Medicaid is a beast. About one-in-five Georgians receives Medicaid health care. That is 1.7 million people. Fifty-nine percent of statewide births are Medicaid babies. Another couple hundred thousand children are enrolled in PeachCare, the state children’s health insurance program. Medicaid could grow by hundreds of thousands more if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the federal health care reform law in its decision expected next month.
Not at all surprisingly, Medicaid redesign questions were abundant when three of Governor Nathan Deal’s advisors met with Georgia Children’s Advocacy Network members at the Freight Depot in Atlanta. The advisors made no presentations and took questions for 90 minutes.
Health policy advisor Katie Rogers named telehealth reimbursement policies, portable electronic records, better outcomes for vulnerable children, physician shortages in some specialties, how to manage health care in counties that are medically underserved and treatment options for chronic childhood illnesses as part of the wide-ranging Medicaid redesign conversation.
Next month the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on constitutionality of the 2010 federal health care reform law. If upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provisions often known as ObamaCare could add 620,000 new Medicaid patients to the state program. Rogers predicted, “People who haven’t had access to services are going to seek services probably very quickly.”
Georgia Medicaid cost $7.78 billion in fiscal year 2010, according to Kaiser State Health Facts. Federal funds pay 66% and the state is responsible for the rest, about $2.7 billion. Georgia Medicaid program redesign is being managed by the Department of Community Health with private partner assistance from Navigant. The project is described in a comprehensive design strategy report available on the DCH Medicaid website.
This project is so important to Georgia’s health care community that it is being closely monitored by many organizations outside government. Cindy Zeldin is executive director at Georgians for a Healthy Future which advocates for improved statewide access to quality health care.
“The three buckets when we look at improving Medicaid would be one, just coverage, getting kids who are eligible but who are not enrolled today into the program so they at least have that front door access,” Zeldin told the Public Policy Foundation this week.
“Second, improving access to care, just making sure there is a mechanism to make sure that being in Medicaid means you can see a provider if you need to,” Zeldin said. For instance, the state has no OB-GYN practitioners in 39 counties, which is an impediment to women’s health.
“Third would be improving outcomes and accountability, what you are asking managed care companies to report on and making sure you are measuring outcomes that ensure quality care.”
The Supreme Court opinion expected next month will also decide whether Georgia must create a health insurance exchange. Last December a state report to Governor Deal said a private or quasi-governmental exchange would be preferable to one imposed by the federal government, but Georgia would prefer that it is not required to create any exchange. Georgia opposes the federal health care reform law and it joined the suit that challenges the constitutionality.
“If the law is upheld as it stands now we will work very quickly to implement a state exchange,” Rogers said. “If the law is not upheld the discussion will begin again on whether or not to move forward with a state exchange. Part of the concern is without the individual mandate would people want to buy insurance through the exchange?”
Education and Public Safety Issues
Education and several public safety issues were also discussed during the open forum.
Education policy advisor Kristin Bernhard said several early childhood education programs lead the priority list heading into next year’s General Assembly. Do not expect support for private school vouchers or increasing the age for compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18.
“The voucher conversation isn’t on the table for us,” Bernhard said. “We’re more interested in increasing the quality of public education for all students everywhere.” On compulsory school attendance she said, “The evidence is not necessarily compelling that raising the age of mandatory school attendance automatically results in an increased graduation rate.”
Education headlines over the next year will include incorporating the state’s version of new national core curriculum coursework, dual enrollment for middle school students taking high school courses or high school students taking college courses, tenth grade college readiness testing, and preparation to expand career pathways education now scheduled for fall 2013.
Also, Georgia admits that it has too many high school graduates who require remedial courses when they enter college. “We know that students are graduating from high school not ready for college,” Bernhard told 100 Georgia Child Advocacy Network members. Part of this discussion is how these students can be assisted by resources inside the state technical college system.
This week the Illinois Senate President proposed his state enact internet gaming legislation to get in front of a potential federal law that would grandfather existing state programs but prevent other states from creating new ones. Do not expect anything like that in Georgia.
It is well documented that the lottery-funded HOPE scholarship, grant and pre-K programs can no longer afford to fully fund their commitments. Governor Deal opposes a proposed casino-style project and Bernhard says, “What we’re looking at is what we can do to boost the existing revenue streams.”
Several folks applauded when public safety advisor Thomas Worthy said, “I have no doubt that we will probably see and definitely sign a juvenile code rewrite next year.” HB 641 was a substantial effort to rewrite piecemeal juvenile laws that are decades old. It passed the House but then was stopped before Senate consideration so more work could be done on cost.
“Everybody is in agreement on the policy side of things,” Worthy said. “We are there. The stakeholders are there. Agencies are now there. Now what we are tasked with doing is figuring out a way to not only pay for implementation but actually ascertain savings that will come under the bill.” Worthy said consultation has begun with the Pew Center on the States; Pew assisted with criminal justice reform legislation that Governor Deal signed this month.
Worthy also acknowledged, “Not only do we have a horrible child trafficking problem within our state, (Interstate) 75 is used to move folks going to other states.” This year HR 1151 in the General Assembly created a commission to study child trafficking and make recommendations.
(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)
This summer and fall you will repeatedly hear that approving a charter schools constitutional amendment would steal resources from traditional Georgia public schools. The idea is that when any money follows a student to a charter school the students left behind somehow suffer.
This argument seems to apply only when students move to charter schools. You never hear public school systems, their superintendents or school board members complain when students move from one public school system to another. Apparently financial harm is a one-way street.
The premise that students moving to charter schools will cause financial quakes in traditional school systems also suggests we should accept another premise that public school systems are so inflexible they cannot adjust their fixed and variable costs and still produce quality learning.
For instance, is teacher employment a fixed or variable cost? It is a fixed cost if you believe the school district cannot or will not adjust how many instructors it needs based on enrollment. It is a variable cost if you believe teachers should increase or decrease based on enrollment.
A new report released nationally by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice challenges the concept that public school costs are so fixed that they cannot be adjusted up or down. “The Fiscal Effects of School Choice Programs on Public School Districts” breaks down fixed and variable costs for an average public school system in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“If it is true that virtually all costs are fixed then when public schools add students they shouldn’t get extra money because their costs are fixed,” said author Benjamin Scafidi, who is director of the Economics of Education Policy Center at Georgia College & State University.
“I’ve never heard a public school leader say that their costs don’t go up when they add students so they can’t have it both ways, logically. Before this report they did have it both ways.”
Scafidi used 2008-09 federal data from every state to analyze short-run fixed and variable costs. The report lists capital expenditures, interest, administration, operations, maintenance and transportation among short-run fixed costs. Instruction, instructional support, other student support, enterprise operations and food service were placed in the variable cost category.
“The proper way to think about this issue is not whether public school districts have in the past reduced costs when students in large numbers left the district for any reason,” the report says. “The issue is whether they are able to do so.” Any reason is not limited to school choice. It can include economic downturns, such as a major employer moving away from the region.
Scafidi concluded almost two-thirds of public school expense is variable that districts should be able to adjust based on enrollment. In Georgia, he found $11,468 average per pupil cost is almost two-thirds variable ($7,507) and the remainder is fixed ($3,961).
The report asks, “If a significant number of students left a public school district for any reason from one year to the next, is it feasible for the district to reduce the costs of these items commensurate with the decrease in its student population?” Scafidi concluded the answer is, yes, for large and small school districts. He used four Georgia school systems to illustrate.
Atlanta Public Schools reduced teaching staff 6.84% between 2004 and 2010 when the student population declined a similar percentage from 51,315 to 47,944 students. The report notes that the number of administrators increased 19.7% from 395 to 471. This example shows that a large district over time can adjust the variable cost associated with employing teachers.
But can the same be said for a small school district? Wheeler County experienced a 12.1% student population decline between 2004 and 2010 and was able to reduce its teacher staff by 15.6%. Hancock County enrollment dropped 5.3% from 2009 to 2010; the district was flexible enough that it was able to reduce the number of teachers 8.8% and administrators by 18.8%.
“In the first few years of a school choice program in Georgia I think you want to keep the amount of money that follows the child below $7,507 because it is difficult for public schools to reduce their costs more than that when a student leaves,” Scafidi said. “That is the main takeaway.”
The report focuses almost entirely on financial analysis but it does offer this teaching point:
“As public schools lose students via school choice or for any other reason, they have a tremendous opportunity to improve the quality of their schools. When students leave, schools can lay off the least effective teachers. The students who remain would be reallocated to more effective teachers and their academic achievement would increase significantly.”
(The author Dr. Benjamin Scafidi is also former chair of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission and he is a Senior Fellow for Education Policy at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.)
Fulton Science Academy’s middle school will try to remain open this fall in Alpharetta even after the state board of education denied its state charter application on Thursday. The Academy was already rejected by Fulton County last December so it does not have another public school option.
“Our only viable option right now is to go to a tuition-based private school model which is not our first choice because then it won’t be open to everybody in the public,” board member Angela Lassetter said in a hallway interview just outside the state board meeting room.
Moments earlier Lassetter and two other Fulton Science Academy parents asked board members to wait another month before voting to approve or reject the school’s petition. “Thirty more days isn’t going to change a thing,” said state board member Brian Burdette. Several board members described their concerns about school finances and its governance model. The vote was 10-0 to deny the petition with one abstention.
“We will go forward if there is any possibility as a private institution,” Lassetter said. Parent Nadira Merchant said, “The end? This cannot be the end. The governance of our school, if it needs to be changed (then) change it. You cannot close it down. You cannot deny our children.” Parent James Webb said, “All we’re asking for is fairness and due process.”
Fulton Science Academy Middle School operates in partnership with two sister schools – Fulton Sunshine Academy for elementary pupils and Fulton Science Academy High School. Last year the middle school received a U.S. Department of Education national blue ribbon for academic excellence on standardized tests. So, charter denials by Fulton County and the state board are headlines of note.
Fulton Science Academy applied for a state charter in January just a few weeks after Fulton County denied the school’s petition for a new ten-year charter. Fulton County offered three years but the school insisted on the longer term, a condition that Fulton County board members refused to meet because they wanted more direct oversight over the school’s finances.
Several issues are involved here. First, Fulton Science Academy secured a $19 million bond package and then began to build a school even though it did not have an approved charter beyond June 30, 2012. Second, the Academy began to build its new school without obtaining proper construction site approvals. Third, the Academy did not comply with the Fulton County audit process so the county advised the state that the school was out of compliance with its contract.
State Department of Education staff have worked with Fulton Science Academy personnel on these and other questions since January, but some of the state’s questions were not adequately answered. For instance, records indicate the Academy did not account for what happened with almost $6 million of the $19 million in bond revenue when the state requested that information.
In documents that recommended a denial vote, the state noted, “The governing board has limited autonomy and appears to have little ability to make autonomous and independent decisions.” Fulton County previously noted that Fulton Science Academy personnel served on the boards of other organizations that were doing business with the school.
Thursday morning state board member Mike Royal said Fulton Science Academy financial stability and governance issues “are clearly debatable.” Board member Dan Israel said granting a state charter to Fulton Science could make the state liable for the $19 million bond package. “What is going to be the precedent that we set?” Israel asked. Board member Linda Zechmann noted, “We found no evidence that Fulton County schools did anything improper.”
Fulton Sunshine Academy for elementary students and the high school still have Fulton County local charters for next year but the future for 510 middle school students is hazy. State board members encouraged Fulton Science to address the outstanding issues and submit a new proposal next year.
“To say that it’s okay to close down for a year and (then) rise from the ashes, what are our parents and students supposed to do for that year?” asked Lassetter. “That hasn’t been addressed. It’s unfortunate that’s not been taken into consideration.”
The state board voted on several other charter schools agenda items. Charters were renewed for the Museum School of Avondale Estates and the Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy. Ivy Prep Academy received a new two-year state charter after it was rejected by the Gwinnett County Board of Education. Charter system conversion petitions were approved for the Fulton County and Madison County school systems.
(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed thinks our classrooms need more hot air. “We actually need STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and math,” Reed told an “Education Nation” audience Monday morning at the Georgia Aquarium. Later he added, “America cannot continue to be what it has been if we continue to have the kind of educational system that we have.”
“Education Nation” is a two-year-old NBC News project to create solutions-based conversations about learning in America. Atlanta is one of five cities being toured this year. Reed was joined onstage by Senator Johnny Isakson and Governor Nathan Deal in a discussion moderated by Meet the Press host David Gregory. WXIA 11Alive is NBC’s “Education Nation” local partner.
Reed visited China in March. “China is rising because of the size of its market.” Reed said. “In a terrific book by Thomas Friedman he talks about the fact that in America if we appropriately educate black people, Latinos and rural kids it is worth about $400 billion a year in expanded economic productivity. We do not have the ability to leave anybody on the side of the road.”
Reed said China is “able to execute faster because they don’t have the robust debate that occurs in the U.S. We also can’t forget in focusing on the success of the Chinese that at the end of the day the creative component we have can’t be lost in our move to make sure we are strong in STEM. We actually need STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and math.”
Reed, Isakson and Deal have formed partnerships that were not always possible between the state’s highest elected officials and the mayor of its largest city. Reed has used his Washington connections to lobby hard for approval and federal funds to improve the Savannah ports. He is a frequent visitor to the State Capitol and especially during General Assembly months.
Atlanta is the third city on this year’s “Education Nation” tour that opened in Denver last month and visited San Francisco last week. The final stops are Miami later this month and Aspen, Colorado at the end of June. The conference events are customized to local audiences.
NBC’s Gregory noted Georgia has a 9% unemployment rate, employers are seeking specific kinds of workers and there are widespread vacancies because of a skilled workforce shortage.
Governor Deal focused early and often on technology. Last week he visited Westside Middle School in Barrow County. Westside is a Governor’s Innovation Fund grant recipient. Deal saw firsthand the collaboration between Westside and Georgia Tech’s Direct to Discovery program.
“A professor at Georgia Tech was teaching them things that I would never have comprehended that a middle school student would be exposed to,” Deal said. “We are making significant progress to widen the opportunities through technology that are being afforded to our students. I think people are embracing that because they recognize that truly is where the future lies.”
Governor Deal worked the state’s Go Build Georgia initiative that is based on Go Build Alabama into the conversation early. Georgia has a federal grant to help with start-up marketing but there is no direct funding in the 2013 state budget so ongoing costs to run this project will have to be absorbed by the private sector.
Go Build Georgia is as an awareness initiative. Once students understand there are many kinds of career options, the education they need is available from many sources, especially the Technical College System of Georgia and programs inside four-year universities such as the Kennesaw State University nursing school.
“The idea is to educate young people and their parents to the fact that if they have a craft, a skill that is going to be employable, they will earn a wage 27 percent higher than the average Georgian currently earns,” the Governor said.
“Education is the solution to the prison system,” Senator Isakson told the audience sprinkled with public education and private sector corporate leaders. “It’s the solution to saving Social Security. It’s the solution to a balanced budget. It’s the solution to more revenue coming into the government. When people are trained and educated and working they’re making money, they’re paying taxes and they’re growing.”
“Thought leaders are beginning to catch up and deal with this problem,” Reed said. “Whoever has the best idea should flat out prevail but we can’t get away from the fact that 84 percent of the kids in the United States of America are educated in public schools … We’re losing a awful lot of kids who are on the sidelines.”
(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)
Governor Nathan Deal traveled to Cherokee County on Thursday morning to deliver a message about charter schools. “Parents quite frankly are the ultimate local control,” the Governor told parents, teachers, students, legislators and media who gathered at Cherokee Charter Academy to watch him sign this year’s charter schools commission implementation legislation.
“We hear that term used quite a bit but parents should be the ones who have a great say so in the way their children are educated,” Deal said. “We believe that if we empower the citizens of this state and give them those kinds of opportunities they will respond.”
The official business was a signing ceremony for House Bill 797 that establishes how the state would re-create a charter schools commission if voters approve a constitutional amendment in November. The bill also describes how state commission charter schools would be funded.
The unofficial business Thursday morning was to deliver a blunt message to those who continue to resist the charter schools movement that is trying to provide learning options in Georgia.
(Click here to watch the House Bill 797 signing ceremony on YouTube.)
“Charter schools are in my opinion a key ingredient in the future educational success for the state of Georgia,” Governor Deal said. “We know that when you promote competition, when you promote strong parental involvement which charter schools by necessity must have, then you improve the overall climate in which learning takes place.”
This issue has polarized educators and families who are trying to innovate with local or state approved charters against school boards, superintendents and teachers whose associations oppose the state charter schools commission concept and the constitutional amendment.
Cherokee Charter Academy opened last August as a state charter school after the Cherokee County Board of Education twice denied its local charter application. Click here to learn more about Cherokee Charter Academy and its fight with the Cherokee County school board.
Constitutional amendment opponents argue charter schools take education dollars away from local schools. Deal answered that charge, saying, “House Bill 797 clearly states that local school districts will not miss out on funding because a charter school operates in their area.”
Lisa Grover of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools presented Deal with the Alliance’s 2012 Champion for Charters Award for his actions to safeguard 15,000 students after last year’s state Supreme Court decision that voided the state charter schools commission. Previous recipients of the National Alliance award include governors Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
(Click here to watch Governor Deal receive the 2012 Champion for Charters Award from the National Alliance of Public Schools on YouTube.)
(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)
Governor Nathan Deal signed criminal justice reform legislation Wednesday, triggering the most aggressive rebranding of the state’s approach to criminal perpetrators in several decades. But one question that needs to be resolved is who’s responsible for making sure this all happens?
It sounds like the answer begins with the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform whose work provided the structure for Georgia’s new law. Governor Deal signed House Bill 1176 during an upbeat signing ceremony just below the north steps at the State Capitol in Atlanta.
Answering my question after the legislation was signed, the Governor said he would extend the Special Council by executive order, something he has previously discussed. “We believe we should maybe expand the scope of those who are involved in this process as we go forward.”
(Click here to watch the signing ceremony on the Georgia Public Policy Foundation YouTube site.)
Criminal justice reform is a massive undertaking that will require integration of several agencies within state government and that’s a first step. It will further cross deep into other public and private sectors such as the courts, local law enforcement and public and private social services. This will take years to integrate and it will require some kind of way to measure outcomes.
Criminal justice reform is neither conservative nor liberal. It does not have a political party. It is widely recognized as essential in Georgia and other states that are re-evaluating how to make certain dangerous people are locked up and non-violent people with substance abuse issues are placed into programs such as courts that emphasize treatment and require accountability.
Georgia spends $1.1 billion per year to lock up some 56,000 inmates. The criminal justice bill jumps to $1.5 billion with parole and probation. The inmate population grows by about 1,000 per year. Supporters believe reforms that emphasize keeping non-violent people out of prisons could slow the growth rate and save Georgia some $264 million over the next five years.
Programs like the drug court in Hall and Dawson Counties are being heralded as the better idea in Georgia, Texas and many other states with similar reforms. The northeast Georgia programs are administered by Superior Judge Jason Deal whose father has a pretty good job in state government. The father has paid attention to his son’s work.
“To listen to the stories, to the lives that have been changed, the families who’ve been reunited, lives that had quite frankly been cast aside by the system that was in place had a tremendous emotional effect on me,” Governor Deal told 100 onlookers. “I’ve not had anyone who has ever attended the graduation ceremony of a drug court come away saying that they don’t believe there is a better way. This is the better way.”
The Governor continued, “I would invite those who are skeptics to have that same experience. Go attend a drug court, a DUI court, a family court, a mental health court. If you come away believing that it’s better to do it by locking people up I truly don’t think you have paid attention to what we are doing now and certainly I think with this legislation, (we are) giving the opportunity to do more and do it better.”
Deal noted that Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein and House Judiciary Chair Rep. Wendell Willard have resumed work on juvenile justice reform and Deal suggested the Special Council will be asked to work on that issue. An exhaustive juvenile code rewrite passed the House this year but then the bill was stopped because it did not have a fiscal note.
The Governor closed with a message to the news media. “Many times when we undertake difficult tasks we sometimes feel that the media is our adversary. That has not been the case in this instance,” Deal said. “Your effort educating the public on the importance of this undertaking has had tremendous positive effects. So, thank you. I hope I can say that more often!”
Several Special Council members attended including Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, Georgia State Bar Association President Ken Shigley and Douglas County District Attorney David McDade. House Speaker David Ralston stood alongside Governor Deal during the ceremony. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle was not there.
(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)
Cherokee Charter Academy almost never happened. Last spring it seemed possible – maybe even probable — that Cherokee Charter would never open because of a state Supreme Court decision. What a difference a year makes. Governor Nathan Deal will visit the school Thursday morning when he signs legislation to create the structure for a new state charter schools commission.
“We’re very excited that not only is the Governor pro-charter but he is coming to our school to sign House Bill 797,” said Cherokee Charter Principal Vanessa Suarez. “At the end of the day, all politics aside, we are here for the kids. We are here for our students that want a choice.”
This signing ceremony could have been done anywhere, including at the State Capitol. Doing it at a charter school that thrived despite constant disapproval by the local school board will send a succinct message: School choice is a good idea that is consistent with quality local public education. Perhaps the Cherokee County school board should get on-board.
Georgia will create a new charter schools commission next year if voters statewide approve a constitutional amendment that is on the November ballot. The new commission would consider but is not required to approve charter school applications only after they are rejected locally.
You can find nearly all the arguments for-and-against state authorization of charter schools in Cherokee County. A well-regarded school district that spends more than one-half billion dollars per year nonetheless wails publicly about tight budgets. In doing so, it tries to portray a start-up charter school with a tiny budget as a threat to public school funding. The start-up serves about 2% of the county’s public school students and it is a long way from being a threat to status quo.
The Cherokee County school board has never approved a local charter school application. It rejected Cherokee Charter Academy three times, including twice last year and again for the 2012 – 2013 school year. The Academy in Canton opened with about 825 students last August after it received a state charter and state funding authorized by Governor Deal.
Funding is a relative term. State records indicate state, local and SPLOST funding amounts to $8,749 per pupil in the traditional Cherokee County public schools. This year Cherokee Charter Academy received $5,000 per pupil in average total funds from all sources. It does not receive local tax dollars or SPLOST capital expenditure funds.
A Cherokee County school board majority and Supt. Frank R. Petruzielo have repeatedly portrayed this issue as local, and say their concern is about the Cherokee schools.
Then last week the Cherokee board passed a resolution by a 4-2 vote that “requests that voters of the State of Georgia not support the Constitutional Amendment relative to charter schools.” Now it is about more than Cherokee County; now it is about stopping state charters everywhere.
Carrying the title “Resolution in Support of Quality Public Education,” the slightly longer than one page document is long on rhetoric about “an already underfunded public education system, resulting in overcrowded classrooms, shortened school calendars, insufficient textbooks and other curricular supplies and employee furloughs, with no end in sight” but it fails to recognize that all charter schools are public schools. Let’s try that once more for those who might be newcomers here: all charter schools are public schools.
The resolution is wrong and misleading when it tries to create the perception the state could “take and redirect local school tax dollars for the aforementioned purposes,” those purposes being to support state charter schools.
The constitutional amendment legislation stipulates only state dollars would be used to support state charter schools. No local tax dollars would be redirected to state charter schools. State funding to local school systems would not be reduced because any student leaves a traditional public school to enroll in a charter school. Therefore, the resolution is misleading and false.
So to recap: Cherokee Charter opened with 825 students last fall and it received about $5,000 per pupil in total funding from all sources. All local tax dollars and all SPLOST dollars for those students stayed with the Cherokee County public schools system. Somehow those two ideas did not make their way into the “Resolution in Support of Quality Public Education.”
Cherokee County is a destination location. It is a nice place to live. It has jobs. It has good real estate values. It has parks. It has a 74% high school graduation rate, less than 85% claimed by the school district but still better than the 67% statewide average. So, it has good schools. This year the district will spend $527 million to educate 38,766 students. The district has almost as much staff – 2,169 – as it does teachers – 2,343.
This August the traditional school district will expand its STEM and fine arts programs, which Cherokee County board member Michael Geist sees as a response to Cherokee Charter Academy. “I don’t know if I care too much why they did this. I’m just glad they did,” said Geist, who was elected to the traditional county board but has two children enrolled at Cherokee Charter Academy.
Geist voted against the constitutional “Quality Public Education” resolution. “It seems like every idea worth investing in gets shot down by the education lobby and the education establishment,” Geist said. “We don’t even get a chance to really find out if charter schools can work well.”
What a difference a year makes. Cherokee Charter Academy almost never happened. This fall the Academy will add eighth grade and enroll 1,000 students. The Academy was also selected to participate in a middle schools program offered by Cambridge University in England. This is a long way from not knowing whether your doors would open.
“We have learned the difference between a shock and an aftershock,” said board member Lyn Michaels-Carden. “A year ago the things that happened to us shocked and stunned us and sometimes we were distraught. Now because of everything we’ve been through it’s a lot easier to have perspective. You get to the point where you recognize what’s really important.”
Cherokee Charter seems like a perfect place to sign charter schools commission legislation.
(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)
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