Walking away from public schools is not a solution
by Dick Yarbrough
Columnist
February 06, 2013 12:22 AM | 1644 views | 6 6 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dick Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough
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As many of you recall, I opposed the recent charter school amendment, not because I oppose charter schools — I don’t — but because I thought the wording of the amendment was duplicitous. I thought it grossly unfair that Gov. Nathan Deal could wax eloquently on the need for passage of the amendment but School Superintendent John Barge was not allowed to talk about opposing it. It was like Goliath beating up David.

Opponents of the amendment were outspent 10-to-one by proponents — mostly out-of-state special interests, including for-profit charter school management companies who will no doubt be giving campaign donations to their legislative buddies.

I said all of this as plainly and as passionately as I could. And I lost. The amendment passed in November by 58 -42 percent. Given all of the above reasons, I’m surprised the margin wasn’t greater.

The voters have spoken and I am ready to move on. I have told charter school proponents that I plan to interview some teachers in charter schools in the near future and get a better understanding of what they do.

I am impressed with the appointments to the Charter School Commission established as a result of the amendment’s passage, especially Dr. Charles B. Knapp, the commission chairman. Dr. Knapp, former president of the University of Georgia, is a long-time personal friend and a man of highest integrity. If Chuck Knapp is involved, the process will be fair. Otherwise, he would not be a part of it.

Now to the other extreme: Americans for Prosperity — Georgia touted a “School Choice Celebration and Rally 2013” recently at the state Capitol. In a press release flacking the event, a spokesperson opined, “Allowing low-income students the ability to walk away from failing public schools is a civil right that I’m happy to see beginning to be addressed here in Georgia. It’s time for more of the country to follow suit.” Beg pardon? This is how we handle problems in our society? We walk away from them? That is our civil right?

Americans for Prosperity — Georgia should get their head out of the clouds (or wherever it is currently located) and apologize to all the school teachers in our state who are beating their brains out trying to educate young people in an environment of parental neglect, drugs, poverty, hunger and abuse; where the teacher may be the only role model these kids will ever have.

Public school budgets have been cut. Classroom sizes have increased. Days of instruction curtailed. Yet, public school teachers are expected to shut the door on all of society’s ills and provide a world-class education or this crowd proposes we “walk away” and leave public schools with the dregs.

One of their supporters asked me, “If you are such a strong supporter of teacher’s (sic) would you support merit pay and teacher salaries tied to student achievement? If you don’t perform in business, you get fired. If you don’t perform in education, you get tenure and your raises are based on longevity.” Aside from appreciating his tutorial on how business works — being that I spent 40 years as a mule skinner and know little of capitalism — I would answer his question with some questions of my own.

How would the reader propose establishing a merit pay system? Would it be the same for teachers in wealthy Atlanta suburbs with engaged parents as it would in areas of abject poverty in small rural systems where parental involvement is non-existent? If not, how would he propose to handle that? Does he know how many teachers in Georgia have been furloughed in the past five years due to budget cuts? And how many teachers are taking home less money today than they did five years ago but continue to do this thankless job because they think they can make a difference in young lives? Has he checked on how many teachers in Georgia quit within their first five years because they sadly realize that what they had dreamt would be a noble profession is neither appreciated nor supported by second-guessing grandstanders who couldn’t carry their book bags?

The appointment of Dr. Charles Knapp and those who will serve with him on the Charter School Commission is a great step in the right direction for seeking solutions to what ails us educationally. But to those who choose to blame public schools for problems they didn’t create and then blithely suggest we walk away from them: You are the problem, not the solution.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.
Comments
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Look at other states
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February 06, 2013
Where might we be headed?

The Texas Education Agency has a total of nine people overseeing more than 500 charter school campuses. In a memo from the inspector general’s office in the federal Education Department alerting the agency of “our concern about vulnerabilities in the oversight of charter schools,” they cited a number of charter schools in TX that were accused of self-dealing on contracts, grade-changing schemes and inflating attendance records to increase financing.

With a seven member commission in GA, is this our future? The number of charter schools growing too large for the non-elected, governor appointed entity to keep their arms around and not have the

capacity at the state level to appropriately over see these schools. Who pays - taxpayers and the ultimate price being paid? Our students.
Kevin Foley
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February 06, 2013
Americans for Prosperity = Koch brothers, and what else would those two billionaires support but a plan to further dumb down the public education system where unionized teachers toil?

Think Again....
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February 08, 2013
You need to stop blaming the Koch brothers for anything you don't like. Face facts, the system is broken and no one wants to step up and get serious about fixing it.
Observer Mom
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February 06, 2013
Mr Yarbrough, You do have it right. The vast majority of public school teachers try their hardest with fewer resources each year. Most problems are caused by the "upper management/central office" who keep distracting the public with some new method of teaching every 4 yrs. while guarding their 6 figure salary... Just a smoke screen to make us think they are trying & know what they are doing. Ha!

However, I do have one comment/suggestion for the teachers. For the past couple of years there have been furlough days. I have been so pleased with my child's Cherokee County ES, but it does not seem to matter how many furlough days there are, the Friday and most of Thursday before every week long vacation, which are Thanksgiving, Christmas & Spring Break are spent watching movies or playing games. If they are so concerned about the number of instructional days, then why spend 6 of them watching entertainment movies & cartoons?
anonymous
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February 06, 2013
Wow, looks like Kevin Foley finally decided to pick a fight with the Great Yarb.

Careful Foley. The Great Yarb can eat you for lunch, if he finds out you're behind these dastardly comments. And he's friends with all your PR benefactors too.
anonymous
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February 06, 2013
"The voters have spoken and I am ready to move on"

- apparently not

"Public school budgets have been cut. Classroom sizes have increased. Days of instruction curtailed."

- Yet test scores rise; helping to prove we've overspent in education for a long time

"I spent 40 years as a mule skinner and know little of capitalism"

- It showed in your performance in the Olympics

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