For Opportunity School District to deliver on claims, ‘It would take lots of fairy dust’

Do you believe in fairies and fairy dust? That’s what a critic of the Opportunity School District says it will take to deliver on promises that state takeover will fix schools, increase community involvement, and improve student performance.

Retired school librarian Susan McWethy of Decatur decided to delve into the Opportunity School District enabling legislation, Senate Bill 133

Voters deciding the fate of the OSD in November will not see Senate Bill 133. They will see this question on the ballot: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

McWethy shares what she discovered in the enabling legislation and why she thinks Georgians ought to oppose the OSD.

By Susan McWethy

On Nov. 8, voters will be asked to amend Georgia’s constitution to allow the governor to create a state-wide school district, called the Opportunity School District.  On the ballot they will see words to make them believe that Amendment 1, if passed, will “fix” schools that are allegedly failing, increase community involvement, and improve student performance.

It would take lots of fairy dust to make any of these claims come true.  The models for this legislation, Louisiana’s Recovery School District, Tennessee’s Achievement School District, and Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority have all resulted in lackluster academic performance and schools being handed back to their local districts.

Proponents are twisting the ballot language into knots trying to prove that accountability and local control would increase with passage of this amendment.  However, a close reading of the legislation paints a very different picture.

The OSD superintendent, responsible for the operations of the OSD, would be appointed by the governor and serve at his pleasure, stripping away accountability from local school districts and handing it to a less involved, bigger-government bureaucracy.  This political appointee will determine which of four takeover models will be employed for each school: direct management by the OSD, shared governance with the OSD superintendent having authority over changes, reconstitution as a charter school, and closure.

Proponents point out the governor-appointed superintendent would be required to hold a public hearing before selecting a school for the new district.  They overlook the fact all final decisions would be the “sole discretion of the OSD Superintendent.”  There is no appeals process.  Only one public hearing sounds like a formality more than a genuine attempt to garner community feedback.

Proponents assert charter schools exercise more local control because they have their own governing boards.  Again, they omit the salient point that the OSD superintendent would “solicit, screen, and select or approve” those charter school governing board members.  Furthermore, the “authority of the OSD shall supersede” any charters or contracts that now govern existing charter schools selected for takeover.

Significant control would also be handed to another bigger-government entity, the State Charter Schools Commission. The legislation states, for example, that the commission would select education service providers to partner with the OSD charter school governing boards, and work with the OSD superintendent to determine additional assistance that may be needed.  It does not say local community input would be solicited for these important decisions. The service providers selected by the State Charter Schools Commission could be out-of-state charter companies who have no familiarity whatsoever with local Georgia communities.

Funding is another area where local control would be compromised.  Funding for OSD schools would be taken from the local school systems, and those communities would have no say over how their dollars are spent.  Local districts would also be required to hand over school buildings while continuing to be responsible for extensive repairs to those buildings, and they would be “required to cooperate” to make available other requested services.

At the local level, the expertise of teachers, with their unique knowledge of their students, have the greatest impact on student performance; however, these professionals have been completely left out of any OSD decision-making, and some even risk losing their jobs.  Additionally, the legislation does not detail any instructional strategies or curriculum, so voters have no idea what is likely to happen at the classroom level.  The OSD superintendent would set the goals and hold teachers responsible, which is not a model for success.

If state takeovers have failed in three states already, that should have been a clue to Georgia legislators that we are headed in the wrong direction.  Those states readily acknowledge that working with the most challenged students requires more than “fixes.”

The language voters will see on the ballot for Amendment 1 is brazenly deceptive, and the consequences for our schools are dire. The amendment specifies no academic plan to improve student performance; takes authority, facilities and resources away from local school districts; and silences families and teachers. Georgia deserves better.

 

Reader Comments 0

55 comments
AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The State legicrats(would that be the correct spelling- you educrat posters?) already have their own failing school system and have no clue how to turn it around-The State Charter Schools Commission ("Significant control would also be handed to another bigger-government entity, the State Charter Schools Commission.").


The State Charter School Commission's schools are mostly failing or close to it. They hide their spending from the taxpayer so you can't  see who is hired, how much they make, and to which companies the contracts are awarded. Why? Is it because jobs and contracts are given to politically connected friends,  family, and campaign donors?


These State Charter School Commission schools are failing, but not on the Governor's takeover list. They don't even have to meet their own charter goals-just a vague new "framework" that counts progress instead of hard achievement scores.(Notice that the schools targeted by the OSD don't get this "framework" chance to improve).


So, we have a model for the OSD,  and it is a failing school system that hides spending from the taxpayer and has no academic or financial  accountability.


This is what all you pro-OSD folks are voting for.  Just a money grab with no plan. If the OSD had a plan, they would use it on the State's own failing schools.


Astropig
Astropig

I spoke to an teacher the other day in my part of the state about why the eduacracy is so fixated on the language of this amendment. "Why" (I asked) "Can't they just argue this on its merits?Why do they have to focus so squarely on the ballot language and not defend these schools performance?"


Her answer was so brilliant that I turned crimson with embarrassment because it hadn't occurred to me first:


"Because, Astro" (she said), the educrats are great at rigging local elections to give the illusion of some choice,but it's really just one retired teacher or principal running against another,so they have a hammerlock on education at the most basic level."


"This is different" (she continued), "they can't rig this one because it's a statewide "big ideas" (she made air quotes) -type question.They simply have no other playbook other than appeal to people's fears"


I slapped my forehead and had a "eureka!" moment. She was 100% right.This does help explain why there is so much angst about the amendment wording.But that argument misses the point: It's easy to get stuck in the weeds about the language and not get to the reason that the amendment is necessary.

Astropig
Astropig

This whole article reads like a batch of talking points tossed into a blender and fed to a parrot.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I also note, as briefly mentioned by the author, that the local system is REQUIRED to provide, at a "reasonable cost"(probably decided by the OSD superintendent) transportation, lunchroom, SPECIAL EDUCATION, and alternative education services, among others.  Readers of this blog have long lamented how much money goes into special education, yet the OSD will be allowed to pass that cost on to the school system, in addition to the local, state, and federal monies, the buildings and equipment, and the 3% "administrative fee."


In addition, let me point out that that is the CURRENT legislation.  It can be changed to include schools below 70 on the CCRPI, OR ANY OTHER MARKER AS QUALIFICATION FOR TAKEOVER.  So, no school is safe from takeover.


For a state whose leadership loudly complains about additional government interference, and "keep your hand out of my pocket," this is surely the antithesis.

AJCkrtk
AJCkrtk

@Wascatlady The current score of "60" is not even in the legislation -- it simply says schools will be rated A, B,C, D and F.  So if the OSD Superintendent and Governor's Office of Student Achievement want to change the score to 70 (or any school below the state average, as was done in Louisiana), they do not have to go back to the legislators.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Wascatlady @AJCkrtk


Exactly, they can move the goal posts when and how they like. And, if they take what they say is the bottom 100 schools, what's to stop taking the bottom 100 schools every year or two and add to the charter school pool. There will always be schools classed as being at the bottom, even in the best system. 

PublicEducationMattersGA
PublicEducationMattersGA

@Wascatlady Great points.  May I add that the enabling legislation (SB 133 that is the subject of this opinion piece) does not include the CCRPI cut score. The fact that the list of schools eligible for takeover is based on the CCRPI and that currently schools scoring 60 or below are the target schools, is not in the legislation at all.  The legislation only stipulates that schools scoring an "F" are eligible for takeover. What it means to be an "F" school is not in any legislation and is subject to change at any time;.

KnowTheFactsOSD
KnowTheFactsOSD

@Wascatlady No more than 3 percent of the existing funds flowing to the school within the OSD would be held for administrative operations, however, this is less than most local school districts withhold today (the average is 5%). As a result, more funds will be available at the school level within the OSD. Well-performing schools won't be affected. 

dg417s
dg417s

@AlyssaBotts @Wascatlady DeKalb School of the Arts - one of the top in the nation WILL be affected. My neighborhood schools in DeKalb WILL be affected because if this passes, my tax dollars will have to go support schools outside of DeKalb that the OSD superintendent thinks that he wants. And, since "F" isn't officially defined, DSA could easily be taken over because, let's say hypothetically Failing is redefined as not making 10% increase in CCRPI - DSA doesn't have that much room to grow (their CCRPI is already over 90). 

Finally, when you say "well-performing" schools, you're talking test scores - test scores that have been deemed not valid for the purpose of evaluating children or their teachers for the past three years, how can they evaluate an entire school? 

Astropig
Astropig

 The status quo has had these schools for decades and their failure to make them minimally acceptable is obvious to anyone that cares to look.Their only hope to stave off the reform represented by the OSD amendment is to scare voters into thinking that something worse awaits a "yes" vote.

The truth is, these schools can't get much worse.Voting "yes" says that you're willing to do something instead of continuing to do nothing to at least give these kids and their families a fighting chance.


I see a LOT of people,know a lot of people and meet a lot of people in my everyday life.When we discuss this,it doesn't take long to convince them that this is the only feasible alternative to allowing these schools to crumble into dust.If the vibe that I get is any indication,the eduacracy in Georgia is more hated than the governor,the legislature and even the press (and that's hard to do).This will pass big time and the educrats that have tried to scare and smear the proponents will be held in even lower regard than now,which should be a wake up call to them.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig The truth is, these schools can't get much worse.Voting "yes" says that you're willing to do something instead of continuing to do nothing to at least give these kids and their families a fighting chance.


Yeah, I'm willing to see a voodoo sorcerer for my heart problem because I'm "willing to do something."  Good grief.  Believe their promises of "fixing" it?  No thanks.


Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig


"voodoo sorcerer"? Hyperbole much? Talking points much?


Again, how will the status quo fix these schools? We're going on two years of this question in this space and the answer is always a non-sequitur,personal insult or another condemnation of the governor.Never a real answer,just a lot of bitterness,because the status quo HAS no answer. Just more of the same 'ol,same 'ol.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Astropig @Wascatlady You are "cute" when you talk about insults. That is your M.O. on almost every post when someone doesn't share your fervent love for the passing of the failed, previously tried OSD model. And, you talk about the poor children when in previous posts you have derided, insulted, poured hate on the poor and needy. My guess is that you want this to pass because you are one of those who will gain financially when it passes. You are either Glen Delk or someone linked to him. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig @Wascatlady I could easily answer you with the same sorts of charges, but I won't.


The question that is posed does not have an easy answer.  Movement of the needle, unless by subterfuge, will be very difficult and very slow.  It will involve NOT JUST WHAT HAPPENS AT SCHOOL, but getting buy-in, investment, and support from all the other areas (parents, neighborhood, the courts, businesses).  It isn't a "we'll get better teachers" solution.  We sure won't get them by cutting back on the money spent.  THAT, we have tried for about a decade!


BTW, I'd like to see information comparing charter schools where parents CHOOSE to send their children vs charter schools where the students attend because it is their only choice--it is their "zip code" school.  Are you aware of any research on that?


I've worked with kids from poor families all my adult life.  And yes, we are having success, but it is hard-won success, and it can be measured in generations, not 5 year spans.  In a sense, it is easier here than in some of the schools the OSD would target, because we don't have the large percentage of transient students.  And, yes, that makes quite a difference.


KnowTheFactsOSD
KnowTheFactsOSD

@Wascatlady What do you propose they do at the local level to fix these schools then if they haven't been able to do so on their own for years, and in some cases, decades? This is a TEMPORARY, albeit necessary intervention.  

KnowTheFactsOSD
KnowTheFactsOSD

@Wascatlady Every county that has come out against the OSD voted in favor of the 2012 Charter School constitutional amendment because these areas were indeed desperate for change for these children. This is public record. Food for thought as we approach a similar ed reform amendment. 

L_D
L_D

@Astropig I've asked you this before, and you always avoid the question around governance.  But, I shall try one more time:  how do support your local tax dollars, levied by your local board, being given to a government appointee who has no accountability to you?  How do you support this amendment, but not the EXISTING law (OCGA 20-14-41) which allows for the same interventions WITHOUT removing local tax dollars from the local system?  Would you support this take-over model for any other aspect of government, including the federal government coming in and taking state dollars in a similar manner?


You make the sweeping claim that anyone opposed to this is part of the "educracy" and wants to maintain "status quo."  However, many of us have legitimate objections based upon the governance precedence this establishes. If the only funds going into the OSD were state and federal dollars, there would be fewer objections, however this is coming very close to taxation without representation.  Passage of this amendment diminishes accountability to taxpayers and diminishes the power of our vote. 

For a self-proclaimed conservative, I challenge you to make a compelling argument on how you can support this without just defaulting to "helping children."

L_D
L_D

@Astropig I've asked you this before, and you always avoid the question around governance.  But, I shall try one more time:  how do support your local tax dollars, levied by your local board, being given to a government appointee who has no accountability to you?  How do you support this amendment, but not the EXISTING law (OCGA 20-14-41) which allows for the same interventions WITHOUT removing local tax dollars from the local system?  Would you support this take-over model for any other aspect of government, including the federal government coming in and taking state dollars in a similar manner?


You make the sweeping claim that anyone opposed to this is part of the "educracy" and wants to maintain "status quo."  However, many of us have legitimate objections based upon the governance precedence this establishes. If the only funds going into the OSD were state and federal dollars, there would be fewer objections, however this is coming very close to taxation without representation.  Passage of this amendment diminishes accountability to taxpayers and diminishes the power of our vote. 

For a self-proclaimed conservative, I challenge you to make a compelling argument on how you can support this without just defaulting to "helping children."

L_D
L_D

Apologies for the double post - I received a message the first time that there was an error when I tried to post.

Astropig
Astropig

@L_D @Astropig


I support this because I'm simply tired of waiting for a miracle to save these kids.I could give a toss about liberal,conservative,rastafarian or whatever.The question on the ballot this November has nothing to do with anything except whether other Georgians are as fed up as I am.If you don't support it, fine-I respect that and will move on to someone else and try to convince them,but I'll be darned if I'll just let this chance at improvement in these schools die for lack of support.


The whole article above is based on the same lie that underpins the eduacracy's response to this:That the governor is promising an easy answer here.He is not. I wouldn't support this either if he did.He has said from the get-go that it will take a lot of little baby steps to improve these schools,not some overnight masterstroke.The status quo has used phrases like "fairy dust" and other deceitful arguments to make this look unfeasible,but look at what they did to improve test scores in Atlanta to get bonuses-Test cheating,"erasure parties" and late night,Watergate-type antics to make things look better than they were.The only way they know to get scores up is to cheat and they think that this reform might expose how lazy and shiftless they have been all these years.

L_D
L_D

@Astropig Long reply and many distractions listed, but you didn't address the core issue of GOVERNANCE -  especially: 

1) why do you not support the current law (20-14-41) which allows for all the same interventions while leaving local tax dollars in the local district? 

2) would you support this take-over model for any other aspect of government, especially for the executive branch of the federal government coming in and taking state dollars to redistribute as it sees fit? (for example, would you support the federal government coming in to run our state parks in the same manner (i.e. take the state funds to utilize either in GA parks or any other parks as directed by the appointee?)


The only defense you seem to be able to give for this amendment is "helping children."  And while that is a noble goal, there are existing ways to accomplish this while leaving direct accountability and local funds in place.  

Astropig
Astropig

@L_D @Astropig


I'm going to put you down as a "no". Nothing that I could write would change your mind.You're locked into a few talking points, a lot of boilerplate,and outright denial of the gravity of the situation facing these families.Vote no and make your conscience happy.As for the Astropig family,we're going to give a different approach a try.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

But, but, but.... you are the one who is batting for the implementation of a failed policy. Looks like you need to change your hat. It's keeping you from admitting that this amendment does nothing to help the poor children you feign interest in. Your previous derisions, snark and demeaning comments about the poor only confirms your true stance.

L_D
L_D

@AlyssaBotts With all due respect, this is not a "TEMPORARY" intervention. The actual amendment language authorizes that the OSD "...

 shall include the power to receive, control, and expend state, federal, and local funds appropriated for schools under the current or prior supervision, management, or operation of the Opportunity School District..."   The key words here being "under current or PRIOR."   Based upon the amendment language, once a school is an OSD school it is ALWAYS an OSD school.  If the intent was truly to make this TEMPORARY, the legislation would have copied Tennessee's in after 10 years, the school went back to the local board, regardless of intervention model.  However, this allows for a school (and local funds and building) forever.

Astropig
Astropig

@sneakpeakintoeducation


It hasn't failed. We don't even vote for it for 5 more weeks! You're pronouncing it a failure just shows that your opposition is politically inspired instead of whats best for the children in these schools.


In fact- It's ALREADY lit a fire under a couple of big school systems to try some improvement strategies that were "impossible" before.


L_D
L_D

@Astropig  I never once denied the gravity of the situation. I have spent years volunteering in and for these schools and communities.  For you to dismiss my questions and concerns by making the assumption that I "don't understand" shows that you have no good response to my two basic questions (and question #2 only requires a yes or no answer). Have you read SR287, SB133, and/or OCGA 20-14-41?  

However, I will respond to you - I fully support the existing law 20-14-41 including the options to replace administration and/or the complete staff, allowing students to attend other schools, possibly converting the school to a charter, and all the other options 20-14-41 allows.   There are many interventions that have proven successful, both in GA and around the country that would not take and redistribute our local taxes.  There are interventions that could work that would not diminish our voice in the process. 

madteacher
madteacher

Astropig, I don't know who you are or what your background is. I know you post a lot on educational issues. But this has to be one of the most asinine posts I've ever seen from you. Low-performing schools are not bad because of the teachers and administrators at the school, ok, there may be a couple of bad apples in the bunch, but 95% of teachers are hard working and dedicated at a job no sane person would ever take. The problem is poverty. You CANNOT compare schools where students start kindergarten already knowing their alphabet and how to read and write their name with schools that have students that have never even had a book read to them. They are already three years behind in language skills!! Their brains are actually different at processing language. There is a lot to make up for in those early years. Poverty, housing, hunger and clothing are all issues that these children face daily not to mention drugs and violence.

A state take over of our schools would be an utter disaster. It would remove the care of the students from the people that know and love them best.

ATeacherLikeMe
ATeacherLikeMe

@Astropig @L_D So if it will take lots of little baby steps from the OSD, then why is taking baby steps such a bad option for the local school districts?  People can become impoverished overnight, but the mentality that seeps in isn't built overnight either.  

 You also propose that something be done instead of nothing and that is quite frankly insulting and silly.  What is the something to do?  The truth is the same teachers who are currently staffing these schools will most likely be the ones who staff the schools under the new "cooperative agreement."  There is not any proposal or plan for what will happen at the instructional level in these schools.  You want people to vote on a plan that is scant on actual practice.  This isn't an area where the proponents get to say "trust me" and we just can.  

   I do teach at a school on "the list."  As always I invite anyone to come and volunteer in my school.  Not for an hour or two, not even a day, but a solid week and then tell me that we aren't teaching.  There is one poster who consistently cites "discipline," and"attendance," and "retention" as factors that contribute to the poor performance of schools.  If the OSD is going to do something dramatically different with regards to those three areas, I would love to know.  

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Wow. We all know some folks are brainwashed to hate unions but Truth is right GA doesn't have a Teacher's union just an association that lacks collective bargaining.

That's some good brainwashing to make you hate a union that doesn't exist.

Vote no.

Starik
Starik

"At the local level, the expertise of teachers, with their unique knowledge of their students, have the greatest impact on student performance; however, these professionals have been completely left out of any OSD decision-making, and some even risk losing their jobs."

The OSD might break the cycle of deprived students being taught by the least educated. worst performing teachers.  That's why I'll vote for it.

TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

And how, pray tell, do you think the OSD will accomplish this? Oh, wait, you said "might". What a ringing endorsement from you.

TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

And just how, pray tell, will the OSD accomplish this? Oh, wait, you said "might". What a stirring endorsement from you.

itsbrokeletsfixit
itsbrokeletsfixit

And herein lurks the danger! You and most voters are woefully uninformed about public school issues. The feel good language used on the ballot for this amendment is, as Maureen explains in her article, deceptive and dishonest. Fixing the problem requires a more thoughtful approach than copying the failed efforts that have already been tried and failed in Tennessee, Michigan, and New Orleans. Our children and our State deserve better.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Starik I'd  like to see your "source" for your claim that deprived students are "being taught by the least educated.(sic) worst performing teachers."


In my system, at least, you know you are considered one of the best BECAUSE you get the weakest students.

KnowTheFactsOSD
KnowTheFactsOSD

@itsbrokeletsfixit 60 percent of New Orleans students went to a school in 2004 that performed in the bottom tenth of all Louisiana public schools. By any reasonable definition, these were failing schools. In 2014, just 13 percent of the city’s students attended a school in Louisiana’s bottom tenth.


I'd suggest you read this full report before believing whoever told you that New Orleans was a failure. These interventions are temporary, and they've all got to come to an end at some point... Reverting back to local control in their situation was anything but a failed outcome. 

http://www.newschoolsforneworleans.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Public-School-Resurgence-Executive-Summary-FINAL.pdf


"Revolutionizing the role of government in public education enabled our transformation. The district moved from school operator to regulator of the system’s quality and fairness."

Astropig
Astropig

@AlyssaBotts @itsbrokeletsfixit


Excellent points.New Orleans has been a success story.Perfect? Not even close,but improved. 


This simply can't be admitted or acknowledged by the status quo.

BleachBit
BleachBit

Forget fairy dust. If you believe failing public schools will EVER be turned around by the educrats currently in charge of them ... 

The teachers' unions have a bridge they'd like to sell you!


sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@BleachBit @TruthReallyHurts


Good old talking points about the unions to scare off the readers. However, you fail to mention the huge amounts of money that has been pouring in from the privately-managed charter industry because they will get become even richer and more powerful if this passes. 

BleachBit
BleachBit

@TruthReallyHurts @BleachBit 

A cesspool of in-state and out-of-state union money is being used to stop this education reform. 

And to sell Hillary Clinton to voters.


TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

@BleachBit @TruthReallyHurts These organizations are unions in name only. There is NO meat on the bone, like collective bargaining, etc. These groups have absolutely ZERO impact in the Georgia legislature, which is another measure of union power. 

Again, there are no teachers unions in Georgia. Period.