Loser in Opportunity School District battle: Relations between governor and educators

Gov. Nathan Deal takes a question from a member of the audience while discussing the Opportunity School District referendum at Impact Church on Tuesday in East Point. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

The referendum to allow state takeover of failing schools will be decided in two weeks, but there’s already a loser in the war of words over Amendment 1 — relations between the governor and Georgia educators.

Opposition to his Opportunity School District by teachers and school boards has aggravated Gov. Nathan Deal and it shows. In recent speeches, Deal assailed school boards — more than 40 of which passed anti-OSD resolutions — as monopolies more interested in retaining power than revitalizing schools.

He’s alarmed teachers with what many regard as a blatant intimidation tactic. On Friday, Deal’s chief of staff sent out an Open Records request to every school district in Georgia for how they use payroll deductions for dues in teacher groups, which may be the foundation of legislation banning such deductions with the aim of driving down membership rolls.

In taking aim at locally elected officials and educators, Deal has risked the opportunity to win over the very groups necessary for his OSD to succeed. The first rule of effective school reform: Get teachers and communities on board. Deal has alienated both.

In trying to sell the OSD to middle-class voters, Deal has been casting it as an anti-crime measure that will prevent high school dropouts living in neighborhoods with nothing “worth stealing” from going to areas with “nice homes.” With that troubling sales pitch, it’s hard to see how low-income communities will believe Deal values their children.

And the OSD hinges on gaining the trust of the community. The Tennessee Achievement District, on which Deal modeled the OSD, stumbled because parents were skeptical of the new charter school leadership hired to run local schools. A recent state-commissioned review of the Tennessee district noted, “Absent a student population whose families sought out schools that met their values and priorities, several providers struggled to engender parent buy-in and engagement.”

If Amendment 1 passes — and I still believe the sunny wording of the ballot question favors passage — the public relations wreckage will take a long time to repair. Rather than approaching failing schools as a challenge educators, districts, parents and the state should fix together, Deal adopted an us vs. them stance.

In an appearance at a south Fulton church Tuesday night, Deal accused school boards of squandering flexibility and additional state dollars. “We have given them more flexibility in the last three years than they’ve ever had as to how they spend the money and we have given them more money than they ever had in the history of this state,” said Deal.

What Deal neglected to mention: The rise in state funding reflects a rise in enrollment in part. Nor did the he admit the state still sends less money to schools than recommended under the Georgia funding formula. Despite high numbers of children in poverty, Georgia spends $1,800 less on each student than the national average and ranks 38th in per-student spending.

Deal describes the 127 schools eligible for his Opportunity School District as the “worst of the worst” based on their test scores. Teachers and school boards contend the governor omits another critical fact about those schools: They are also among the poorest of the poor.

Even though family socio-economics influence school and student achievement, Deal and the Legislature prefer to blame recalcitrant school boards and passionless teachers. The assessment of the Tennessee Achievement District cites the out-sized impact of poverty, saying, “…the stresses of an impoverished community presented even the most experienced providers with steep challenges.”

Deal’s compounded those challenges by offending critical constituencies he will need in his corner to win over communities if the OSD passes.

Reader Comments 0

31 comments
Jesse David
Jesse David

Who do you think really cares about improving our public education system: him ... or those of us that have devoted our lives to careers in education? I am so ready for Georgia's next gubernatorial election. #VoteNoOnAmendment1

Warren Winter
Warren Winter

Don't you think that relationship has already been strained by Governor Bad Deal shorting education spending over a billion dollars since he was elected?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Why are so many "conservatives" for big government takeover when the Governor has NO PLAN. The plan will be kept secret as will the vendors, hiring, and salaries.


I can only conclude that the pro OSD posters stand to profit or are woefully uninformed.


If you say "Well we need to at least try something different, anything is better than the status quo"-I have a deal for you. Your money market account is probably "failing" to give you decent returns- just throw a dart at a penny stock and put all your money in that - at least you will not be sticking with the status quo.

Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian


"just throw a dart at a penny stock and put all your money in that - at least you will not be sticking with the status quo."


As long as you do it with money that belongs ONLY TO YOU,yeah,throw darts till the cows come home. But these people are using PUBLIC funds,raised for education. It doesn't exclusively belong to them.It belongs to everyone and everyone has a say in how it will be used.Thus,the governor is asking permission to use it in a different way.

daks_
daks_

Parents will be the winners when Amendment 1 passes.

And taxpayers benefit when school districts leave dues collection to the teachers' unions, rather than subsidizing dues collection, money transfer and record keeping. 

Let the minority of teachers who belong to unions set up dues payments through their own bank accounts.

Astropig
Astropig

@daks_


"And taxpayers benefit when school districts leave dues collection to the teachers' unions, rather than subsidizing dues collection, money transfer and record keeping. "


^^This


You really have to wonder what these private organizations like PAGE and GAE are hiding that they don't want us to see.By their response to a perfectly reasonable,legal request for information on these expenses that are being borne by the taxpayer,they seem to be ashamed that this information might become public.


More astonishing is the press reaction.Sunlight seems to be the best disinfectant when shined on people that they don't approve of.



AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@daks_ Hello DaKsuKtr. Do you get the same price for your funny little "union" posts no matter which name you use. Also, could you please post the "post blog comments for money in your spare time" link for company you use?

Peter G Fitzpatrick
Peter G Fitzpatrick

No loss at all. The Governor never had their back, he expected them to back him an his money/ power greed.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

AJC's Greg Bluestein reports this morning: 

Even Gov. Nathan Deal’s fabled friendship with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has its limits.

The bipartisan duo showered each other with praise at a Wednesday press conference announcing a new IT hub in Atlanta, and Hizzoner bit his tongue after the event when he was pressed on whether he supported Deal’s failing schools initiative.

But a few hours later, Reed told the Buckhead Rotary Club that he opposed the governor’s constitutional amendment creating an Opportunity School District, joining the ranks of other high-profile Democrats fighting the ballot initiative. And later Wednesday night he elaborated on his position.

“I oppose this proposal because I believe it will inevitably result in the diversion of public funds for public schools to private entities, with inadequate oversight, and without accountability to parent,” the Democrat said in a statement. “I believe such a change in our state, through the permanent measure of a constitutional amendment, will weaken our public schools and create conditions where they become the last resort for desperate families, rather than a symbol of excellence and source of community pride.” Reed’s opposition is another blow to the governor’s plan for a new statewide district that wouldtake control of schools deemed to be persistently failing. Deal has tried to tailor his pitch for the initiative, the cornerstone of his second-term agenda, to Democrats in low-performing schools as a way to reverse a cycle of poverty. (To Republicans,he’s also ratcheting up his argumentthat failing schools breed crime.)

Astropig
Astropig

Doing the right thing(s) is not going to make you universally popular.Politically inspired sniping like the above is proof of that.


I,personally,didn't vote for the governor to "get along" with the other side.I voted for him to implement policies that would help Georgia progress and prosper.He has and it has.


He's said some things that the eduacracy needs to hear.Good for him and I hope he continues.

newsphile
newsphile

@Astropig If only the governor DID make the difficult decisions that are BEST for GA.  Instead, he has put lining his pockets and those of his friends above all things.  Of course, if he did what's best for GA students, OSD would never have been hatched.  He would fully fund the public schools and keep his politics out of public education.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

What we should have been warned about is an ethically failing politician who drops out of the U.S. House of Representatives in D.C. and comes to our nice state of GA to steal all our stuff for himself.

Traci Lawson McBride
Traci Lawson McBride

I remember too well the broken relationship between teachers and Governor Roy Barnes. His lack of regard for teachers really began the recent trend of teachers' distrust of government in our state. Governor Deal is leaving office on a very sour note.

Robert Muzzillo
Robert Muzzillo

The division between the Governor and educators shows Mr. Deal for what he truly is, a vindictive and mean-spirited bully plain and simple.

J David Rollins
J David Rollins

Governor Deal is the worst of the worst. He should stick to what he is good at, chickens and chicken manure.

Lynn Mcdonald
Lynn Mcdonald

You can't lose what you never had. Vote no on amendment 1.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Will public schools be based on love, and encouragement, and nurturing or on fear, and power, and control?

That is the essential question every citizen must ask himself or herself and vote his or her conscience in relation to that question.

dg417s
dg417s

@BurroughstonBroch Most of the DeKalb schools on the list (if not all of them) have such high rates of transiency that these kids are hardly "trapped." Their lack of a stable home life certainly doesn't help their test scores.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

That is true without needing to be stated. A given. The point is this: When do students and teachers perform better - in an environment of support or in an environment of fear? The answer to that question should be self-evident.

rubykins7
rubykins7

@MaryElizabethSings Students and teachers do flourish in an atmosphere of love, support and encouragement - but when the students are not receiving that at home, it has a great influence on what happens at school. Teachers cannot control what happens outside of the classroom and more money won't fix the problem.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Show me the love from the DeKalb to the kids trapped in failing schools.

Jessica Harden
Jessica Harden

S Ashley Herrington The ending of the article was more worth reading than the beginning. Other state to look into...Tennessee Opportunity School District.

newsphile
newsphile

Unfortunately for Georgia, this is typical Deal. 

hnbc
hnbc

Sadly for the state, deal is a petty little man who had a temper tantrum when he does not get his way. Local school boards and others should be able to disagree with Deal and fight for their side without the unreal Deal becoming vindictive.

Chris Deane
Chris Deane

Can't see how this is making things worse. If it were up to Raw Deal public education would cease to exist.

Richard Cionci
Richard Cionci

Like the Idiot Governor ever cared about teachers.