Vote Yes for the Opportunity School District Constitutional Amendment — It’s About Accountability

Television ads are running throughout Georgia trying to scare voters into voting against the proposed Opportunity School District (“OSD”) Constitutional Amendment, an education reform proposal desperately needed in our state. These scare tactics by advocates of the status quo failed before in 2012 when Georgians overwhelmingly supported the State Charter School Amendment, and we need to reject them again this November 8th. This proposed amendment adds additional needed accountability promote a quality education for all Georgia children.

The Georgia Constitution rightly places general responsibility over education in the hands of local school boards but also mandates: “an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia.”

The proposed OSD constitutional amendment puts additional teeth into this broad state mandate by allowing it to temporarily place chronically failing schools — defined by the Georgia Department of Education’s accountability measures as schools falling below a 60 grade for three years in a row — into a statewide Opportunity School District for a period of not less than five nor more than ten years. The number of schools in this special school district is limited — no more than 20 a year may be added and no more than 100 may be included at any one time (out of more than 2200 K-12 public schools currently operating in Georgia). At the end of its minimum time in this program, the school may be returned to the control of the local school board, converted into an independent charter school, or remain in the OSD. While in the Opportunity School District, this specially created state district shall have broad discretion to upgrade the school staff and curriculum, and undertake programs to improve parent participation.

By injecting this added accountability, this proposal will assist those Georgia K-12 students currently trapped in Georgia’s worst performing schools to receive the public education they deserve. Equally important, it should provide additional incentive to local school districts to work to make sure their schools do not qualify as a failing school. Opponents of the amendment, however, scream that this amendment will somehow harm public education. In doing so, they haul out the same arguments that they made in opposition to the State Charter School Amendment that was passed by Georgia voters in 2012. Then, as now, the opponents argued that the amendment would severely damage or destroy “local control” over K-12 public education. Wrong.

First, it is difficult to see how assisting students trapped in the lowest performing public schools — capped at less than 6% of the total number of public schools in Georgia — “destroys” local control. This proposal merely creates a safety valve to assist the most vulnerable students in Georgia.

Second, local control should never amount to exclusive control. While, local school systems and boards should have primary responsibility over local schools, no governmental entity at any level should ever have unfettered unchecked authority over anything – especially public education. If a student fails a math or English test, he or she is expected to take the necessary steps to adjust and correct his or her mistakes. The same should be true for the public school he or she attends. If it consistently fails to meet the needs of its students, allowing it to simply continue on as if nothing is wrong is unacceptable. The OSD will provided the needed accountability to rip the blinders off chronically failing schools and make needed changes.

In conclusion, this amendment will assist our state in delivering on its constitutional and moral responsibility to Georgia’s next generation. Georgians made a step in the right direction in 2012 and should do so again in this election year by voting YES on Question 1, the Opportunity School District Constitutional Amendment, on November 8th.

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Georgia millennials make their opinions known on Opportunity School District – Site TitlesherdinalBartFreeDuckbethebalance Recent comment authors
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bethebalance
bethebalance

i more often than not vote on the more progressive policy, which more often than not aligns with the Dems. on this issue, however, i am def leaning towards voting Yes. my remaining concern is about money– making sure the schools are adequately funded at least at the same levels as they presently are. not just the schools that are in the OSD, but the whole statewide school funding system. even if it’s a for-profit contracted company– if they can temporarily deliver better education without detracting from the funding that any school receives, that seems acceptable. but it still takes… Read more »

Benevolus
Benevolus

While I agree that some alternative path should be available as a remedy for poorly performing schools, the vagueness and dishonest wording of the ballot language raises big red flags, so I am going to play devils advocate and ask some questions: – Top of the list- the ballot language is flat out dishonest which causes one to lose faith in the motivation or true purpose . If you need to ask us for permission we demand you be honest with us. – How is the OSD going to evaluate teachers and administrators? What criteria? Who does it? Is there… Read more »

Bart
Bart

Everything Benevolous wrote. Plus do we really think a failing school system would be better served by a DOE under the leadership of say Linda Schrenko or Kathy Cox?

bethebalance
bethebalance

wait– you and Benevolous agree on this issue?

Bart
Bart

It’s a crazy political season.

Rambler14
Rambler14

Will the OSD hire Teach for America teachers like Louisiana did in New Orleans?
If yes, why are we supposed to believe that they will be any better at instructing our children than the current teachers?

FreeDuck
FreeDuck

Do we need a constitutional amendment for the state to help failing schools? Do they have to take over in order to assist? What experience does the state have in running a school district or turning around failing schools?

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

None, but it doesn’t matter. The KSU and AG appointments indicate experience isn’t necessary.

bethebalance
bethebalance

the pros and cons of requiring an amendment vs. a statute have been argued in previous posts. i agree that the either way, there should be better indications of collaboration with the local district and Board, but despite the lack of language to that effect, there will be collaboration by necessity. even Palpatine couldn’t manage the galaxy without working with representatives from the systems. but the state DoE deserves more benefit than doubt here, bc education is kind of what the DoE does. still, there remains a risk and political inclination to transform the failing schools into permanent charter schools.… Read more »

FreeDuck
FreeDuck

I guess I’m saying they don’t need an amendment or a statute if they really want to help failing schools. They can develop a partnership with the local schools, set aside special funding and resources, provide support for innovations like public montessori, if that’s what they really want to do. I don’t see how they need legislation for that, though admittedly, I don’t know the ins and outs of budgeting. Still, I’m skeptical of the whole thing.

Benevolus
Benevolus

I agree. And it would be nice to know who was funding the support campaign but we don’t. Since they won’t tell us, we get to speculate. It could be for-profit charter companies, it could be Erin Hames company. Who knows.
http://bettergeorgia.org/2015/09/15/gov-deals-cronies-strike-gold-with-school-takeover-plan/

sherdinal
sherdinal

I’m voting yes because I and the school system failed my children I thought if I worked hard and send my children to school they would want something more but the street won and I have two drop outs they were the sweetest best children love them so much wish I worked less and check on them in school more pray amendment 1 will save another single parents child because they have to work may all children grow up with a diploma and a great life jail free

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Georgia millennials make their opinions known on Opportunity School District – Site Title

[…] amendment is trying to mislead voters to make them believe it is a good thing when it is not. The proponents of OSD argue that our failing schools have no other choice, and that OSD is the only way to give […]