Georgia’s kids continue to get the short end of the stick — or should I say “stripper pole” — when it comes to education. Charter schools in Georgia have grown in popularity in recent years because of conservatives’ push to privatize everything at the expense of the state’s most vulnerable students. Now, the conservative “solution” to our education problems is costing Georgians more than they bargained for.
The Latin Academy was a charter school in Atlanta. It purported to give students living in underprivileged areas an opportunity to succeed. It was ranked in the top 25 percent of all Atlanta middle schools. The school’s founder, Christopher Clemons, was a businessman with an MBA from MIT who garnered the trust of those around him.
Clemons ended up stealing $600,000 of taxpayer money to pay for his extravagant lifestyle and extra-curricular activities at strip clubs. He was living the high life with money meant to educate Georgia’s students. And a similar scandal will probably happen again with Gov. Deal’s school takeover plan.
From the AJC:
A $12,000 charge at a strip club. Thousands of dollars spent at Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead. ATM withdrawals of hundreds of dollars at a time.
The charges to Atlanta’s Latin Academy Charter School should have raised eyebrows. For the top state education officials and corporate executives on the school’s board, they should have set off earsplitting sirens.
Instead, the charges continued for years, siphoning more than $600,000 in taxpayer dollars that should have been spent on students.
Charter schools are run by for-profit corporations which mean they have little, if any government oversight. Yet, these schools receive taxpayer funding as if they were public schools. People naturally assume that the money is being used for good — school supplies, teachers’ wages, subsidized lunches, etc., but the reality is often far more sinister.
Like Wal-Mart, General Motors or BP, charter school corporations have one motive: profit. And in the case of The Latin Academy, even profit wasn’t enough to satiate the greed of its founder Christopher Clemons.
Deal is proposing to take over schools that he deems “failing” and put an education czar that he appoints in charge of the schools. This means more charter schools with no oversight from parents, teachers, local school officials or taxpayers. More people like Clemons will be in charge of our kids’ future and there won’t be anything we can do about it. Parents will just have to wait for a scandal to break to find out how funds are actually being used.
Georgia politicians need to start worrying about our kids instead of trying to help their friends get rich. We need to invest more into the future of our state. We need to make sure all our schools are doing well instead of condemning them and sending the “lucky ones” to charter schools.
This November, when it comes time to vote on Gov. Deal’s school takeover plan, tell the governor and his for-profit charter buddies that we won’t allow another Christopher Clemons to rob Georgia students of an education.