Will Georgia suffer voter’s remorse if Opportunity School District passes?

Men draped in European Union flags were among the tens of thousands this weekend demonstrating against Britain’s vote to leave the union. (Andrew Testa/The New York Times)

The day after approving England’s exit from the European Union, many voters in that country resorted to Internet searches to figure out what the EU was and what it actually did. I suspect we’ll see similar Googling after the November election in which Georgia voters are likely to approve Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District.

Because Georgia voters won’t get any clues about the OSD from the kindly referendum wording they’ll find on their ballots: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

That benign ballot question doesn’t make clear the OSD will be able to forcibly come into a district, take over a school and reconfigure it. Nor does that deliberately vague ballot language reveal the proposed OSD is most closely aligned with a state takeover model in Tennessee, which has met with community opposition and failed to improve academic outcomes.

At a recent education conference, Vanderbilt University researcher Gary Henry discussed his evaluation of the Tennessee Achievement District, telling reporters, “We’re just not seeing the data that this is helping kids.”

Georgia has a history of jumping on education bandwagons, even if those wagons appear to be losing their wheels and barreling toward a cliff. It’s understandable Deal and the General Assembly want to improve school quality. The pace of economic change today demands an agile workforce that is not only competent, but capable of learning new and sophisticated skills quickly. That requires an education beyond a high school diploma.

But state leaders have chosen contradictory paths to reform. On one hand, they imposed a 2015 deadline for all Georgia districts to pick a flexibility plan to foster greater innovation; districts had to reinvent themselves as some form of charter (system charter, system of charter clusters or system of charter schools) or what’s called “Investing in Educational Excellence” system, or IE2.

Most districts were in the early stages of using this newly granted flexibility when Deal announced his OSD proposal. Statewide, 127 schools are eligible for state takeover based on test scores, down from 139 last year. About half are in metro Atlanta. DeKalb County has the most with 28; Atlanta has 22, including some that have closed or will be merged or closed next year. Fulton County has 10 schools, while three of the eligible schools are state-approved charters.

As Atlanta Public Schools school chief Meria Carstarphen said in a meeting with the AJC, “The state gives us mixed guidance. They tell us you have to choose a flexibility model and then tell us you are a state takeover site.”

When districts complained about his state takeover idea, Deal told them, “What’s your idea? If you have no idea, you’re saying you’re satisfied with having failing schools in Georgia.”

But, in fact, many districts are putting new ideas in place to improve their schools, most notably Atlanta and DeKalb. Both have new, high-energy superintendents who are reorganizing and re-invigorating their schools, and Carstarphen and DeKalb’s Steve Green deserve the opportunity to stay the course for a while without state intrusion.

If Deal wants to fix education, he ought to start with a program already controlled by the state — annual Milestones testing. Georgia is one of four states that experienced significant testing glitches two years in a row.

In fact, voters ought to Google “Georgia testing problems” before the November election. It may sour them on the OSD, no matter how sweetly worded the referendum question appears on the ballot.

Reader Comments 0

41 comments
jgperez
jgperez

What's wrong with a Republican Governor taking over education from parents and local school boards? 

Next thing you know Deal is going to be accused of not knowing the first thing about education, instead of being a world-class expert.


And quit bellyaching about the wording. I mean, what's the difference between "intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance" and "empowering the Governor to take away control of school from local schools and give it to himself if he feels like it?"

DougH2
DougH2

Government on the cheap doesnt work. Bring in the tax revenue necessay to run the state and the schools and things will get better. Tax cuts for those at the top haven't helped.

trifecta_
trifecta_

Parents with children trapped in failing neighborhood schools won't be among the smug, anti-reform crowd pretending here that change is a dirty word.

Or that voters are being bamboozled into it.

marney
marney

So glad my youngest child is graduating high school next year...


I know that sounds uncaring, but it has taken a lot out of me to get them both successfully through 13 years of public education in DeKalb.    I am beyond jaded.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The state already has legislation that allows intervention. All they have to do is have a well thought out plan and strategy. Problem is-they don't, as far as I can tell, AND the current interventions do not allow the state to turn the schools over to for profit charter entities.


O.C.G.A. 20-14-41 (2010)

20-14-41. Appropriate levels of intervention for failing schools; master or management team; school improvement team; annual reports; data revision; hearing 


(a) The State Board of Education shall by policies, rules, or regulations establish a coherent and sustained system of assistance and support for schools not meeting identified levels of achievement or not showing specified levels of progress as determined by the office. The State Board of Education shall by policies, rules, or regulations specify appropriate levels of assistance and intervention for schools that receive an unacceptable rating on student performance for the absolute student achievement standard or on progress on improved student achievement. In specifying levels of assistance and intervention, the State Board of Education shall consider the number of years a school has received an unacceptable rating and may include one or more of the following interventions:
http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2010/title-20/chapter-14/article-2/part-3/20-14-41

Astropig
Astropig

As usual,the media and shallow thinking sheep draw the wrong conclusions from events.


Brexit happened because large economic issues that had not been addressed by the status quo gained a logic and momentum all their own.The people that pushed through to victory were considered a political fringe group not that long ago.Then one day,the country woke up and that "fringe" group had changed history.Britain could have avoided what happened last month if bureaucrats had honestly listened to and acknowledged the resentment of the working class there on issues that affect quality of life and job security.Thus it is in education here in Georgia.The media,the fossilized remnants of the old eduacracy and other assorted hangers-on are having conniptions because the OSD looks like it will pass.Just getting it on the ballot can be considered something of a moral victory,after seeing the coalition of self interested status quo mugwumps that opposed it.Now (like Brexit), those "elites" have to defend their inaction in the face of their obvious failure to deliver even an adequate education to kids that desperately need it. Local school boards are not mentioned in the article above,but they have sat by for years and even decades while some of these schools have gotten worse and worse.Where is their responsibility?  Why are they not being called to account? (Answer-because the governor is a Republican and those school boards are Democrats).


The governor has had his say.

The legislature has had its say.


Why can't the people have their say?

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Astropig Cliff, I was wondering how long it would take before you got your propaganda statement out. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@JBBrown1968 @Astropig

Astro is for larger government, more state control instead of local control, and higher taxes - all components of the OSD. 

Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian @JBBrown1968 @Astropig


Nope. I'm for school kids. They have no one to speak up for them in these failing schools and I'm proud that our governor is doing that.


Hate all you want, I'm for the OSD.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian @JBBrown1968


Describing your stance as pro big government, less local control, and higher taxes is not an emotion - it is a simple statement of the facts. You may be comfortable with that or not. 

Beth Day
Beth Day

Thank you for continuing to write about OSD. Please continue! VOTE NO TO OSD.

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

May everyone out there enjoy this day......a day we have for celebrating our freedoms, a day to celebrate our independence from our friends across the pond.  A day to celebrate who we are....we are the Greatest Country The World Has Ever Known....We Are The United States Of America.  We Are Free People, who can speak our minds and are able, because of our 2nd Amendment to our Constitution, protect our freedoms from those who may want to take it away.  Please be vigilant and always remember those brave Men and Women who have fought and died to preserve the freedoms we all enjoy.  Wave and Fly your American Flags proudly for we are America.  Let the celebrations begin.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

It's all good.

1. The $58 million per year private school tax credit goes mainly to wealthy families who were never going to send their kids to public schools and has no financial or academic accountability. Check.

2. The State Charter Schools Commission schools money goes to for profit charter school support entities (campaign contributors?) while most of the schools are failing or below average with no academic or financial accountability. Check.

3. The OSD - see # 2. Check.

4. The lobotomized "conservative" voting dead are now against small government, and local control, and for higher taxes, as long as the money winds up in the right hands. Check.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik A State-run school system would be preferable to re-establishing segregated school systems.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Starik You are correct in every form! Blacks and whites must give up the personal agendas   Unfortunately, that also means no affirmative action, Bet, college admission for race and many other things. Equal does not mean paying for the sins of you great great and great grandparents!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@JBBrown1968 @AvgGeorgian @Starik 

Are you entitled social security for disability/retirement? It is pay as you go. It is not the current workers debt - should they pay for you when you need it?

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik Possibly. But there was a story about a town in Mississippi that had 2 high schools; one all black and one 50/50 black & white. The feds are forcing further "integration," which will make both schools majority black, driving all the whites who can to leave the system. Meaningful racial integration is a wonderful goal but integration requires a respectable number of white students. 


The DeKalb system is 11% white.  If schools reflected the area where kids live, you'd have a few white schools, integrated, and a lot of black schools, segregated. Bad school policy has recreated a segregated system in DeKalb. 


I'm afraid Federal school policy would lead to further segregation.

newsphile
newsphile

@Starik @AvgGeorgian But throwing out the baby with the bath water never solves anything; it just creates more problems. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@JBBrown1968 @Starik


When I was a child there were white and colored signs on bathrooms and water fountains. Only white children went to my school. Seems like time and help for are in order for a while still.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik @AvgGeorgian


You make not like the size of your school system boundaries, but it is still local control compared to state control.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik @AvgGeorgian


Schools in the 21st century can be excellent even if all black, all white, or (as is more likely in growing decades in America and in the world), multicultural.

FredinDeKalb
FredinDeKalb

@Starik

*The DeKalb system is 11% white.  If schools reflected the area where kids live, you'd have a few white schools, integrated, and a lot of black schools, segregated. Bad school policy has recreated a segregated system in DeKalb. *

Sounds like you've been reading the old DSW2 site (which shut down for good last year around this time).  Jim Cherry along with his school boards created the segregated system in DeKalb today by not abiding by the Brown decision.  Because of their defiance, the federal courts got involved in 1969 to force DeKalb to do what they refused to do for over 15 years.  All because many white parents did not want their children sitting next to a black or brown child in the same class.  Years of white flight followed by realtors causing fear in the housing market is the cause for the school system we have today.

gactzn2
gactzn2

I am curious to know how the affected school's scores would figure into district reporting for standardized tests.  Would the scores of the affected schools still count toward's the district's benchmark?

People should think carefully about their vote.  Voter's remorse will not be an option. OSD schools will remain a part of the OSD district between 5 and 10 years (multi- year contracts with charter corporations) - can you say $chi-ching$

newsphile
newsphile

@Starik @gactzn2 You can't un-ring this bell.  Once we head down this path, there is no turning back. 

Christie Ware Bryan
Christie Ware Bryan

Yes it will. Too many voters do not educate themselves about an issue before they vote. Many times they don't understand the ramifications of what they are voting for.

Christie Ware Bryan
Christie Ware Bryan

Jennifer Schmidt, exactly! People will read it and think it sounds great.

Cyndi Stephens Lloyd
Cyndi Stephens Lloyd

Opportunity School District is NOT the solution for our schools! Please vote NO in November.