In Athens, Opposition to the Proposed Opportunity School District

Early signs of opposition to Governor Nathan Deal’s proposed Opportunity School District were present over the weekend at an Athens forum sponsored by the Athens branch of the NAACP and the UGA chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. The Opportunity School District plan would allow the state to take over a limited number of chronically failing schools for up to five years in an effort to improve student outcomes. A constitutional amendment needed to enable the plan will be on the ballot in November.

According to the Athens Banner Herald, the opposition was led by Valarie Wilson, who ran for State School Superintendent in 2014, and is currently the executive director of the Georgia School Boards Association.

Wilson maintained that the Opportunity School District was a solution looking for a problem:

Noting that 129 schools — including Clarke County’s Gaines Elementary School — would qualify as “failing” under the state’s current criteria, Wilson suggested the Opportunity School District referendum and its accompanying legislation represent a far too broad-based approach to a relatively narrow problem.

“We are [considering] changing our constitution for less than 4 percent of our schools,” Wilson told the crowd.

Also at the forum was Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert of Athens, who defended the program:

“[T]here are areas of the state where the school boards are not providing a sufficient education,” and citizens in those communities “are looking for another avenue, another option” to improve educational outcomes for their students.

Republican State Rep. Regina Quick told those present that while she voted in favor of the constitutional amendment, she voted against the enabling legislation over questions about funding. She hopes that her issues with implementation can be resolved with changes to the legislation. Also present was Athens Democrat Rep. Spencer Frye who was opposed to the measure, calling it the “Occupied School District.”

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It’s not clear to me what Deal’s plan will accomplish, other than establishing another educational bureaucracy and putting OSD schools under his direct control. I’ve read he would be able to close the schools, but not what would happen to affected students. Can we expect more charter schools? Can we expect Deal to piece off the schools to for-profit firms? What’s the plan and why does it require a constitutional amendment to implement?


We get to vote on this in November. There’s nothing pending in the legislature at this time so what I’m writing about education will focus a lot more on the QBE and other education reforms pending legislation than the OSD. That said, as we move out of the legislative session and closer to the elections, I’ll start to revisit this with a lot more frequency. For now, I’ll offer this link and a few quick hits: 1) The state doesn’t want to take over a single school. That’s the last resort of 4 options under the plan. 2) The… Read more »


Thanks for the link. To your pointss: 1) I should have made clear that taking over a school is a last resort; 2) a sword overhead focuses the attention; 3) probably not. I’m all for the state taking steps to improve failing schools but if Deal has a secret sauce to get them up to scratch, why doesn’t he share with the DoE and tell them to make it happen instead of pushing an amendment to set up an in-house DoE? Why the adversarial tone? Why the assumption that teachers and admins have neglected their jobs? I’m sure that some… Read more »