Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Something Completely Different

Disclaimer: I say these words in the full knowledge of the ass-whipping I will recieve by my friends who are past and future residents of Gwinnett County, Georgia. I may have to suck up my pride and one day live in or near Atlanta, Georgia, but I will never, ever, ever, ever live in Gwinnett County of my own free will, no matter how many times I have to visit people I love who live in that place.

Gwinnett County schools just voted to remove themselves from Georgia's state rules regarding education. Kindof like secession, but different. It still has to be approved by the state, of course, but as Georgia's largest public school system (wow, I did not know that), Gwinnett "Success Lives Here*" County has considerable leverage.

This is interesting news on the education front, as many so many other public school districts consider state takeovers (please see also: Recovery School District, Louisiana & Clayton County schools, Georgia), Gwinnett feels strong enough to submit a plan to the state that grants them nearly total autonomy.

I was wondering how they would do this (they have some fantastic schools and some rougher institutions), then they provided me with the answer without meaning to. The statement also sums up how the charter school movement is truly viewed by Southern public school policymakers:

In exchange, the district would agree to produce results or face penalties. Low performing schools could be transformed into charter schools if goals are not met by a deadline.
Emphasis mine.

Oh. So, Gwinnett will be state-rule-autonomous in exchange for the ability to unload schools of ill repute back to the state as charter schools. Becaue, through all the praises sung about charter schools by policymakers, they are seen as "penalties" on the local level, by the folks who send their kids to good public schools. Riiight. How much do you want to bet those "deadlines" don't come soon enough, and that the "progress" required by said deadlines are impossible to meet?

Bad schools and bad students will become somebody else's problem. That's some real incentive for Gwinnett to really work on those low performing schools and meet those deadlines, isn't it? Like when your neighbor complains about the junk car on your lawn, and makes you a deal that if you don't fix it he'll haul it into his yard at his expense and show you how its done. There's a "you might be a redneck if" joke in there somewhere.

I know y'all think I'm crazy for talking like that, and I'm sure the policymakers have nothing but the "students' interests in mind." I don't know any other places where such conflicts of interest might exist. < / sarcasm >

But I'd bet the populations being served in the low-performing schools will be "sold" on the charter schools as a "better situation" than the schools being run by the "county," right? Because, if this goes into effect, Gwinnett can add an 'average' of one more student per class and save themselves "$30 million." I wonder whose classes will show up at the top of the average aggregator and which ones will show up at the bottom?

Sneaky stuff. All sold under the moniker of 'progress.'

In related news, Jefferson "We Shoot Nutria Here" Parish is finally getting around to addressing that whole "desegregation" thing. It's been on the "to-do" list for a while now.

(* - If you're driving on I-85 through Gwinnett County, there is a large, industrial water tower with the slogan "Success Lives Here" written boldly on the side. I've always wondered if they meant "in Gwinnett County" or just "in this water tower right here.")



Dante said...

Changing the water towers' signs to "Success Lived Here" and "Gwinnett Was Great" would be far more accuratey. These days Jimmy Carter Blvd looks like the subway scene from Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

If I were a resident, I'd probably be against this flexibility business. If the state's guideline's are inadequate, then Gwinnett County should have the pull to get that corrected. Most state policy is geared directly at Gwinnett County and/or the City of Atlanta. This is no different.

A point about one of your arguments: bad students becoming someone else's problem is hardly new. City schools often slag off the troublemakers to the county. The county throwing them at the state isn't really a groundbreaking idea. Chucking the whole school at them is just a large scale version of that.

the lady said...

You assume correctly Patrick, as ass-kicking will be coming. But thanks for the disclaimer for me!!!