From VoterGA.com It seems that Secretary Kemp has done it again. Here is the ballot language for the proposed Charter School Constitutional Amendment.
As you can see, the legal question is correctly and fairly worded: ·Shall the Constitution of the Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
But Secretary Kemp has again added promotional language in large font that is unproven and potentially false. It reads: ·"Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options." No matter how Georgians may decide to vote on the amendment, I think we can all agree there is simply no proof that new state approval of Charter Schools would improve student achievement or increase parental involvement.
This claim is as unverifiable as the voting machines that Secretary Kemp refuses to replace.
Like most previous amendments, it should be voted up or down based on the legal question that is posed. Until this year, I cannot recall any previous amendment or referendum in Georgia history where the Secretary of State has so blatantly attempted to influence the outcome of an election. While the SOS has some legal leeway to add language to a Constitutional amendment question, That certainly should not include false or unproven clauses. Please pass the word so that voters will not be misled by this attempt to deceive them. I apologize for the delay in getting this notice to you. Thank you, Garland Voterga.org
Charter Schools - The Other Side
Ballot questions are notorious for being misleading and the proposed charter school amendment to the Georgia Constitution is no different. The question asks "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?" It is intentionally worded to make voters believe that there isn't a system in place already that approves charter schools. Currently, anyone can bring a proposal to start a charter school before a local board of education. If denied, the applicant can seek approval through the State Board of Education. Over 100 charter schools have been approved throughout Georgia, 16 by the State Board of Education. Whole school districts have become charter districts which increases that number to over 200. Does this look like a system that doesn't work? Supporters want to establish a politically appointed committee that can supersede decisions made by locally elected school boards and/or the State Board. Since these committee members are not elected, they are not accountable to taxpayers. The term "local communities" is deceiving as well. Since it is not clearly defined it also includes for profit education management organizations (EMO) and even real estate developers. The political action committee, Better Public Schools, Inc., which is driving the amendment change, has been 95% funded by carpetbagger contributors outside of Georgia. Why would you think that our State is seen as a prime location for profit driven EMOs and foundations who promote charter schools? In 2011, Georgia public school average yearly progress (AYP) test scores were higher than those of the charter schools by 3%. Of the 16 State commissioned charter schools, 60% are run by EMOs. All of those schools failed to make AYP. This trend is not only in Georgia but across the nation. Charter schools are more accountable to taxpayers only if approved by local school boards and/or the State Board. This can be illustrated by the action of the Fulton County School Board last year. It called for an audit of the Fulton Science Academy which is a charter school in their school system. This audit revealed the Academy's board did not follow normal bidding procedures required by law in their approval of a $6 million contract to build a new facility. The Academy's board president was quoted in the Atlanta Journal as saying that they were a charter school and were not required to follow this process. Taxpayers must expect and demand accountability and wise use of resources. Passage of this amendment will establish a dual school system. In order to pay for this, the General Assembly is proposing that charter schools receive the average State allotment per student as public schools plus an additional $2,500. The State Department of Education estimates the cost to be approximately $109 million per year for charter schools approved by these politically appointed committees. Is this a wise use of resources? No. How can the State legislators justify this when the Governor has asked each department to cut spending by an additional 3%? Add this to the $6.1 billion dollars that has already been cut from education funding since 2003 and you will begin to see additional increases in teacher furlough days and larger classroom sizes. The 121 Georgia school districts that already have a shorter school calendar could also see more days eliminated. One of the arguments for this amendment is that Georgia's image of having bad public schools is hurting economic development. It is interesting to note that over the last several decades, Georgia has been one of the nationwide leaders in economic growth despite this alleged image. If this is an important component to creating jobs, why then has education funding been continuously cut at the expense of tax incentives for businesses? This amendment is contrary to conservative principles, fiscal and otherwise. With limited financial resources, doesn't it make more sense to invest in improving our schoolsrather than creating an unaccountable charter school commission that would be duplicating services and thereby wasting taxpayer dollars? Our focus should be on working together to find solutions to improve student achievement and not wasting time, energy and money on divisive issues like this proposed Constitutional amendment change. Ann Crow Forsyth County Board of Education 770-490-6316 770-889-4050 firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
This lady has her facts straight
Rick, I won't speak for Bill, but that is not my only concern, and certainly is not something I can just “get over it”, we’re talking about amending our Constitution for more appointments. Also, we aren’t talking about the local board at the Charter School. We are talking about another layer of appointed board members at the state level,like the appointed Ga Board of Education. Yes, there are many appointed boards that are not accountable. That is exactly why we need to stop doing the same thing and expecting different results, amending our Constitution for even more appointments. I believe boards start off with good intentions, but we end up with the same thing with appointments, they serve the politicians, not the people nor the children. There are many more concerns but I would say that amending our Constitution to allow more appointments is pretty major. We need to be amending our Constitution to allow The People to vote for the currently appointed Ga Board of Education (GaBOE). Why would we want TWO appointed boards and not allow The People to vote for them? I’ve heard the board operated at minimal costs, but has anyone checked what was in that Bill? If I remember correctly, we also pick up the Bill for travel expenses and such. Regardless, appointments only diminish our voice concerning what is done with our tax dollars and accountability. Now, take a good look at what happened to a parent who, like you, was in favor of Charter Schools. BTW, once upon a time, so was I, but this has not been thoroughly thought out and the politicians are taking advantage of parents who are desperate for change.
Legislators ignored this parent's concerns, even when she provided evidence. Yet, her concerns continued to be ignored. She even wrote to the N. Fulton Legislation http://georgiacharterschooldisgrace.com/ What if this happened to you? Btw, this is not the first time a Charter School in Georgia refuses to allow parents in the school to know what is going on. It happened a few years ago too. I need to get the name of that school and that fiasco, because most have forgotten that scandal. I believe it was in Cherokee or Cobb. They couldn’t get financials and they changed parents from being decision makers to just a few top officials. Last, but certainly not least, let’s go back to what was going on in the Fulton Charter School. The FBI visited the concerned parent for crying out loud. Charters have been around since the 90’s and are those stated doing any better in education as a result? NO. Research the amount of money taxpayers have lost in the Charter School mess. They aren’t any better than what is going on currently, and in some cases, they are worse and add to security concerns. Some of these schools are firing educators in the US and bringing foreign teachers in through nonimmigrant visas. http://articles.philly.com/2012-07-14/news/32664525_1_charter-school-charter-hearing-classroom-teachers Now, before anyone goes bonkers on me about that statement. I am all about diversity and have voluntarily advocated for a diverse group of students throughout Georgia, so NO ONE who knows me will ever say I am a racist, nothing could be further from the truth. I am Latina and have a diverse group of friends and that includes Muslims. Think of the security concerns for our country and how easy it would be to manipulate this whole Charter School thing into allowing people to come here through education Visas. That is just what we need, people being brought in with Visas through our schools, with our children in them. I have many important concerns about the safety of our children and the unintended consequences of those who are so desperate for change that they don’t see or consider the full picture. Do some research on the states that have had charter schools……. Why are we not trying to push for real choice and allow money to follow the child to whatever school they want (private, public, etc.), and allow us to vote for our State Board of Education? Because some are being led by those who want political control. We need real choice, and that is when things will change, not when we amend the Constitution to do more of the same thing, appointments by politicians at the state level. Like we need 2 appointed boards for education in our Constitution, not to mention the security implications of what some of these schools are doing. Those aren’t things I can just get over. I was in favor of Charters before, but changed my mind when I realized that also meant many more vulnerabilities that can negatively impact our children and country. And let's not leave out how some of the same States (really The People) have been left holding the bag and are now in the hold for billions as a result of some of these Charter Schools. We need to be fiscally responsible in the process of obtaining choice. http://www.miamiherald.com/search_results?aff=1100&q=charter+school http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/10/24/3065404/audit-us-oversight-of-charter.html Georgians can have choice and a voice without appointments. Vote No. on 1 The Charter School Amendment :) Respectfully, Carmen Allen Georgia Education Advocate
Legislators Look the Other Way: Local School Board Takes Action
February 15, 2012
Via E-Mail and Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested
North Fulton County Legislative Delegation Members
Investigation of Fulton Science Academy - Implications on proposed amendments to the Georgia Constitution and oversight of charter schools
I am writing because I have serious concerns about Fulton Science Academy (FSA) and, more importantly, the proposed amendment to the Georgia Constitution aimed at opening the doors to more charter schools like FSA. First, I am concerned that my area’s North Fulton County Legislative Delegation does not understand some important facts surrounding the FSA charter renewal process and, instead, has commandeered the FSA situation to make a platform for the proposed amendment to the Georgia Constitution. Second, I am concerned that the North Fulton County Legislative Delegation wants to turn a blind eye to the more controversial aspects of FSA, including suspect business practices, failure to follow State regulations and an investigation of the school by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Nonetheless, I am writing this letter to provide you with some of the facts and evidence relevant to the situation and, which are grounded in my own experience. It is my hope that with this knowledge, you will understand the potential problems of charter schools as you consider the FSA situation and, more importantly, some of the unintended consequences of the proposed amendments to the Georgia Constitution. Finally, with your help, I hope to obtain answers to some direct questions that are lingering about FSA and its affiliates.
My Experience at FSA
As a matter of background, I am a mother of two children and I reside, with my husband and two children, in Fulton County. My undergraduate degree is in marketing and French. I also have an MBA in International Business. Given my interest in my children’s education and international matters, my husband and I enrolled our son in FSA for the school years 2007 to 2010. See Exhibit A: FSA transcript attached. As an example of our involvement and commitment to the school, my son and I went on the FSA school trip to Turkey during Spring Break of 2010. While I did not have any serious concerns with FSA up to that point, my view swiftly changed when I
learned of FSA’s connection to Fethullah Gulen and later when the FBI came to my house and interviewed me and my son about Fulton Science Academy. See Exhibit B, FBI business card attached.
The North Fulton County Legislative Delegation
I previously explained my concerns about FSA and the FBI visit to my home. I have talked to Senator John Albers, Chip Rogers, Representatives Jan Jones, and Chuck Martin through phone calls, e-mails, letters, meetings and discussion in public forums, each of them discounted my concerns.
Fulton Science Academy is affiliated with a religious leader named Fethullah Gulen. Fulton Science Academy denies the affiliation. The real question is why does the school deny the connection when there are several clear connections?
This is a public school and public money. Questions about a charter schools affiliation with a religious organization or concerns about suspect business practices should be addressed directly.
Senator Albers assures me that the FBI is not actively investigating Fulton Science Academy and I certainly hope that the school has not violated any federal laws. However, the January 2011 Interim Compliance Report outlines several business concerns that demonstrate the need for rules and oversight. See Exhibit C Interim Compliance Report. The fact that Fulton Science Academy asked the State Department of Education on more than one occasion if the school was required to get a bid on a million dollar construction project is distressing. See Exhibit D Email
I have been told that there is nothing that the North Fulton Legislative Delegation can do about my concerns. Some have pointed me to Congressman Price’s office, who in turn pointed me back to the North Fulton County Legislative Delegation.
Ironically, the North Fulton County Legislative Delegation has done plenty for FSA including: writing publicly circulated letters in support of FSA’s charter request, criticizing the Fulton County School Board for denying the charter request and making oral endorsements for FSA, which notably play well into its agenda to expand the use of charter schools throughout the State of Georgia.
Given that the North Fulton County Legislative delegation is willing to endorse FSA based on academics, I am requesting that it, likewise, make the following inquiries / requests of FSA on behalf of taxpayers:
1. Explain FSA’s connections to Fethullah Gulen and other charter schools in the United States and notify the community. The attached Fulton Science Academy biographies from the Alpharetta City bond application directly link FSA staff and board members to other charter schools and Gulen affiliated businesses. See Exhibit E, Bond Application FSA Biographies
Ask Fulton Science Academy to be up front with parents and explain that the Istanbul Center is a religious organization connected to Fethullah Gulen. My son and other students received a scholarship from the Istanbul Center for the school sponsored trip to Turkey. See Exhibit F Attached Slide from Turkey Trip Presentation. See Exhibit G Attached page from the Fethullah Gulen Website Ask Fulton Science Academy to provide a detailed itinerary with hotel/school accommodations for students traveling to Turkey on school sponsored trips. This is a safety concern. The State Department suggests that travelers to Turkey file an itinerary with the American consulate in the event of an emergency, natural or political. See Exhibit H Attached Itinerary Ask Fulton Science Academy to tell parents when students will be staying at Gulen affiliated colleges/schools. The 2010 parent group and the student group visited/stayed at Gulen affiliated schools. See Exhibit I, Dr. Joshua Hendrick Article Require FSA to provide bids for services pursuant to Fulton County School Board rules.
If the North Fulton County Legislative Delegation is willing to reach into local school issues and publicly endorse FSA, then that same group should be willing to ask the above questions of FSA. See Exhibit J, December 22, 2011, letter from North Fulton County Legislative Delegation regarding FSA.
The Fulton County School Board Provides Needed Oversight
The Fulton County School Board has put rules in place, not just for FSA, but for every charter school in Fulton County. These rules protect taxpayer money, require charter boards to educate parents, require transparency and are aimed at preventing conflicts of interest. The Fulton County School Board has worked hard to provide these guidelines and oversight for charter schools, which are necessary to their operation and accountability for taxpayer monies.
FSA also proceeded with the $18 million dollar bond request, which would ultimately be paid back with taxpayer money. As a result, Oppenheimer invested in the bonds and, when the 10 year charter with a blanket waiver of Title 20 was not approved, Oppenheimer tried to pressure the Fulton County School System to approve it. See Exhibit K, attached letter from Oppenheimer to the Fulton County School System. To the extent that Oppenheimer made the investment believing that the charter would be approved, it appears that it did so because of FSA’s representations. If so, this is not responsible behavior by a charter school and may lead to issues facing the charter system in Texas. See Exhibit L, attached article by Stephanie Saul of the New York Times.
Georgians Need Your Help
Most individuals do not understand how charter schools operate and, instead, believe that local and state government officials and legislators are ultimately protecting their students and their taxpayer money. Unfortunately, I believe that the North Fulton County Legislative Delegation has ignored the tough issues and endorsed FSA to support its efforts toward a constitutional amendment. Moreover, the lack of discussion about the more problematic aspects of FSA and
the potential problems with charter schools, only make the unintended consequences of a constitutional amendment more likely. In short, Georgians need your help and your courage to address these issues.
I understand that the North Fulton County Legislative Delegation has been planning a constitutional amendment since the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision in Gwinnett v. Cox last May, and that the problems of charter schools might be something they wanted to avoid. However, I sincerely hope that the desire to obtain a constitutional amendment does not cause the legislature to avoid some of the real and problematic consequences of allowing FSA and similar charter schools to operate without oversight by a local board of education.
I have long been an advocate for charter schools, but I cannot support HR1162 or any similar bill, knowing that my legislators condemned the Fulton County School Board for following the rules applicable to charter schools. HR1162 is vague and given the problems at FSA, HB 1162 is a paved road to reckless use of taxpayer money.
Thank you for your time. Sincerely,
cc: Governor Nathan Deal Kristen Bernhard, Education Policy Advisor to the Governor Lt. Governor Casey Cagle Speaker Ralston Senator Isakson Senator Chambliss Representative Price
Charter School Advocate and Mom Will Vote No North Fulton mother says she found local control was critical after finding problems while her son attended Fulton Science Academy. October 16, 2012 Georgia is in the midst of an intense debate over a proposed charter school amendment that will be on the ballot in November. Whatever your position, you need to read my story. The polls predict this amendment will pass with ?ying colors, thanks to a misleading ballot question and a majority of funding from outside the state. If this amendment passes, politics and corporations will shape our schools. Groups with multi-faceted objectives are lining up to grab their market share. If a state controlled charter school comes to town, you will have no recourse if there is a problem.
Why Local Control is Critical The problems I encountered at Fulton Science Academy were not anticipated by our local and state board of education or by educators across the country. Charter schools are new territory and bring new problems, however politicians should never ignore or bully a concerned parent into silence. Jan Jones is the author of the charter school amendment, had not only the power, but also the knowledge needed to create legislation that would protect our community, tax dollars and students. My son attended Fulton Science Academy charter school, for three years, when I found out about problems that also led to my learning that the school was being operated by followers of the in?uential and controversial Turkish Imam, Fethullah Gulen. Fulton Science Academy’s problems were serious and later validated, by an external audit, commissioned by the local school board. My concerns left me fearful to speak up because the Gulen movement is a powerful international organization and because of the federal investigation into the school. Details can be found in this article about Fulton Science Academy in the New York Times, by Stephanie Saul. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/us/audits-for-3-georgia-charter-schools-tied-to-gulen-movement.html) Turns out the Gulen movement was the least of my worries. The real problem? Legislators with tunnel vision, hoping to open the Georgia education frontier to more charter groups at any cost. My legislators demonstrated that they will look the other way, as long as, a school has high test scores. What is the impact if a school has received a National Blue Ribbon Award, as did this particular charter school? Well, it is untouchable. Ultimately, the local school board held Fulton Science Academy accountable and did not renew its charter. The local school board did the right thing, which equaled political suicide. The politicians condemned the local school board’s decision, continue to vilify the board in public and have put legal pressure on the board to reverse their decision. I understand that the landscape of education is changing and with that rules and regulations need to be adapted. However, it is irresponsible of the Governor and our legislators to lobby for a constitutional amendment that does not stop the known problematic consequences of charter schools. Gulen? While detractors like to scream foul when the Gulen connection is pointed out, this is no longer an issue debated in the national circles. Even our local Istanbul Center has been forthcoming about its link to Gulen. So, if you want to call me names, that is OK. Let me get you started, I am an over-educated, naive, dumb, unassertive mom who sat back for two years and watched a charter school hi-jack our tax dollars, mislead parents and break rules. (Oh. For those of you who want to call me other names, let me remind you that my son went to FSA for three years, I respect the diverse population of teachers and kids. I sought out that diversity and I am incredulous that the FSA administrators I trusted were not (or maybe could not be) forthcoming about the Gulen af?liation.) Legislators? It is all public record. The most vocal supporters of Fulton Science Academy have been Chip Roger, John Albers and Jan Jones, even after they knew about the issues I have described. The photos, the awards, the campaign contributions speak for themselves.
FSA supporters: the wind has shifted and the same politicians that lobbied for the school now state that Fulton Science Academy is a problem created by the local school board. A problem charter school that would never have been approved by a state board. So, much for the blue ribbon. (And the fact that local charter contracts are signed by the school, local BOE and State BOE) Vote No This is not a partisan issue. It is about keeping a voice in your community. I am a Republican and Hillsdale College alum, I understand the Republican agenda and I will vote no on this amendment. Details, including the letter I sent to the North Fulton Delegation can be found at: www.georgiacharterschooldisgrace.com <http://www.georgiacharterschooldisgrace.com> Dana Teegardin Roswell
Taxpayers Are Paying for Foreign Schools (FROM EAGLEfORUM.ORG) The charter school movement was presented to the American people as a way to have more parental control of public school education. Charter schools are public schools financed by local taxpayers plus generous federal grants. But the people running charter schools are able to hire and fire teachers, administrators and staff and avoid control by education department bureaucrats. No doubt there are some good charter schools, but the loose controls have allowed another kind of school to emerge. Charter schools have opened up a path for foreign intervention into U.S. public education. In Ohio, an NBC TV station discovered that Ohio taxpayers' money was used to recruit teachers from overseas, specifically from Turkey. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Turkish scientists, engineers and businessmen have opened 120 charter schools in 25 states, including several in Pennsylvania, funded with millions of taxpayer dollars. One called Truebright Academy received $3 million from the Philadelphia School District. The FBI and the federal Departments of Labor and Education are investigating whether hundreds of Turkish teachers and administrators, who were admitted to the U.S. by H-1B visas, are misusing taxpayer funds.
The New Orleans newspaper the Times-Picayune reported the investigation of charter schools in New Orleans and in Baton Rouge. Both are linked to schools and businesses run by people from Turkey. Many of these charter schools are in a network called the Gulen Movement led by an influential Turkish Islamic scholar. He now has a 27-state network of 122 charter schools operated by his followers. In Texas, these Turkish charter schools have received over $100 million in government funds.