Byrd, Collins Responses to APN’s APS BOE Questionnaire
(APN) ATLANTA — In the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education District 6 seat, candidates Dell Byrd and Eshe Collins are in a Run-off.
APN attempted to reached out to Byrd during the General Election by email and phone. However, an email to her email address, as listed on the City’s qualifying list, was returned; and her phone number led to an automated system.
Collins did immediately respond to a voicemail from APN early in the campaign season, but did send an email to APN in the late summer. APN sent Collins a copy of the questionnaire. She responded after the deadline, and we chose not to publish the questionnaire after we had already begun publishing early endorsements in APS races.
APN reported over the summer regarding Collins’s connection with Teach for America, which has a sister political organization that is pushing its TFA alums to run for office. The story–about Collins and three other TFA alums running for APS BOE–eventually got picked up by a Washington Post education blog. TFA’s model is generally consistent with privatization, and many former TFA’ers are at the heart of the pro-charter school movement.
To date, two of the four TFA alums have been elected or reelected, including Matt Westmoreland (District 3) and Courtney English. Meanwhile, Collins–as well as Jason Esteves in Seat 9–are in Run-offs.
Byrd has been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers.
Collins has been endorsed by the Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s PAC, Continue Atlanta’s Progress; by former Mayor of Atlanta Shirley Franklin; and by the Buckhead Coalition.
APN endorsed Anne McKenzie in the General Election.
Following the General Election, APN re-opened the questionnaire response period for any Run-off candidate whose questionnaire had not previously been published.
In recent days, APN was able to reach Byrd; and we already had Collins’s unpublished responses. Both Byrd and Collins’s responses to the questionnaire are published below:
(1) If you had been on the Board in 2010, when the so-called Gang of Five voted to change the rules regarding how to oust a Chair, and then ousted LaChandra Butler Burks as Chair, would you have supported the initial rule change? Yes or no, why or why not?
BYRD: I would not have supported the initial rule change because it would have violated the Charter, which is designed to prevent elected officials from carrying out their own wills.
COLLINS: On its face, the abrupt action to change the rules, regarding the removal of the Board Chair, raises more questions about the true motivation behind its necessity. I wouldn’t support any action that would jeopardize the accreditation and stability of our school district. I would have done everything to get to the bottom of a scandal that robbed thousands of our children from their right to a quality education.
(a) What is your overall position on charter schools?
BYRD: I am for any and all education as long as its equal and equitable; however, I am a product and advocate of public education.
COLLINS: Every parent wants a great education for their children. I support all of our public schools and think that great public school choices should be available to all our kids. We should learn from schools that have had success – including public charter schools – and use those lessons to bring real and meaningful improvement to our district’s public schools.
(b) Do you have any concerns about charter schools; if so, what are they?
BYRD: One concern that I have with charter schools is the impact they will have on public schools by taking away students, and in turn, funding from public schools that are already doing without.
COLLINS: Although charter schools have an open enrollment process, there is a perception of selectivity that raises concerns about charter schools. Whether it is through student admission process or parental involvement guidelines, charter schools must be held accountable for ensuring that admission is open to every child.
(c) Do you believe APS, or any district within APS, is already unduly oversaturated with charter schools?
BYRD: I cannot say for certain if APS schools are “unduly oversaturated” but, I have witnessed an increase in charter schools in the city of Atlanta recently.
COLLINS: Although, Atlanta has the most charter schools than any other district in the state, 13% of Atlanta Public Schools are charter schools. The district has worked diligently to maintain a fair and balanced approach to charter schools. However, improving the quality of our traditional schools must remain as our top priority.
(d) In what circumstances, if any, would you vote against a charter school application? [If an incumbent, please note any votes in which you did oppose a charter school application.]
BYRD: I will vote against a charter school application when it is the will of my constituents.
COLLINS: A charter school application would lack my support if, after careful review, does not meet the criteria set forth in the Board’s Policy on Charter Schools, which includes an innovative curriculum that drives high student achievement and a well-defined plan for addressing the needs (academic and non-academic) of students in need of remediation and students with disabilities, homeless and gifted students, as well as does not have the support of the community at-large.