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Letter: Georgia voters should defeat amendment on school takeover

POSTED: June 13, 2016 1:00 a.m.

In November, voters in Georgia will not only be voting for president and a U.S. senator, they will also be voting on a Georgia constitutional amendment that could destroy public education in our state.

The amendment will read: “Shall the constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

Since most people love their public schools and want them to succeed and this amendment sounds like it might help schools that are not succeeding, most people would vote yes. But if the voter had a chance to read about what the amendment entails, they would most certainly vote no.

The amendment would create what is called an “Opportunity School District” which would consist of individual schools from all over the state that are deemed to be failing their students. It is modeled after three such programs in Michigan, Tennessee and New Orleans, all of which are failing. On May 11, the governor of Louisiana signed a bill dissolving the Recovery School District in New Orleans.

The problem is the legislation says nothing about how they would improve schools, only how they would be managed. Here are a few reasons why we should say no to this amendment:

• It gives too much control to the governor’s office as whoever is governor appoints a superintendent for this statewide schools district and they decide what constitutes a failing school.

• Once a school is picked for the OSD, several options face the local school board, which loses control of that school —  including the local per pupil dollars — but still has to pay for maintenance of the building. One option which is most likely is to turn the school into a state charter school run by a for-profit management company.

• So far 127 schools have been targeted for takeover should the amendment pass.

• Schools can be closed and all teachers fired for no reason or recourse.

• Nothing is written in the legislation which describes what will be done to improve these schools.

• Nothing in the legislation addresses the generational poverty which affects most of the schools that would be taken over.

There are many other reasons why this amendment is wrong for Georgia. We believe there is a better alternative to help challenged schools. Community schools have proven effective in increasing graduation rates and improving their communities for parents, teachers and students.

Go to the following website to see how they work around the country: annenberginstitute.org/publications/investing-what-works-community-driven-strategies-strong-public-schools.

Sheila Nicholas
Chair, Hall County Democratic Party, Gainesville



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