Last week the Georgia Charter Schools Association (GCSA) sent an open letter to DeKalb Superintendent Green and the DeKalb Board of Education. In the letter, GCSA expressed their concern about the signals the DeKalb County School District (DCSD) was sending regarding charter schools, DCSD’s new charter school policy, and DCSD’s posture towards the State Department of Education’s (GADOE) requested policy revisions. GCSA requested that the DeKalb Board of Education revisit their Charter School Policy and align the DCSD policy with state statute, State BOE rules, and GADOE guidelines.
To read the letter from the Georgia Charter Schools Association in its entirety click here: OpenLetterFromGCSA
Last week, I attended the DCSD community engagement session regarding their petition to become a “charter district”. I was disappointed by this meeting and the presentation made regarding the charter district petition. At one point, a school district official defended their hesitancy towards autonomy for charter schools by saying that, “Well, you don’t just hand over the keys to the car to your 16-year old.” That’s right – that’s what they think of us. Given the track record of DeKalb bureaucrats, ponder that analogy for a while.
DeKalb’s idea of being a “charter school district” is not congruent with chartering philosophy. The concept of chartering is that pursuant to a contract, the school will be held accountable for their performance. If the school fails to perform, those involved in that school get removed. This philosophy is much better than allowing failing schools to exist in perpetuity, as is currently the policy of traditionally managed schools. We already have ample evidence on how DeKalb’s bureaucracy performs. DeKalb has languished at the bottom in almost every performance index while taxing at one of the highest millage rates in the state. The same bureaucrats that got us to this place cannot get us out.
DeKalb simply doesn’t want to give up control. There is too much at stake for those at high levels within the bureaucracy. If DeKalb relinquishes control then the jobs program and doling out contracts to their friends would end. The county’s rationale for pursuing a charter school district is to continue to obtain the waivers (class size, spending, etc.) that allow them to continue to bloat the central office while packing kids and teachers into crowded classrooms. I hope our new Superintendent sees through the well entrenched bureaucrats. I hope the GADOE sees through the charade that is this charter school petition.
Nancy, thanks for always shining a light for everyone to see through the fog that is so prevalent today. You are correct about the “turning the keys over to a 16-year old analogy” being a very bad indication of DeKalb’s attitude toward their charter schools and (I think) their misunderstanding of what charter flexibility and accountability is designed to do. Keep fighting the good fight. We need continuing reminders that continuing the past practices in DeKalb County have not gone very well for a lot of kids.