UPDATE: Amendment 1 was soundly defeated! Thank you all for your hard work!
On November 8, Georgia voters will face a ballot initiative that will fundamentally alter the landscape of K-12 public education in Georgia.
Governor Deal’s Opportunity School District proposal, packaged as the method par excellence to save “chronically failing” public schools through replacing local control with state takeover, requires an amendment to the Georgia Constitution. While the ballot phraseology is as rosy and desirable-sounding as it is deceptive, we must carefully dig beneath the surface to uncover the detrimental implications of an Opportunity School District and what it might mean for our most vulnerable students.
On November 8, Amendment 1 will read:
Before we head off to the polls and fall victim to the enticing (yet misleading) language of the ballot at the expense of Georgia’s students, it is imperative that we sift through what exactly an Opportunity School District (OSD) would do and from where the idea came.
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically
failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”
State takeover of up to 100 schools at any one time deemed to be “failing” for three years in a row (according to the statewide accountability metric, CCRPI).
A Governor-appointed superintendent would run the OSD and report directly to the Governor.
If the amendment passes this November, it will be implemented in January 2017.
There are currently 139 schools in 22 school systems across Georgia that would be eligible for inclusion in the OSD. Many schools deemed “failing” are concentrated in the Metro Atlanta area.
Similar initiatives, namely the Recovery School District in Louisiana and the Achievement School District in Tennessee, have boasted increased academic performance in the wake of the state takeovers. But improved by what measures and at whose expense? Isolating the initiative from the multiple contextual factors within which it arose is highly problematic and oversimplifies the relationship between the reform and subsequent results. Further, removing the results of the RSD and ASD from their contexts myopically ignores the swaths of students dis-serviced by this reform. By enacting a blanket replication here in Georgia, we take a page from the dangerous book of one-size-fits-all education reform.
The OSD Superintendent will have four intervention models he or she may apply, at his/her discretion, to the OSD schools:
1. Conversion of school into a charter to be run by the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia.
2. Direct management of the school by the OSD.
3. Joint governance between school board and OSD Superintendent, where Superintendent has the authority to direct changes at the school.
4. Closure of the school (a last resort option).
While it is undeniable that Georgia’s schools ache for improvement, Amendment 1 is far from the remedy students need and deserve. An Opportunity School District brings with it a number of troubling concerns, among them: a) inequity; b) corporatization/privatization of public schools; c) usurpation of local control; and, d) poor transparency and lack of accountability.
We will address each of these concerns in a series of subsequent posts in the hopes that it might expose Amendment 1 for what it is: a move toward privatization built off the backs of Georgia’s most marginalized students. Georgia deserves better.
If you would like to be involved with A4E’s efforts to stop Amendment 1, email us at AthensForEveryone@gmail.com.by