Dear Gov. Nathan Deal, I didn’t support you but I support your Opportunity School District

A guest columnist today says the governor, shown here with his wife, Sandra, should make the Opportunity School District his legacy. (Photo Governor’s Office.)

Elrado Ramsay of Atlanta is a U.S. Air Force veteran with a master’s degree in accounting and finance. In this letter to Gov. Nathan Deal, Ramsay explains why he supports the governor’s Opportunity School District, which goes before voters next month. He sent this piece to the AJC as a letter to the editor, but I asked him if I could share it here on the blog.

Dear Gov. Deal,

As a general matter, I am not one of your supporters. I was not supportive of your run for governor of Georgia. However, I have come to respect your leadership and find that your decisions, and, per se, your government has been quite reasonable and responsible to all the citizens of Georgia.

One of my passions is education. I believe a society has no greater responsibility than to educate its people. I support your Opportunity School District proposal and I believe it is incumbent upon you to go into localities and articulate the arguments for it and call out the hypocrisy in arguments of the miraculously discovered competence of the “local control” brigades.

You must not only make this proposal, but you must go to bat for it because it is critical for a successful future for education in Georgia for years to come.

“Chronically failing schools” are a national cancer. You have found the foresight to do something about it in Georgia, and you should go to work to make this amendment happen. “Local Control” hypocrites are rattled by their perceived loss of academic slush budgets for schools they have written off anyway.

For example, Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers, trumpeted the DeKalb County School Board’s “symbolic stand” against the OSD last month. For these people, nothing is real. It is all symbols, and symbolism that schools are improving and that students are learning is eminently sufficient.

The propaganda is nauseating, particularly in African-American school districts where the argument is about a “state takeover.” You must counter this rubbish with facts and logic. Ask these charlatans where was “local control” when these schools were failing year after year after year? If “student performance” is the salient argument, then a takeover by Fred and Wilma Flintstone seems to be an improvement over dumping more money into schools that have had generational destinations of failure.

That people would resist a state triage of schools with failing scores on the College and Career Performance Index for three consecutive years is unconscionable. You must get out in front of Georgians; state the ridiculous, unclothe the cynical, and expose the power drunkards before Nov. 8.

Come to DeKalb County where there are 26 of these laggard schools and confront these people. Ask them to explain themselves in a forum where all Georgia taxpayers can hear them puff about the perennial budgetary and performance bloodbath they are trying to protect. Do not run or hide from these people. Let them speak. Give them the microphone because there is ample guarantee they will eventually make the most cogent case for OSD.

It never fails to amaze me how just when the hammer is coming down all the crooked nails want to be part of the construction program. Of course, now that OSD is on the table, all DeKalb schools will become Harvard High.

I believe this amendment is going to be a significant statement about the legacy you leave behind as the 82nd governor of Georgia. How can we continue to have schools that fail year after year when our problems and our need for more highly educated people become more and more acute?

Given the problems facing us — global warming, cyber-terrorism, super resistant pathogens, transportation and mobility gridlock choking our lungs and economic progress, military superiority that is no longer as superior as it once was – we cannot afford failing schools.

So, governor, I encourage you to come out swinging on this one before Nov. 8th.

Sincerely,

Elrado Ramsay

Reader Comments 0

64 comments
Ashley Kurzweil
Ashley Kurzweil

"Opportunity" for Nathan Deal and cronies to make money!

KnowTheFactsOSD
KnowTheFactsOSD

Is there any way to get in touch with Elrado? We would love to speak to him. Please email alyssa@voteyesosd.org with any information. 

jezel
jezel

If you want to improve schools...improve the communities with jobs that pay a livable wage.


All this other convoluted talk is a deflection from the real issues we face....founded in unchecked greed.


A liberal issue ?...A conservative issue ?......I wish it was that simple. The issue is about the American public being duped...over and over again.....Collectively we must be the dumbest people in all of the developed countries.

RolleTheorem
RolleTheorem

@jezel  You have it backwards.  "Livable wage" jobs don't come to places with poor schools. If you want your economy to boom just gather up a bunch of educated people in the same geographic area.

newsphile
newsphile

@jezel Simply raising wages in a community doesn't solve the issues.  It gives some parents more money for drugs.  The education issue is a societal issue and is very complex. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the Federal Government  to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?


Are you for the above?

HotDawg
HotDawg

Let the libs keep their miserable schools, without any real solutions.

Unfortunately, leaving the actual students that want to succeed (not being given anything) to suffer with the non-competing illiterates.

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink".

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@HotDawg So a small number of poor disadvantaged kids that fail at a rich school is okay and that school is not failing?

HotDawg
HotDawg

Keep being average.

You're not part of the solution.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @HotDawg What makes you think that poor disadvantaged kids would fail at a rich school?  They would find support they can't get at a poor disadvantaged school.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik @HotDawg If kids from poor backgrounds were exposed to good schools where a large majority were good students, and good teachers, they'd have a chance for real success.  I wouldn't call these "rich" schools.  I'd call them normal schools.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik @AvgGeorgian @HotDawg

You are now talking about the dispersal of low performing kids into an environment of high performing kids. Research shows that this does improve test scores of lower performing kids. This is not what the OSD will do and not what the wealthier parents want. 


And, kids do still manage to fail in the "best" schools.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@HotDawg

So, no answer, no research points, no plan, just "you can lead a dawg to google, but you can't make him think".

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik @HotDawg A few, of course, and for various reasons. Irrelevant. Give the willing poor children who want to learn where there are other kids, richer probably, white and Asian probably, who will help the good poor kids rather than hindering them.

PJ25
PJ25

The liberal beauracrats are getting desperate.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@PJ25

Are you like a weather reporter, but rather report desperation instead? If so please give levels of desperation, like "partly desperate with a 20% chance of panic"-you know something interesting.

daks_
daks_

Mr. Ramsay,

The Opportunity School District will be approved by voters, and for all the reasons you mention. 

This blog sides with the teachers' unions and therefore constantly promotes their interests. With them it's all about an implied threat to union revenues in unionized states. But that won't fly with Georgia voters. So don't lose heart.

Just make sure your own friends don't skip this ballot measure when voting.

Kids and their parents are counting on us.

dg417s
dg417s

@daks_ Parents will realize that they lose total control of their school - there will be no board of education that they can complain to like now. They will have no voice in their local school and will vote no.

Starik
Starik

@dg417s @daks_ What about Druid Hills' attempt for a charter school? The school board wasn't helpful there.

dg417s
dg417s

@Starik @dg417s @daks_ That vote was split 4-3 - so get people on the board that you like and try again. I once mentioned something to people who live in what is now Stan Jester's (I don't remember if his wife was in the seat or if it was the guy before her at the time) district that they should campaign for a candidate against Sarah Copeland-Wood and go down to district 3 to find a better candidate. I was told "They don't want us down there." Ok fine, that's up to you. But I also know that the students who live in Stan Jester's area overall don't have the same economic concerns that students in the areas where the schools are "failing" are - too often those students have bigger concerns than doing well on the test. 

Starik
Starik

@dg417s @Starik @daks_ Black folks who are in charge are often not interested in white kids. This is true in DeKalb.

Reid Davis
Reid Davis

I'd be more sympathetic to this argument if there was any concrete evidence that such plans work. Unfortunately, from what I've seen, there isn't any such thing. Given that poverty and lack of parent engagement is the factor in 90% of these schools, the state can do very little about those things and things change very little. Ultimately, it's just the transference of responsibility (and power) to an entity farther away from the "failing" school, with far less accountability to the local community. Meanwhile, the local school district loses funding -- which affects the non-failing schools. (As a parent with a student in a very good APS elementary school this is a big concern for me.)

DS
DS

OSD isn't an education improvement plan. It's a school takeover plan. Here's how it would work:

1. Cut education funding on a per-student basis.

2. With inadequate funding, schools struggle to hire good teachers and students don't do well on tests.

3. Takeover schools with the worst test scores and convert them to state charter schools to be run by private for-profit companies.

Notice anything missing? How about anything to, you know, improve education?

This is all about privatizing education so for-profit companies can make money on taxpayer funds intended for education.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Please study the picture above, carefully.  It appears to be taken in the same class the picture on the OSD part of the governor's office page.  Note the children in the picture.  Do these children, given what you can see of them, look ANyTHING like the pictures you would get of the schools what are on the "takeover list?"  Ask yourself why.

Astropig
Astropig

Mr. Ramsay knocked it out of the park. I'm going to print this and hand it out to everyone that I have a discussion with regarding the OSD.


(Slow clap)

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Astropig @dg417s


Why is that? Because it doesn't mention the actual "meat" in that the OSD's that have been tried have failed? That the wording of the amendment has been put forth by the right wing group ALEC and is designed to be deliberately vague except for the unproven message that it will save schools. The letter talks nothing about what these school and the children in it have in common. I'll give you a clue; none of them are in affluent areas.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Greg Alto @sneakpeakintoeducation @Astropig @dg417s


There are tried and tested solutions out there that don't remove local control, that don't put our schools into the hands of profiteers, that don't create another layer of bureaucracy, and that aren't run for profits first!!  Have a look at the children who are in these schools and then you'll understand that there are other things that are missing from their lives that make it almost impossible to bridge the gap. Invest in those areas and you will see an improvement.

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@Greg Alto @sneakpeakintoeducation @Astropig @dg417s I have proposed a solution.  All schools that are considered "failing" should be allowed to hire additional teachers, pay them for additional days/hours, stop pretending the worth of a teacher can be measured in a standardized test (I didn't say don't hold them accountable, but let's be sensible about how it is done), recognize student growth as the measure of success, and then, when the students are making progress, don't pull out the support.  You see, our school was once on one of the lists (the ones in already in legislation and monitored by the DOE, not the governor).  We received additional funds that allowed us to hire additional teachers to reduce class size enough that it really mattered.  Our teachers examined their practice, looked at student work, analyzed data, and continued to teach.  Our students showed great progress.  So, the supports were removed, additional staff were let go, and class size increased.  So, I offer this observation - we know what works we just don't fund it.  


Until we recognize that not all schools need to be staffed the same way,  that students of poverty need far more than a viable curriculum, that a "failing" school does not necessarily mean the teachers/administrators are incompetent, that the instruction in a "failing" school is often more effective than the instruction in a wealthy school (especially at the elementary level where life experiences can put a child far ahead from the get go), that it is hard to hit a moving target and the CCRPI formula keeps changing, that we are being asked to make twice the progress in the same amount of time, and that change happens through instruction not legislation, we aren't going to improve our schools.


And for the record, I do not belong to a union; I am not against accountability; I have fired incompetent teachers; and I will stand behind the teachers in our school and put them up against any of the wealthy schools in our district.  

dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig It's an overly easy response to an overly complex problem and will leave 68,000 students worse off than they are. 

itsbrokeletsfixit
itsbrokeletsfixit

@Greg Alto @sneakpeakintoeducation @Astropig @dg417s Problem is that the state takeover "solution" has been tried: in Tennessee, Michigan, Louisiana, and elsewhere. It has seriously failed. It is NOT SOMETHING DIFFERENT! It's just another attempt at a cheap fix without correctly diagnosing the problem. 

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Mr. Ramsay references the DeKalb Board of Education vote against the OSD. School board member Stan Jester was the dissenting vote and, in his "Minority Report" this morning, Jester says:  


The OSD referendum hinges on the answer to two questions:

1. Does the state have any responsibility for the performance of local school districts?
2. If the state does not abdicate all responsibility to local school districts, then what is the alternative to OSD?

Schools in DeKalb have been failing in perpetuity. As of the latest financial report, DeKalb Schools has an operating surplus of almost $400 million. For the OSD-eligible schools, we are:

· Giving stipends and signing bonuses to attract and retain talented, motivated teachers
· Appropriating $1.9 million for literacy and mathematics initiatives
·  Spending $750K for the 10 Horizon schools to partner with Discovery Education
·  Spending $398K to partner with IIRP(International Institute for Restorative Practices) to reduce the number of suspensions

If we can’t improve the academic achievement of our failing schools with local control and almost $400 million operating surplus, our schools need to be taken over.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MaureenDowney Yes, the state DOES have responsibility to ALL the schools. First, and foremost, is to supply THE FUNDS THE STATE LAW SAYS THE SCHOOLS ARE TO BE GIVEN.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MaureenDowney Note to Mr. Jester:  It ISN'T about the teachers--that is not why some of the schools are "failing."  It is because of the things the school has no control over!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Maybe the Governor should fix the current failing state school system - The State Charter Commission School System that was created by the last constitutional amendment. 

It's schools are mostly failing or close to it, the Board members are political appointees, and all of the taxpayer money for these schools is spent in secret. Does it go to friends and family or corporate charter school donors/profiteers? Who knows? The spending is not public like real public schools.


Now you want to give the state more schools for secret spending?

Gunluvr
Gunluvr

Governor Deal should have given us what we wanted, now he'll get nothing. His school takeover scheme will not pass, either by the voters or the legislature. He should have passed it before betraying us but payback is coming in November.

Astropig
Astropig

@Gunluvr


It already passed the legislature with a 2/3rds majority.That's why we're voting on it.