Does Nathan Deal’s plan for struggling schools go too far or not far enough? Should it include school choice?

A south Georgia grand jury indicts a sheriff and two deputies related to alleged abuses during a schoolwide pat-down in Worth County.

Disappointed over the defeat of his Opportunity School District, Gov. Nathan Deal has offered up an alternative state takeover plan that could be imposed through legislation.

That legislation is House Bill 338.

Educators are wary of the bill, which would mirror Deal’s OSD model in several ways.  The bill would allow the state to step into the lowest performing schools and replace the staff or take over the school and give it to someone else to run.

There is a critical difference; local tax dollars for those schools wouldn’t flow to the state as they would have in the OSD, and the schools would not be absorbed into a state-run district. They instead could be turned over to another “successful” school district or to a private nonprofit — or the district could be compelled to bus the students to a better-performing school.

There are many concerns about the bill. These are mine:

  1. How many successful school districts, most of which operate on full throttle to maintain their success, want to take over struggling schools in communities they don’t know?
  2. There are few private nonprofits in the country with an enviable record of successful school turnaround. Several are already working with districts in Georgia but are only beginning the heavy lifting of remaking a school. Do these few proven nonprofits have the capacity to ride to the rescue of even more schools? One of the hallmarks of these top nonprofit charter networks is judicious expansion. Would a lack of strong options lead Georgia to give over struggling schools to unproven charter operators? See Ohio for how that works out. (Spoiler: Not well.)
  3. Most failing schools in Georgia are in communities of dire poverty. While there may be better-performing schools within the district, typically in higher-income pockets, those schools are often at capacity or beyond. No one wins — not the students already at those higher-performing schools or the ones bused there — if the school experiences significant overcrowding.

School choice advocate Glenn Delk also has doubts about HB 338, but a different variety. He contends the legislation doesn’t go far enough because it omits private school choice. An Atlanta attorney, Delk has been urging greater school choice in Georgia for 26 years and has done legal work for charter schools, most of it pro bono. Here are his criticisms of HB 338:

By Glenn Delk

Georgia’s political leaders have now demonstrated why it’s time to end the monopoly power of state and local governments over public education by introducing House Bill 338.

The proposal, whose centerpiece is the appointment of a “Chief Turnaround Officer,” with czar-like power to allegedly “fix” Georgia’s failing schools, is really nothing more than another big-government, top-down proposal from the Education Industrial Complex destined to fail.

Georgians of all political persuasion must demand that Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Speaker David Ralston, and the General Assembly either reject HB. 338, or at least end the monopoly power of the Education Industrial Complex by amending the bill to provide for more parental choice.

Albert Einstein is credited with defining “insanity” as doing the same thing, over, and over again, and expecting a different result. Passage of HB 338 in its current form would meet Mr. Einstein’s definition, since it leaves in control of $19 billion of taxpayer funds annually, the same government monopoly which: 1) has more than doubled spending over the last 30 years, after taking inflation into account, 2) has understated the amount spent on public education in Georgia by more than $3 billion annually, and 3) misled Georgia’s parents and taxpayers about the poor academic performance of Georgia’s students.

The Education Industrial Complex has given Georgia’s parents and taxpayers a highly regulated, costly, unproductive system that gives some parents choice via the right zip code, while denying low-income, especially minority, students, the same rights, resulting in large numbers of Georgia’s students leaving high school unprepared for college or a career.

Supporters of HB 338 ignore evidence from two recent studies about the relative effectiveness of a governmental monopoly in education vs. a system of private school choice. The first study, by the Obama Administration, released on its last day in office, was conducted for the U.S. Department of Education by Mathematica Policy Research, the American Institutes of Research, and the U.S. Institute of Education Sciences.

The 419-page study analyzed the effectiveness of the eight-year, $7 billion effort by the federal government called School Improvement Grants to turn around the country’s 5,000 failing schools, including 20 in Georgia. Even a big-government, liberal, progressive such as President Obama and his department of education had to accept the findings that:

We also found no evidence that SIG-funded models affected student outcomes… Specifically, using a rigorous RDD analysis, we found no significant impacts of SIG-funded models overall on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment, for schools near the SIG eligibility cutoff…In addition, there were no significant impacts of SIG-funded models on student outcomes within student and school subgroups…

In other words, Georgia’s legislators would meet Einstein’s definition of insanity by passing HB 338 and expecting different results than what the School Improvement Grants program saw.

The second study was issued January 17, 2017 by researchers from the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, and compared the results of the internationally recognized tests for the Program for International Student Assessment from 62 countries over the period from 2000-2012. The researchers concluded:

We find evidence to suggest that increased private schooling leads to improved PISA scores around the world…Specifically, our preferred model finds a ten-percentage point increase in the private share of schooling enrollment is associated with a 28 percent standard deviation increase in math, a 24 percent standard deviation increase in reading, and an 18 percent standard deviation increase in science…Since most systems of public schooling operate with a monopoly on public funds, public schools enjoy a great deal of monopoly power in general.  In any industry where a producer has extensive monopoly power, quality is held down while prices gravitate upward.  This is because the producer does not have much of an incentive to increase quality and decrease prices.

The results from two comprehensive studies of the effectiveness of the current public school monopoly vs. private school choice could not be clearer.  Instead of ignoring the evidence, our political leaders should inject competition into the current system by amending H.B. 338 to: 1) remove the current $58 million cap on tuition tax credits, and 2) join with the Trump administration to authorize and fund up to $2 billion of education savings accounts, using a combination of federal and state funds for up to 100,000 accounts of $10,000 each for low-income students attending schools ranked D or F by the state,  up to 125,000 accounts of $8,000 each for all other students. When combined with tuition tax credit scholarships, over 250,000 students in Georgia would be able to choose the private sector, leaving 1.4 million attending Education Industrial Complex schools.

By amending HB 338 to provide for more choice, Georgia’s political leaders would enable Georgia to conduct its own real-life research study as to which method of delivering public education most effectively prepares Georgia’s students for the challenges of the 21st century global economy.

The choice could not be clearer: Do our elected officials propose continuing the insanity of perpetuating a failed governmental monopoly, or do they support giving all Georgians the economic means to make their own choices?



Reader Comments 0


Most of the failing schools have illegals and refugee students that can not even speak English or had any formal education. 

It is not about the students but Deal's family grabbing lobby $.


@Billn Completely false claim. Cite your references, please.


A serious question to Avg Georgian and other choice opponents:

* Do you think the system is humming along, with adequate results, and needs no reform?

* If not, what do you propose for these failing systems, other than "more money"?

Not a trick question, I just see nothing from you and "MESings" suggesting solutions, just a constant opposition to reform. The system stinks. What do you propose?



I see the reform/choice movement as trying to pay for passing students to leave "failing" schools. You do not hear them talk about how to help failing students. Instead, they talk about how to redirect the money to the chosen.

1st problem - curriculum. What do you want the student to learn, at what mastery level, and how will you determine mastery. We set a certain % up for failure with our academic standards given the readiness levels of incoming students. Work on mastery of a smaller set of core skills/knowledge and exposure to the rest.

2. Delivery - What works with these lower resource students? Smaller classes, well trained teachers, more time on math and language, tutoring, summer school, parent training, and other community supports. Will it cost more? Probably. But some central office costs could certainly be reduced.

3. Ability and desire - Not all children have the aptitude or the motivation to achieve at the standardized test level desired by the state. You cannot force a child to learn if the child is not motivated or is overwhelmed by life issues. You have to accept that unless you want to spend a great deal more money for diminishing returns. If it costs 20-30K to educate wealthy, intelligent, motivated kids of highly motivated parents in private schools, how much does it cost to educate the other end of the spectrum?

4. What does a HS diploma get you? Where is the campaign to show all the wonderful outcomes for all HS grads? It doesn't exist. If you live in a community where you don't see economic success tied to academic success, why would you spend hours studying? How many good jobs await each graduating class. The state should track and report each year the job/education status of HS and college graduates. 

Just a few ideas.


@AvgGeorgian @RoyalDawg Do we want our schools to cater to kids who can't or won't learn? They keep other kids from learning, who can learn and want to succeed. By success I mean a real education, not just a passing grade.


@AvgGeorgian @RoyalDawg We may not be that far apart.

Problem 1- Curriculum. We should return to a smaller set of core proficiencies and eliminate the social indoctrination in our schools. I agree. Unfortunately, the recent political environment requires so much propaganda and criticism of the American past (we stole the land, we screwed the slaves, our forefathers were evil white men, etc.) that the day isn't long enough to teach core proficiencies.

Problem 2- Delivery. I think we agree on the problem, and the reason that it isn't solved- fat central offices. In defense of central offices, the Department of Education LOADS them down with non-essential programs and reporting.

Problem 3- Ability and desire. A great deal of the lack of ability and desire comes from the broken family model and poverty; a disproportionate amount of this is in the black community, but to try to focus solutions there is attacked and called racist, so the problem can't be attacked. Unfortunately, we can't solve every failing home, but the absence of choice traps those who are involved and care with those who don't, and neither group is educated.

Statistics tie performance directly to race, because race is tied directly to poverty. I don't know how to fix that.

Problem 4- graduate success. That shouldn't require a state bureaucracy to do; I thought you liked decentralization. A success campaign can be handled better locally than in Atlanta.

I like your ideas, but frankly, the problems with curriculum and delivery are MUCH more likely to improve under Trump/DeVos than they have been for the last 8 years. You should NOT overlook the commitment of the Democrats and sub-groups, like the Black Political Caucus and the NAACP, to support TEACHER causes regardless of the impact on STUDENTS.

The left fights ALL reform, not just that involving choice. I don't understand that.


Private schools don't have to take all students. That's why they're..You know.. PRIVATE. They are not required to serve any and all students in their area. If the state wants to semi-privatize education via "school choice" and vouchers, let them fund ALL the costs, including transportation. If they cannot, then this "new" plan is just the same old malarkey packaged in shiny new wrappings.


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Another comment
Another comment

The one and only solution is to make Public Schools more like Private Schools. How do you do that?

Small one high school large districts. The largest Private school in the Country is Woodward Acedemy. It only has 2,500 students in K-12. Other top Private Schools like Westminster, Pace, Holy Innocents all have between 1,000-1,500 in grades K-12. We see clear examples of how the most successful districts in the area are the ones that are one high school large districts. The prime example is Decatur City Schools. ( others include Marietta, Buford, etc.. all single high school districts.)

The real problems are lack of discipline. Schools outright refuse to discipline African American Students in these large districts. They want their numbers on discipline to not trigger disparate numbers. When the truth is African American, followed by Hispanic students are the troubled students who commit discipline offenses in a much higher portion to white and Asian.

The distinct requirements for parent participation. My daughters high school recently handed out Microsoft Tablets to all students. They had a mandatory meeting of all parents prior to this release at 7:00 pm one evening. Less than 50 parents showed up to this Mandatory meeting. The compisition of those who attended as primarily White and Asian, definitely Middle to upper middle class. My oldest daughter cheered for 4 years in High African AMerican ( black) community shows no problem with work conflicts, making it to 2-3 time a week basketball games. Standing room only ( the Fire Marshall probably needs to be called ). Then for Football games and practices they are there. ( I have even offered to pick up from school a boy I was tutoring to learn how to read in 2nd grade, they had no problem getting him to 3 a week football practice).

Then if they funded the schools like the tutition requirements at the Private School stars, Woodward and others current tuition is $20k for kindergarten and $29,000 per year for high school. That does not include $3k plus for the bus. Or the Additional money if your child needs mild special ed services.


Here is what one charter school insider has to say about Delk.

From Oct 20, 2016 Get Schooled

"Despite the fact that I agree with this particular piece, the AJC should know that Delk is school choice's equivalent of an ambulance chaser and is a joke within the community.

We OSD supporters would like a more credible advocate. Makes my wonder if the AJC might actually be trying to discredit the supporters with this particular pro-OSD column."


@AvgGeorgian Yep, that was me, and it remains true.

Delk throws himself into these debates with the hope that someone will perceive to be an authority on the subject and someone will hire him. This is not "op-ed", this is marketing.

I may be wrong about ill intent, but the result is the same. His reputation as a charlatan is such that when the AJC prints his letters, it reduces the credibility of those who support choice; in essence, a stealth missile by the AJC to damage choice efforts, which supports their agenda.

time for reform
time for reform

Partisan Democrats will always oppose school choice. Parents choosing freely those schools which best meet their own child's needs aren't concerned about preserving union jobs.

Just the quality of education.

But teachers' unions like GAE/NEA and the AFT bankroll the party's candidates each election cycle, hence the strident opposition in this space to school choice.

day off
day off

@AvgGeorgian @day off @time for reform 

Yes, but my association doesn't endorse political candidates. Or bankroll them.

Nor do they use my dues money trying to influence balloting in other states on local issues.


@time for reform

Hello Eduktr, Pelosied, ChuckU. Is "time to reform" your anti-union name of the week?

Why are you against workers having advocates?

What is your profession and does it have professional associations that advocate for it?


@AvgGeorgian @time for reform For every dollar the groups you cited spend, there are more dollars spent by for-profit management companies, education consultants, and politicians hoping to make more dollars at the expense of the students.  Honesty and ethics are not part of the equation; it's simply how can I take in more dollars. 


Repeat after me. 

Taxpayer money for public education does not belong to parents or the governor. It belongs to all citizens.

Again. Taxpayer money for public education does not belong to the governor or parents. It belongs to all citizens.

Delk makes money off charter schools("most pro bono", his claim, no facts) and perhaps can make money off his proposed state and federally funded Educational Savings Accounts.

I get it. Greedy snake oil peddlers see a huge pot of money and want it for themselves. Instead of a miracle cure for lumbago, the vapors, and epizoodics, their plan to take your money will be a miracle cure for education.