School Districts Fear Loss Of Control If Takeover Plan Approved

Governor Nathan Deal signs the bill signing for the charter of the Utopian Academy for The Arts on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. (Photo/Brenna Beech)
Governor Nathan Deal signs the bill signing for the charter of the Utopian Academy for The Arts on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. (Photo/Brenna Beech)
Credit Brenna Beach / WABE

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In November, voters will decide whether the state should be able to take over schools it considers “chronically failing.”

Gov. Nathan Deal championed the proposal, which is based on similar plans in Louisiana and Tennessee. But some local school boards are making it clear they’re not OK  with the possibility of losing control of their schools.

The governor’s plan would create a state-run school system, “Opportunity School District,” to manage schools that have consistently failed to meet state standards. Schools that scored an “F” on the state’s report card for three consecutive years would qualify. Currently, the governor’s office says 127 schools, or 6 percent, meet that criteria.

But lately, an increasing number of Georgia school districts have adopted resolutions opposing the measure.

The governor rebuked them last week.

“I would hope they would put the same amount of effort into making sure they don’t have any failing schools in their school district,” he said. “Because if they don’t have any failing schools, the Opportunity School District has nothing to operate about.”

But some districts that have adopted resolutions don’t have any schools at risk right now.

“We currently don’t have any schools on the list, but we have had schools that have been on kind of the ‘watch list,’” says Cherokee County School Board Chairwoman Kyla Cromer. Her board will vote on a resolution opposing the governor’s plan next week. She says some Cherokee schools have come close to qualifying for a takeover.

“When we’ve had schools that have fallen below the threshold, we go in and remediate and do what we need to do to make sure that those scores improve to a point that they’re no longer on the watch list,” she says.

It’s that kind of autonomy districts fear losing if the measure passes. That’s also a concern for organizations like the Georgia Association of Educators, the Georgia Parent Teacher Association and the Georgia School Boards Association, which works with local boards of education.

“What we would like to see is the opportunity to work together with the state, versus the state just coming and taking over completely, taking over resources, taking over local control, taking over the opportunity for communities to have a say,” says GSBA communications director Justin Pauly.

Voters will have the final say. If approved, the OSD plan would go into effect during the 2017-2018 school year.

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