Monthly Archives: September 2012

John Konop And How The Charter School Amendment Fails To Protect Tax Payers.

By Cherokee businessman John Konop

Dear Mr. Geist,

According to a recent newspaper article, it seems you are still very confused about why you’re getting so much negative feedback about the lack of fiscal controls in the charter school amendment that you support. I will once again clarify the issues by explaining how the Cherokee Charter Academy (CCA) was funded and how the current charter school amendment fails protect tax payers.

• CCA’s owner/operators (a private company) were given over $1million of taxpayer money as start-up capital.

• CCA’s owner/operators receive a management contract that pays them close to $1 million a year (a rate that is higher on a percentage basis than what Cherokee County currently spends on our public schools). These funds are above and beyond the additional, regular operating money that charter schools receive from the school district.

• CCA’s owner/operators were not required to purchase a guaranteed bond (a form of insurance) that pays the school district in the event the CCA closes midyear (and dumps over 1,000 students back into the system).

If the CCA goes out of business — which looks increasingly likely — its owner/operators get to keep the $1 million start-up capital (and/or whatever assets they bought with it) and have no liabilities. You supported giving a private company over a million dollars, guaranteed profit, and NO downside risk.

This is a terrible deal for taxpayers. You should NOT support forcing taxpayers to capitalize private companies or give them no-obligation government contracts. As a public school board member, your duty is to protect the school’s assets, not look for creative ways to squander them.

The taxpayers of Cherokee County have already been burned with similar deals. For example, we may lose $50 million that went to fund a private recycler that went bust (leaving taxpayers again holding the bag). As you well know, taxpayers across the country have already lost massive amounts of money in poorly structured charter schools deals. For the record, I support charter schools and believe they play an important and positive role in our education system. What I do not support is officeholders like you that make foolish and emotional decisions with taxpayer money.

In closing, Mr. Geist, here are some questions that the taxpayers of Cherokee County would like your answers to:

•Please list all the other school district services that a vendor can perform where taxpayers provide free start-up capital and guaranteed revenue, all with no penalty for failure to perform. Assuming you can’t provide such a list, why did you support the private owner/operators of the Cherokee Charter Academy receiving such a deal?

• Why do you support a charter amendment that does not include the taxpayer protections needed to prevent CCA-like deals from happening again?

Regards,

John Konop

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Filed under Charter Schools, Georgia Education

Opponents of Charter Schools Amendment Say Backers Are Bullying, Silencing Them

By Wayne Washington

Opponents of a proposed charter schools constitutional amendment say supporters of the amendment are using “bullying and intimidation” in an effort to shut down debate on the topic. Supporters say they are not, and there is no secret campaign to squelch debate about the amendment.

Those lined up against the proposed amendment, which would guarantee the state’s power to authorize and fund charter schools, say amendment supporters persuaded the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce to drop its opposition. Amendment opponents also claim the amendment supporters pushed Gwinnett Technical College to cancel a planning meeting opponents were scheduled to hold there Thursday.

The Georgia School Boards Association, the Georgia School Superintendents Association and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, which all oppose the proposed amendment, released a joint statement Thursday decrying what the groups said were efforts to silence opposition.

“We are deeply concerned about the smear campaign already under way against the public schools of Georgia,” the statement read.

Officials from those groups and other opponents say the proposed amendment would lead to the creation of more charter schools, whose funding would threaten the funding of traditional public schools. Backers say the amendment would clarify the state’s role in authorizing charter schools and open a new avenue for the consideration of charter school applications.

Gov. Nathan Deal, who supports the proposed amendment, touted it during a speech to the Gwinnett chamber last week. Days later, the chamber announced it was dropping its opposition and canceling an event it was planning to hold to raise money for opposition efforts.

Opponents of the proposed amendment say Deal was behind Gwinnett Tech’s decision not to host an anti-amendment planning meeting Thursday. But Deal’s spokesman, Brian Robinson, said the governor had nothing to do with that decision.

“Anybody who says otherwise is either ignorant of the facts or overtly fabricating,” Robinson said, adding he believes the decision had more to do with “a dispute between these groups and legislators.”

There have been whispers that members of the Gwinnett County legislative delegation threatened to withhold funding from Gwinnett Tech if it hosted the planning meeting.

Mike Light, spokesman for the Technical College System of Georgia, said the governor was not involved in the decision not to host the meeting. And he also denied the school’s funding was threatened. Light also said the school is not part of a campaign to suppress discussion of the amendment. Gwinnett Tech canceled the meeting, Light said, because Ron Jackson, commissioner of the technical college system, told the school’s president not to get involved in the charter issue.

“This is not a TCSG issue, and we do not want to insert our colleges into the debate, nor do we wish to have that perception,” Light said.

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Filed under Georgia Education