In rare united front, Georgians of all stripes defeat Opportunity School District

October 18, 2016 Atlanta: Civil Rights icon and former mayor Andrew Young, center, held a press conference with MLB legend Hank Aaron, and Georgia PTA President Lisa-Marie Haywood to encourage voters to vote against Amendment 1. Voters across parties and counties complied. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Myra Blackmon is a retired public relations professional with both a bachelor’s of arts in journalism and a master’s in education from the University of Georgia. She and her husband recently moved back to her hometown of Washington, Ga., after several decades in Athens.

By Myra Blackmon

Tuesday’s lopsided defeat of the proposed Opportunity School District constitutional amendment in Georgia illustrated a rare phenomenon in the United States these days: people normally on opposite sides came together on an education issue.

Liberals and conservatives, rural and urban residents, people of all races decided that a state takeover of local schools deemed poor performers is not a tolerable solution. At the same time, there was no ballot initiative that let people weigh in on exactly how they want to improved education.

Georgians have a unique opportunity to continue to work across partisan and demographic lines to address problems in schools that serve large populations of poor people in communities that often lack resources. There are several possibilities for this unusual alliance to continue its newfound influence.

First, we can use the same techniques to insist the Legislature fully fund the Quality Basic Education formula that promises equitable and sufficient funding for all schools. Changing the formula will do no good if we don’t know what would happen if we actually funded the one we have had in place for decades. We must also insist that money that would have been spent on the Opportunity School District be used to help those 127 schools on the original target list.

Second, we must advocate for allowing the state Department of Education to do its job. As state School Superintendent Richard Woods outlined in a recent piece, the state DOE has the knowledge and expertise to help struggling schools improve their performance. In recent years, however, the governor and the Legislature have regularly bypassed the DOE and its elected head, imposing new rules and ignoring any input from the one department of state government that has the personnel, experience and reach most likely to help solve our problems.

Third, we must insist on appropriate assessment of school performance. The College and Career Ready Performance Index is being misused to “grade schools” as passing or failing when it was designed to simply measure growth. Further, the CCRPI wrongly relies almost entirely on the results of the Georgia Milestones standardized tests.

Despite the hundreds of millions of our tax dollars invested in the Georgia Milestones, the tests have never been validated as reliable measures of education. That is, they have never been put through the statistical process that guarantees that the questions actually measure what they are intended to. For the last two years, at least portions of the test results have been completely unusable; the tests themselves have changed annually and the results provide no diagnostic information to help teachers zero in on what students need. The test is used punitively when a more effective use would be to provide individual data that would allow schools to tailor instruction to student needs.

Finally, the organizations and volunteers who joined to defeat the amendment can continue their work to help school boards, systems and teachers who need additional training and support to improve their performance. Members of school boards in innovative districts can mentor members of boards in communities that may need help instituting changes; volunteers can raise money and contribute expertise to provide extra coaching and tools for new teachers or those who work in the most challenging environments.

The defeat of Amendment 1 showed that Georgian are capable of putting aside ideology to focus on a common goal. We must maintain that forward movement to be sure every Georgia student has access to a world-class education.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

35 comments
irishmafia1457
irishmafia1457

Yeah lets continue doing what they have been doing for years it's been working so well .

WWTJD
WWTJD

The president-elect also said he would abolish the Department of Ed, leave choice to the states, etc..


So, how can he, let alone the federal government, guarantee school choice to everyone if he, and the righteous republicans, do away with the agency and funds and other tools the federals will need to guarantee that choice.



okguy2937
okguy2937

I voted for this bill because most of the under performing school districts I have seen are governed by corrupt board members.  If you let them know that their gravy train might go to some other crook, at the state level, they might actually put in some decent programs that helps the kids.  Nothing puts a corrupt official on the job more than a threat to his / her money train.

Starik
Starik

60/40...I'd love to see how the "unified front" vote breaks down.  Did black people support it, and did affluent whites oppose it?  What was the vote in Clayton? in Dekalb? North v. South Fulton? 


Congratulations to teachers' unions, anyway. More of the same for deprived kids.

Tom Green
Tom Green

What hurt their case the most was the deceptive language provided the voters. If they had to be that deceptive, it's clear that only more deception was to follow.

Amber Miller
Amber Miller

The horrible flyers didn't help their case.

Beth Hogan
Beth Hogan

Yep, when some of my acquaintances even noticed they were racist, I was hopeful.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

And the beat goes on................both of you go to your rooms. The dipshiiiiiiit convention is closed!

Astropig
Astropig

Win the battle/Lose the war?


I don't know if anybody caught it,but there was a political revolution last Tuesday.All of the things that the eduacracy knew for certain on Monday were "under further review" on Wednesday.The anti-OSD folks can certainly do a little grave dancing (it lost fair and square),but the world that existed a week ago is gone.


You didn't read about it in this space,because the OSD was made a pinata for week after week,but the 45th president of the United States has made it known that he's going to expand school choice options for parents-especially the strata of parents that would have been affected by the OSD proposal-


“As president, I will establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty. If we can put a man on the moon, dig out the Panama Canal and win two world wars, then I have no doubt that we as a nation can provide school choice to every disadvantaged child in America.”


The teachers unions backed the wrong horse,so even though they won a couple of battles (Georgia,Massachusetts) last week,they will most likely have no seats at the new table being set in the capitol.Trump has been pointed and clear on his stance toward the educrat unions-


“Our public schools have grown up in a competition-free zone, surrounded by a very high union wall. Why aren’t we shocked at the results? After all, teachers’ unions are motivated by the same desires that move the rest of us. With more than 85% of their soft-money donations going to Democrats, teachers’ unions know they can count on the politician they back to take a strong stand against school choice.”


Now, no president can just order school choice.It doesn't work that way.But, the president does have the power to set priorities in the nations budget-and a printing press to make the magic.With a Republican house and a Republican senate,both of which will look kindly on expanded choice,and they themselves the recipients of NEA political arrows...It doesn't take too much of an imagination to see the new sheriff in town leading his posse to a greater menu of choice options for hard working parents.In fact, a lot of blue collar,two-job families are expecting a sort of 21st century "New Deal" and that will probably include a better shot at a non-monopoly education.


And I would note that governor Deal was careful not to antagonize and distance himself from the president-elect.He could find a very receptive audience for any initiatives he may suggest to sidestep the anti-choice educrats that suddenly have no seat at the table inside the beltway.


So it may well end up that the battled that the educrats seemed to win on Tuesday will end up being the costliest "victories" they ever see.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@Astropig

“… the 45th president of the United States has made it known that he's going to expand school choice options for parents-especially the strata of parents that would have been affected by the OSD proposal[.]”

So what’s new under the sun?... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfoRmaYz6xw (00:00:19)

Astropig
Astropig

@EdJohnson @Astropig


Ooops! 


Almost forgot-The Supreme Court will now be majority center-right for the next generation or two.


Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association? Ruh-Roh.



Ben Bryant
Ben Bryant

It was undone and defeated because the governor slighted other groups before he unveiled the opportunity school district initiative, something he should have expected.

Sandi Yoder
Sandi Yoder

What I don't understand is how the state uses Milestones to rate schools when they are giving the Algebra and Geometry tests one day after Thanksgiving break with a full month remaining in the semester for schools that are on block schedule. This is unfair to our teachers, our schools and most importantly, to our students.

Another comment
Another comment

Now we need to show real leadership and pass the amendment to delete the 7 words that were added to the constitution in 1945. Which limit the school districts to only the city districts that existed in 1945. Why should the new cities created this century not have the local control that Decatur, Marietta, Buford and Rome have. Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Johnscreek, Roswell, Smryna, Tucker and the other new cities approved this year have shown that they can provide better services police, fire, zoning, etc.. To their residents. Their residents deserve local schools just like Decatur, Buford, Rome, Marietta, etc..

Just do a google search the top 20 school districts in the country are all under 10,000 students and only one high school large with feeder schools. Most are less than 5,000 students.

True local control is best. Not some central Broad traveling Supt. Who is shuffling attendance zones every year.

Starik
Starik

@BurroughstonBroch Perhaps it's time to give up on the public schools completely, at least in segregated schools.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Students in DeKalb deserve protection from the DeKalb Schools.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Some of my grandchildren are the first in our family to attend private school. Their school is fully integrated and superior to the public school they attended. It is far superior to DeKalb.

Bob Fuse
Bob Fuse

There is nothing rare at all about Georgia Citizens being more intelligent than the last two Governors. We can read, write and compute, also.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

It was a bad and failed policy. If it had shown any merit elsewhere it would have easily passed. Instead of proposing failed reform policies that add another layer of bureaucracy, removes local control, takes more money from public schools and puts it into the hands is profiteers, and does little to address the issues that affect the lives of the children in poverty, go ahead and promote evidence-based policies. Those will be much easier to pass.

wikileaks
wikileaks

Ultimately, teachers' union money won't stop parents determined to end a failing system.

wikileaks
wikileaks

@newsphile 

Unions. It's what they call themselves.
Should we pretend otherwise? 

And why aren't you out rioting with the other snowflakes tonight?

wikileaks
wikileaks

@Wascatlady 

The NEA just spent $5 million of members' dues money defeating education reform here in Georgia. Thus denying inner-city parents and kids any real hope of improved neighborhood schools.

Workplace militancy isn't all that unions are guilty of.

newsphile
newsphile

@wikileaks The election is over.  OSD was voted down by an overwhelming majority.  It's time to put down the sword. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@wikileaks @newsphile Does the NEA have ANY power in Georgia?  I thought not.  Case closed.  Quit dragging the NEA into this discussion.  Yes, they do get a bit of the GAE money. NO, they cannot represent teachers in Georgia in negotiations over working conditions, pay, or striking.  There ARE NO NEGOTIATIONS in Georgia.

newsphile
newsphile

@wikileaks How much are you paid every time you write "teachers' union"?  You are showing your ignorance.  It's time to let it go.

JKToole
JKToole

@wikileaks The cornerstone of a union is the collective bargaining agreement. It doesn't exist in GA. The AARP spends members dues for lobbying as does the VFW and a slew of other organizations (including so-called religious ones). Are they all unions too?