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Atlanta’s Public Schools: Wedged Open to Slickly-Maneuvered, Mayoral Control

July 10, 2018

It seems that newly-elected Atlanta mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, is trying to create a situation in which Atlanta’s public schools experience back-door, mayoral control.

On July 09, 2018, Bottoms announced the selection of a “chief education officer” to, as the Atlanta Voice reports, “work in partnership with Atlanta Public Schools and community leaders.”


Keisha Lance Bottoms

Bottoms indicated her intent to appoint a schools CEO, though she acknowledges in this March 2018 Southern Online interview that “the city” (in other words, Bottoms herself) “might not have control over the public schools” but that there are ways to foster control, only Bottoms doesn’t say it quite that way:

How do you hope to work with the school district in the city, given that the city does not have direct control over public schools in Atlanta?

  The city might not have control over the public schools, but there are ample opportunities for the city to prioritize the resources it does control in a way that is supportive of the school system and to improve coordination with the schools on issues of mutual interest. [Emphasis added]

One way that Mayor Bottoms is controlling the situation is by her having kept the search for her ed CEO “confidential,” as noted in this Diversified Search job description for said CEO, complete with the following note on page one:

Much of this material contained herein is gained in confidence and as such
should be regarded as confidential. Accordingly, it is understood that
dissemination of this material should be limited to those individuals in your
organization who are directly connected with this specific search or whom
a reasonable person would agree have a need to know.

Note that the mayor’s ed CEO will “create and manage” an advisory board, which looks a lot like an attempt to create a parallel system, perhaps in hopes that it might one day be the “new” system there to replace the “old,” non-mayor-controlled, publicly-elected, Atlanta Public School Board.


The Chief Education Officer will develop and implement a comprehensive program that aligns Mayor Bottoms’ strategic priorities in support of Atlanta Public Schools’ adopted Five-Year Strategic Plan to improve access to quality education for residents of the City of Atlanta. The Chief Education Officer will report through the Chief of Staff to the Mayor of The City of Atlanta and serve as a member of the Mayor’s Cabinet.


  • Support the Mayor’s vision for One Atlanta and encourage partnerships and cross-functional alliances in the education community.
  • Improve coordination with stakeholders such as community service providers, business community and higher education community to push for best policies and resources to benefit Atlanta’s students.
  • Create and manage a Mayor’s Education Advisory Board.
  • Explore viability of a citywide Children’s Savings Account Program for each child entering kindergarten to help put college or other future opportunities within reach.
  • Partner with key areas to ensure the sidewalks, streetlights and other safety measures near schools are top priority in infrastructure investment and public safety programs.
  • Oversee efforts on behalf of the City to work directly with communities to improve access to quality education throughout Atlanta.
  • Convene local industry leaders, public schools, community colleges and universities to develop career-preparatory workforce training targeting Atlanta’s unique private-sector strengths: film and entertainment production; smart technology; and construction.
  • Lead cost analysis to determine appropriate City funds to allocate to expanding early education programs.
  • Encourage Partnerships and cross-functional alliances in the education community.

A familiar tactic of market-based ed reform is to create a second system in order to force the first system out, and the above “responsibilities” listing is “second system” etching.

Bottoms’ selected ed CEO is Teach for America (TFA) alum, Aliya Bhatia, whose longest job stint (3.5 years) was as a business consultant and whose latest job (13 months) was with ed business, Purpose Built Schools, which means she is par for the course as far as market-based ed reformers go: light on classroom experience and top-heavy on advising/consulting/working glossy, education wonders from above in the span of a gnat’s life.


Aliya Bhatia

In Bhatia, Bottoms is not looking for an advisor or a communications liaison. She’s looking for a CEO, a means to control Atlanta’s educational landscape that happens to also wedge open a door to divesting the Atlanta school board of its authority.

Heads up, Atlanta. Your public-school-board door has just been wedged.



Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Charters, TFA

  1. Trentonteacher permalink

    Watch out, Atlanta. Your school board president, attorney Jason Esteves, is a former TFA “educator” and may be very agreeable to “collabrating” with the city’s new mayor. Will there be transparency in the mayor’s plans?

  2. Ed Johnson permalink

    My “Atlanta Mayor’s first-ever Chief Education Officer, an alum of TFA and BCG,” at…

  3. Christine Langhoff permalink

    After ousting Superintendent Tommy Chang on June 28th, Boston’s mayor Marty Walsh on July 2 installed a superintendent who lacks any background whatsoever in education. Walsh already exerts great control over the school system and appointed a cabinet level officer, Rahn Dorsey, as Chief of Education in 2014. Walsh also appoints the School Committee, which has not been elected since 1993.

    Prior to his election, Walsh was one of the founders of a charter school. During his tenure he has repeatedly slashed the school budget, at a time when Boston is flush with new revenues due to an unprecedented increase in construction of apartment buildings and condos. Walsh is the former head of the building trades union.

    Laura Perille, the new superintendent, is the current CEO of EdVestors, an umbrella organization for charteristas, privatizers, reformsters and hedge funders. One of the prominent investors is billionaire Seth Klarman. Klarman was one of the contributors to the dark money which funded the failed referendum to remove the charter cap in Massachusetts, known as Question 2, for which Families for Excellent Schools, FES, was banned from the state for four years and fined all its cash on hand. Klarman also hold $92 million of Puerto Rico’s debt. The Baupost group is also Klarman, while The Barr Foundation and The Boston Foundation are also well known privatizers.

    The qualifications to be superintendent in Massachusetts are fairly stringent, requiring, first, experience as a teacher. To earn a professional superintendent’s license, one must complete a one-year induction program with a trained mentor, and then work three years under an initial license as an assistant superintendent. As a condition of her employment, Perille must obtain a waiver within 90 days.

    It seems likely that BESE will grant this extraordinary waiver. Paul Sagan, Chair of BESE, also contributed nearly $600,000 to FES in an effort to allow the proliferation of charters. Sagan is appointed by Governor Charlie Baker, who too campaigned in favor of the charter cap, using the State House as a backdrop for its rally. Since the ignomious 2:1 defeat of Question 2, the privatizers has been ardently searching for a backdoor to urban systems. Once there is a waiver granted for Boston, the largest and most complex school system in the state, it will be easy to install non-educators in positions all over the state, though not, of course in the leafy suburbs where the privatizers themselves send their progeny to school.

  4. Trentonteacher permalink

    Atlanta Board of Education is rife with TFA grads. Going back to 2013 : “What you have is TFA refining a strategy of trying to control school systems,” said Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, a charter school critic who has backed three non-TFA candidates. “It seems to me they ought to be up front about what they are trying to do. These folks are committing themselves to teaching, but when you see their agenda of electing and controlling school systems by using money and misdirection, it is something voters in Atlanta ought to be concerned about.”

  5. A nail on the head description of the teacher-factory “caring” teacher: “…par for the course as far as market-based ed reformers go: light on classroom experience and top-heavy on advising/consulting…” Very few years in the classroom under non-traditional conditions, then years of selling that few years as a reason to be hired at consultant prices.

  6. Linda permalink

    CBS This Morning is launching a new series, Education in America. They are seeking “to speak with people working to reform the system”. The CBS website has a form for comment and they provided an email address, I presume the program is a vehicle to propagandize for those who want to profit off of the children of the middle class and poor. Therefore, there’s every reason for the program’s developers to be inundated with the truth, submitted via comments from supporters of public schools

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