More school boards join fight against governor’s state takeover district. Will that sway voters?

Nathan Deal did not get his Opportunity School District, but he may get a diluted version via the Legislature. (AJC photo)

My AJC colleague Ty Tagami has a good news story on an emerging bi-partisan effort by school boards to fight Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed constitutional amendment for an Opportunity School District.

While local school superintendents seem to be sitting out the fight against the OSD, more school boards are taking a stand, including Cherokee County last week. Today, the Barrow and Clayton boards are scheduled to vote on anti-OSD resolutions.

Patterned after state districts in Tennessee and New Orleans, the OSD will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot as its creation requires a change in the state constitution. Voters won’t know they will be granting sweeping new powers to take away schools from local control and place them under state jurisdiction as the ballot language is vague, only asking if the state should intervene in failing schools.

A few of the districts that have opposed the OSD are at risk of losing schools, including Bibb, Chatham and Richmond counties. But, Tagami notes, others, including Cherokee, Fayette, Henry and Troup counties, are not in any danger now.

Interestingly, three metro Atlanta systems that could lose schools — by virtue of geographic proximity — have not passed resolutions against state takeover. Deal’s OSD is closest in design to Tennessee’s Achievement School District, which focused its initial takeover on schools in Memphis to ease coordination and maximizing of resources. For similar reasons, I envision the OSD  focusing on metro Atlanta schools in its first years.

There has not been a stampede of outraged superintendents to Deal’s door but it may be the political nature of the battle. Or, it may be superintendents feel their time is better spent fortifying their own struggling schools against takeover.

Here is an excerpt of Tagami’s piece that addresses that issue:

In metro Atlanta, DeKalb County has 28 schools subject to takeover, Atlanta has 22 and Fulton County has 10. The districts have embarked on programs to turn around low-performing schools in hopes of dodging a takeover.

None of their boards have taken a political stand like the Cherokee school board just did. DeKalb school board chairman Melvin Johnson said no school board member he’s talked to anywhere in Georgia supports the constitutional amendment. DeKalb board members have discussed a resolution against it, but haven’t yet taken a stand. “I don’t agree with it at all,” Johnson said of the constitutional amendment. “However, when we speak as a board, that’s a whole different thing.”

He didn’t want to elaborate, but the district would have much to lose by antagonizing Deal, since his pick for superintendent would have independent authority to select schools for takeover.

Unlike DeKalb or some districts that have aligned against the OSD, Cherokee has no schools subject to a state takeover even if the measure passes. School board chairwoman Kyla Cromer said the vote Thursday was partly in solidarity with affected districts and also a rejection of a statewide school district that would depend on the state’s ability to determine whether a school is failing. The proposed Opportunity School District, or OSD, relies on an oft-amended school grading formula that relies on standardized tests that also have been changing — and subject to technical glitches,

A couple of districts with no currently “failing” schools, Clayton and Barrow counties, have anti-OSD votes scheduled for Tuesday. “We will have that resolution and it will pass,” said Barrow school board vice chairwoman Lynn Stevens, who, like her fellow board members, is a Republican. In some cases, charter schools are managed by for-profit companies, and that rankles Stevens and other OSD critics, who note that the constitutional amendment would allow the OSD to continue to take their tax dollars for schools converted to charter management.

“This amendment is really just about privatizing education and taking money away from taxpayers and their communities and giving it to private, for-profit companies,” Stevens said.

I am not sure school board resistance will matter in November. School board opposition did not prevent passage of the charter school amendment in 2012. That amendment empowered an appointed state commission to approve charter schools over the objections of local boards of education.

A state commission had  already been doing so, but the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that the commission represented an overreach of state power so the amendment was put forth. Despite the allegation that local school boards blocked charter schools, nine out of 10 of the existing charter schools operating in Georgia at the time of the 2012 vote were approved by local boards.

And sun-kissed language also played a role in that vote: Voters were asked: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?” The amendment earned a “Yes” from an impressive 58.5 percent of Georgians. I suspect the OSD will see a similar margin of victory. (Here is a piece from the blog urging passage of the OSD.)

Anyone disagree?

 

Reader Comments 0

66 comments
newsphile
newsphile

Deal is for less government, unless he's the one who's creating more.  We've seen the less than mediocre job many of the GA state departments are currently doing. We do not need anyone else reporting directly to the governor of GA, now or in the future.

redweather
redweather

While he's at it I wish Governor Deal would support a constitutional amendment eliminating useless state government boards and commissions.

Starik
Starik

@EdJohnson I suppose they like their schools mediocre and segregated.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

“A couple of districts with no currently “failing” schools, Clayton and Barrow counties, have anti-OSD votes scheduled for Tuesday. “We will have that resolution and it will pass,” said Barrow school board vice chairwoman Lynn Stevens, who, like her fellow board members, is a Republican. In some cases, charter schools are managed by for-profit companies, and that rankles Stevens and other OSD critics, who note that the constitutional amendment would allow the OSD to continue to take their tax dollars for schools converted to charter management.”

Stevens also is reported to have said: “If our teachers are happy being teachers in the cultures in the schools that we have created, then they need to fight this with their heart and souls,” said Stevens. “…And they have the power, along with the administrators to send a message to the governor to go to hell and take his money with him.”  Read more, here.

Don’t we all have that power?  Well, nearly all.  Atlanta school board members and superintendent seem to be at the center of those who have willfully forsaken their power, so as to acknowledge and thereby not antagonize their Massa Deal.

Astropig
Astropig

@EdJohnson


Your use of that epithet is revolting. Hard to take you seriously when all you have to offer is race baiting.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@Astropig

My use of the “epithet?”  Race baiting?  Where is the race baiting, except in your own mind?

Use of the "epithet" was reported to have been spoken by one Republican in reference to another Republican.

Use of the the "epithet" was reported to have been spoken by one "White" person in reference to another "White" person.

As far not taking anybody seriously, get a mirror and use it and let me know who you see.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Well now. The state has it's own schools now, chartered and overseen by the State Charter Schools Commission. 


Many of those schools are failing or close to failing. Why don't they use the plans they have for the OSD to improve the schools in which they already "intervene"?


If they had a plan, they would use it. 


The OSD in New Orleans did not improve performance but did replace lots of black employees with white employees and give lots of money to charter management companies. Maybe that's the plan.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian Are the white employees better than the black employees they're replacing?  If so, the largely black students are better off.  It's not, ideally, about proving good incomes to teachers, it's about preparing the kids to compete.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik @AvgGeorgian Read the post - there was no student improvement- so no the replacement teachers were no better than the original teachers.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik I've seen people claiming success in New Orleans and others claiming the opposite; given the upheaval after Katrina, and the emigration of poor blacks to Atlanta, Houston and other places we need to give the New Orleans experiment time to work. Decades.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Starik @gactzn2 @AvgGeorgian So the fault lies squarely at the foot of the teachers does it? What about the system in which they work?  Dictates suggest that instructional methods counter to those known to work should be the order of the day.  Teachers in these districts are highly educated.  Why you persist in suggesting that the poverty of the community is commiserate with the educational pedigree of its teachers is faulty at best- but expected.  You so quickly generalize about people when it comes to race that it is sickening- get out more.

Starik
Starik

@gactzn2 @Starik @AvgGeorgian I spent my working life working with poor black people, and like them. I have also conversed with, and seen, black and white teachers who can't write or speak proper English teaching...wait for it...English. Teachers are the most critical element in schools, so that's where education reform needs to start.

Starik
Starik

@gactzn2 @Starik @AvgGeorgian Many poor parents do a poor job; kids are easy to have, hard to raise, especially in the underclass. Kids should learn standard English.  Teachers can't teach a subject they don't know.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Starik @gactzn2 @AvgGeorgian Fully certified teachers must past rigorous examinations within their content areas to become certified in conjunction with demonstrating sound pedagogical practice through practicum hours; all suggesting they have a mastery of the content that many teach.  Furthermore, all black people are not poor, and not all well off parents do a great job- nor are they exclusively white- there are "bad apples" all around.  These districts have inherited a lot of poverty- and I would surmise that it has increased due to demographic shifts.  Poorer people are moving to these areas.  I feel it auctions off black education and writes off black educators in an effort to provide access to federal dollars to charter management companies. 

Starik
Starik

@gactzn2 @Starik @AvgGeorgian Yes. Having another generation of poor black children enter the pipeline to prison is unacceptable to me.  Poorly educated teachers, which you still have in segregated schools in poor neighborhoods, are not likely to teach kids what they need to know to get decent paying jobs, or any jobs. .

Starik
Starik

@gactzn2 @Starik @AvgGeorgian What rigorous examinations?  I've seen a take-home assignment: "Find the 12 grammatical errors on this page" which had many more than 12 errors. I recieves a note: "I have send X to the office for..."  It's a competency issue, not a racial issue.

Chanda RobertsWhite
Chanda RobertsWhite

It's too late to fight it. It's a done deal. The media has been silent. Districts have been silent. Civil rights organizations have been silent. So just where were voters to get the information?

NikoleA
NikoleA

I'd like a reporter to ask the Governor why he hasn't already applied these interventions his new district would impose, NOW? He doesn't need a constitutional amendment to help struggling schools. 

Richard Cionci
Richard Cionci

I'm a Georgia teacher who lives in South Carolina, I am disenfranchised.

Kay Draper Hutchinson
Kay Draper Hutchinson

I disagree with their stance. I believe school boards should keep local tax expenditure on local schools locally controlled.

Kay Draper Hutchinson
Kay Draper Hutchinson

My Fulton school board member said the FCS Board would not be taking a stand because it is up to the voters...I believe she said it is the sovereign right of voters to determine such matters.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

But not to use their own property tax monies for their students?

Common Man
Common Man

Honestly what do we have to lose? The education system in Georgia is shat anyway. We have nothing to lose by letting the state take over. We spend over 55 percent of the state budget on education and we don't have squat to show for it. The teacher unions do not want any kind of accountability and fight any attempt at holding them accountable. Parents need to step up has well because if they were more involved things wouldn't be as bad as they are. We have all failed our children. 

Astropig
Astropig

@Common Man


With the OSD,somebody will finally be accountable.The state OSD superintendent will have marching orders to get results.The governor can fire him/her if they screw up.These local school boards are for the most part just retired teachers or principals looking out for their buddies that are still active. A more incestuous,corrupt system would be hard to imagine,but that's what we have now and of course they don't want their little corner of the world stepped in.

NikoleA
NikoleA

@Common Man The school loses 3% of its budget for one thing. The Governor takes over the school, but the school gets no more resources than before. However, 3% of the school's budget is designated to pay for this new Superintendent's office. Leaving that school with 3% less than what they'd have had the state not taken over.

Another comment
Another comment

GA goes not have Unions! That is the problem! The top performing states are all Union States that can bargain for higher pay for teachers. Why should a Math or science teacher with advanced degrees not be paid at least as much as what new college graduates in those fields make.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Common Man Why do you think the education system is bad? Did you or your family fail to perform well in school?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @Common Man

So what was missing was "marching orders"? Do you have a copy of these specific marching orders? I would love to read them. Sounds real scientific.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Common Man Take DeKalb County - where "A" grades come easy, and many kids with 3.0+ grades aren't really prepared for college. Too easy.  

CharterStarter_Too
CharterStarter_Too

That money (and more) is going to your county office, along with a chunk of local funds. Your school gets nowhere near the funds it earns - it is all subject to how a district choose to move that money around. This won't be so with a takeover - it is a fixed 3% with the OSD.

CharterStarter_Too
CharterStarter_Too

They don't have unions with bargaining power, but they have teacher organizations that are VERY politically active with anything that might impact their membership dues!

CSpinks
CSpinks

@Astropig @Common Man Might we add kinfolk, campaign contributors and "lovers" to the category "people for whom corrupt local board members look out?"

L_D
L_D

@CharterStarter_Too  But, so do most professions, industries, and non-profits - including charter schools.  Having an professional organization that provides training, support, professional insurance, and also advocates upon the profession's behalf is common.  To make it seem otherwise is misleading.

newsphile
newsphile

@Astropig @Common Man Why doesn't the governor use his plan on the state chartered schools that are failing?  Let us see how it really works.  The governor's plan is nothing but politics, that's why.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@CharterStarter_Too And the charter industry is fast becoming one of the most powerful lobbying groups. They work to put the tax payers money in their hands since profit is their #1 goal, not educating our children. 

BleachBit
BleachBit

This news can surprise no one.

Bureaucrats, elected or otherwise, have in many cases done nothing to improve failing public schools. Nor do Democrat partisans in the media wish them to: cash flows, after all, from teachers' unions into party coffers are substantial.

Parents and taxpayers are the ones upset with a subpar status quo.

Astropig
Astropig

These are the same political hacks (almost all of which,it should be noted are career educrats turned career politicians) that told us the charter amendment would lead to re-segregation, collapsing public school systems and the end of education as we know it-absolutely none of which has come to pass.They're the very reason that this amendment was needed and stands a good chance of passage anyway-they've sat around like potted plants while certain schools in their districts have deteriorated beyond repair.Of course they're against it-they caused it!


They should be happy that the state would take these problem schools and do something with them besides use them as a dumping ground for incompetent principals and administrators and -in some limited cases-teachers.I believe that the great majority of the teachers in these schools are hard working,dedicated and devoted,but they serve a highly dysfunctional system in a dysfunctional community and the deck is stacked against them.A clean sheet of paper is needed to lay out a plan to turn these schools around.The system cannot reform itself (too many sacred cows),but a fresh set of eyes looking at the problems there could do a world of good.

Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian @Astropig


ZZZZZZZZZ....Sorry, I fell asleep reading your teachers union talking points. Could you repeat the question?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig Please give examples of charter schools that perform well that did not try to screen out poor people, unmotivated children and parents, and took individuals who were trying hard but failing anyway. Also, charters that operate on the same budget as real public schools.

L_D
L_D

@Astropig So, if I'm reading your stance correctly, you're okay with a higher government agency taking over a part of a lower government agency.  Based upon this logic, you should have NO problem with the president creating a new department to takeover failing public hospitals based upon the ratings from the Department of Health and Human Services.  Said apponted Federal Hospital Administrator will have the ability not only to replace management of the hospitals, but can also use any state and local funds WITHOUT any input from the state legislature and/or governor.  Oh, and btw, the state will still be financially responsible for any capital improvements to the buildings, but has no input as to which improvements are to be made.


For many, the fight around this amendment has little to do with education (even though take-overs haven't been successful in other states - Louisiana repealed their law and Tennessee has put a stop on taking in new schools for the time being) and more to do with good governance, accountability to the citizens, and the power of our vote.


At its base, this becomes taxation with out representation - your property taxes are being levied by an elected body (school board), who will then be required to pass a certain amount of said funds onto an appointee of the governor.  The elected body that levied the tax now has no say in how our dollars are spent.  So, how do we, the taxpayers, hold someone accountable for how these dollars are spent?  Can't vote out the appointed superintendent.  Probably won't be able to get time to talk to the governor - and he would have bigger issues anyway.  And the school board's hand are tied.


There is already a state law (OCGA 20-14-41) that allows ALL THE SAME intervention/take-over strategies without local funds leaving the local system and the state taking permanent control of the building; why hasn't the governor been using this law? Yes, by all means, the state should help these schools, but doing so should not infringe upon our rights. Look beyond the exterior wrapping of "schools" and to the deeper issue of the governance.  Do you really want to diminish the power of your vote and government's accountability to you with this amendment?  And if so, where does it stop?  When the Federal Government wants to start taking over state agency and taking state taxes, I expect to see you first in line to support it!

Astropig
Astropig

@L_D @Astropig


"When the Federal Government wants to start taking over state agency and taking state taxes, I expect to see you first in line to support it!"

I expect you to be first in line to support it.


Why can't you "no" voters just be honest for like,5 minutes of your lives? You hate Governor Deal because he's a Republican.It fairly drips from every idiotic comment opposing this proposal that has been made over the last couple of years.If a Democrat had proposed this,you'd be doing cartwheels (and lining up jobs for your connected educrat buddies).Please stop insulting our intelligence by pretending that you stand on some moral high ground here.You people rammed through healthcare "reform" in the shadiest,most deceitful way imaginable,and now you're being the biggest hypocrites that ever lived by opposing this. You've had over two years to make your case to the voters on this,so if it does pass,you'll just have to "Deal" with it.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian I think Astropig has a stake in the fight since all the evidence of OSD's not working don't sway him from his dedication to the passing of this amendment. One can only conclude that he is either stupid (which I don't think you are) or you will gain financially from the amendment passing. We know you don't really care about the children because we know that those who are mostly affected come from low SES backgrounds and without the necessary support system and wraparound services in place, they face a much longer and harder struggle than their richer counterparts. Sure there are those who do overcome but they are called outliers. 

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Astropig @L_D It has nothing to do with hating or not hating Deal. It has to do with the passing of tax payer dollars into the hands of privateers while promoting a system change that has been shown to fail over and over again. Not against Deal, just bad ideas and this one's a doozy.

L_D
L_D

@Astropig Good effort at deflecting from the points I brought up and avoiding the questions I asked.  To be clear, you have no idea on my political affiliation. 

 You did a good job of name calling, deflecting, and distracting in your response, but you did not answer the questions I raised around governance.


I've met the governor and there are aspects about him and his tenure I can respect.  All I'm asking is that you look behind the curtain of "help the poor children" and really question if you support the precedent this policy would set - bypassing your locally elected officials to give your locally generated tax dollars and locally funded buildings to an appointee of a governor without any direct accountability to you, the voter and taxpayer.  Realize, there is nothing in the law that would require the OSD superintendent to spend your local funds in schools in your district - those funds could be redistributed to schools in other systems.  As someone who has presented himself as a conservative on this blog, I would like to know how you can support this.

Starik
Starik

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian The schools can't educate the unmotivated and unintelligent easily; and when they mix these kids with motivated kids with motivated parents who behave in class and have the capacity to learn the good students suffer.

dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig @L_D Actually, when Deal was elected, I was very thankful we didn't get a Paul LePage, Rick Scott, Scott Walker, or Sam Brownback. It has nothing to do with him being a Republican - it has everything to do with the fact that this has failed in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Michigan. Why bring failure to Georgia? Why not invest in what has shown to work?