If Georgia voters reject Opportunity School District today, here’s why

The tendency for Georgians to support local control — which led to the defeat of the OSD — emerged in a new survey released today.

The conventional wisdom among Georgia political sages: The Opportunity School District will not pass today on the basis of the strong opposition in metro Atlanta.

Why would the OSD — which will affect only a few districts — collapse and the more far-reaching 2012 charter schools amendment pass?

What’s the main difference this time? In a word, money.

About $5 million will be spent making a case to the public against the OSD. Apparently, that investment in advertising has increased public awareness and mistrust of a state takeover of schools. The pro side is also spending millions, but its targeted advertising does not appear to have been as effective.

That brings me to my own theory. This presidential election has put voters in a foul mood. People are fed up with government in general so they’re wary of extending government reach, which the OSD amendment would do by empowering the state to seize control of local schools and local tax dollars. Voters are not receptive to the promises by state senators in the TV spots that the state will help kids.

Here is a piece by former Atlanta teacher Aaron Sayler that summarizes the reasons the OSD may falter. A Georgia Tech graduate, Sayler spent 10 years teaching in Atlanta Public Schools and now works in software development.

By Aaron Sayler

Some proponents of Amendment 1, the Opportunity School District, are saying most of us don’t need to worry about our schools and that only a small fraction of the state’s schools will be affected. But this doesn’t address the legitimate concerns people have about what the amendment would entail. First, the scores and tests used to determine which schools are failing could be changed at any time, and as they are not very well defined already, we have very little idea of what is actually being measured. Second, if we are worried about our schools we should also be worried about the schools of children with less means. We should perhaps give this even closer consideration if it is being sold as something we are doing to other people and not to ourselves.

Combining this with some of the governor’s recent mailers and speeches, it seems that he is trying to tell us that the amendment will only be used in inner-city or predominantly African-American schools. While we hope, as Kasim Reed said, that the governor has in his heart the best intention for helping our children, I do not agree with the means being proposed or with how the message is being delivered, especially when it comes to using fear to sell policy. At best, it sounds like a degree of state-level paternalism, and, even unintentionally stoking racial tensions at our point in history in particular is not a helpful undertaking.

The supporters of the amendment say that we can trust the governor and that he only wants to do what is best for the disadvantaged. But, ratifying this constitutional amendment means we must not only trust the governor but also the unnamed person who will run the district, the legislature to refrain from making any changes to the underlying laws governing the district, and all future governors and appointees for as long as this amendment remains part of our constitution. That is a level of foresight that we can’t have at this point, and it seems that a less sweeping change may give the rest of us more discretion rather than concentrating so much power in so few people.

While the accompanying legislation says the new superintendent will solicit feedback from the parents and community of the affected schools, there is nothing about that feedback that is binding. He will then have full discretion to make changes as he sees fit. This could be a good thing if he has only the best intentions as well as perfect wisdom and a path of execution for his plans.

But, none of those are guaranteed. In addition, it is important for him to have the support of the school community to implement the changes. He will have the power to remove a school’s entire staff and hire replacements. This may allow him to fill the positions with those favorable to his changes, but it will also drastically alter the culture of a school. The teachers who knew the habits and personalities of their students will be gone and the relationships will have to be rebuilt from the start. This is also ignoring the fact that school boards, teachers, and parents as represented by the state PTA have opposed the measure. With such significant opposition from such important stakeholders, it is hard to see how the governor will build the support he needs from the communities for his changes to see an effective implementation.

Another large question is the fact that we don’t know what that implementation will be. The legislation is very specific about who will be in charge and how the funds will be diverted, but it provides us no clue as to how these changes will improve the school. Proponents say that we cannot put up with the status quo, but change can alter things for the better or the worse. In this case, we have so little detail about the changes that we simply cannot say what will happen. There is no mention of increased resources for underprivileged schools, of different teaching strategies that will be implemented, or of increased community involvement which can have a very big impact in distressed neighborhoods.

The best that we can tell from discussions by both proponents and opponents is that the most likely course is to give control of the schools to out-of-state charter organizations. There are some organized, well-run charter groups, but there are also some that are less prepared. The Opportunity School District is modeled after a program in Tennessee that has not yet seen the success it has promised.

If the new district resembles the Tennessee program, we will see a patchwork of schools given to a variety of charter groups, some of which may improve things others which may make things worse. The results from Tennessee do not give us much hope of seeing the exciting transformations being promised by the amendment’s proponents.

The governor has also sold the amendment as a way to increase community involvement and local control, which is something difficult to understand. He has painted local school boards as a monopoly with no interest in improving the educational opportunities of their students. It seems that the real concentration of power would be in the newly appointed superintendent who is answerable only to the governor who is answerable only to the voters, the majority of whom will have no stake and no knowledge of what is being done to the schools in this new district.

Local control is very evident in our current system of school boards, where the elected officials have a single task – to run the local school system. They are elected directly by the voters, parents, and resident teachers in the school district who also have the best knowledge of how the schools are being run. They have control over how funds are spent and what improvements are made. And there are over 180 different boards, each making a decision on what is best for their schools.

Under the new district, the superintendent will manage schools from across the state and will find it hard to have a grasp on the intricacies of each local community he is responsible for. If the parents and students are unhappy with the direction he is taking them, they cannot vote out the board responsible for hiring him; only the governor can make a change in that position. The parents and local board will also no longer have control over the funding to be used for that school. It is true that some improvements in how some school fund are used can be made, but denying the community any agency in that decision and taking the responsibility of using their resources away from them does not seem like the best approach.

These are all reasons why prominent and vocal Republicans and Democrats have all come out against this measure. This does not suit the limited government tendencies of conservatives or appear to advance the liberal desire to care for the disadvantaged. Again, while we hope the governor has the best intentions, it has the appearance of taking away control from local officials so that he can do what he thinks will work.

One final argument of the amendments proponents is that even if a school is never taken over, it will provide a motivation for schools to improve themselves out of the fear that this may happen. First, the fact that a takeover is described as a thing to be feared shows that it may not necessarily be a good thing. And secondly, while fear can sometimes provide a limited motivation, it is not typically the best way of getting things done.

As a former teacher, I can say that there is only so much a single teacher can do in a single school year. Likewise, a school board that has seen drastic cuts in funding and must serve students who come in with a deficit of learning or who have special needs can only work with the resources they have. Fear of a school takeover may motivate some to improve their efforts, but I think it is more likely to motivate good teachers to seek out better schools that are not in danger of intervention, or to look for different jobs entirely. We have tried fear-based education with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, and what we have seen is a narrowing of the curriculum, an undue focus on testing, and even more limited options for struggling students and schools.

We do want to improve education for our children, but we need to think through the changes we are making and not simply make them for the sake of change.

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

66 comments
HelpOurKids
HelpOurKids

 According to the AJC, of the $5 million raised to oppose the OSD amendment $4.7 million came directly from one of the nation's largest teachers unions, the National  Assoc. of Educators.  Wow!!  Talk about influence by out of state union educrats.  OSD opponents never want to acknowledge it will affect only a few of our very worst schools and one's that their school boards have done little or nothing to save those trapped kids.   

Dee Douglas
Dee Douglas

I hear a lot of ppl who say they are voting yes. 1. Change is needed 2. Present districts don't have an alternative 3. Teacher jobs are threatened, often. And they can be fired anyway. Real solutions sought.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

Thank, you, Aaron Sayler.These points resonate, especially:

“Proponents say that we cannot put up with the status quo, but change can alter things for the better or the worse.”

Unfortunately, all too often, change is thought synonymous with improvement, hence lots of chatter about change and people being of afraid of change.  Change is cheap, does not require rational thought, and does not require learning.

“Fear of a school takeover may motivate some to improve their efforts, but I think it is more likely to motivate good teachers to seek out better schools that are not in danger of intervention, or to look for different jobs entirely. We have tried fear-based education with [Bush’s] No Child Left Behind and [Obama’s] Race to the Top, and what we have seen is a narrowing of the curriculum, an undue focus on testing, and even more limited options for struggling students and schools.”

30303
30303

A majority of Georgia voters will say YES on Question 1 tomorrow.

The only people who then feign surprise at this result will be the liberal elites so consistently out of touch with the public mood.


Tom Green
Tom Green

If you want to know if the governor can be trusted with the OSD, look no further than the deceptive language on the ballot.

Laurie8750
Laurie8750

I'm voting no because of the obvious slant of the wording used on the ballet, plus, Deal is a snake, he doesn't put anything forward that he wouldn't personally benefit from.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

But, but, but, didn't the governor say  we needed the OSD because without it, the colored children would drop out of school, become thieves, and go to the white neighborhoods to steal their good stuff, because the colored kids' neighborhood had nothing worth stealing? 


I forget- did he tell that at the black clergy meeting or the white engineers meeting?

JSnGa
JSnGa

I received a very telling voicemail yesterday.  I looked at the name recorded on the phone and it said the GEA.  The voicemail was a 5th grade kid asking me to vote NO on Amend 1 to protect our teacher's jobs.  So from this I surmised the GEA is more interested in protecting teacher jobs than educating our kids.  What else can I get from the voicemail other than this.

Angel Breath
Angel Breath

@JSnGa Hey JSnGA....


Can you send a screen shot of that phone message...I say that because there is no such organization as GEA...You are such a bad liar that you don't even know the name of the teacher's professional organization....if you can send it i would love to see it.....I will give it to you if you will agree to send it..just respond to this post...which you wont because you are a liar and there is no organization...


I'll won't hold my breath because you can't send it because it doesn't exist!!!!


Liar

Bill Fisher
Bill Fisher

So Aaron what would you do to improve failing schools? And don't simply tell us "more money" - Roy Barnes pretty much disproved that understanding years ago.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Bill Fisher It's not more money.....it's about using the money better! No 600.0000 dollar people!

Aaron Sayler
Aaron Sayler

@Bill Fisher I think if there were an easy answer we wouldn't have this much trouble agreeing on a solution. I agree that throwing "more money" at a problem is not likely to fix it, but perhaps we could restore our school funding to pre-recession levels. Also, we should look at the research of what works in education and give our teachers the time and ability to implement those techniques and practices.

newsphile
newsphile

The percentage of "failing" schools is higher in the state out-sourced charter schools than in the public school districts. 

LGJR
LGJR

Mr. Sayler, do you mind telling us why, after 10 years, you decided to leave your teaching job in the APS and move on to something new?

Aaron Sayler
Aaron Sayler

@LGJR I loved teaching and would like to go back to it some day. The main reason I left was because I needed to support my family, and I could not do that with my shrinking teacher's salary.


One of my main hesitations about returning to the profession is what I described as fear-based education. I would rather be in an environment where I am trusted, supported, and encouraged.

EdGraham
EdGraham

Let's see here.  It's more important to let black children to continue to attend the repeatedly failing City of Atlanta Government Schools than it is to (heaven forbid!) speak the truth about them and actually do something about them.


All you have to do is to look at who is publicly against OSD:  the teachers' unions, the PTA's, the school boards, and the NAACP.  The teacher's unions are against it because they don't care about improving schools, only increasing teachers' paychecks and collecting union dues.  The PTA's and school boards are against it because it would cut into their power.  The NAACP is against it because the teachers' unions give them lots of money, so they do what the unions say.


Good luck, Atlanta parents!

Angel Breath
Angel Breath

@EdGraham Ed


The Georgia Association of Educators is not a teacher's union.  Unions require union membership and the GAE does not. Unions do not allow management to be in the Union and the GAE allows Superintendants and Principals to join.  Unions require payment of union dues and the GAE does not require payment of dues for all teachers. Unions have collective bargaining with management and the GAE does not bargain with the local boards of educations.  Unions have the power to order strikes and under law, teachers are not permitted to strike in Georgia.  

newsphile
newsphile

@EdGraham It's too bad you didn't attend a good school where you would have learned the accurate definition of a union.

irishmafia1457
irishmafia1457

@EdGraham actually unless you live in the "hood" we don't care , just like many of the parents of those students in the failing schools don't care ! I'm surprised I haven't seen the go to solution  ...give the schools more money ! Yeha that's the ticket! That'll solve everything

Aaron Sayler
Aaron Sayler

@EdGraham I'm not in a union, part of a school board, or affiliated with the NAACP, but I am against the OSD.

Astropig
Astropig

Well, everybody has had their say.The Governor has proposed it,the legislature has been heard from and the media and interest groups on both sides have debated, argued,agreed and disagreed and now the last group to make their feelings known are the voters.Whether they approve or disapprove,the issue of these schools isn't going away.Whatever happens Tuesday,on Wednesday,the losing side here will begin either finding a way to get this done by less direct means,or begin trying to obstruct its implementation. 

newsphile
newsphile

@Astropig I have no doubt that Deal and you will be seeking an under-the-table way to implement OSD if it's voted down tomorrow.  He wasn't dubbed the most unethical governor without cause. 

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Astropig @newsphile


What are you going to do to ensure that the same children you have so derided in the past have access to healthcare, safe housing, their parents being able to work for a living wage without having to take on 2-3 jobs to make ends meet? Previous comments by you have shown your contempt for those less fortunate that yourself. This argument for a transfer of wealth via a tried and failed policy could leave many to the conclusion that you now care about those you once derided and shamed because you will profit from Amendment 1 passing. Otherwise, there is absolutely no reason for you to support a failed policy. I know you work as a lawyer, so you're not that dumb. 

Mack68
Mack68

@Astropig @newsphile Interesting Atlanta Board of Education meeting today. Update on the turnaround schools pointed to one school that has been taken over by Purpose Built Schools:


Their recently implemented strategies have involved a significant infusion of privately raised funds to provide things that we all know some kids in poverty and/or unstable family situations need:

Extended school day hours; after school transportation; tutoring; dedicated social worker, psychologist, nurse, and interestingly an attorney to assist families with housing issues; early childhood education supports...


Sigh.....we know what works. And yes, it costs money. More money than our state is willing to provide.


Purpose Built Schools might be able to raise the additional money for that one school, but what about the rest? They can't operate 47 schools. 


And they are an operator authorized by our local district, not the state. The state charter operators have an abysmal performance record. 


VOTE NO

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

This whole issue is sad and opponents should feel shame. Children in failing schools are the victims when all of these people repeat information that is simply not true. They need to consider who the victims are in maintaining the status quo and do a little homework before simply regurgitating untrue statement that they read on a mailing from someone who really DOES have a financial interest.


Sad, just sad.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@RoyalDawg


So, someone reads and anti-amendment mailing and they are being mislead and are failing those poor children you purport to care about, but, if only, they follow your lead and vote for a tried and failed policy that is about a transfer of wealth, then all is right in the world. No, shame on you. You have done what every other reformer has tried to do in the past and shame voters into believing that if they don't vote for your policy that they don't care about the children. Your industry is about monetizing children. You don't care about the conditions these children grow up in; you don't care about the baggage they bring to their schools; you don't care about evidence-based policies that have been proven to help our children succeed. No, you care about the transfer of wealth and getting a piece of the lucrative pie that this amendment will bring. Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you for not being honest. 

Aaron Sayler
Aaron Sayler

@RoyalDawg I spent ten years working with 'the victims', as you call them. (I doubt they would appreciate that phrase.) I am not on any mailing for or against this issue and I have no financial interest at stake. I don't know if the articles I cited in my piece meet your definition of 'a little homework,' but I do not feel any shame about opposing it.

William1952
William1952

I would invite all those who oppose Amendment 1 to enroll their children or grandchildren in one of the identified failing schools. I'm sure they would be happy to sacrifice their children for the good of local control and likely unqualified local boards of education.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

@Angel Breath @William1952 Angel. dear, your post is simply full of lies. You know nothing about the Charter Schools, so shut up until you remedy your ignorance. Where do you hear this crap?


You are fear-mongering at the expense of poor children locked into failing schools. Shame on you and your house.

BANSHEE296402
BANSHEE296402

@Angel Breath @William1952  clearly you have never taught in a public school setting.  While some of your points are true and I agree with them, there are MANY schools and teachers in these schools that are terrible and cannot be replaced due to the stringent laws that protect teachers.  I am not sure the OSD is the correct answer, but something needs to change...the governor has that correct without doubt.  Poorly performing schools can get batter as it has been proven many times before.  Better leadership can cause change

William1952
William1952

My Dear Angel, I see you've been busy, busy, busy promoting and spreading falsehoods about Amendment 1. So, if it fails, are you going to jump right in and save even one of the 68,000 children who are now, and likely will remain, in failing schools? Please understand, these failing schools are chronically failing, and the parents of those poor children have no alternative but to remain where they are. They can't move, they can't afford private school, they cannot afford out of county tuition. How sad, because most parents in failing schools want and expect a good education for their children just like any parent in Gwinnett, Cobb, Forsyth, or other good school system anywhere. But, no, they are stuck thanks to the NEA, GAE, PAGE, and, yes by you and those of your misguided opinion.

Now, you just have yourself a good day.

Angel Breath
Angel Breath

@BANSHEE296402 @Angel Breath @William1952 Rather than merely giving me antecdoctal stories about better leadership restructuring failing schools to better schools, how about providing data and newspaper articles showing empirical data demonstrating a turn around by take over of "failing schools" with the same students as a public schools.......I'll wait but I doubt you can produce any such studies because they don't exist.  This is all hype from the governor without any supporting statistics...


I am waiting Banshee for your fabulous statistics....

Angel Breath
Angel Breath

@William1952 William


Nice Repulican answer.  Amendment 1 is nothing but a power grab to seize power from the local school boards.  There are schools in Cobb Gwinnett and Forsyth that are failing.    


Stop relying on government to provide all the answers.  Maybe it would be best for these parents to lift themselves by their own bootstraps without relying on others to take care of their education.  What about home schooling...why not do that like fundamentalists do. You seem so concerned with the education of the poor...how many schools do you volunteer at William?   One on one contact with these struggling students in these failing schools by just 1/100 of households in each county would solve the problem...but you don't want to spend your own time doing this...1 hour a week....why can't you do that?


Whenever I am in the school districts I represent I always spend at least two hours in an elementary school reading to students or helping them in some way with me telling the teacher i'd like to spend an hour helping out...even if it means giving her time for planning by taking over the class for her to spend needed time.....


Have you done anything resembling that William.....its all local..,..spend some time...you will be amazed by how much it helps students and how great you feel afterwards...


Angel Breath
Angel Breath

@RoyalDawg @Angel Breath @William1952 Royal DAWG.....Point out one lie and support with data....not your opinion...a link or a website or a study...you can't point to one lie in my post...I told you the source of my data and put a link in there. I am feel bad for you that you picked a losing side (Ha!  I really don't.. I made that up and said it to make you feel a little self conscious.  All you and the Trump Neanderthalls know how to do nothing but hurl insults...you can't even find any source empiracal to support your side...   


Blessings on your house Royal Dawg  and by that I mean your wife and kids because you really are impossible and i' can't imagine living with someone with your mentality...You can't even think for your self.....

Angel Breath
Angel Breath

@William1952 The Charter Schools are run by "For Profit" corporations.   They got on approved lists by making polititcal contributions to those who made the decision to put the OSD on the ballot and to Georgia legislators. As a for profit organization, the Charter Schools  only succeed if they make money. The only way they can do that is cut costs by hiring teachers who do not have to be paid the salary schedule set up by the State Education Department. Their teachers don't have to be licensed or properly qualified as teachers in County Schools.  They are going to cut costs at every corner to make the corporations profitable. Why would anyone think that OSD schools would be run better than public schools under those circumstances.  


The children who are in failing schools come from economincally deprived households.  The parents often don't speak English. They are from another culture and typically their education stopped in the 6th grade IF they even attended school at all in the country where they grew up.  The same children who came from failing schools are going to be attending the Charter Schools. Why would anyone believe that changing buildings and teachers is going to change the culture and homes these children come from ....Its not the schools that are failing the children .....its the children who are failing because of the homes they  are raised in and the impoverished, barely educated parents who raised them........that isn't going to change because of the OSD or if it passes......that's for certain.

Mack68
Mack68

@BANSHEE296402 @Angel Breath @William1952 Sorry, there are already structural measures to remove ineffective teachers. Administrators must take the time to document the problems.

That has become more difficult since principals have been stripped of administrative support staff due to years and years of increasing budget cuts and have very little time to attend to such matters. They have been stripped of an adequate number assistant principals commensurate to their enrollment, adequate staff support for the state's required Response to Intervention program, and the list goes on....

JoeWisenbaker
JoeWisenbaker

@William1952 Clarke County has one of the schools on the list of 'failing' schools - Gaines Elementary. Our former State School Superintendent called it a model of what our schools should be like when he visited it a couple of years ago. Were my wife and I still with elementary school aged children, we would be delighted to have them attend that school (they both went through our public schools here in Clarke County). Our community has a remarkable record of making good choices for our Board of Education and a school administration that has made the best choices possible for school staffing. The thought of giving control of that school over to the kind of faceless bureaucracy that would be enabled by Amendment 1would be laughable were it not for how seriously  Governor Deal has pursued it.