Education reform shouldn’t pay the price for Gov. Deal’s vetoes

AJC Photo / Bob Andres

AJC Photo / Bob Andres

The Era of Good Feelings under the Gold Dome is suddenly a lot less good.

Things have been pretty chummy the past six years. It began with the ascension of David Ralston as speaker of a House that, under previous management, feuded often with the Senate. Soon afterward came the election of Nathan Deal, whose approach was greeted by legislators as a welcome change from the more confrontational style of his predecessor.

Much of that is in serious doubt after two high-profile vetoes. A broad-based failure to sell the religious-liberty bill to critics in the business community doomed that measure. A miscommunication — or something — revealed Deal’s support for the campus-carry bill wasn’t as bullet-proof as legislative leaders thought.

It’d be wrong to say we’ve reached the same level of acrimony as before 2010. But there is a great deal of nervousness that the rest of Deal’s agenda — particularly his Opportunity School District, on the ballot this fall as a constitutional amendment, and a more comprehensive education-reform package that was delayed until next year — is in jeopardy.

Social conservatives are angry about those vetoes. Republicans in west Georgia voted to censure Deal. The state gathering in early June could devolve into a spasm of backlash at the governor now that delegates need not spend time positioning themselves for a contested national convention in Cleveland.

Some legislators grumbled late in the session, as word got out that Deal was likely to veto the religious-liberty bill: If he did and if campus carry fell, too, they might not find the time to campaign for his OSD referendum. I’ve heard similar sentiments since.

That would be a mistake.

I understand the angst about the religious-liberty bill, which proponents finally got out of the Legislature in their third year of trying. I’m more agnostic about campus carry; I don’t see the evidence that adding (or subtracting) guns at the margin would lead to significantly different results.

But rejecting the opportunity to improve education policy would be a terrible way to lash out.

OSD is, above all, an accountability measure that is already yielding results even before becoming law. (See the big changes coming to some of Atlanta’s worst public schools.) Done right, it will strengthen accountability for local districts while giving parents and communities, not the state, some of the authority and responsibility school boards historically have held. That’s accountability with control closer to students and families, not farther from them. That’s a conservative idea.

We don’t yet know the exact combination of policies in Deal’s broader reform package. But the rough outlines — funding that’s based on students, not programs; compensation that treats teachers more like other professionals; enhancing early learning and career training — suggest it’ll be the kind of package this state needs to move forward.

Those are things for which Republicans ought to fight together, not against one another out of spite. Nathan Deal will be the least of the victims if they are defeated.

Reader Comments 0

35 comments
itsbrokeletsfixit
itsbrokeletsfixit

From your opinion column today (5/12) I see that you understand the importance of fixing education by focusing on the individual child, not the institution. That insight is at odds with the OSD that the Governor proposes. OSD has NOT demonstrated success in New Orleans, New Jersey, Tennessee or anywhere else. Also, your concept of accountability (and most everyone else's) results in requiring teachers to force feed information into their students so they can pass standardized tests. It bullys them and becomes a boring  process for the students, causing them to loose interest in learning, get frustrated and act out (or shut down). It's like trying to push a rope uphill. To fix education teachers must have the freedom to encourage student curiosity, to reach students where they are (students from different backgrounds start with different reality constructs). If done correctly, students become interested in learning and discipline problems in schools will greatly decline. Class sizes must be reduced to the point where teachers can get to know individual students, have time to address their questions, and engage their curiosity with a whole suite of educational tools: including field trips, class discussions, quiz games, hands on experiments, walks around campus, plays, student presentations in class, challenge questions to research. The most important task of the teacher is to get her students excited about learning. The task of our government is to reconfigure public schools so we can do that and figure out how to pay for it. Standardized testing is expensive, meaningless, and measures the wrong things.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Seems Georgia's guide for reform is not such a success(except for those making money off the reform).


Problems with the OSD and charter schools in New Orleans:


"There is also growing evidence that the reforms have come at the expense of the city’s most disadvantaged children, who often disappear from school entirely and, thus, are no longer included in the data.


“We don’t want to replicate a lot of the things that took place to get here,” said Andre Perry, who was one of the few black charter-school leaders in the city. “There were some pretty nefarious things done in the pursuit of academic gain,” Mr. Perry acknowledged, including “suspensions, pushouts, skimming, counseling out, and not handling special needs kids well.”


In short, charter schools "taught to test," pushed the most "undesirable" students out of school -- and relied on many young, callow white teachers from the suburbs to educate primarily Black students with strong community traditions and ties."


http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/the-scam-of-charter-schools-starts-to-collapse-in-new-orleans

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@AvgGeorgian

Truthout.org:  A reliable source of left wing bias, propaganda, and agitation.

Can we stick to facts, please?

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Schools will not significantly improve until the students and families improve.  Schools in Georgia and other southern states are burdened with a large percentage of kids from single-parent households and it's apparent that no handout program, no amount of education spending, no early-intervention program can reverse the effects of parental irresponsibility, ignorance, and sloth.

MarkVV
MarkVV

The charge that Gov. Deal "sold out" the "liberty-religious "bill to the critics in the business community is insulting but typical for the bigots supporting the bill.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

"I’m more agnostic about campus carry;..."

The Friday May 6 ajc website story about the carjacking and beating of a female student on the Clark Atlanta University campus indicated the attack occurred on April 25. Interesting that the eleven day reporting hiatus coincided with the week that we awaited the guv's decision on the campus carry legislation. Probably just a coincidence (wink).

lvg
lvg

NRA and their followers will seek political revenge for being challenged by Deal. NRA controls this state and Deal has committed heresy.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

You misspelled "Georgians respect every one of the rights endowed by their creator and the right to bear arms, and expect government to do its job, which is to protect those rights."

ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

With all due respect to the legislature I don't see the body having the desire or temperament to introduce the nuanced measures required for school reform. The messaging tactics in politics have been to distill everything into sound bites and bumper sticker slogans and this will not produce this. In addition once you get outside the metro area, the major employers are either the municipality or school systems in alot of these counties. Perhaps the legislature will surprise me but they have only shown interest in enacting measures dealing with "social conservatism" and have not shown interest in real tax and education reform.

Caius
Caius

Well I had a business leader tell me that Georgia has made it 227 years without a religious liberty bill and he just doesn't see the necessity for the bill.  Same for campus-carry as he opposes that legislation also, two kids attending Georgia universities.  But he understands the belief for many that both should become law.  What he doesn't understand is pushing both to the top of the legislative wish list.



Bruno2
Bruno2

@Caius Josh McKoon has apparently staked his political career to re-introducing the religious liberty bill, no matter how much it costs Columbus and the State of GA in bad PR.

Niobe
Niobe

The Opportunity School District represents a last chance for parents stuck with failing zip code schools, and voters would be heartless in rejecting it. 

But all the effort teachers' union bosses are exerting through the AJC's education blog and elsewhere suggests they think reform can be stalled yet again.

Which would be a deplorable outcome for kids and education alike.


Bruno2
Bruno2

@Niobe I have mixed feelings about state governments "taking over" failing school districts based upon NJ's experience in doing so.  In 1995, the State of NJ officially took over the Newark Public School system.  21 years later, the State is still in charge, to the tune of $22,000+ per pupil, with only minimal improvement.  Ditto for similar takeovers in Jersey City, Paterson and Camden. 

http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2015/04/newark_schools_takeover.html

As this second article points out, providing 5 1/2 hours per day of a positive environment isn't enough, however.  If we really want to succeed, these kids need a whole different life, which is outside of the scope of government.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2013/03/27/the-problem-with-new-jerseys-takeover-of-camden-schools/

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Bruno2 The OSD would be very different from what happened in Newark. New Orleans is the direct comparison. The difference being, in the Newark model, the state actually tried to run the school system -- something I wouldn't support. In the OSD/New Orleans model, the state brings in new management to individual schools, which then operate with state oversight. That new management could take the form of converting the school into a charter, continuing to run it as a more traditional public school just with different personnel, or simply freeing the existing management from the current central-office bureaucracy. There's no silver bullet, just a mechanism for forcing change where those in charge have been resistant.

Bruno2
Bruno2

@Kyle_Wingfield @Bruno2 I will remain open-minded toward almost ANY positive solution in order to rescue failing schools.  At the same time, I remain pessimistic re: the results due to some of the points made in my second link.

Quoting from the article: "Ride the Amtrak past Camden and you’ll see something resembling the aftermath of a disaster movie with one dilapidated and abandoned neighborhood and building after another. If you want to improve education, it’s not charter schools or a few “vouchers” used to transfer a handful of students to more affluent districts. It’s the soul destroying poverty that must be confronted in Jersey City, Paterson, Newark and Camden. That’s where you need to start."

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Bruno2 Spoken (by the writer, not you) like a true apologist for those who don't want to be held accountable for their results.

There's plenty of "soul destroying poverty" in New Orleans. And yet they're making up a lot of ground because of the kind of change we will try in Georgia if OSD passes. Check out this map and look for New Orleans (south side of Lake Pontchartrain): https://cepa.stanford.edu/seda/map4

Now compare that to city of Atlanta, DeKalb, Richmond, Bibb, Muscogee (the districts with the vast majority of the failing schools in Georgia) on the map. Now tell me it's not worth trying what they've tried -- and succeeded at, despite having some of the same challenges.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Bruno2 @Kyle_Wingfield Amen.  But since that is beyond the scope of "little" government (or big), let's just blame it on the teachers and schools!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Kyle_Wingfield @Bruno2 NONE of the things you are mentioning would have a significant effect on these children.  The problems are far more basic, more endemic, than that.


It is like saying you will change someone's life trajectory by combing his hair a different way, ignoring the cancer eating him up.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Wascatlady "NONE of the things you are mentioning would have a significant effect on these children."

OK, so why are they working in other places?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @Wascatlady There's plenty of "soul destroying poverty" in New Orleans. And yet they're making up a lot of ground because of the kind of change we will try in Georgia if OSD passes.


No they aren't. They just changed the way they grade schools  down there.


You can call a Ford Fusion and Ferrari if you want. But its still a Ford Fusion.





Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Hedley_Lammar The map I linked above is a national survey done with consistent standards across states. Try again.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @Hedley_Lammar


Interesting little little map. It was actually done using Empirical Bayes estimation - as in "estimate"(although those very precise Stanford folks misspelled empirical). Didn't see a reference to standardized data measures.


Your map also points out that Georgia should emulate Heard County. It would have been cheaper for Students First to fund the Governor's trip to Heard County rather than New Orleans.


AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Niobe Here is what the OSD is all about:


"Raynard Sanders, a professional educator and critic of the Recovery School District, says that New Orleans is a great case study:

“It’s a system where many of the schools take in only the most desirable students and then “create an economic opportunity for the people who operate the school,” he said. And many have been hurt in the process of experimentation, Sanders said, “because the rights of students and the sanctity of public education have been trampled on and forgotten about….”

“In New Orleans, the privateers got everything they wanted and more, and still failed, Sanders said. “It is a great case study, and also one of the biggest scams done on public education – and parents and students — in the history of the country.”

https://dianeravitch.net/2014/06/06/new-orleans-the-biggest-scam-in-the-history-of-public-education/

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @Bruno2 New Orleans fired black teachers and replaced them with white teachers. What does that do to the black middle class in those communities?


"But some scholars and education activists see a much darker side to the city’s radical reshaping of public schooling, especially for New Orleans’ majority-black community.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, the city had 4,600 teachers—nearly 60 percent of them black women. Overall, 71 percent of the city’s teaching corps at the time was black, according to data from Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance. But those numbers have plummeted since the storm. Now, 45 percent of the city’s 1,300 public school teachers are white, and about 49 percent are black, per the ERA.

Black children, however, represent almost 90 percent of the city’s public school system enrollment, with white students mostly clustered at a handful of high-performing schools."

http://neworleans.edweek.org/veteran-black-female-teachers-fired/


Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Kyle_Wingfield @Wascatlady I'd like to see research done by a disinterested party, that looks at change in a random group of individual students.


So much of what is going on seems to be due to manipulation of the school population.  So let's look at a random selection of 5,000 NO students.  You know, longitudinal data.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

While I am not at all in favor of the OSD (more money-wasting, power-grabbing window dressing), I'd like to point out that this will be a time where the full "maturity" and "leadership" of the state legislators will be on display.  We will get to see if they act like petulant toddlers, or actually show some thoughtful leadership.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I'm not sure about those "big changes coming to APS schools."  You see, I believe they are just so much "window dressing;" when you look at the individual kids involved, they will not be showing the progress touted.  Reshuffling the deck chairs, calling something "New!" and "Improved!" does not make it so.  These schools are having the problems they are having NOT because the teachers are not trying, but because their students experience so much that is NOT conducive to doing well at school when they leave the school, and, most especially, BEFORE THEY EVER SHOW UP.  How will these "big changes" have ANY impact on that?!  


The same goes for Dekalb.  You can make it LOOK better, but in the long run, are each of the children doing better?  If all you are doing is putting on a different label, or changing school zones, what have you actually accomplished FOR THE INDIVIDUAL CHILD?


I read today that Deal on Facebook is getting mugged--he is being vilified for his vetoes.  You have to wonder, why is it that when a leader does not do what I want he is "pandering" to the others?


As to the "raise" he is "giving" teachers: It isn't a raise. If it were, the salary schedule would change.  This, like Sonny's Funny Money, is just a feel-good move.  But that is not how many will remember it.


In this state, we need to focus on ACTUAL improvement, rather than what "looks good."  We need the collective wisdom, rather than the mediocre that we have had for so long.

lvg
lvg

Why education reform in a state that prides itself on the race to the bottom?

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

Just like the repubs to act like immature children to cut off their nose in spite of their face. How can I say this?  DO YOUR DAMN JOB FOR ALL THE CITIZENS OF GEORGIA!

Nowhere in your oath or law states you act like immature, pouting kids because you do not get your way. This also goes for supporters of the "religeous liberty" or "guns on campus" bills. The Governor's job is to lead for all citizens of Georgia, not just your corner of the state or a singular group.

Bruno2
Bruno2

Kyle: "Social conservatives are angry about those vetoes."

I think the term "social conservative" is a misnomer since there is nothing authentically "conservative" about discriminating against people based upon sexual orientation.  True conservatives believe all people should be treated the same, which is the spirit and intent of our Constitution.

TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

The OSD is a farce. There is absolutely no capacity to "take over" and oversee more than one or two schools. Also, who would Deal get to run his OSD? What track record does he have for educational improvement? Hopefully the OSD will be defeated and this farce will go away.