci­a­tion, they still are the clos­est rep­re­sen­ta­tives of local tax­pay­ers and par­ents. There are efforts afoot to do away with local boards and dis­tricts under the aus­pices of rid­ding them of Com­mon Core Stan­dards. This is a ruse to change the gov­er­nance struc­ture and tax struc­ture in order to have the fund­ing fol­low the child as a vouch­er only slight­ly dis­guised as an Edu­ca­tion­al Sav­ings Account (ESA). This is espe­cial­ly pro­mot­ed by the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, Heart­land Insti­tute, Amer­i­can Prin­ci­ples Project and oth­er neo­con orga­ni­za­tions.

HSLDA logoEven Home School Legal Defense seems to have lost sight of why fam­i­lies want to home school—to do some­thing dif­fer­ent from what is hap­pen­ing in pub­lic school. Michael Far­ris’ orga­ni­za­tion has been pro­mot­ing leg­is­la­tion that would have home­school­ers using stan­dard­ized tests—the SAT, ACT and PSAT—based on Com­mon Core mate­r­i­al, as indi­ca­tors of annu­al aca­d­e­m­ic progress. He has also engaged pur­port­ed­ly con­ser­v­a­tive Sen­a­tor Grass­ley of Iowa ® and Sen­a­tor David Vit­ter of Lou­siana ® in putting forth S. 100, Home School Oppor­tu­ni­ties Make Edu­ca­tion Sound Act of 2015, which would amend the Inter­nal Rev­enue Code to allow home­school­ers to become involved in the ESA game in order to deduct their expens­es for home­school­ing. As any­one who has item­ized one’s tax­es knows, in order to claim a deduc­tion for an item one has to have that item meet a stan­dard set by the IRS. Since when have home­school­ers been anx­ious to have the IRS or any oth­er Fed­er­al enti­ty set­ting and mea­sur­ing deductibil­i­ty stan­dards for what they are doing as home­school­ers? Since when has Michael Far­ris not under­stood that HSLDA is head­ing down the wrong path to pro­mote such a thing?

We’ve allowed these plans to take prece­dence and are embrac­ing Edu­ca­tion­al Sav­ings Accounts (ESAs)/vouchers to pay for the dis­so­lu­tion of a sys­tem that has edu­cat­ed some of the finest and most pro­duc­tive minds in our coun­try when we focused on aca­d­e­mics and eth­i­cal behav­ior, the arts and phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion, and intro­duc­tions to the applied arts. We edu­cat­ed cit­i­zens who had an appre­ci­a­tion for the free­doms we enjoyed in our soci­ety, and learned to get along with oth­ers in the process. We enjoyed a cul­ture that was shared.

None of those things are accom­plished by the propo­si­tions on the table at present. A sys­tem that calls its par­tic­i­pants “human cap­i­tal” and “assess­es” its stu­dents to deter­mine their worth to soci­ety can­not teach young peo­ple to respect them­selves and others—something essen­tial to a real, pro­duc­tive civ­i­liza­tion.

Relat­ed posts:
The School of the Hub