Voting on the “Opportunity School District” Constitutional Amendment takes place during the general election in November 2016.
A specific amendment number will be given to the amendment in early summer. Once that amendment number is given, Georgia PTA will start educating and advocating in reference to that amendment number for clarity for the voters.
The Ballot Question “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?” That sounds great but what the Ballot Question REALLY Means is… “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow an appointee of the Governor to take over local school operation, take possession of buildings, and take control of all federal, state and local funding if a school has low scores on standardized tests or for any other reason a future Legislature and/or Governor may allow?”
What Does This Mean to You, Your Child and Your School District?
• Allows the state to take over any school that the state determines to be failing. u Definition of “failing” may be changed by any future Legislature u Currently using CCRPI (College and Career Readiness Performance Index) score below 60. The State Board of Education (appointed by the Governor) has the authority to change the CCRPI formula
• The Governor appoints a Superintendent of the OSD. The OSD Superintendent operates independently of the State Department of Education or your elected School Superintendent of Georgia. He is accountable only to the Governor, not voters or taxpayers.
• The OSD Superintendent may do one of four things with the school, without input from parents, teachers, administrators, the local school board, or the community: u Close the school and disburse the children and the staff around the county. u Force the local school board make changes to the OSD school (reorganizing the staff, firing all teachers, hiring new staff, etc.) as directed by the OSD Superintendent. u Dual governance between the OSD Superintendent and local board of education. u Transfer the school to the State Charter Schools Commission, who can then hire a for-profit management company to operate the school. The local board has no role except to pay for it. This is what has happened in most states and districts that have approved state takeover plans. Parents do not have to be allowed any say in what happens to the school or to the teachers.
• Allows the state to take local funds to run the schools it takes over in the existing local school buildings. u This would be the first time state charter schools would be allowed to use LOCAL funds. u Even when the state charter school exits OSD control, it does not return to local district control. It remains a state charter school and gets to use the local money and school building forever. u If the local school district needs a new school it will have to build a new one and will not be compensated for the school it lost. u While under OSD control the local school system would still have to pay for all of the school’s upkeep.
• All the teachers and the staff can be fired from the local OSD school with no reason or recourse but the local school system (and your taxes) will still have to pay their salary and reassign them. Teachers are hired by the school system not the State.
• The Governor has sole control over the district, as his appointed Superintendent serves at the Governor’s pleasure.
• There is nothing in the legislation that talks about improvements in education or any extra resources for these schools. So it is business as usual in our schools except the state and the for-profit management company run the schools. Additionally, schools that score low on standardized tests and are not taken over by the OSD get no extra help.
• The Georgia State Department of Education is already empowered to intervene to assist struggling schools via O.C.G.A. 20-14-41, and many of the requirements for state assistance match the requirements for a state takeover through the OSD. The appointed OSD Superintendent, not the elected State School Superintendent, would have authority over the public OSD schools.