Opinion: Opportunity School District won’t enhance local control

The Rev. Timothy McDonald has served as senior pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta for 32 years. In this essay, he shares his objections to Amendment 1, the Opportunity School District.

McDonald is founder of the African American Ministers Leadership Council and president of the African American Ministers In Action of People for the American Way. A longtime civil rights activist, McDonald is one of three lead plaintiffs in a class-action suit over the language in Amendment 1. The lawsuit maintains the language is “so misleading and deceptive that it violates the due process and voting rights of all Georgia voters.”

By Rev. Timothy McDonald

In a last-ditch effort to mislead voters further, proponents of the so-called “Opportunity School District” have put out an audacious ad that claims the plan “will actually enhance local control.”

This is a blatant lie.

By design, OSD requires an amendment to the Georgia constitution, which circumvents the authority of local, elected Georgia school boards and hands control to a political appointee. This education czar will answer only to the governor and will have absolute power. If the education czar decides to fire teachers without cause or to close a school entirely, parents and teachers will have no recourse.

As Ambassador and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young stated in a recent press conference, “Family values and the traditions that have made us great as nation have very seldom come from the state down; they have come from people up. And public education controlled by communities is the basis of a continued, growing, creative society.”

Rev. Timothy McDonald

Rev. Timothy McDonald

The enabling legislation pays only lip service to our desire, as concerned parents, teachers and community leaders, to play an active role in our children’s education. It promises opportunity for community input, but not accountability, while our schools are steamrolled by the state. But mere community input is meaningless without accountability, and accountability is what is at stake.

So let us put to rest the argument that opponents to Amendment 1 are defenders of the status quo. As protesters chanted at a recent Georgia PTA press conference: “Keep in mind — you ought to know, parents aren’t the status quo!”

We who oppose Amendment 1 DO seek change, and we seek progress. The schools the state has labeled “failing” are in fact located in communities where the state has failed the schools, and that is a wrong that must be righted. Georgia parents have watched as their public school children’s art and music programs have been decimated. Teachers have to dig into their own pockets to buy basic school supplies, and in 2016 20 percent of Georgia school districts were still furloughing teachers. Teachers in these districts can’t even dream about raises — they’re still living with pay cuts.

Yet, despite the odds, we are making progress. In Georgia, we’re consistently seeing minority students advance at faster rates than white students, despite what pro-takeover advocates tell us. In 2014 the AJC reported the persistent achievement gap between white students and other key groups is significantly narrowing.

The key to our success is community involvement and accountability, and that is assuredly tied to local control. The members of a local school board are our neighbors, and they understand the challenges that are unique to our local schools. Our kids play sports together, our families worship together, and we see one another on the street. When we have a problem, question or concern, we talk to them. And if members of the school board go astray or are derelict in their duties, we can lean on the democratic process and appeal their decisions or vote them out of office.

If given the proper resources, our communities can continue to make great strides in raising our children out of poverty. But if Amendment 1 passes, it will deplete our power. OSD will trap families under the rule of an education czar with no connection or accountability to our communities.

As Hank Aaron so powerfully pleaded at a recent press conference, “We have to defeat this. We have to vote ‘no’ on Amendment 1.”

 

Reader Comments 0

18 comments
Aliyah Johnson
Aliyah Johnson

But in the essay he says the claim by others is the OSD will enhance local control.....THAT is the blatant lie he's referring to.

RolleTheorem
RolleTheorem

Just more propaganda to protect local petty fiefdoms call school boards.  You do not circumvent anything if you are seeking a constitutional amendment.

It just amazes me that after all these years of administrating academic disasters (intergenerational for some of the schools) local control now has all the "magic" to fix these 207 schools.

Breath taking!

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

Elections are the choices. If people don't vote against the incumbents then this is why we have these issues

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Well said and true to the core. Thank you for your insight and words, Rev. McDonald.

Another comment
Another comment

Even in high income communities all it takes is a couple of apartment complexes to turn from luxury to section 8 or class 3. Once a school has more than 25% free or reduced lunch students their are issues.

Lack of zoning in the 70's, 80's and 90's is causing big problems for the schools right at the perimeter that have all the aging apartments as well. They are full of gangs!

Tom Green
Tom Green

I think we should have a federal bureaucracy oversee state politicians in order to replace the bottom 5%. After elections, we should also have a choice between politicians.

30303
30303

How can the writer defend school administrators who have failed his community for decades, and will continue to fail them if something major isn't done?

And what has the Rev. McDonald effectively done to reverse a situation where 3 out of 4 black children now grow up in homes without fathers? No other -- repeat, no other -- social or economic condition so handicaps the academic success of black children.

30303
30303

@AvgGeorgian 

What you're missing is that the opposition to this needed reform is all about protecting incompetent teachers and administrators at all levels.

The same crew who have produced decades of failure. 

And will continue to.

30303
30303

@AvgGeorgian 

Prove your point, if you have one, by deliberately sending your own kids to those failing schools.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@30303 @AvgGeorgian

Point is:

1. You ran like a scared rabbit from my question and

2. You have little to no understanding of the dynamics of individual academic performance. Low performing students are helped best by being placed with students who perform well. Maybe the best model would be to disperse the low performing students into high performing schools. Much better than keeping lower performing students isolated and guess what, no OSD needed.

newsphile
newsphile

@30303 How can he defend the planned robbery of state funds, diverting them to for-profit charter management schools that don't improve student performance???    OSD is the latest grand scheme to line the pockets of a chosen few at the expense of students. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

This is what can be done - without an amendment to the constitution. You do know this is all about the governor gaining direct control over $millions?


From L-D 2 days ago:

"The State Board/Department of Education has a division which specifically targets Priority and Focus schools (lowest 5% and 10% respectively).  OCGA 20-14-41 give this department the same and additional intervention measures as SB133.  From 2012-2015, this division was successful in moving 155 schools OFF the Priority and Focus lists WITHOUT seizing our local tax dollars and hijacking our local buildings.


What you're missing is that this amendment isn't about education, but who controls the money associated with it."

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@30303 @AvgGeorgian

Let me get this straight- you believe that a serious, hard working student that listens in class, does homework, and studies diligently is failing his/her state tests because he/she is in a "failing" school building?

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@30303 @AvgGeorgian If all the teachers and all the administrators are incompetent, how do you explain the students in these schools who do pass the test?  

ljhays
ljhays

Under-performing schools are the result of many deficiencies across the social spectrum. If the state can't fix those problems, schools will continue to under perform. The problems are complicated; politicians are lazy. We need a change of politicians, not yet another meaningless change in the state constitution.

redweather
redweather

Local control sounds great, but as Gandolf points out the best performing schools have active parent involvement. Poor performing schools typically, but not always, come up very short in that department. If you are the parent of a child in a so-called failing school and you oppose the OSD, please be willing to commit to more than just voting against the amendment.

Gandolph
Gandolph

Seems to me that the children who do best in school are the ones with a higher parental involvement in the school process, both at the school and at home.  That cannot be changed by either the state OR local school board.  The rest is just politics as usual. 

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@Gandolph

Yes but do you think an aspect of school could be school’s commitment to continual improve its capability to absorb and mitigate, if not obliterate, effects from variation in parental involvement?