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Failing schools amendment rejected by voters
Gainesville school board chair 'very pleased'
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Jason Van Landingham, left, joins others at the voting machines Tuesday morning at Gainesville First United Methodist Church as voters wait in line about 20 minutes before casting their ballots. A rush of voters turned out at the West Whelchel precinct early as voters got to the polls before going to work.

An amendment to Georgia’s constitution that would have empowered the state to take over poor-performing schools failed by a wide margin Tuesday night.

Sixty percent of voters statewide voted down the measure, and 58 percent said no in Hall County.

“I am personally very pleased,” Gainesville Board of Education Chairwoman Delores Diaz said. “I believe that if it had passed, it would have been a step toward privatization of education across the state.”

She added: “If the state took over underperforming schools and brought in someone from the outside to oversee them, what they don’t seem to remember is the reason these schools are underperforming is they are primarily schools that are high poverty.

“You have to work with the whole community and you have to work with the families — it’s a social problem. Bringing in someone to take over a school and use the taxpayers’ money to fund it makes no sense to me, because they would have no understanding of the local community and the issues the students are facing.”

In October, the school board issued a resolution opposing the amendment, with board member Sammy Smith abstaining. He said the amendment is a statewide issue, and “those voters should educate themselves and make their own choice.”

The measure, if it had passed, would have allowed an appointed superintendent accountable to the governor to place failing schools in an “opportunity school district” and convert them into charter schools, overhaul management or close them.

Failing schools would be those that have scored below 60 on the state’s College and Career Performance Index for three consecutive years.

CCRPI scores are based in part on students’ scores on Milestones and End of Course tests.

“I appreciate my governor believing that accepting the status quo in schools that radically underperform their peers, sometimes for generations, is not acceptable,” Hall schools Superintendent Will Schofield said of the vote.

“Locally, we will continue to do all that is within our abilities to meet the needs of the families we serve.”

Gov. Nathan Deal had said he believed the amendment would have helped children trapped in schools that have consistently failed to meet standards.

Several groups, including the Georgia Association of Educators and the Georgia PTA, have said it would usurp local control of those schools.

State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, who had supported the amendment, said he believes “there was not enough information presented by the proponents of the bill in contrast to the millions of dollars that were spent by out-of-state interests who were against the bill.

“And based on the information that was out there for the general public, I can understand why people would vote no.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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