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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Nearly 750 charter schools are whiter than nearby district schools

Nearly 750 charter schools are whiter than nearby district schools

Nearly 750 charter schools are whiter than the nearby district schools
Loose laws let scores of charters create policies that favor white students

GREENSBORO, Ga. — This was clearly no ordinary public school.

Parents of prospective students converged on Lake Oconee Academy for an open house on a bright but unseasonably cold March afternoon for northern Georgia. A driveway circling a landscaped pond led them to the school’s main hall. The tan building had the same luxury-lodge feel as the nearby Ritz-Carlton resort. Parents oohed and aahed as Jody Worth, the upper school director, ushered them through the campus. Nestled among gated communities, golf courses and country clubs, the school felt like an oasis of opportunity in a county of haves and have-nots, where nearly half of all children live in poverty while others live in multimillion-dollar lakeside houses.

The school’s halls and classrooms are bright and airy, with high ceilings and oversize windows looking out across the lush landscape. There is even a terrace on which students can work on warm days. After a guide pointed out several science labs, the tour paused at the “piano lab.” The room holds 25 pianos, 10 of them donated by residents of the nearby exclusive communities. The guide also noted that starting in elementary school, all students take Spanish, art and music classes. The high school, which enrolls less than 200 students, has been able to offer as many as 17 Advanced Placement courses.

Stunned, one mother, who was considering moving her family from suburban Atlanta to the area, asked how the school could afford it all. Lake Oconee’s amenities are virtually unheard of in rural Georgia; and because it is a public school, they are all available at the unbeatable price of free.

“It’s where districts and schools decide to spend their money,” Worth, a veteran educator who has also taught in Greene County’s traditional public schools, explained. “Some schools spend their money on overhead. We spend it on students.”

Conspicuously absent from the open house were African-American parents. Of the dozen or so prospective families in attendance, all were white except for one South Asian couple.

At Lake Oconee Academy, 73 percent of students are white. Down the road at Greene County’s other public schools, 12 percent of students Continue reading: Nearly 750 charter schools are whiter than nearby district schools

Walmart Pay to Play: Walton heirs' groups deny role in Georgia governor's race

Walmart heirs' groups deny role in Georgia governor's race

Walmart Pay to Play:  Walton heirs' groups deny role in Georgia governor's race

Representatives of the Walmart company heirs deny any involvement in the Georgia governor’s race after a candidate was secretly recorded saying he backed a school choice law because campaign money from the family’s non-profit foundation was at stake.

Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle admits making the remarks that surfaced in the past week. His campaign issued a statement Friday calling it “old news” that stemmed from a “purely political conversation” Cagle had in his campaign office. Cagle is heard saying he supported a bill in the recent legislative session expanding tax credit vouchers for private schools because millions of dollars in Walton foundation money were at stake in the gubernatorial race.

“The words that Casey used in that secret recording do not reflect his feelings about the legislation that passed. He was a strong supporter and led to pass it,” said Scott Binkley, his campaign manager.

Cagle faces Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in a July 24 runoff vote for the Republican nomination for governor. Both Republican and Democrat officials in the state who support Cagle’s rivals have called for an investigation. State campaign finance reports show Cagle hasn’t received money from Walton family members for his gubernatorial campaign.

The Walton family — through personal campaign contributions, their non-profit private foundation and a political affiliate group — are leading supporters of the charter school movement in America. Charter schools are run privately but get public dollars to educate students whose families choose to enroll them there instead of traditional neighborhood schools. The Waltons are also prominent supporters of giving scholarship vouchers funded by tax credits to students going to private schools.

The foundation is a private non-profit that is legally forbidden from wading into partisan politics because it does its work using tax-exempted dollars. Foundation spokeswoman Daphne Moore said in a statement: “As is the case with any other  Continue Reading:Walmart heirs' groups deny role in Georgia governor's race