Johns Creek state rep: Join me in supporting Opportunity School District

(Photo illustration: StudentsFirst)

Outgoing state Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R-Johns Creek, makes a strong appeal today for passage of the Opportunity School District, Amendment 1 on the ballot, in this column.

A former school board member in Forsyth County, Dudgeon has a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech and has an interest in education issues. Dudgeon chose not to run for re-election this year so he is serving his final months as a state representative.

By Rep. Mike Dudgeon

I spent four years on the Forsyth County School Board and six years in education leadership of the House of Representatives working to improve public education.  From that deep experience, I can tell you that voting “Yes” for Amendment 1 is the right move for Georgia. It gave me the perspective needed to know how important the Opportunity School District is to the 68,000 kids forced to attend Georgia’s failing schools.

First, I am a huge believer in local control and consistently voted that way, supporting policy in that area. I sponsored a bill in 2012 that repealed 30 sections of top-down education control and fought against dozens of other new state education regulations. From the opposition’s TV ads funded by national unions, who are not even remotely local, our citizens are being told that the OSD destroys parent and local control and is a power grab for the state. This is simply not true.

Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R - Johns Creek, raises a question at a House Education meeting. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R – Johns Creek, raises a question at a House Education meeting. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

The legislation behind the OSD identifies the requirements for community input and sets models for local stakeholders to be part of the decision process.  When I traveled with Gov. Nathan Deal to see the successful Recovery School District in New Orleans, we heard loud and clear that they tried to do it “top down” at first, and only saw results once they involved the community and local input.

Common sense says you cannot “run a school” remotely from the capitol in Atlanta and that is not what will happen under the OSD. It is interesting that many of our failing schools are today in systems with very expensive, bloated, and unresponsive central office bureaucracies, yet it is the OSD being criticized for lack of local control.

In addition to local control, I strongly support our Founding Fathers’ wonderful gift, the idea of checks and balances in government. I want the local boards to run their schools, but if they are unwilling or unable to make meaningful changes for schools that have failed for three or more years in a row, there needs to be a “check.” That check is the state, which is already paying roughly half the bill for the school in most cases. The intent of the OSD is only to take the worst of the worst and not interfere when local boards are already on a recovery path. Just the mere possibility of the OSD has motivated some local boards to start turnaround plans for schools on the failing list. Having someone looking over the shoulder of local boards gives greater accountability and will motivate them.

The OSD will set clear accountability for schools and change expectations. Another amazing thing I saw in New Orleans was a K-8 school with almost 100 percent minority and 100 percent poverty.  It had been an F school until a new principal turned it around to a B-/C+ school. She told me that these turnaround efforts excelled by strengthening school leadership and by raising expectations for her staff and her kids, including removing any attitudes of “these kids can’t learn.” No new money was involved. Culture and leadership are the ingredients for success.

Another claim from the opposition to OSD is that the “real” solution is simply more money, or that the amendment will be an expensive addition of state bureaucracy. Study after study has shown that more money is not the simple answer. Gov. Deal and the Legislature have already restored hundreds of millions of dollars to the education budget and will continue to keep K-12 funding as the state’s highest priority. Georgia has over 20 schools that are 80/80/80 schools, meaning 80 percent minority, 80 percent free and reduced lunch, and over 80 percent on the state grading system. These amazing schools operate on the same funding model as others that fail with similar demographics. You may recall in 2012 education groups were rallying against the state charter schools amendment, saying that we would spend hundreds of millions to create a new bureaucracy.

Well, the amendment passed, and we have a whopping total of seven people administering this at the state level, and the extra money for the kids is a fraction of the doomsayer’s prediction. There is no reason to believe them again this time.

When you boil it down, you see many groups of adults battling against this amendment. Local boards find it easy to oppose this on theoretical governance grounds, but I doubt these board members would keep their own children in one of these chronically failing schools. I believe local school boards are wanting to protect their own power, teacher unions want to make sure that “more money” is always the preferred answer, and the state PTA wants to perpetuate the existing school mode. I would be surprised if the PTA surveyed parents at the failing schools in taking their position. These groups are using the same scare tactics they used unsuccessfully in 2012 to oppose charter schools and defend the status quo.

Missing in all these adult arguments are the kids. Keeping kids in these chronically failing schools is a failing of our government. It begins the cycle of unemployment, poverty, and many times prison. We have a moral obligation to send these students and their parents a lifeline. Ask yourself what you would think if it was your kid in a school that had failed year after year and you had no economic means to move or offer any other alternative. You would want a change.

If you join me in supporting Amendment 1 and the Opportunity School District, we can make a difference in the lives of 68,000 children in Georgia who right now have no other hope.

 

Reader Comments 0

42 comments
Intteach
Intteach

Rep. Dudgeon has been Governor Deal's right hand in education for quite some time. No original talking point, just repeated points from crooked Deal himself. Vote no to amendment 1.

Another comment
Another comment

So what has Fulton County done to prevent schools from going on the take over list? completely deny that they have any problem with minorities committing acts of bullying, crime, assaults or even rape at its schools. It does not want any of its schools labeled dangerous.

While the schools in Milton or Johnscreek may not have line jumpers the ones in Sandy Springs are already over run with the line jumpers mostly illegal but a few legal choice students. So is this the scare tactic. We will send the thugs from the ghetto up to your neighborhood. It has been happening for years in Sandy Springs, Smyrna, Marietta, Tucker, Dunwoody.

Astropig
Astropig

Rep. Dudgeon makes excellent points here.These local school boards would sacrifice tens of thousands of children's futures to protect their little centers of power and control.The school systems can wash their hands of these kids when they get discouraged and drop out,but their suffering parents and the rest of society have to live with them,be victimized by them and/or support them for the rest of their days.There are simply no 21st century jobs that will elevate these kids into the middle class without a basic education.Hate me for pointing that out,but if you deny it,you're not being realistic.

Vann Sikes
Vann Sikes

Politicians and folks with connections could easily get good state jobs and benefits if the constitution is amended.

Carolyn Wood
Carolyn Wood

Just want to note that Mr. Dudgeon is no longer a state representative. He decided not to run for reelection in 2016.

Missy Ensign Tankell
Missy Ensign Tankell

Another interesting point to this fiasco of a power grab is that the new "opportunity school district" will be allowed to take control of the school building and EVERYTHING in it. All textbooks, technology, and physical property gets taken from the county that has paid for it. Don't even get me started on the hard working teachers that will either lose a job or be forced to work for a corporation and lose their TRS \U0001f621

Sharron Bray Reeves
Sharron Bray Reeves

WHAT? Johns Creek rep. feeling all charitable for the have nots. You do not have a clue and must be standing in line to get your pockets filled too.

Annie
Annie

I worked with the Recovery School district in NOLA. Although some progress was made, the same thing could have been accomplished using local control with the increased funding. The improvements would probably have lasted also. As is, it is not much better than pre- Katrina.

Phil Dodge
Phil Dodge

The "Haves" want to tell the "Have nots" how to educate their children.

Lynn Mcdonald
Lynn Mcdonald

Maureen -can you research to see how Dudgeon might personally benefit?

Casey Pope
Casey Pope

If you don't want an unelected, education Czar in your backyard controlling your child's school, vote no. Remember leadership changes. If this passes, you have given up your local control to any future governor.

30303
30303

Vote YES on Question 1.

Failing schools will never be reformed if the union bosses have their way. Union money is flooding into our state to block this only because those same union bosses see any reform as a potential threat to union revenues elsewhere.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@30303 You said union 3 times-let's see, at $10 for each time you post the word "union", they owe you 30 bucks. Not bad for 3 minutes work. Are you a millionaire yet?

BTW why so interested in EduKation?

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

Rep. Dudgeon, could you please publish a list of the 80-80-80 schools?  I have searched for the high performing Title I schools and I don't find any with a large ELL population.  

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

I am beginning to feel like cellophane man!  I never get responses or answers to my posts and questions. 

Annette Laing
Annette Laing

Now that university presidencies have been added to the Governor's store of patronage awards, it's hard to imagine why any thinking person would find this man's words credible.

Starik
Starik

If schools were competently run with teachers who were qualified to teach there would be no reason for the Governor's program.  Unfortunately that's not the case.  How does a teacher who can't read well teach reading?  How does a teacher teach English who can't speak it well? Why do coaches teach if they're much better at coaching?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik

Do you propose more stringent requirements for teachers along with higher pay due to reduced supply at current prices?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Mr. Dudgeon doesn't mention specifically how much higher the costs are for those Charter Commission schools (just a vague reference),  nor does he mention how many of them have Ds and Fs on the CCRPI.


He also seems unconcerned that the law he references could be replaced by a different one which defines "failing" in a way that would sweep up those more profitable (easy to deal with, needing less services) ones like they have in Johns Creek, such as "Fails to make substantial progress, according to this year's CCRPI, of having the school improve more than 10% in a year."  This would catch schools that have, for example a 90 on the CCRPI but manage to improve "only" to a 95.


The genie (Constitutional Amendment) would be virtually impossible to put back inside the bottle once let out.  He should reflect on that.

Education_Patriot
Education_Patriot

Let's see...where to begin?

1. There is NO meaningful community engagement in the OSD's implementing legislation (SB 133, if you want to read it yourself:  http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20152016/SB/133). Lines 62-69 mention that there will be a "public hearing" before schools are selected (taken over) for the district. Perhaps Mr. Dudgeon has spent too much time in the Dome to realize this, but a public hearing, with no vote and no binding authority of any kind, is poor way to co-opt the community into the OSD decision - if it can be considered a real "involvement" of the community at all. I'm reasonably certain that no parent wants their involvement in their child's school to be reduced to one public hearing before the State takes it over for up to ten years.

Lines 70-83 mention that the OSD Superintendent will "share" findings regarding a takeover school with local school officials, but again, no meaningful veto point is present that local officials can use to block the OSD Super's power.

I could go on and on, but you can read it for yourself. There are no meaningful models for local officials to be involved in decisionmaking, let alone parents and families. The legislation is filled with nothing but token opportunities for community "involvement" in the process that serve only to allow OSD officials to say they *did* involve the community, without actually really doing so.

2. It is interesting that Dudgeon mentions New Orleans' top-down model. I can't think of anything more top-down than all decisionmaking power resting in one person - who is answerable only to the highest executive official in the state.

3. Criticizing local school district bureaucracies may have some merit. But, if unresponsive bureaucracy is really the problem, replacing local bureaucracies with state bureaucracy is unlikely to solve that problem.

4. Allowing an unelected bureaucrat to take over schools at will isn't a "check" on local school boards. It's a complete transfer of power.

5. The fact that some local school boards are implementing turnaround plans in schools to avoid them being taken over by the OSD is hardly reason to encourage its passage. There are other, much better ways, to encourage school improvement, such as Tennessee's Innovation Zones. A poor public policy that spurs action is still worse than a good public policy that also spurs action. I can make someone move out of my way by asking them politely or by threatening them with a weapon - one way is much better than the other.

6. Dudgeon mentions high-poverty schools that are doing well in New Orleans due to new administration. He is correct in assuming that better administrators get better results out of their schools. But forcing a school's hand by taking it over will lead to other, unintended consequences, like changes that don't match what the community really needs. New Orleans recognized this years ago when they decided to involve the community in MEANINGFUL ways in the RSD's implementation.

Ironically, Dudgeon mentions schools in Georgia that are high-poverty, yet are doing well - WITHOUT the OSD! If such success is possible now, why is the OSD even needed?!

7. The fact that Dudgeon says there are only seven people (There's actually more! http://gacharters.org/about-us/staff/) implementing the charter school legislation says nothing about how many people will be needed to implement the OSD. I will venture a guess that significantly more than seven people will be needed to oversee 100 schools located all around the state.

The TRUTH is that this model has failed (New Orleans), is failing (Tennessee) and will fail here as well. Top-down educational solutions never work. It requires MEANINGFUL community involvement, local control and local decisionmaking, and democratization of educational decisions to the building level. That's what Tennessee is experiencing with their Innovation Zones. That's what Massacusetts is experiencing with their *very successful* charter school implementation. It's what we could experience here - if only we had leaders that had the foresight to embrace such a strategy, rather than focus on accumulating more and more power for their last two years in office.

Falcaints
Falcaints

Already voted against it as have all my family members.

Tom Green
Tom Green

The last amendment was to get a foot in the door. This amendment is to push the cost of charter schools onto local school boards. It's starting to sound like taxation without representation all over again.

FlaTony
FlaTony

This response is nothing more than a rehash of the same tired talking points used by the governor. Let me specifically call down the quote that claims opponents are calling for more money. This is patently false. We are not claiming that money alone will move the failing schools forward. However, if you analyze the budget practices over the last decade, you will see that our schools, statewide, have been starved of the financial resources that are needed. In addition, there is plenty of evidence that additional resources for struggling schools will have a positive effect. Mr. Dudgeon's claim that more money is not the answer relies on a mythical understanding of how resources for schools flow from the state to the local schools.


The second reprehensible claim made herein is that we as opponents are arguing only for adults. FALSE. The main reason we are opposed to this amendment because of the harmful effect it would have on children if it is approved and implemented. These harmful effects have been well documented from New Orleans and Tennessee. More evidence is mounting from other states, too. Students are our number one reason for opposing this amendment.



Kelly Hanretta
Kelly Hanretta

Too bad he's just wrong...he is a paid spokes person

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Save public education as envisioned by Thomas Jefferson; vote NO to amendment one.

bryanstephens1124
bryanstephens1124

Sounds funny from a rep from John's Creek of all places...one of the most affluent areas in Georgia...stop it

Kathleen Carpenter
Kathleen Carpenter

Amendment 1 would create a redundant state structure to seize low-performing schools from the local community and put them under the control of a "superintendent" who can pass it off to for-profit charters. It is the governor's effort to put his campaign contributors in a position to profit off of the neediest students in the state. And there are no provisions to include social services and other support structures in alignment with the Schools' efforts. The state already has structures in place to help struggling schools and those are the structures that should be analyzed for effectiveness and modified, not creating redundancy. So if you haven't guessed I'm suggesting you vote no. The deceptive wording just adds to the evil nature of what they're trying to do.

Dianne Medlock Joy
Dianne Medlock Joy

This would not affect Forsyth schools, so not surprising that he would side with the Governor. He has nothing to lose or fear.

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

It actually WILL affect Forsyth when QBE money is redirected away from the districts like Forsyth to the OSD. This will affect every district in the state.

Dianne Medlock Joy
Dianne Medlock Joy

Thank you for that correction. I had not thought of it that way.