This November, there is a proposed amendment to our state's constitution that, if passed, will likely impact our local schools negatively. It will read, with preamble:
Amendment 1: Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increased community involvement.
"Shall the constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?"
It sounds good at first glance, but let's examine it more closely.
This is an initiative by Gov. Nathan Deal and Georgia's legislature.
This same state government has decreased funding for public schools in Georgia by approximately $9.2 billion in the last 12 years.
If the education of Georgia's students is a state and local responsibility, what does this decrease in state funding have to say about their commitment to educate our students?
The amendment, if passed, would allow 20 schools per year (of the 127 schools currently identified as not meeting proficiency standards), to be organized into an "Opportunity School District," which would be run by a governor-appointed superintendent.
Also, the definition of what constitutes a failing school would be left up to the governor's discretion. The OSD is modeled after other programs throughout the country that some states have already repealed for lack of effectiveness. Tennessee and Michigan currently have legislation in process to dissolve these types of school systems, and Louisiana has already done so.
However, there are success stories throughout the country where troubled school districts have made substantial progress by using a Community Schools model which has dramatically increased graduation rates and improving their communities for both students and parents. (Schools in W VA and in Cincinnati have shown marked improvement.) Go to this website to learn more about how community schools work around the country: http://communityschools.org.
If this amendment passes, local school districts will lose control over their schools and funding will be controlled by the state-appointed superintendent.
Nowhere in any pending legislation does it address what will be done to improve these schools. Nor does it mention how to deal with generational poverty which is a prime contributing factor to lack of student success.
If this amendment passes, the selected schools will likely be run by a for-profit management company. Where will money come from to make any substantial improvements? Or, is the governor just washing his hands of the responsibilities our state has to our schools where students are struggling and instead, putting them under the control of a for-profit entity? Wouldn't it be better if these schools were supported financially enough to restructure themselves with models that have proven successful in other communities throughout America?
The Georgia PTA, several local school boards including Dawson County, the GA School Boards Association, GA Superintendents' Assoc., GA Federation of Teachers, Georgia Association of Educators, Professional Association of GA Educators, the NAACP, Concerned Black Clergy have come out against this amendment. These groups are not afraid of changes that need to be made, but are opposed to the methods proposed in this amendment. Can they all be wrong? I think not.