An amibitious plan to help Georgia’s failing schools recover

Nathan Deal speaks with volunteers at Drew Charter School in East Lake.

Nathan Deal speaks with volunteers at Drew Charter School in East Lake.

A lot of us were caught off-guard in September when Gov. Nathan Deal said he wanted the state to have the power to take custody of perennially failing schools, following the lead of Louisiana’s Recovery School District. But not Erin Hames.

“The first conversation I ever had with Governor-elect Nathan Deal was about the Recovery School District,” Hames, Deal’s deputy chief of staff for policy, recalled Thursday. “So it’s been on his heart and mind for a long time.”

What got in the way? The Georgia Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling that the state’s charter schools commission wrongly impinged on local school districts. Deal wound up fighting instead for a constitutional amendment to reinstate the commission.

That fight delayed the push for a new Opportunity School District in Georgia by a few years. But the amendment’s comfortable passage, despite fierce opposition from the educational establishment, also showed how hungry Georgians are for more choices and significant changes for our schools.

“I would interpret that when you pass a constitutional amendment by (a majority of) 58 percent, that is a pretty strong indication that the public is not satisfied with the status quo,” Deal said in an interview with the AJC ahead of his second inaugural on Monday.

“Taking that further: If you look at those counties … which will have these failing schools in them, they had some of the highest percentages” in support of the amendment, Deal continued. “Clayton County is a classic example … (more than) 70 percent of Clayton County voted for that constitutional amendment. …

“So I think you take away from that (referendum) that the vast majority of people in this state know there’s a problem, and I think when you point out the specifics of the problem, I think they recognize that it’s time we did something.”

Deal is coming off a re-election campaign fought in significant part on the question of school funding. As in the election, he dismissed funding as the root of failing schools’ problems.

“That does not hold as a valid argument in my opinion,” he said, “because some of the districts that have failing schools already spend more per child than many of the other schools that are not failing. So money alone will not solve the problem … .

“Some of these just require drastic overhauls with new options being afforded to those children and their families.”

Those “drastic overhauls” could mean restructuring existing public schools, or putting them under new management, or closing them and opening new public charter schools. Any school deemed “failing” for at least three straight years could be placed in the Opportunity School District, though the state wouldn’t try to take over all such schools: After all, current data indicate one in nine public schools could be eligible.

Education status quoists will no doubt fight the measure. But Deal said he’s ready to take his case to legislators, two-thirds of whom in each chamber must agree to put it before voters next year.

“I cannot imagine any member of the General Assembly,” he said, “wanting to condemn any of their constituents and their children to failing schools.”

Reader Comments 0

29 comments
AvailableName
AvailableName

So trading one set of local bureaucrats for a set of state bureaurcrats is the educational panacea we've longed for.  I thought it was charters, or was it privatization with vouchers or....?  I know I'm being sarcastic.


I do like the Governor's flopping on big versus small.  Federal money with federal control for healthcare is bad, gotta let the state handle the details it knows best.  But when it comes to education, paid for by local taxes, the state has to handle the details because those local folks don't know....

AvailableName
AvailableName

And, I just realized Eustis made my point in a lot less words.

Eustis
Eustis

What happened to "local control"?

This is another big government grab and somebody is going to get rich.

straker
straker

The Falcons needed a small piece of property for their stadium. It was privately owned. TAXPAYER dollars paid over SIX TIMES what the property was actually worth to acquire it. That's well over 5 million dollars.


How many additional social workers could have been hired for DFACS and salaries increased for the current workers for that amount instead of throwing those dollars into a new football stadium?


Taking care of the rich while throwing poor children under the bus is the Georgia way.


That's all you need to know about this "help Georgia's failing schools recover" story.

Don't Tread
Don't Tread

Deal is right.  The only ones opposed to this idea are the people with the most to lose - the liberals who are running the schools (into the ground) while collecting a paycheck and fully funded pension when their time is done.  Even the uber-liberal Democrat base in Clayton County agrees.  (You know it's really bad when your own supporters turn on you to the tune of 70%.)


It's past time for something different, although I would have preferred vouchers.  That would have really yanked the carpet out from under these people.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Why not let the state sell health insurance since they think they can do anything ?

MarkVV
MarkVV

The changes Governor Deal wants to make may or may not be beneficial – I strongly doubt that anybody discussing Kyle’s information here can give anything more than a guess, mostly from the political viewpoint. But I find it quite ironic when conservatives are in favor of the state getting more power in education – the conservatives who for years have attacked “government schools” and warned us about the government trying to shape the minds of the children.

Caius
Caius

Are we going to create a new state education bureaucracy to run the schools in the Opportunity School District?  Or will we hire private companies?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Caius There will be a superintendent of the district. Beyond that, it depends in largest part on which options are used to fix the schools in question. If it's closing the school and opening a charter, it shouldn't take additional staff. If it's firing the administration and hiring a new administration overseen by the state, there shouldn't be any new staff at the school but I don't know what staff, beyond the superintendent, the state would need for oversight.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

"“I cannot imagine any member of the General Assembly,” he said, “wanting to condemn any of their constituents and their children to failing schools.”"


That might be the dumbest thing I've read in 2015, so far. How misleading and hollow can you get?


"Oh, my. Lawdy. We must make all schools A+ performers. I mean I just can't imagine a wide swath of school employees wanting their schools to be failures."

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

"the amendment’s comfortable passage, despite fierce opposition from the educational establishment, also showed how hungry Georgians are for more choices and significant changes for our schools."


Umm, no. It showed that most Georgians, like most people, are for stronger schools. Anything in the amendment that would suggest an improvement would still win.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Finn-McCool I'll bite: How is that different from what I said? Other than being more vague, I guess.

irishmafia1457
irishmafia1457

It's all BS. the ONLY thing that can help start making schools improve ...no it's definitely not money ..the poor and poor performing schools receive MUCH more money than compatible size suburban middle class school systems..the ONLY thing is for PARENTS to get involved with the child's learning,  make it the most important thing to the kid and the results will follow. Unfortunately there is no way to force all those un involved parents  to get on the ball.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

This is a very sticky wicket.  I am familiar with some of these poor counties and schools and there is no easy solution.  Blacks make up 90% of the student population in the schools and in the last 20 years Blacks have taken political control of the school boards and in some counties the county commissions.  They feel that since they are a majority of the population, they should be in power.  How can anyone blame them.  The school performance continues to get worse.  They have insisted on black Superintendents, principals, and teachers, whether they are the best qualified or not.  Again, how can you blame them.


The revenue situation is stacked against these counties as the tax base is so low.  Land is mainly timber, and timber companies have exempted themselves from property tax to some extent, most of the rest is agricultural, which is taxed much lower than industrial or residential.  The remaining property owners are just taxed way too much and still can't make up for the shortfall. 


This system is broken, glad I don't have to come up with an answer.  Government that functions closest to the people works best, so I hate to see the State take even more authority, but I don't have the answers.  Probably some county consolidation is the long term solution, but for that to happen is going to require more leadership than I have seen in State government in a long time.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@RafeHollister "They have insisted on black Superintendents, principals, and teachers, whether they are the best qualified or not.  Again, how can you blame them."

Because it's racist. DUH. 

Whites long defended their racist actions by saying "can you blame us?"

Why yes, yes we can blame you.  Strive to get the best people, no matter the race. If it just so happens all the applicants are locals of the same race, then hire the best of them. 


Pay teachers more, a lot more, to attract the best and brightest.  Teachers in the classroom should earn the same as top administrators in the school system. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Fulton County school board members have denied renewal of charters for a high school and elementary school in the district, citing weaknesses with governance and problematic finances.


In a unanimous vote at a board meeting Thursday night, members decided to cut ties with charter schools Fulton Science Academy High and Fulton Sunshine Academy elementary by the end of this school year — leaving the future of 800 students who attend the schools in question.


I guess those 800 kids who got duped by the Charter School promise are just on their own now huh ?


http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-education/fulton-county-school-board-votes-to-end-ties-with-/njCfP/

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Actually, shutting down bad charter schools is a feature, not a bug, of the system. Unlike the traditional public schools model, where that's not even an option -- unless this amendment is passed.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar As for being "on their own," well, if that's how you want to say that they have to go back to their traditional public school.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

http://onlineathens.com/local-news/2013-05-29/about-1-3-georgia-charter-schools-outperform-districts


Roughly one out of every three schools chartered by the state scored better in Georgia’s new ranking than the districts those schools are located in, the State Charter Schools Commission learned Wednesday.


That also means that two out of every three scored worse. One school matched the score of its home district.


By all means lets change to Charter Schools who underperform the ones we have now


Pure genius.

blah blah blah
blah blah blah

No, Governor Deal, please do not take over APS... 

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

Blaming the failed school systems on the children? Who are the adults in this situation?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

While I agree with you on the need for disciplinary schools (if you don't have that, you won't learn much) how do you implement?  How do you fund?  Having to toe the line during the day, to return home to the same mess at night?


It would certainly help those whose school lives are being severely impacted by the behavior of the children who hold them hostage every day, year after year.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

I'm not sure a state takeover of a local school is the answer either.  Therein lies the constitutional question.  I thought the state constitution already required the state to fund/support all schools, even if that is not the current day reality. 


Also, those decrying Federal power in state education look like hypocrites if they support state power in county or city education.  Shades of differences, I know, but separation of powers should be consistent.  Also, those supporting Federal power in state education look like hypocrites if they do not support state power in county or city education.  It should not be Federal versus State versus County/City.  It should be Federal and State and County/City working together.  Alas, those in power don't like sharing or releasing any power to anyone else. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude "I thought the state constitution already required the state to fund/support all schools, even if that is not the current day reality. "

The state spends $7B a year doing just that. Not sure how it's not "the current day reality," even if there are some people who will always ask for more money.

"Also, those decrying Federal power in state education look like hypocrites if they support state power in county or city education. "

This is just plain ridiculous, on many levels. 1. The state is responsible for ensuring an adequate public education. If a local district is allowing some of its schools to fail -- i.e., not to provide an adequate public education -- what is the state supposed to do? Stand by idly? Hand over more and more money without any say in how it's spent? The answer from Deal, which I support, is to intervene in that school. 2. In this case, Deal is seeking a constitutional amendment to give the state the powers it seeks, because he recognizes the Constitution currently doesn't grant it those powers. On the federal level, the lack of constitutional authority is simply ignored.

MD3
MD3

@Kyle_Wingfield @LogicalDude  "even if there are some people who will always ask for more money"   I think most schools would be happy to simply be given what the funding formula requires, instead of hundreds of millions of dollars less. If the state simply met its obligation, there would be 180 day school calendars statewide, and there would be no forced furloughs. Both of those things currently represent our current-day reality. Those in charge use the "more money" as a convenient dodge to avoid admitting that they are allocating FAR less than the state's own formula requires, and then they are cynically suggesting that those who express the need for the state to live up to its obligation are simply greedy and always wanting "more". 

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Kyle_Wingfield @LogicalDude " If a local district is allowing some of its schools to fail -- i.e., not to provide an adequate public education -- what is the state supposed to do? Stand by idly? "


If a State is allowing some of its schools to fail, what is the country supposed to do?   Stand by idly? 


I guess my confusion is this:   If the state constitution ALREADY gives the power to the state for funding and providing education, why would Deal need ANOTHER constitutional amendment giving the state any more power than it already has?  Since the power is in the state's hands already, how did local jurisdictions get power to run their own schools constitutionally? (the current day reality). 

It could all be due to my misunderstanding of the convoluted Georgia constitution. :) 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

How about military schools for those who have no discipline in school or at home. How do you engage the problem child? Responsibilities and positive outcomes with ramifications for non producers. I benefited from both Catholic and semi military schools focusing on discipline and results.  So did my family which is filled with doctors engineers, teachers and business persons. All graduated college (14) and all but one of their kids have graduated from college. Focus...continued focus...and respect is the answer.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RoadScholar Well, I suppose that would be one option the state could pursue: Using the tax dollars allotted per pupil to send such students to military schools. Or it could authorize a charter school that offers such a program, and allow parents in any part of the state -- or just the ones whose schools are in the OSD -- to send their kids to it.