An Explanation of Bibb County Choices for System of Flexibility

Charles Richardson confirmed yet again why he received an F in my evaluation of editorials in Georgia newspapers. Today he complains that the decision has already been made about the choice of organizational structure the Bibb district must choose and then proceeds to complain that no one has explained to the community how they differ. I suppose the fact that many other districts in the state chose long ago escaped him. I also suppose the irony that instead of writing his usual whinatorial blowing hot air, he could have instead chosen to explain how they differed himself as other newspapers in the state have done. It appears that writing more than a few paragraphs a week for Charles is too daunting of a task so let me help him out and do his job yet again.

It is not only Bibb but all districts in Georgia that need to pick their operational system. The main differences are how much funding a school will get and how they are governed. The state is requiring  Georgia’s school districts to declare a “system of flexibility option” by July 1, 2015, or risk defaulting to what is referred to as a “status quo” system.

Georgia districts have a big financial incentive to pursue either charter status or IE2. They can reject either option, but doing so and choosing “status quo” may cause them to lose money-saving waivers that have allowed them to exceed state caps on class sizes and cut attendance calendars below the minimum 180 days. The waivers, popular during the recession, are still used in most of Georgia’s 180 districts as a way to balance budgets.

Gwinnett County schools, Georgia’s biggest district, chose IE2 in 2009. Fulton, Georgia’s fourth-largest district, is in the third year of its charter system. It is the biggest school system in the state to get that status. Dublin City schools Superintendent Chuck Ledbetter said since moving to a charter system the district’s high school graduation rate has improved, it’s led to greater community involvement and a number of large companies have moved into the Dublin area. The school system is going into its fourth year as a charter system. The DeKalb County School System has already announced it plans to become a charter system. Others, like the Atlanta Public Schools, are still deciding. Currently, Georgia has 28 charter systems and 3 districts operating under the IE2 model.

This is not rocket science Mr. Richardson. There is plenty of information out there for anyone interested in learning more. It is clear that the status quo model is the least attractive. Between Charter and IE2, I personally like the flexibility of charter schools. Charters also only have to contract with the local BOE while IE2 has contractual relationship with the state and the local BOE adding a level of additional red tape.

A more detailed and easy to understand PDF from the Georgia Department of Education can be found here. Scroll towards the end and they also have a good list of frequently asked questions. If Mr. Richardson was unable to get his answers from this comprehensive PDF, perhaps he should look towards the man in the mirror for his inability to understand the choices offered.

I copied a few bullet points and key differences from the PDF below.

Charter

This is the most dramatic shift from the way traditional school districts operate. Under charter systems, districts gain complete flexibility from state mandates, but they also need a local governing council in addition to district school boards. Districts also have to agree to performance goals. Charter system is a serious commitment and a big change. In charter systems, officials must re-engineer central offices to support decision-making by local school governance councils.

Governance- Under charter the governor’s office isn’t involved. The school System must provide each school with school-level governance and decision making over budgets, programs, personnel and/or innovation

Funding– Possible savings through flexibility. Regular QBE funding with more local expenditure controls. Possible $100 per student in Charter Systems. School System must state if and how broad flexibility permitted by the Charter Schools Act will be utilized

Contract Term– Initial term of contract is for 5 years, with few exceptions. Subsequent contract term may range from 5 to 10 years if the charter contract goals are met

Performance – Petition must include student performance measures at least above state averages. GaDOE submits annual report to State Board of Education and Georgia General Assembly. System and schools must meet all federal and state accountability measures.

Consequences-Termination or non-renewal of charter. School system becomes a Status Quo school.

Status Quo

Governance– Under Status Quo, things remain the same and the district continues to be governed by the local school board.

Funding– Regular QBE funding

Performance – System and schools must meet all federal and state accountability measures

Contract Term- N/A

Consequences- Must be all federal and state accountability measures including implementing consequence if school system does not make AYP.

IE2

Governance- Under IE2, BIbb County would have a performance contract with the State Board of Education. Plus, the Governors Office of Student Achievement will establish the districts academic goals based on test scores. School System may maximize school level governance by granting local schools authority to determine how to reach goals.

Funding- under IE2, the district could get some savings because of waivers, like increasing class sizes so additional teachers don’t have to be hired.  Possible savings through flexibility. Regular QBE funding with more local school system expenditure controls

School System seeks waivers – must include at least one of the following:

• class size;

• expenditure control;

• certification;
• salary schedule

Contract Term- 5 year Contract Term

  • Initial term of contract is for 5 years
  • Contract may be renewed if contract performance goals are met for at least three consecutive years

Consequences- Loss of governance of non-performing schools. Conversion to charter schools; operation by another school system; operation by private or non-profit entity

 

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