Georgia Board of Ed Backs Opportunity School District Takeovers

(Photo: Sierra Club)

(Photo: Sierra Club)

In Georgia, local school boards have been creating resolutions against a constitutional amendment (Amendment 1) that would allow the state to take authority over "failing" schools — but the state board of education has taken the issue into its own hands and has announced that it is for the amendment.

Last week, the Georgia Board of Education voted for the amendment that allows the Opportunity School District, which would be headed by a superintendent appointed by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, to take charge of challenged schools. The OSD, according to the new state law, is "authorized to assume the supervision, management and operation of public elementary and secondary schools [that] have been determined to be failing."

Opportunity for All Georgia Students, Inc. is the biggest supporter of the amendment and quoted the governor as saying the state board is "taking a stand against the failing status quo," writes Ty Tagami of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

At about the same time, Keep Georgia Schools Local declared that members of the board were essentially telling parents that they "support gutting local control of our schools."

The amendment will be voted on by residents of Georgia in the Nov. 8 general election. If it passes, the state will be able to to take over any public school that had a score of below 60 for three years in a row on the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI).

The OSD superintendent would be able to hire or fire teachers and principals and to change schools' curricula, reports the Albany Herald's Terry Lewis.

According to the proposed amendment, fewer than 100 schools would be under the administration of the OSD at any single time. The schools would be required to remain in the OSD for five to ten years. If the school did not improve in that amount of time, they could be closed.

Georgia Sen. Freddie Powell Sims (D-District 12) represents an area that is one of the poorest in the state. She feels that the amendment could give her district;s failing schools a lifeline. Sims said:

"Additionally, this proposed initiative will provide assurance that the needs of students, parents, communities and teachers are met in order to improve academic excellence at all failing schools. The state of Georgia, along with parents, teachers, and the community, will form partnerships to redirect the future of these failing schools by providing more resources and increased flexibility."

Astrid Martinez of WGCL-TV reports that DeKalb County is home to some of the dozens of failing Georgia schools. The district has 26 of 137 schools that scored below 60 on a scale of 0-100 for three succeeding years.

DeKalb County Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green said that all the schools on the failing list are Title I schools, which means these students have educational needs and insufficiencies that go well beyond the classroom.

Leaders in the district say many students are transient, which makes it difficult for them to concentrate on learning. Unfortunately, they are swept up in the struggle their parents face just to make ends meet.

According to school leaders, the state seems to be focusing on whether students are performing at grade level when the young people need to be assessed as to their growth and improvement. Green notes that his district has invested $6 million for tutoring, additional staff, and bonuses for instructors who are willing to take a position in these demanding schools.

The superintendent adds that he is seeing results and would like for the progress that is being made to continue uninterrupted.

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