Sunday, December 30, 2012

Why Good People Need SemiAuto Firearms and 'High Capacity' Magazines by Massad Ayoob

a copy of the words from Massad Ayoob as seen HERE

Posted: 29 Dec 2012 04:52 PM PST
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably had a conversation with someone in the last few days who asked, “Why do ordinary law-abiding people need those semiautomatic firearms with magazines that can hold more than ten cartridges?”  There are lots of sound answers.
For one thing, defensive firearms are meant to be “equalizers,” force multipliers that can allow one good person to defend against multiple evil people.  To allow one good person to defend against a single evil person so much stronger and/or bigger and/or more violent than he or she, that the attacker’s potentially lethal assault can be stopped.  History shows that it often takes many gunshots to stop even a single determined aggressor. Most police officers have seen the famous autopsy photo in the cops-only text book “Street Survival” of the armed robber who soaked up 33 police 9mm bullets before he stopped trying to kill the officers.  Consider Lance Thomas, the Los Angeles area watch shop owner who was in many shootouts with multiple gang bangers who tried to rob and murder him.  He shot several of them, and discovered that it took so many hits to stop them that he placed multiple loaded handguns every few feet along his workbench.  That’s not possible in a home, or when lawfully carrying concealed on the street: a semiautomatic pistol with a substantial cartridge capacity makes much more sense for that defensive application.
Semiautomatic rifles? Consider this heart-breaking, fatal home invasion in Florida and ask yourself if it might have turned out differently had the homeowners been able to access and competently deploy something like, oh, a Bushmaster AR15 with 30 round magazine.  I teach every year in Southern Arizona, and each year I see more Americans along the border with AR15s and similar rifles in their ranch vehicles and even their regular cars.  There have been cases where innocent ranchers and working cops alike have been jeopardized by multiple, heavily armed drug smugglers and human traffickers in desert fights far from police response and backup.  A semiautomatic rifle with a substantial magazine capacity can be reassuring in such situations, as seen here:
In the last twenty years, we have seen epic mob violence in American streets. During the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, Korean storekeepers armed with AR15s kept their stores and livelihoods – and lives – from the torches of inflamed crowds because the mob feared their force multipliers. Read this, for a survivor’s account:  There have been bands of roving, violent predators as lately as this year during the Sandy storm. And the “flash mob violence” phenomenon of recent years has left many urban dwellers picturing themselves as the lone victim of a feral human wolfpack.
And, if you will, one more stark and simple thing:  Americans have historically modeled their choices of home protection and personal defense handguns on what the cops carried.  When the police carried .38 revolvers as a rule, the .38 caliber revolver was the single most popular choice among armed citizens.  In the 1980s and into the 1990s, cops switched en masse to semiautomatic pistols.  So did the gun-buying public.  Today, the most popular handgun among police seems to be the 16-shot, .40 caliber Glock semiautomatic.  Not surprisingly, the general public has gone to pistols bracketing that caliber in power (9mm, .40, .45) with similar enthusiasm. The American police establishment has also largely switched from the 12 gauge shotgun which was also the traditional American home defense weapon, to the AR15 patrol rifle with 30-round magazine…and, not surprisingly, the law-abiding citizenry has followed suit there, too.
The reasoning is strikingly clear. The cops are the experts on the current criminal trends. If they have determined that a “high capacity” semiautomatic pistol and a .223 semiautomatic rifle with 30-round magazines are the best firearms for them to use to protect people like me and my family, they are obviously the best things for us to use to protect ourselves and our families .


Lots of links in Massad's post, but the best read is HEREJew Without a Gun

Friday, December 28, 2012

Nancy Drew Jester Series Continues. The Case of Pretense of Accreditation in Georgia

Part 2 in the Nancy Drew Jester Mystery Series: The Case of Accreditation Gone Missing

Stay tuned for Monday's release, Nancy Meets the Hardy Boys of SACS County

The following is Part 2 of a Series from Nancy Jester, our local school board member.  Keep up the good work, Nancy. 

Process Versus Results – Accreditation by SACS

I thought it would be useful to provide some historical context to the whole accreditation issue.   Five years ago, if you had asked me what accreditation means, I probably would have told you that it meant something about the quality of the education that kids received; that it judged in some way the results of how well children were educated.
It does not.
Accreditation by SACS/AdvancED is big on “process” and “continuous improvement.”  It does not rate how well schools perform their mission to educate children.  Given the recent graduation rates that were released nationally one must wonder about the nature and efficacy of accreditation “processes” and to whom the benefits of “continuous improvement” accrue.
Click here to read the November 26th AJC article showing Georgia ranked 48th out of 50 states in graduation rate.  For even more detail, you can read my November 5th blog.
You will note that we are not graduating even 50% of our African American students in four years of high school instruction, even with an opportunity to take 32 credits on a block schedule of the 24 required to graduate.  Yet, we are in the top ten for money spent on education.   It appears to me that our emphasis on process is quite expensive, but ineffective.  How can we have such poor aggregate graduation rate results and have so many accredited schools and districts in our state?  Shouldn’t we be focused on honestly assessing the results?
State law requires that I must have 9 hours of training annually.  The Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) holds large conferences where board members can attend seminars to meet the training requirements.  Your tax dollars pay for board members to attend these conferences.
I recently attended a GSBA conference to get my required training hours.  (I’ll have to blog in the future about how much of the seminar seemed designed as an infomercial for products that GSBA or their vendors sell.  Also, the seminars are largely conducted by educational bureaucrats that tell elected officials how to treat the educational bureaucrats in their district.  But I digress …)
During my seminar, two executives from AdvancED spoke to the group.  I learned that the concept of “district accreditation” is relatively new.  This accreditation product was rolled out from 2004-08.  Many districts in the state do not seek district accreditation. Instead, they have only their schools – or only their high schools — accredited.   State law requires students to graduate from an accredited school to qualify for the HOPE scholarship.  There is NO requirement that a district be accredited.  For Georgia public schools the law permits accreditation by either SACS or the Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC).  State law also provides methods for homeschoolers to qualify for HOPE scholarships.
During the Q&A at the GSBA conference, I asked AdvancED officials questions about how student achievement should factor into accreditation.  (I recorded this exchange and I’ll try to put it up on my website.)  I noted that our state does not compare well in the recently released graduation statistics.  I further asked:
If processes are used effectively, but achievement results are not improved, what does that say about accreditation?  What is it we’re accrediting?  If it doesn’t correlate strongly with, or have a causal relationship actually, to results for children in achievement then it is a …  the whole process seems to dichotomize there and I’m concerned about that.  Are we focused on process or are we focused on results?”
The response from the AdvancEd official was:
“As far as results … it is a process.  Going through this process, the school or district will go through and look at what is happening.  Accreditation is not based solely on student results.” 
So, there you have it.  And you pay for this process with your tax dollars and cede power over your property values to a concept administered by an unaccountable group, made up of educational bureaucrats.  In the end, the process does not guarantee, judge or rank the quality or results of the education provided to students in your school or district.
Our graduates – our frighteningly few graduates – cannot take “process” to the bank.
Additional reading on this subject:
–Stay tuned for more of my thoughts, including: the pronoun police, the circle of trust and solutions.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nancy Jester, DeKalb School System Board Member Critical of AdvancED

Nancy Jester, our DeKalb School Board Member from Dunwoody, puts forth the truth about SACS (aka AdvancEd) on her blog.  For years the State of Georgia and SACS has given their blessings to DeKalb Schools when it was time for financial audits and reviews.  The past few years AdvancED's Educrat-In-Chief Mark Elgart signed off on DeKalbSchools with an all okay.  No need for me to rant on the bureaucracy that is SACS at this time.  We can talk later on why Georgia and other states should move to the Texas model of accreditation for schools.  But for now, please take the time to read Nancy's 1st in a series of writings regarding the Dekalb School System.

The following is  an initial response to the recent SACS report placing DeKalb School System on probation.  In summary, SACS wants the school board members to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the financial corruption of central office staff members.


You can read Nancy's blog HERE

My Thoughts on the AdvancED SACS Report

First, I would like to explain that I have been delayed in communicating to you about the AdvancED/SACS report because I have been out of the country since December 15th.  I returned this past Saturday evening (December 22nd).  While I was away I had limited access to the Internet, email and phone.  I had time to quietly reflect on my (almost) two years of service on the board and the AdvancED/SACS Report.  I’m writing to you now in the first of a series of blog posts I have written and plan to post over the next several days.  The opinions I express here are mine alone and I express them as an individual citizen.
No one knows better than I do, that the board as a whole can be very frustrating to watch.  As the board member who most often votes “no”, I endure this frustration more than most.  I am the board member who identified and publically discussed the financial issues that were cited in this report.  For almost two years, I have publically inquired during the presentation of the monthly financial report about the discrepancies that I uncovered.  My public statements at board meetings span two administrations.  I have written that it appears to me that our budgets for the past six years were, at best, a weak suggestion of how to spend money and, at worst, a document based on deception.  I received support for my analysis from only Don McChesney and Pam Speaks.  I was publically misled by administration officials who stated at board meetings that our budgeting issues with electricity (one of the many areas I cited as problematic) were due to (1) unseasonably hot/cold summers/winters and (2) increases in electricity rates.  These statements were demonstrably false.
No agency, government department or official was interested in my findings.  Eventually I posted them on my website (here’s the link to my September 13th entry: ).  My public statements at Board meetings go back to almost the beginning of my service.
Additionally, I discovered that “general administration salaries” have been the only salary category that has increased over six years; including the current budget.  I inquired into this matter at two board meetings but did not receive a response.  Here is the link t0 my analysis:
While I’m flattered by AdvancED’s extensive use of my research and statements; their conclusions, required actions, indeed, their paradigm for “team governance” would prevent me or any other board member from discovering and properly alerting the public to these misdeeds (see required action #5).
The report also states, “The board members’ questions to the staff displayed a suspicion and lack of trust for any information provided by the staff.”  As I stated above, I have been misled and stonewalled when uncovering some of the very financial malfeasance that AdvancED now has decided to recognize.  Suspicion and lack of trust, at this point, is clearly justified as I and my fellow board members are legally accountable as stewards of tax dollars.
I’m also curious as to why, with all of their teams of professional educational bureaucrats visiting and researching DSCD (at our expense),  AdvancED never discovered the financial malfeasance that I brought to light.  I’m just one mom with a calculator.  Given the record of misleading statements and nonresponsive behavior I have dealt with from administrators around the financial issues that AdvancED has now chosen to present as evidence to warrant placing DeKalb on probation, it seems odd that they would then simultaneously hold the position that Board members just need to be less suspicious and more trusting of staff members.
If I were an employee, I would most likely be protected under whistleblower laws.  How ironic that I may be removed from office exactly because I discovered and made public the financial misdeeds of the third largest school district in our state.  What message does this send to board members around the state or to future board members in DeKalb?  Given that the majority of our state budget goes to education, I would think that the state would incentivize and welcome local board members to be watchdogs over these finite resources.  To do otherwise is to steal from the educational lives of children.
Stay tuned – tomorrow, I’ll post my thoughts on the education bureaucrats’ construct of “the governance team” and what that means for your children and tax dollars.

Keep The Dekalb School Board

Not quite what many of you expected to read here, but I think removal of the DeKalb School Board is short-sighted and not what needs to happen in DeKalb.

First off, if the governor removes the Board, expect many attorneys to join the fight to keep them.  Removing elected office holders is a tricky subject.  The voters voted for these people, and removing elected people from office is a major topic.  The State of Georgia has rules in place to recall elected persons, and this recall process is done by registered voters (a lot of them), not by a single person.  Although I do feel that a few of the current Board members need removed, having the governor remove them is not the way to do this.

Secondly, I am convinced that if the Board were to be removed, and the removed members ran for the same Board positions when eligible (after the terms of the appointed members expire), the same exact people would be elected by their constituents.  In just a couple of years, we are right back in the same position.

So what needs done instead of removing the Board?  First, DeKalb County Schools should NOT have a county-wide accreditation.  Blame Crawford Lewis for us having county-wide SACS accreditation instead of each high school being accredited.  Most districts in Georgia do not have county-wide accreditation as we do in DeKalb.  We should have SACS or a different agency accrediting our high schools (and eventually middle schools), not the district as a whole. Can any sane person really think to punish a student at Chamblee High School because of something happening at Miller Grove High School, for example?  If a certain high school continues to fail, maybe then the voters in that area elect Board members they think can make a difference.

Next, we need a new superintendent.  Superintendent Atkinson has shown to be following the same path as Crawford Lewis and Ramona Tyson.  And that path leads to total failure for all stakeholders.  This new text scandal with Atkinson is corruption at its best/worst.  If the allegations are true (that the superintendent intentionally destroyed a phone and deleted text messages) then our Superintendent may be in some hot water soon.  Look for the FBI or GBI to join the party soon since the DeKalb DA thinks the DeKalb Board can police itself.

The Board's selection of Atkinson as superintendent was obviously a bad decision.  I think the Board should vote to remove her now, before the Governor removes the Board.  I don't care if we pay her for five years of salary to get rid of her.  It would be money well spent.  There were a couple of candidates in the last search process that would be good to run our district.  Above all, we need an honest person - someone with integrity.  If the governor wants to do us a favor, appoint a new superintendent.

A new superintendent would need to have the word "no' in his/her vocabulary.  Say 'no' to Board members asking for favors.  Say 'no' to the special interest groups.  The new superintendent needs to clean house at the central office and at the local schools, ridding us of corrupt and poor-performing employees.  The new superintendent needs to run the system like a business, not like a jobs program.

But let's not stop with one superintendent - we need at least two.  We need a superintendent for curriculum and one for administration.  Perhaps we have a DeKalb School System CEO take care of the financial side of things, and a superintendent to implement academic strategies.

Of course, the overall goal is to have the DeKalb School System divided into no less than three separate systems.  But that takes time, and no one outside of DeKalb actually cares about us.  The surrounding systems see a DeKalb failure as a win to them.  As DeKalb Schools fails, people and businesses move to  Fulton and Cobb.  As DeKalb Schools fail, private schools flourish.  As DeKalb Schools fail, property values decrease.

Removing the Board empowers the current superintendent. Mark Elgart (leader of SACS / AdvancED) is protecting the superintendent.  Mark Elgart and SACS are in business to make money and protect superintendents.  AdvancED is not the fix, it is part of the problem. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Gang Movement in Dunwoody

This week's Dunwoody Crier printed a letter or two acknowledging the 3-Sign Posse. Adding yet another term to the DunwoodyTalk dictionary we add 3 Sign Jimmy Anarchists to the soon-to-be-printed 2013 edition.  Order now for your Nook - a great Christmas present.

For those of you new to Dunwoody, please realize we do not have much of a crime and gang issue.  Most crimes are in two hot-spots regions of the city.  Most locals know the areas so no need to point out the obvious here, so let's move on.

But do know Dunwoody has its own unique type of gangs.  These gangs don't wear DownLow jeans hanging off their butts.  They style elastic-waist polyester bottoms or RL jeans from Costco.  And they sign!

After reviewing city council meeting videos, private security camera footage from Don't Tase Me Bro, and observing people in the community for several hundred hours, DunwoodyTalk, with the assistance of the Dunwoody Police Department, have composed a gang sign identification chart.  The Dunwoody cluster school kids will learn these next semester as part of the Race to the Top Bottom program via DeKalb School System.

We touched briefly here about the RedShirt group, and DunwoodyTalk has infiltrated their group with a spy. We are reviewing their training manual this week.  It is quiet today in Dunwoody as many members of the 3SignJimmy's are in Michigan protesting the right-to-work issue.

I think it is great that people are finally getting involved at the local level.  Next I hope they actually learn the issues.
JimmyJam Jr., leader of the newly formed 3SignJimmy gang

council meeting attendee promoting a sale at Macy's
When residents make a political statement one can agree or disagree.  If you don't agree with someone you can ignore them or discuss the issue with them.  I actually had one friend who voted for Hope & Change & Forward, but I did not delete this person from my contacts list.  But what about when a business jumps in the political game?  Do you still give your money to that business?

A co-founder of Costco (now a publicly held company) supported Obama, so should those opposed to O stop shopping at Costco?

Closer to home we have at least two businesses with signs opposing three big issues in Dunwoody.  Do these signs encourage you to put more South in your Mouth or Chevron gas in your car?  Unless your business is threatened by a certain political candidate or policy, is it good business sense to put forth your opinion?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Save the Wood in DunWOODy

Without 'wood' there is no DunWOODy. Please join me in saving a large group of trees in the Dunwoody Village area. Don't confuse these priceless , irreplaceable trees with the weeds growing in the median on Dunwoody Parkway or the 400 year-old redwoods in Brook Run No-Kid Zone Park.  One of our cub reporters discovered people are buying trees then abusing them (behind closed doors).  They are forcing these trees to stand all day, receiving only a cup of water when one of the family kids remembers to give it water. 

People are allegedly hanging strings of popcorn and paper chains on some trees.  We have even heard that some Dunwoody residents are putting live electrical wires with warm-to-the-touch lights on said trees. One neighbor told me they saw a tree with tinsel and papier-mâché ornaments made with dried macaroni pasta glued to them.  And an unnamed source reported a tree with religious symbols on it. Don't these people realize trees have feelings?  Don't they know trees have rights as well? 

Help save 337 trees this weekend.

Caution: No trees are safe in Dunwoody. This tree collection is behind a fence, keeping it secure.
A large group of rare Douglas Firs spotted in Dunwoody. Help me Save these Trees.

So the Dunwoody anarchists are having a Save Brook Run meeting this weekend at Brook Run?  Where in Brook Run?  At the dog park, of course.  Such irony as THE DOG PARK IS RUINING THE TREES IN BROOK RUN. Having a Save Brook Run meeting at the dog park is like having an AA meeting at the tavern, or like hosting Weight Watchers at the Publix bakery.  What is the connection between the dog park and lunacy?  Did the tree posse drink water from the dog park watershed? Careful where you step at the Save Brook Run meeting, there will be more than the normal dose of feces in the area.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Light Up Dunwoody 2012

Thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors who helped make Light Up Dunwoody 2012 another successful event.  The Crier newspaper and the DHA, along with others, helped put this event together.  Now is the time to renew or start a new DHA membership.

The Poodle. Dressed it with maple syrup and spicy mustard

Thursday, November 15, 2012

DeKalb School System's Shell Game

It comes as no surprise that the central office folks at the DeKalb County School System are instructed by the Board to do one thing, but ignore those instructions. When students don't follow instructions they fail.  When employed by DeKalb, failing to do your job often translates to a pay raise. That must be such a confusing message for students of our fine school district.

So a recent audit has been released.  Find it HERE.  Lots of tidbits in the audit, but let's take a look at an issue going back to May 10, 2010.  On that date the Board decided to cut $11,500,000 via 150 positions.  Seems like a straight-forward task.  The end result was to cut $11,500,000 in salaries.  But that is not what happened according to the audit.  Instead, some jobs were "cut", but then rehired or simply moved to a different (new) job in the district.  You see, it is difficult to fire people in the Friends & Family program.  Everyone is related by blood, by church, or by sorority/college. Here are a few clips from the audit:

As you can see from the clip above, the DeKalb School System and its Human Resources DID NOT make cuts of $11.5 million dollars at the Central Office. They actually spent MORE money! Not only did they not make the cuts, they exceeded the Board's budget by $29 million. Must be that fuzzy math or 'new' math we hear about. Why did this happen year after year?  And why doe sit continue? There are a few explanations, including: Fraud, Ignorance, Stupidity, Boldness, Incompetence, Defiance, or perhaps a combination of some/all the above.

 Point #5 above shows the Central Office did not cut 109 positions.  They simply shuffled people around the Stone Mountain complex.  They would eliminate a person's job as Executive Secretary, then rehire as Secretary for an Executive (as an example).  What a bunch of garbage.

And can someone tell us why Ramona Tyson still works for DeKalb County School System?  More to follow, of course. We are crunching the numbers and will show how the teachers, principals, nurses, coaches, taxpayers, and students get screwed while the central office gets bigger and bigger and bigger.

Internet Auction for Dunwoody Band Ends Soon

Help the Dunwoody High School band!  Many items up for auction (this is not Storage Wars, this is an online bidding format).  First, go HERE.

Sign up, confirm by email, then start bidding.  Many local items, many items out of town.  Some items have a minimum, some do not.  Lots of great deals still available. Below are just a few examples.  You can view the auction items without signing up. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fear the Red Shirts?

Sales of red colored shirts are on the rise across Dunwoody.  At Target, down yonder in the PCID (by Taco Mac and other fine eateries) red T-shirts for females are in demand.  "I'm not sure why these seniors are buying red T-shirts.  They usually buy blouses at JC Penney or Macy's," commented a young clerk in Target's apparel section.  "And the men are buying them also," added the Target employee.  Local clothing stores in the Village area are seeing an influx of red shirt buyers as well.  "We always see green and red sweater sales increase this time of year, but this year sales of red are edging green by 37%.  I have never seen anything like this," commented an anonymous source at an anonymous store in da Vill.
Recent Protest Rally in Dunwoody Village
Recent Rally at Brook Run (Protestors want an indoor dog park now, as well as a grooming station for dogs)
Dunwoody Residents waiting on elevator at city hall, trying to get a meeting with city manager
In a rare Rally of Support, the RedShirts cheer for a Mixed Use Village in the Perimeter area

So why red?  It seems that loosely organized citizens of Dunwoody opposed to anything and everything believe that wearing red and sitting at a meeting signals to mayor and council that you are mad, smart, informed, and opposed to the topic at hand.  Quebec has its Red Square wearers, Thailand has its RedShirt loyalist group.  But why here in Georgia?  Is it because red is a color that gets noticed?  Perhaps not.  It is a little known fact that at least two council members are color blind, perhaps three.  Going back 150 years or so a group of Red Shirts appeared shortly after the Reconstruction era.  These Red Shirts of the South were liberal Democrats, focusing their protests on Republicans.  But fear not, today's Red Shirt group in Dunwoody share no common goals of the Red Shirts of old. In history red was chosen as a protest color as red represented blood, and of course everyone is afraid of blood.

So the Dunwoody Red Shirts have protested the Dunwoody Parkway project, supported a dog park, opposed the Wo-Ver MACK intersection, opposed parks, opposed eating ice cream on Tuesdays, and may even oppose Santa Clause, the most famous red-wearing shirt person in history.

So we have all these complaints of alleged financial waste.  I will admit, it is nice for people to be involved in local issues.  But it is puzzling to see where and when the Red Shirts protest.  Let's look at Dunwoody Parkway.  People oppose the removal of trees in a median, trees that shade no one but instead contribute to an accident-laden roadway.  And what will this parkway project cost the average Dunwoody resident?  Approximately $21.  Yes, Dunwoody parkway will cost every household a one-time fee of $21.  The roundabout?  Perhaps $15 per household when all said and done.  Of course the homeowners losing part of their yard will absorb the big hit, no denying that.

A person owning a $300,000 home pays nearly $284 to the city of Dunwoody.  All this complaining week after week over $284.  A nice red blouse costs nearly $50!  Add in matching leggings at $30, red shoestrings $3, red lipstick $6.  And you can't own just one red shirt.

So back to that $300,000 house.  You pay $265 for trash service.  Are there Red Shirts on the streets Monday and Thursday protesting the gas guzzling yellow beasts?  Nope.

Now the big one: The average homeowner in Dunwoody is paying $2,500 a year (nearly ten times what they pay the city) to DeKalb School System.  Are the Red Shirts at school board meetings?  After all, $2,500 is a lot more than $284. Why are the Red Shirts not protesting DeKalb schools over the millions and millions of wasted dollars?  Why are the Red Shirts not protesting the trailers at Dunwoody schools?  Why are the Red Shirts not protesting the school superintendent?  Why aren't the Red Shirts fighting for great teachers and principals in the schools? 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Light Up Dunwoody 2012 and Christmas for Kids

Light Up Dunwoody will be held next Sunday, November 18.  Event starts at 3:00 PM with tree lighting at 5:45 PM.  The FarmHouse across from Dunkin Donuts is where to take in all the action.  Santa and a couple of elves will be there, so a chance for a photo with Santa is highly likely. 

A few vendors will be there as well as some music.

The Dunwoody Homeowner's Association will have a booth as will others.  This year the Dunwoody Police Department will set up a booth and collect unwrapped toys.  Please bring a toy this year.

Random photo of  winter in Dunwoody

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rep Ed Setzler Supports Parents and Children via Charter Amendment

Change Lives With Your Vote - Amendment 1
by Rep. Ed Setzler

Imagine a small town in which there was only one restaurant and it was owned by the town Mayor.  For over 30 years, every time other restaurants tried to come to town, the Mayor turned them away insisting,
No thank you; this town has all of the restaurants it needs!  Contending that the quality and variety of food was as good as it can get and that outside competition would threaten the 18 existing jobs at his restaurant, the Mayor exercised his sole authority year after year to keep away all competitors.  If you lived in this community, and the legislature put before the voters the option to allow competition among restaurants, would you vote to allow Ryans, Wendys, or a locally owned restaurant to compete with the Mayors establishment?  I think all of us would.

Unfortunately, public education in Georgia looks a lot like this small town
's restaurant scene.  After a highly controversial 2011 Georgia Supreme Court decision, local school boards now have the absolute power to prevent any public charter school from forming that is not under the direct control of the school board.  Although public charter schools that are independent of school boards have an exceptional track record nationwide, the Georgia public school establishment is doing everything in its power to kill Amendment 1, a ballot measure which if passed would allow well organized groups of parents and teachers to form independent 501(c)(3) non-profit public charter schools in which a parent board of directors would hire their own principal, pick their own curriculum, and run an independent public school that receives public funding as long as its students meet annual performance standards.

Wooing citizens to vote away their right to create independent public schools, the powerful education establishment desperately opposed to Amendment 1 is invoking arguments of
local control, follow the money, and private companies are after your tax dollars.  These shallow objections from status quo advocates reveal quite a bit more than they would like: (1) providing choices for parents, not politicians is the essence of local control and (2) the real money to watch is the $14 billion of tax money over which the Georgia public school establishment maintains absolute control.  Follow the money indeed!  Ranking only behind Retail and health care, the Georgia Department of Labor ranks Education as the third largest industry in Georgia, consisting of roughly as many employees as the Manufacturing and Agricultural sectors combined.  Why should any monopoly of this size, public or private, have the authority itself to decide whether quality competitors should be allowed to serve to the public?  Shouldn't' some outside commission or appellate authority have that power?  Given that local school boards in 2007 turned down 25 of 25 independent charter applications, is there any hope that local school boards will ever allow real competition from independent charter school groups?  The answer is unambiguously: No.

If you care about providing educational choices to parents who cannot afford private school options, I urge you to consider the following question before making a decision on Amendment 1:  Is there even one public school in Georgia to which you would not be willing to send your child?  If there is, then for the sake of the hundreds of children who will inevitably
draw the short straw and be forced to attend that failing school, please vote in support of Amendment 1.  Give their parents the same option that you enjoy one that will never be available to them if local school boards retain their unchecked power over the educational lives of children.

In response to the countless questions I have received regarding the charter amendment, I encourage you to consider and share the following questions and answers with as many Georgians as possible so that we can all make an informed decision on November 6:
-       Should parents or should local elected officials have the power to decide where a child goes to school?
-       Do children from poor families have the same right to an education as children from wealthy families?
-       Should any service provider, public or private, be given the absolute power (subject to NO appeal) to eliminate all competition?  Does healthy competition tend to improve or undermine performance?
-       Should well-organized groups of parents and teachers be allowed to form an independent public school in which an elected parent board of directors hires the principal, picks the curriculum, and receives public funding as long as its students meet high annual performance standards?

(1)  What is a public charter school?
Public charter schools are independent 501(c)(3) non-profit public schools in which a parent board of directors hires their own principal, picks the school
's curriculum, and runs an independent public school that receives public funding as long as its students meet high annual performance standards.  Operating successfully in 41 states, they are non-religious, non-sectarian public schools that are required to accept any student that applies, operate on five year contracts with renewal tied to academic performance, and in Georgia serve a much higher percentage of minority students than do traditional public schools.

(2)  What is the history of charter schools in Georgia?
Public charter schools were first created in Georgia in the 1990
's under the control of local school boards to give inner city parents the option of a more personalized public school environment for their children.  The success of these schools led the charter movement grow steadily in Georgia such that by 2007, 25 charter school applications were submitted to local school boards by independent parent and community groups.  Unfortunately, local school boards denied all 25 of these independent charter school applications.  Prompted by a multi-year pattern of solid charter schools being denied by local school boards, the Georgia legislature acted in 2008 to create an appeals process in which charter school petitioners could appeal the denial of a local school board to a single appellate authority called the Georgia Charter School Commission.  This volunteer commission was established as an auxiliary to the State Board of Education with the sole responsibility of reviewing and authorizing strong public charter schools that had been denied by local school boards.  Charged with setting very high standards for the approval of charter schools on appeal over local school boards, the commission approved only 16 of 82 charter appeals it considered in its two years of existence 2009-2010.  By approving less than 20% of charter applications, the commission ensured that the 16 charter schools that were approved on appeal would be among the highest quality public charter schools in the state.  The very lean charter commission organization was staffed by three employees reassigned from the state Department of Education at no additional cost to the tax payer, and unlike the State Board of Education whose members are appointed by the Governor, would be led by appointees from both the legislative and executive branches.  Although commission charter schools have operated on dramatically less funding than traditional schools, test scores from the 16 commission charters have been significantly higher than those from their traditional and district approved charter school counterparts.

In March 2011, prompted by a bitter lawsuit from the state
's largest school system, the Georgia Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Carol Huntstein ruled in a highly controversial 5-4 decision that the legislature did not have the lawmaking authority under the Georgia Constitution of 1983 to establish an appeals process over the decisions of local school boards.  In its ruling, the Huntstein Court ruled that without an amendment to the 1983 Georgia Constitution, local school boards have the exclusive authority to create public schools, voiding any law allowing a state entity to create a public school, originally or upon appeal.  Committed to the ability for local communities to provide real public school options to parents, the Georgia legislature voted to put Amendment 1 on the November 6 ballot by a strong bipartisan 2/3 super-majority in the both houses.

(3) What are the advantages of charter schools?
- One advantage of public charter schools is if students fail to meet the academic performance commitments established in their five year charter, they are shut down.  When was the last time a traditional public school was shut down for poor performance?
- Charter schools provide low-income parents very similar educational options to those available to wealthy parents.  Under the status quo, wealthy families essentially have school choice while poor or single-parent families who cannot relocate to areas with high achieving schools, pay for private schools, or home school their children are stuck with the zoned schools to which they are assigned by their local school board.
Consider this: If there is even one public school anywhere in the State of Georgia that you would not be willing to send your child, aren
't you morally obliged to support Amendment 1?  To do otherwise is to accept that hundreds of children, whose parents don't have the means to live elsewhere, will 'draw the short straw and be forced to attend the troubled school that you would not be willing to send your child.
- Amendment 1 provides an important appeals process to strong charter schools that is viciously opposed by the public school establishment.  School boards, teachers unions, and so-called parent-teacher organizations have shown a willingness to say or do virtually anything to fight Amendment 1.  With the goal of maintaining absolute control over the $14 billion in taxpayer money spent annually on public education in Georgia, these groups have gone to the very edge of violating Georgia law by fighting this initiative using public resources in faculty meetings and in sending fliers home with students to
educate parents with their one-sided view of Amendment 1.  Sadly, classroom teachers who could benefit greatly from the additional options Amendment 1 could provide, have heard the anti-charter message so intensely from their administrators, that it is difficult for them to perceive how Amendment 1 can help both them and their students.  My heart goes out to teachers that they would see the full picture.

(4) What are some of the objections to Amendment 1?
- Opponents say that Amendment 1 will take away scarce dollars from our already underfunded public schools.  This is not only untrue, but to the great surprise of most, the facts are quite the opposite; because only state dollars follow the child to commission charter schools and the roughly 50% of per-student funding that comes from local property taxes stays behind in the local school system (with one less student for the school system to educate) students attending commission charter schools provide a windfall to local school systems by raising the level of per-student funding for the remaining students in the system.  This is the single biggest surprise to those who actually study this issue.  Although commission charters would receive more state dollars than traditional schools, the total funding is much less than what traditional schools receive, making commission charters the most efficient public schools in the State.
- Opponents say Amendment 1 eliminates local control and if people don
't like their schools, they should run for the local school board and change things.  Unfortunately, this not only is beyond the reach of many, but is meaningless to the single mother of five children whose 2nd grader is falling through the cracks of the traditional school system.  In the case of a single mother of five that I know who was abandoned by her husband: she is working two jobs to keep the lights on, cannot afford private school, would struggle greatly to home school, and is $30,000 upside down on her mortgage and thus cannot move to a place where the schools work for her kids.  Can she truly wait until 2014 when her school board Post opens up for election, raise $50,000 to win a school board seat, then personally orchestrate the take-over of 3 other board seats to build a 4 member majority voting block to begin to affect change for her 2nd grader?  The challenge to run for office is insulting to parents like this mother who do not have the means to run but want meaningful public school options that that have never been allowed.
- Opponents contend that Amendment 1 undermines the democratic process by substituting the will of local elected officials with state-level political appointees.  History proves that without an appeals process to overcome the institutional opposition of local school boards, community charter schools will not be available to more than a small percentage of students.  By providing a state-level appeal, a 7-person parent board can be elected by 500 parents from a single school to make all of the decisions normally made by a local school board.  Compare that level of local control to a 7-person Cobb County school board elected by 630,000 citizens to run 112 schools serving 108,000 students?  What provides greater local control to a parent: a charter school authorized by the commission and run by 7 parents at the school level or a county school system where each elected board member answers to 90,000 citizens?
- Opponents say that Amendment 1 is about for-profit businesses gaining access to your tax dollars.  Private educational management companies that are sometimes hired by charter governing boards to bring experience and best practices have been demonized by charter opponents.  Consider one of the educational management companies operating in Georgia; if the 48 schools it operates in five states are looked at as a single school system, they would be the highest performing public school system in America!  Given that these companies are hired and fired at the discretion of the 501(c)(3) charter governing board, there is frankly very little downside to at least giving charter schools the option of bringing in this kind of nationally recognized expertise.  Don
't believe the hype by those flatly opposed to Amendment 1.
- Opponents contend that Amendment 1 is really about the State of Georgia seizing control of public education and creating an unneeded parallel education system.  In funding commission charter schools well below the funding level of traditional public schools ($6,200 vs. 9,000 per student), the legislature
's intent is to make it financially uncomfortable for charter groups to be approved by the commission.  Since the State would prefer local school boards to approve quality charter schools, it has aligned financial incentives to strongly encourage charter groups to work with their local school systems first.  The Amendment 1 appeals process is created for strong charters who cannot gain approval from local school boards openly hostile to choice.
- Opponents contend that a state-level appeals process exists today and that Amendment 1 is not needed.  Any fair-minded analysis would reveal that NO constitutionally viable appeals process exists today for charter petitioners rejected by local school boards.  As outlined in the history paragraph above, given the
exclusive authority finding of the Georgia Supreme Court, the code section relating to appeals that was overlooked both in the lawsuit and in the Court's opinion is, by any estimate, constitutionally doomed the moment it is litigated.  In my view, the fact that licensed educators and elected officials have trumpeted that a viable appeals process exists is a sad display of what the establishment is willing to say to discredit Amendment 1.

In summary, Amendment 1 offers a choice.  It asks Georgia voters to decide if local school boards should have unchecked power or if charter school organizers should have an appeals process at the state-level.  If a convicted murderer in Georgia can appeal the decision of a locally elected judge, why is it that charter school groups cannot appeal the decision of a locally elected school board?  I encourage you to demand the kind of options among our public schools that we demand in every other facet of our lives.  Vote
Yes on Amendment 1 to energize parents by giving them meaningful choices about their child's public education.

Once again, it is truly an honor to serve you.  Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who might be interested and contact me at (770) 420-0520 or if you would like to discuss this or any other issue.

Very Respectfully,

Ed Setzler, Representative
Georgia House of Representatives