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Must We Resort to Fabrications When Discussing the Lives of Children?

An official with the Georgia Charter Schools Commission calls an earlier piece by the co-founder of EmpowerED Georgia "creative writing."

Recently, Matt Jones, a public school teacher in Toombs County Georgia, was provided space in the Athen’s Patch to offer .  The opinion editorial would have better classified as fiction, with just enough facts to deceive and mislead a reader.

In his creative writing essay, Mr. Jones argues vigorously against public charter schools and the proposed charter amendment suggesting everything from public charter schools “require students to go through an application process” to suggesting “charter schools are a front to privatizing public education”.

While outlandish, the mixture of facts and fiction make for a dangerous brew intended to sway public opinion on the November 6 ballot question; “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities.”

Rather than taking apart Mr. Jones’ creative writing essay line by line, I have included the federal definition of a charter school to allow readers to determine facts from fiction.  Please take note of sections 1(B), (1)(F), 1(H) and 1(L).

Shame on you Mr. Jones!  You have used allowed your personal biases towards public charter schools and this amendment issue to attempt to manipulate public opinion.  


 (1) CHARTER SCHOOL- The term charter school' means a public school that —

(A) in accordance with a specific State statute authorizing the granting of charters to schools, is exempt from significant State or local rules that inhibit the flexible operation and management of public schools, but not from any rules relating to the other requirements of this paragraph;

(B) is created by a developer as a public school, or is adapted by a developer from an existing public school, and is operated under public supervision and direction;

(C) operates in pursuit of a specific set of educational objectives determined by the school's developer and agreed to by the authorized public chartering agency;

(D) provides a program of elementary or secondary education, or both;

(E) is nonsectarian in its programs, admissions policies, employment practices, and all other operations, and is not affiliated with a sectarian school or religious institution;

(F) does not charge tuition;

(G) complies with the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;

(H) is a school to which parents choose to send their children, and that admits students on the basis of a lottery, if more students apply for admission than can be accommodated;

(I) agrees to comply with the same Federal and State audit requirements as do other elementary schools and secondary schools in the State, unless such requirements are specifically waived for the purpose of this program;

(J) meets all applicable Federal, State, and local health and safety requirements;

(K) operates in accordance with State law; and

(L) has a written performance contract with the authorized public chartering agency in the State that includes a description of how student performance will be measured in charter schools pursuant to State assessments that are required of other schools and pursuant to any other assessments mutually agreeable to the authorized public chartering agency and the charter school.

(2) DEVELOPER- The term developer' means an individual or group of individuals (including a public or private nonprofit organization), which may include teachers, administrators and other school staff, parents, or other members of the local community in which a charter school project will be carried out.

(3) ELIGIBLE APPLICANT- The term eligible applicant' means a developer that has —

(A) applied to an authorized public chartering authority to operate a charter school; and

(B) provided adequate and timely notice to that authority under section 5203(d)(3).

(4) AUTHORIZED PUBLIC CHARTERING AGENCY- The term authorized public chartering agency' means a State educational agency, local educational agency, or other public entity that has the authority pursuant to State law and approved by the Secretary to authorize or approve a charter school.


Andrew Lewis serves as Executive Vice President for Georgia Charter Schools Association and taught middle schools social studies in the DeKalb County Public Schools System.

bertis downs September 08, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Clever headline and lede but not much sandwich meat there in the middle bud. Matt's piece actually showed a lot of critical thinking skills. Yours demonstrated excellent cutting and pasting. For anyone else paying attention out there, here is a link or two telling you all you really need to know about this amendment: State School Superintendent John Barge's statement is thorough and compelling: http://bit.ly/RLxMow --and so was his extended interview on WABE: http://bit.ly/TDqnYq --Rome News-Tribune in a well-stated editorial: http://bit.ly/SJ7YXY
Elizabeth Hooper September 08, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Shame on you Mr. Lewis for not taking the time to respond to every false statement you feel Mr. Jones made. Additional shame for insinuating via your headline that this amendment and legislation will actually improve the "lives of children." Please tell where I can find the following words; improve, failing schools, achievement gap, succeed, at-risk, adequate yearly progress, Ell, special needs. Creative writing indeed. The children of Georgia deserve better don't you think? This legislation is devoid of any promise except for "enhancement" of educational opportunities delivered by "high quality" (thanks for that) schools that can replicate themselves. And that is a fact.
GA citizen & taxpayer September 08, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Mr. Lewis has given an superb example of a non-answer, which has been defined as "the act of providing an reply to a question that does not give any physical or concrete information. The non-answer dances around a subject so well that the end result is a jumble of words that say nothing." The Charter School Definitions delineated in Section 5210 (added in 1994 to the Elementary & Secondary Education Art of 1964) are simply those that the U.S. government has constructed to determine eligibility for access to federal funds. See P.L. 107-100 (the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act) Title V, Part B, Subpart 1. By the way, preceding those definitions is this: "Charter schools are established according to individual State charter school laws. The enactment of State charter school laws is solely a State prerogative, and the definition of a "charter school" under State law is a matter of State policy." Keep dancing, Mr. Lewis.
Athens Mama September 08, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Ms. Hooper, as much as you might consider yourself an expert on the subject and continue to voice your perspective on the subject, yours is not the only angle by which we should examine this legislation. Education, like parenting, is an extraordinarily complicated business. If your main reason for advocating that a gateway be opened to alternatives in public education is that valuable resources would be diverted from the machines that we call public schools - then I think your argument gets a D+ at best, because many of those machines are DOING A MEDIOCRE JOB AT BEST.
Athens Mama September 08, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Mr. Lewis, I commend you on perpetuating the discussion regarding this important piece of legislation. I do not support the initiative by Matt Jones, nor do I support any other taxpayer who supports the "empire" of machines that are public education. It's a shame that many educators and public schools are doing a great job and must feel the heat from the fire of the educators and public schools who are abusing their positions, power, and funding. However, that's reality, folks. I am the parent of 2 children, one of whom scored in the top 7% of all private school students after 6 years in our public school district. Those of us who have been stuck in very unjust situations in public education advocate for more choices. WE WANT MORE CHOICES and we want MORE GATEWAYS TO THOSE CHOICES - YESTERDAY! If the state must create a board for approving charter schools in order to circumvent local school boards who do not want to share money - THEN I SAY YES. Even if you can cite stats on some charter schools that made inappropriate decisions - then your stats are no different than those from the government funded public schools serving us now. The reality is that each school is different, no better than the people operating it. If I have a charter school in my district, which I believe WILL ONLY HAPPEN WITH A STATE AGENCY TO GOVERN THIS DECISION, then at least I have a choice about what's best for my child.
bertis downs September 09, 2012 at 12:29 AM
hey AM-- love that nomme de plume! (sp?) how about less CAPS more facts-- and how about responding to the Barge factor on all this: he is after all the main (and Republican) state official in charge of schools for all of Georgia and he has some pretty good arguments that you are not acknowledging even in your super-responsive mode this evening-- strange. For convenience here they are again: State School Superintendent John Barge's statement is thorough and compelling: http://bit.ly/RLxMow --and so was his extended interview on WABE: http://bit.ly/TDqnYq Listen, learn, reflect and get back to everybody, please. And you are right, there ARE lots of really good public schools out there. Unfortunately the so-called "choice" proponents keep cutting their funding, making it harder and harder to do their job of educating everybody's kids-- but they still are.
GA citizen & taxpayer September 09, 2012 at 01:49 AM
To Athens Mama: It sounds as if you already have "a choice about what's best" for your child (you indicated you've found it in private education) but that's not enough for you. Are you saying that you expect all those taxpayers who you "don't support" to pony up more money down the road just so you don't have to pay for private school? From your strident tone, it appears that you think you're entitled to more than other parents and taxpayers (including childless ones) are.
Athens Mama September 09, 2012 at 02:56 AM
GA citizen & taxpayer: I still have one in public school. Are you out of your mind? Just like every other citizen with children, I'm entitled to a public education for my children - only a public education for the school in my neighborhood school zone. The problem with this system is that all citizens with children are then given only one option for educating them. This creates a lackadaisical attitude in some schools, whereby they only do what the forms require. How dare you suggest that I am in it for my children alone. I spend hours upon hours writing on this subject for the kids who belong to families who care, but are LEFT BEHIND in schools that don't. There are so many who are stuck in the web of owning their homes and not having anticipated the problems that their child might encounter in a particular school. If that parent has to work, then homeschooling with GA Virtual Academy is not an option. I PONIED UP and paid to move my child. How dare you suggest that it's a sin that I expect that public education provide a quality environment for ALL CHILDREN? I don't expect shimmering test scores, but I do expect that first grade teachers love children and not yell at the children daily. I do expect that I get an elementary teacher who does not have an established history of "not liking boys." I do expect that when my child walks in the front door of a federally and state funded school - that a friendly face greet my child first thing in the morning of his day.
Athens Mama September 09, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Mr. Downs, I'll visit the links, maybe even before I attend to the pile of work waiting on me this evening - after a ten hour workday. I know what I'll find. I get it. More choices means less money for the schools that exist. I get it. That sucks. However, those who are on the side of public education will do so at the cost of the students who are getting left behind with certain educators who don't give a flip about engagement. You will ride that sailboat off into the sunset, supporting teachers and public education - because, in your mind, that's what's morally right for the common good. However, by supporting a system with a blanket of acceptance and support, not admitting that each school and even each educator create their own universe in the classroom, you contribute to the snuffing out of the bright lights of some of our young learners. Might I remind you that over 30% of children won't graduate in our state or in my district? All of the blanket supporters would like to blame this on environment, but that is a crock of poop. Other districts with challenging populations have achieved more. The punitive attitudes, limits on recess, and lackluster efforts of some people create a huge drag in some environments. I've watched with my own eyes. I have been inside more than 20 schools in 3 years. I know. Tenure and advanced certification prevent their removal.
Athens Mama September 09, 2012 at 03:13 AM
@ GA citizen and taxpayer: If I might be so bold as to ask: How do you respond when gas prices rise twenty five or fifty cents per gallon? Do you drive an SUV that means your gas tank will cost an extra ten bucks to fill, or maybe 80 dollars a month? I might suggest that if you whine when the price of gas rises, that that extra 80 dollars per month might be saved if you would just drive a fuel efficient vehicle. That that 80 dollars per month, in the grand scheme of things, is really less than a thousand dollars per year, and that you probably have expenses of 1,000 or more that are luxury goods or services. That I would suggest that my child's educational environment might be filled with ONLY people who love children? That I would "whine" because the environment doesn't meet even the minimum standards - and I'm not talking about test scores. This aren't my original ideas. I'm a grad student in Education, and the research supports my reflections. Check the research.
Athens Mama September 09, 2012 at 03:14 AM
If I had a dime for every person I heard whining about gas prices, but totally unconcerned with the crises in our own community, I'd be able to fund my own school!
Athens Mama September 09, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Mr. Downs. I've listened to the extended interview and I read the article with the direct quotes. The interpretation is incorrect and was pointed out by O'Hayer. Local BOEs aren't even to be approached in some communities. Establishing the resources for a public charter school, being rejected by a local BOE who does not want to share resources, and then fighting a risky fight through an appeals process with a state board - it sounds like a lot of effort and resources funneled to a risky venture. Setting up a state agency will streamline the process and allow a faster track for charter schools. Parents need choices. If the charters suck, then parents won't enroll their kids. No good business practices operating there...


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