Opportunity School District: An assault on neighborhood public schools

A new bill offers a milder version of the defeated Opportunity School but it still seems superfluous.

U.S. Congressman Hank Johnson contends the Opportunity School District — Amendment 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot — is a corporate takeover of local public schools and a power grab by the governor.

Johnson, a Democrat representing Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District, explains why in this essay.

The battle over the OSD is heating up, as indicated by the surge in opinion columns coming into the AJC. I will be posting a pro OSD piece by former state legislator Edward Lindsey.

Here is Johnson’s piece:

By Rep. Hank Johnson

This November, Georgia voters get to take a stand to safeguard one of our last great public institutions: neighborhood public schools. Americans, 90 percent of whom were educated in our nation’s public school systems, are directly responsible for America maintaining her status as the world’s superpower.

America’s neighborhood public education system is responsible for shaping the minds that have produced the greatest democracy and the most prosperous nation that the world has ever known.

It will be up to voters to decide on Amendment 1 — the so-called “Opportunity School District and Gov. Nathan Deal’s thinly disguised power grab that would give the governor authority to take over struggling public schools. This deceptively misnamed amendment to the Georgia Constitution is an insidious ploy to snatch away local control of schools and tax dollars, replacing local accountability with unaccountable crony capitalist profiteers selected by the governor.

The governor and some Republicans in the state Legislature want to trick voters into believing that Amendment 1 is about improving schools. The truth is Amendment 1 does not include any educational interventions or additional support that would help raise student achievement.

Congressman Hank Johnson

Congressman Hank Johnson

Instead, the provisions of Amendment 1 are modeled after the failed policies that undermined public education and student progress in Michigan and Louisiana. This top-down state take-over approach to school reform has had devastating results again and again. Still, anti-public education forces and misguided politicians continue to target school districts in communities populated primarily by disadvantaged black-and-brown children and families.

While our public schools are supposed to be the great equalizer for our state and our nation, sadly, policies like Amendment 1’s OSD are intentional, institutional efforts to control and limit power by controlling and limiting access to a transformative education for children of color.

All in all, Amendment 1 and the so-called Opportunity School District mean less opportunity for the very students who need help the most. If Amendment 1 passes, the governor would have authority to hand public schools over to for-profit charter school management corporations that may be headquartered out of state.

Charter schools often sidestep many of the standards that govern neighborhood public schools. And while public schools have a legal obligation to educate all children, charters can and do exclude students with special needs and disabilities, those with limited English proficiency and those from low-income families. The result often is the re-segregation of schools.

As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District, I value the importance of local control and accountability for the public schools in communities around the state. Schools work best for students when local community members — parents, educators, school administrators, faith and civic leaders, and business professionals — have a voice through a locally elected school board.

This Election Day, the citizens of the great state of Georgia have an opportunity to reject this effort to undermine democracy through an attack on our neighborhood public schools. The children of our state deserve real opportunity, which means ensuring students and educators have the resources and support they need to succeed. Developing successful learners will take a real investment in schools, children and their families.

Community schools must be the solution, not the corporate takeover of public education.

State takeovers, which are the foundation of Amendment 1, do not work. It’s time to do what works for our schools, our students and our state. That starts with voting no on Amendment 1.

 

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51 comments
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Ron Fowler
Ron Fowler

Thank you Congressman Johnson for your insight and enlightenment of the ill of this bill.

After reading the bill I too see no educational interventions...just governance.

Vote Note to Amendment One!

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

Governor’s Ministers Summoning Meeting was a School Takeover Sales Pitch

By Rev. Chester Ellis 912-257-2394

Pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia

Governor Nathan Deal is working hard to sell the voters on what he calls an Opportunity School District. But this is an opportunity that Georgia should not take.

Recently, The Governor made a pitch to twenty-nine African American ministers in the basement of the mansion. No media was present. But I was one of those ministers.

If Amendment One was about education and opportunity for our communities and children, we could at least hold a logical discussion about evidence-based solutions. As a retired educator and community activist, it is very clear to me that his Opportunity School District is not about education or the community. He has no plan or roadmap to improve schools.

Gov. Deal was looking for our support. He stated, “I need your help.” But we left with more questions than we had answers. It truly is a takeover, and one whose extent is clear to very few voters.

I was disappointed. I thought the Governor would be able to lay out his plan in detail to us. But, what I got from the Governor is he’s making it up as he goes. There’s really no plan. At best, it was guesswork.

Bishop Marvin L. Winans, who has a charter school in Detroit, was the first to speak to us.  Brother Winans is a minister and an award winning Gospel singer. He does not live in Georgia. Marvin talked about why he had established his school in Detroit and why he thought it was a good idea that the Governor was willing to do something to help failing schools. But we didn’t have a chance to dialog with him, ask questions or shed light on anything here in Georgia for him. He left for a concert, almost as quickly as he appeared!  

Afterwards, the Governor followed with a spiel about why he thought he needed to take over the schools and why the Black clergymen needed to be in support of Amendment 1, The Opportunity School District. He then opened the session up for questions.

I asked him, what is the student to teacher ratio per class of all the schools on your list for takeover? He said he did not have the answer to that question.

My rationale for asking that question was that research tells us ideal pupil to teacher ratio should be 18 to 1, and the further schools and classrooms go past that recommended ratio, the more they are setting students up for failure. Districts need resources to address that problem. The A plus Act of 2000 provided such resources. In fact, this Governor has taken more resources from our public schools. The governor added that he needed to do more research on that issue, so I invited him to do that and gave him some websites he could Google.

I also asked the Governor if all of the schools that are having trouble, as defined by him, are predominately African American schools. He replied, not so much, but that when they looked at schools that were failing they looked at schools that were in a cluster. And that the ministers summoned to the meeting were invited more for being in those identified clusters of schools.

One of my colleagues asked the Governor for the specifics of his Opportunity School District plan. Deal replied that he was using different models, and two of the models he mentioned were the Louisiana Recovery School District and the Tennessee Achievement School District models. Then the question was raised about both of those state’s backing away from the models because they failed to accomplish their achievement goals. In fact indicators prove that New Orleans is worse off now. The Governor replied, “We are going to look at what they did wrong, and correct their mistakes so that ours will be right. You know, we have to do something, we are willing to try this and then if it doesn’t work, we are willing to work on what doesn’t work and straighten it out.” The problem with the Governor’s logic is that he is asking the voters to change the state’s constitution. We can’t back up if the voters do that!

The Governor says OSD is a “plan in the works”. . So I urged the Governor to use Massachusetts as a model rather than one from Tennessee or Louisiana, which have both failed.

According to a recent article in Education Week, scholars at the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation and Philadelphia-based Research in Action organization found that some states are proposing to mimic “opportunity school district” takeover models despite evidence that prototypes of these models have gone awry.  The esteemed Education Week reports that imitating these models are not an appropriate prescription for providing support for schools that needs it.

Massachusetts put their plan in place with on the ground, in the classrooms education practitioners. . Legislators met with them and applied the educator’s advice and professional know how. They set out on a course working together and didn’t change the course until they got the results they were striving for. They are now one of the celebrated and better school systems in the country. I asked the Governor, why didn’t his planners and plans look at that type of successful model?

He replied, “It’s because of demographics.” I responded that clearly Massachusetts doesn’t look like Georgia but education isn’t rocket science …..It requires an understanding of what you are working with. I also referenced just one of many of our state’s successful public school model, Woodville Thompkins High School in Savannah.  I’m a graduate of that school and I have worked since 2006 with that school and the community. As a result it is an award winning school in many disciplines.

 For the last two years, Woodville-Tompkins Technical and Career High School has had a 100 percent Graduation rate. They have also been cited as being one of the top 30 programs worldwide in Robotics.  There is a way to turn schools around and it doesn’t require a Constitutional Amendment. I don’t see the need. It takes a little elbow grease and total involvement from parents, community and legislators to sustain evidence based solutions and models that are already working.

I don’t buy the Governor’s program or plans. He’s selling the public on a quick fix.  I think the Governor has some friends who see education as a carte blanche card; something they can make money off of. It’s about the money, not about the children. The legislation doesn’t even define what a failing school is. The Governor has spent little or no time educating the public on the thirteen pages that compose all of the little devils in his plan per Senate Bill 133. He is spending lots of time though, selling his plan.

The Governor is a lame duck, yet he’s asking citizens to trust him blindly and give him all the power over their schools, public property, pocketbooks and children by changing the constitution.

I thanked the Governor for inviting me, but I told him before I left that there are too many uncertainties and too many unanswered questions to go before my congregation and say we should support this. I’m not comfortable with the Governor’s answers or his solutions. His Opportunity School District has no facts and no plans to improve schools.  This is an opportunity that citizens can’t afford to take. It is all about the money. It’s just that simple.

Astropig
Astropig

Hank Johnson is BY FAR the dumbest member of congress -and that's saying a mouthful.He once asked a military officer testifying before his committee if Guam would "tip over" under the weight of whatever that officer wanted to put there. The officer should have berated him for such a stupid question,but he showed great diplomatic skills in parrying such an idiotic query.God knows what he was thinking behind the facade of self control.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7XXVLKWd3Q


Now, this would be a career-ending episode for any Republican.But Johnson benefits from being a member of a party that can say stupid things all day long and be celebrated for it.Things like he says above in a similarly idiotic piece that he probably didn't even write.


You simply cannot make this stuff up! Keep 'em coming AJC!

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@Shannon the Grouch @Astropig The @AstroPig doing ad hominem attacks?!Naaaa, that can't be since The @AstroPig so readily flails against those whom he thinks hurl ad hominem attacks his way.Either that or his hypocrisy.

Shannon the Grouch
Shannon the Grouch

@Astropig Ad hominem attacks: attacking the person rather than the argument.


This is a logical fallacy, meaning an error in reasoning.


This "argument" is essentially "I think Johnson is dumb, so we don't have to engage his points."  But that's not how argument works.


Johnson has some excellent points about the removal of local control, and posts like this don't address and therefore don't refute those points.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

" And while public schools have a legal obligation to educate all children, charters can and do exclude students with special needs and disabilities, those with limited English proficiency and those from low-income families. The result often is the re-segregation of schools."


Lie or deception? The law does NOT allow this.


"Schools work best for students when local community members — parents, educators, school administrators, faith and civic leaders, and business professionals — have a voice through a locally elected school board."


Rep. Johnson is living, breathing proof that people do NOT always elect people of competence.


This issue comes down to a simple question- are you looking out for the teacher unions or the children? Seems like a pretty clear answer.

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

@RoyalDawg Are you looking to turn public funds over to corporate powers and  Wall street ? Something like 10 plus trillion a year ?

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

@jezel @RoyalDawg Actually, I am inside the system and KNOW that you are wrong and misguided. No offense, but someone with a political agenda has gotten inside of your head. Honestly.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

@jezel @RoyalDawg Of WHAT are you babbling? "Corporate powers and Wall Street" have NOTHING to do with Georgia charter schools and will have nothing to do the OSD schools. What conspiracy fool are you listening to?

Astropig
Astropig

@RoyalDawg @jezel


""Corporate powers and Wall Street" have NOTHING to do with Georgia charter schools and will have nothing to do the OSD schools. What conspiracy fool are you listening to?"


Agree and glad you called him/her out.By law,charter schools are required to be controlled by a non profit entity. "For profit" is just a scare word tactic that the unions have forced their parrots to mouth.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@RoyalDawg @jezel See lake Oconee  Academy and Museum School of Avondale Estates for tips on how to create a school to keep out minorities, poor children, and kids with disabilities.

Ron Fowler
Ron Fowler

Nothing to do w/teacher unions. The bill simply does not in writing address how to improve schools..simply governance..read the bill please.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

Johnson is an embarrassment to this state. If the schools are failing, think of the interest of the students and try SOMETHING different. The "locals" have had their opportunity and failed before this law changes anything.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

@jezel @RoyalDawg And what action has ALEC taken in Georgia. Deal placed children's education above adults' power with the Charter School Amendment and is doing so AGAIN with the OSD. Last time, the poor minority parents saw past the politicians and voted in their children's best interest. They will probably do so again.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

@jezel @RoyalDawg I have a role in this system and had never heard of them before I DID google them. They are not active here. But if corporate America COULD educate our children better than our system, which ranks either 48th or 49th in the USA in performance, who that inherently make it bad? If a "Wall Street corporation" could educate our children better than our current failing system, and the children were better off, what would be wrong with that?


Serious question.

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

@RoyalDawg @jezel I figured you were on the payroll. If you honestly are in the dark I will be glad to fill you in. Think and research what I have said and in a day or two we can talk again. I am sorry I have to get busy right now. 


And you do raise a good question about the private sector and education. Have several reasons... that is not the right approach.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

@jezel @RoyalDawg I am not on the payroll, I am a volunteer. Our schools are failing. You know a lot that isn't actually true. I have spent hours and hours researching- if you did so yourself you might stop embarrassing yourself.

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

@RoyalDawg @jezel I see that I offended you and am sorry. Volunteers are the best. Without them I would have never turned a football program around...(Jezel is my dog)


My wife teaches and it took some time to convince her that she was doing a good job...and her school was also.


Take a look at who is evaluating your school.



EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@RoyalDawg @jezel Okay, @RoyalDawy, maybe you will answer this question since The @AstroPig won't:  Name one, just one so-called chronically failing school.  Just one.

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

@RoyalDawg @jezel The OSD and the school reform movement   lays the ground work for privatizing education.


The goal of business is to make money.


The role of education is to prepare students for an occupation and a life of learning.


Why are the two incompatible ? Students are not products that should be subjected to market demands.

TheCarnivore
TheCarnivore

Easy to fix.  Get all liberals out of the school system.  They own this mess. Clean them out.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@jezel @TheCarnivore And, actually, we have been stolen from by the conservatives for the past 15+ years in the public schools, "redirecting" monies due the schools, etc.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

Yes, using my phone is not the best way to post.

You could sure use an ego reducer for christmas. You have nothing to say about the content so will deflect in your usual smarmy manner.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

@sneakpeakintoeducation Someone is confused. In Georgia, the charters issued by the state will be revoked if they do not out-perform the local schools.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

Revoked? And will they be returned to the local communities or pur in the hands of another profiteer? Your statement that our schools are failinf is hyperbolic at best and scaremongering at worst. We have many great schools and the ones that struggle do so for obvious reasons. These reasons are not addressed in the government takeover. Instead, the plan is to put them in the hands of those whose first motive is profit making, not educating. Please providw proof that the OSD will work. It has been tried before and there is evidence of its failures, especially to the local communities who rely on their localky-controlled schools.

Astropig
Astropig

@sneakpeakintoeducation



I hope your "Secret Santa" gets you spell check for Christmas,or Winter Holiday or whatever you PC types are calling it these days.You could sure use it.


"False,Stupid Statement Eraser" would be a good stocking- stuffer too.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Dude, go back to saving Guam from tipping over.

Astropig
Astropig

@dcdcdc


Actiually,he's less of a danger when he confines his comments to inanimate objects (like unstable islands that might "tip over") At worst, he a vile anti-semite that once compared Jews to termites.


He's an embarrassment to the state of Georgia every time he opens his mouth or writes something.I simply cannot fathom why he would be given a forum here.This kind of essay is what happens when you run out of bullets and just throw your gun at your opponent.

daks_
daks_

The Congressman should be listening to inner-city mothers rather than distant teachers' union bosses. Those mothers actually vote in his district. 

And they're furious about failing schools.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

@daks_ You are 100% correct. Johnson and the Black Caucus fought the Charter School Amendment tooth and nail, but those mothers were more concerned about their children's futures that the Caucus' power base. And they will probably provide the winning margin on OSD as well.

Astropig
Astropig

@daks_


Agree completely.This campaign is being funded by out of state union bosses.They didn't give a toss about these kids and these schools until the governor decided to try to help them improve.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

What about the powerful charter industry? Not going to admitt that they are funneling money in and are salivating at the prospect of getting their hands on tax-payers money with no accountability to the local communities they serve? What do you have to gain personally? We know from previous comments you have shown disdain and disgust with the less fortunate, including children that attend these schools. Your feverish passion for this failed policy to pass must be because you stand to gain from it personally.

Astropig
Astropig

@sneakpeakintoeducation


You're a member of the status quo.You're the only one that gains personally. The only thing I get out of it is a better educational opportunity for Georgia school children,some of which do and will ask me for employment.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

You know nothing about me. I know who you are, though. Your hate-filled posts for the less fortunate than you, the very ones who attend the schools you want taken over by the charter industry, shows who you are. Your race baiting comments, your derision of anyone who doesn't agree with your inexplicable desire to push a failed policy on the people of Georgia so a few can get rich, very rich, your praise of anyone who agrees with your, your willful ignorance in ignoring the policies, like providing wrap-around services that do work all show who you are . We both know that non profit within the charter industry is a shell game. The private management companies they hire make a very nice profit in all sorts of scams.