Opinion: Governor’s new school takeover plan, like the old one, is a power grab

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Last week, legislation was introduced to provide a means for some state intervention in low-performing schools. It differs from the constitutional amendment voters rejected that would have created a statewide Opportunity School District to take over such schools, but there are similarities.

Here is a reaction to the new proposal from Louis Elrod. He is Better Georgia’s political director and managed the Keep Georgia Schools Local campaign against the OSD plan. Elrod contends the governor’s plan B has too many similarities to the OSD, which was soundly rebuffed by voters in November.

By Louis Elrod

Last Election Day, Georgia voters rejected Gov. Deal’s first school takeover push by a vote of roughly 60 to 40 percent. Teachers, parents and public education supporters from all political, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds banded together to tell the governor that we will not be silenced by Amendment 1.

The school takeover defeat should have shown the governor and our elected officials that Georgians will not stand for a political power grab that would hand our schools over to unelected political appointees who aren’t accountable to parents.

But a little more than three months later, Gov. Deal’s school takeover is back, this time, as a bill fast-tracked in the Georgia Legislature. The governor is again ignoring Georgia parents and teachers, which is one of the huge reasons his first school takeover plan failed.

This arrogance and singlemindedness is not a recipe for good governance.

The governor’s school takeover 2.0 proposal is essentially the same concept already defeated by voters with only minor window dressing. It would create even more bureaucracy.

If, as we suspect, the governor goes after the same schools that he previously defined as “failing,” it would disproportionately target poor students and students of color. But it’s difficult to even know which schools will be targeted because the bill uses the undefined term “unacceptable rating” and gives the political appointee exclusive power to decide how that term is applied.

Another huge problem with the bill is that there’s still no additional funding for teacher raises, school materials or reinstating the music and art programs that have been slashed. And in some ways, the school takeover 2.0 is even worse than the original measure.

This time around, there is no limit to the number of schools that can be taken over or managed at one time by the politically appointed education czar. It provides additional avenues for the state to remove local school board members, the people elected by the voters in the communities they serve.

Unfortunately, there is no path for voters to remove the new education czar should he or she prove to be ineffective. And while the legislation only mentions turning struggling schools over to “nonprofit” entities, it does not restrict out-of-state, for-profit corporations from sticking their hands in the taxpayer cookie jar.

Deal and his supporters may argue that this takeover is different because they’re bringing teachers to the table in an “advisory” role. But the advisory council can only suggest potential candidates for the education czar position or comment on the qualifications of a potential candidate. The school takeover 2.0 bill doesn’t give teachers any real authority to actually shape the legislation or push back in any concrete way against what they perceive as bad policy.

Essentially, the governor is giving teachers a front-row seat to the education train wreck he would create with this legislation.

On Nov. 8, Georgia voters of all political stripes sent a message to lawmakers that public education is more important than party affiliation. The teachers, parents and community leaders that comprise the public education constituency are a singular force to be reckoned with. We know that there are gains to be made with Georgia’s public schools, but changes should be implemented based on real input from the parents and teachers, not through a one-size-fits-all approach forced upon schools by state politicians and appointees.

If Gov. Deal and our lawmakers are serious about reform, then they should step up to the plate by allowing the flexibility given to local districts through the newly enforced Flexibility Act to play out. Those contracts already provide clear performance requirements and include accountability measurements.

The state Legislature now has one role, to fully fund the local school districts as the contracts are performed. We do not need the Legislature to create another new, unfunded state level bureaucracy.

We urge lawmakers to listen to Georgia voters and stand up for students, parents and teachers by rejecting this political power grab. If lawmakers refuse to listen to the growing, powerful public education constituency, they do so at their own political peril. The next Election Day is right around the corner.

Reader Comments 0

16 comments
Your Teacher
Your Teacher

If a doctor works in a poor socioeconomic neighborhood where life expectancy is shorter and the number of health related illnesses are more prevalent, do we call that doctor and his/her practice a failure if those patients don't change their habits and ways?


Look at the list of "failing schools" and where they are. Then, look at the socioeconomic status' of those areas. 


As a teacher, I'm all for accountability and hardly any teacher I know will disagree. As a Republican, I'm ashamed that the solution appears to be more government intervention. At some point we need to call a spade a spade. There are areas of Georgia that have significant challenges that extend beyond the classroom. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

You have been manipulated by the profiteers if you agree to the language:


Failing schools: Schools are not failing. Notice that the boot strapper republicans do not talk about failing students and personal responsibility of the student. Why not? Because they are not worried about that student. They only want someone else to pay for their kid's private school experience.


Parent choice: Why in the H.... would all tax payers have their public school tax money given to parents to use as they please. They never argue for driver choice, recreater choice, water drinker choice, book reader choice, tag buyer choice, stadium attender choice, etc.


It is not about failing students or choice. It is only about greedy folks who want other people's tax money money for profit/gain.

Astropig
Astropig

During my entire lifetime,whenever liberals tried and failed to get something enacted,they never quit.When thwarted,they went about it another way,rebranded their proposal,lied about it...Whatever it took to get what they wanted. I always admired that,even though I opposed most of their crackpot ideas.


Fast forward to 2017.Now, my side simply won't quit trying to reform a failing educational model.Of course,now they're opposed by the current status quo that call them names,gin up hatred and generally act like the world will end if they don't keep these terrible schools just the way they are.


I always wanted to be on the side of revolution and by golly, it seems like we have a governor that is leading one.It... feels...good.


Ready for round II, eduacracy?

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

@Astropig


Are you trying to say 

education + democracy= eduacracy ?


I support private sector, and public 

sector unions. You know that your

narrative of the majority of public

schools being failures is not accurate,

but you have every right politically to

try and advocate for changes (I hope

your philosophy does not prevail in

Georgia public education.) .




AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig

Let's see:


Lots of buzzwords:

liberals

lied

reform

failing

crackpot

status quo

gin up hatred

terrible schools

eduacracy


Logic or substance?

0



Sad. It has gotten to the point that all you have to do is see the pig avatar and you know what the post will say.


You do know you get responses for lack of a better adversaries?


time for reform
time for reform

Will the teachers' unions be able to commit another $5 million of dues money to once again block reform? They're now recovering from the drubbing they took opposing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

But parents are continually motivated to escape failing schools.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@time for reform

Hi EduKtr, Pelosied, Chuck, etc.. Please post your line about "google NEA and..." just for old times sake.

Diane
Diane

No one is saying the schools are fine-I believe the issue is that you can't solve a problem by adding another layer of bureaucracy which  is what this idea is all about.  If you read carefully-there is NO funding behind this bill.and it was taken directly from the ALEC handbook with the intention of promoting school choice.  One representative at the meeting kept saying, "how many years should the individual child have to stay in a failing school...?"   this is a common mantra out of the ALEC handbook...to end public education and privatize-but the statistics say public education is getting better by the norms they set....



I believe this will only serve to divide and segregate not educate...

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

@Diane Teacher groups fight EVERY effort to reform schools except for "send more money", Diane. they have an objection to every plan but have had every opportunity for YEARS to improve it themselves, with declining results continuing.


Choice would force schools to perform or lose students (and the attached funding). While we argue about reforms, teacher groups block reform and results continue to slide.


It would be laughable if it were not for the fact that these statistics represent actual CHILDREN who are not being prepared for life after school.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

@RoyalDawg @Diane


You have competition and choice

in the airline industry. Do you

think the public views traveling

with most airlines the same way

they did 15 ,or 20 years ago ?

Parents already have choice

in education in most states,

 because over 40 states have 

charter schools.


AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@RoyalDawg @Diane

A glimpse of charter choice

"While the idea was to foster academic competition, the unchecked growth of charters has created a glut of schools competing for some of the nation’s poorest students, enticing them to enroll with cash bonuses, laptops, raffle tickets for iPads and bicycles. Leaders of charter and traditional schools alike say they are being cannibalized, fighting so hard over students and the limited public dollars that follow them that no one thrives."

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/29/us/for-detroits-children-more-school-choice-but-not-better-schools.html?_r=0

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@RoyalDawg @Diane

Hey, I keep asking this question. Why are you okay with state charter schools hiding all spending, vendor payments, hiring and personnel from taxpayers? 


Kind of a tip off if they hide the money, don't you think?


Are you not for transparency in government?

Another comment
Another comment

Well let's see how the "Black" faction that has taken over the GA PTA ( for 20 of them getting all expense paid trips to the Confrence in Las Vegas), does in fighting this.

Govenor, you just need to give this new board conference trips to have them jump to your side. They have clearly demonstrated that the PTA leadership is all about Adults, then the Children anyways.

Astropig
Astropig

@Another comment


We never got the full story on the state PTA crackup (and we probably won't).Even though its highly likely that there is financial malfeasance there,they will hypocritically call for "accountability" and "transparency" when they oppose reform.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

No, our schools are fine as they are- these teacher advocates see no reason to reform them!