Deal Proposes New Orleans-Style Takeover Plan in Georgia

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Georgia could be added to the list of states that are authorized to take over failing schools if a proposal by Governor Nathan Deal is accepted.

The plan would hold the superintendent, appointed by the governor, accountable for selecting up to 20 schools in the state deemed to be failing each year, and then choose whether to turn them into charter schools, close them, or to overhaul the management.

Deal announced the proposal and a trip to New Orleans with lawmakers and State Superintendent Richard Woods.  Deal used the city as his prime example of state intervention in struggling schools, although Democrats in Georgia are beginning to question if the availability of donations and teachers following Hurricane Katrina would be repeated in Georgia, writes C.L. Abercrombie for The Gainesville Times.

A list of schools that may be eligible was compiled by Deal’s office using three years’ worth of student test scores in addition to other measures.

Two of the three schools located in Dooly County were present on the list.  While the newly hired Superintendent Julie Harrelson does not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to fixing the schools, she approved the new perspective.

“I don’t take it defensively,” Harrelson said. “I just want our kids to be successful, so if we need someone with fresh eyes with some authority that I don’t have, I welcome them.”

Meanwhile, other administrators feel they are making progress on their own, although they would appreciate the financial aid from the state as education spending was drastically cut after the recession hit.

Deal would need to receive the approval of two-thirds of state lawmakers in order to pass a constitutional amendment and put the question before voters in 2016, reports Alicia Patterson for WJCL.

According to Republican Rep. Mike Dudgeon of Johns Creek, there is “strong support” for the proposal, although some GOP lawmakers do not agree with the removal of the local education board’s authority.

“The state is sending at least half the money (to schools) so having a check and balance when it’s very clear the locals are not doing the job, I’m comfortable with that,” Dudgeon, vice chair of the House Education committee, said.

Meanwhile, Deal has questioned the motives of those who do not support the effort and has challenged them to present an alternative.

“I ask them ‘Are you really more concerned about the adults who may be affected by these changes or are you more concerned about the outcome in the lives of the children?’” Deal said.

Senate Democrats plan to issue their own plan later this week.  The details of the plan have not been made public yet.