Friday, October 28, 2016

GA: Ed Consultant Slams Takeover Amendment

In Georgia, reformsters are pushing hard for Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment that would institute a state-level takeover district, modeled after the pioneering Achievement School District in Tennessee.

Dr. David K. Lerch is a Georgia resident and ran his own educational consulting firm for over three decades. He has worked all over the country, writing grants and overseeing programs (e.g. Pueblo hired him to evaluate their STEM programs).

Lerch has presumably seen plenty in the ed  field; he earned his Master's Degree in Public School Administration from the University of Virginia back in 1967. By 1984 he was forming the National Association of Magnet School Development and was touting magnets as a path to desegregation and what we now call educational equity. He was also saying the kinds of things that charter fans would chime in on decades later:

Parents want neighborhood schools until they find a program they support and then they will send a child halfway across the county if the education program is attractive.

Lerch now works for the Juliana Group, Inc, a Savannah-based business that specializes in selling furniture for Montessori schools. 

In short, Lerch is not a long-time hard-core supporter for traditional public education. However, when a letter-writer to the Savannah Morning News wrote to warn against Amendment 1, Lerch felt moved to back her up. 

I can add some first-hand experiences validating her timely concern about what will happen with the loss of local control of schools and the resulting loss of millions of state and federal revenue.
I served as a consultant to school districts in two states, Louisiana and Michigan, where the governors set up takeover districts identical to that proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal. 

The legislative amendment in Louisiana’s constitution (Recovery School District) provided for the same type of state control. While I was working with East Baton Rouge Parish School District, the state took over Istrouma High School, operated it for five years and returned it to the district without students showing any measurable academic success. 

Then the school board had to spend over a $21 million of local funds to repair the facility.
I also worked with Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority (EAA), which was set up by Governor Snyder as a model of Louisiana’s Recovery School District. 

I helped them obtain a $35 million federal grant for teacher training and support in 15 of 60 schools that were scheduled for operation by EAA. After only four years of state control, and massive evidence of EAA’s failure cited by education experts and the federal government monitoring their grant, Governor Snyder decided to shut down the agency and turn EAA’s schools into charter schools. 

Those two failures are, of course, on top of the failure of Tennessee's ASD. (see here, here and here). And just in case you have doubts:

Why anyone would duplicate a state controlled takeover district that has proven to be a failure in two states is beyond belief. If you don’t believe the controversy caused by the takeover districts similar to OSD, read the February 2016 document “State Takeover of Low-Performing Schools – A Record of Academic Failure, Financial Mismanagement & Student Harm.” 

It is available on the Internet and will shake you to the core about Amendment 1. 

He's correct. That report is available on the internet, and it is yet more evidence that state-run takeover turnaround districts have failed-- and not just marginally, but spectacularly and totally-- every time they have been attempted. Georgia has ample evidence and ample warning. Here's hoping that Georgia voters get the message.

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