Why the Opportunity School District must be a constitutional amendment

One source of angst I hear about the Opportunity School District is the mere fact that it’s a constitutional amendment.

Why, wonder some who oppose it and others who are just leery of it, must we change the Constitution to fix these chronically failing schools? (This is often asked as if the state Constitution is some sort of rarely changed document, like the U.S. Constitution. In fact it has been amended many times, even since the current version was adopted just 36 years ago.)

From there, the complaint usually heads in one of two directions. The first: Doesn’t existing law already give the state broad power to intervene in failing schools? The second: If we enshrine this power in the Constitution, won’t that give future lawmakers the ability to make any changes they want to the way the OSD works?

Parents, teachers and staff attend a meeting at DeKalb County's Cedar Grove Elementary School, one of the schools that would be eligible for a state intervention if voters approve the Opportunity School District. (AJC Photo / David Barnes)

Parents, teachers and staff attend a meeting at DeKalb County’s Cedar Grove Elementary School, one of the schools that would be eligible for a state intervention if voters approve the Opportunity School District. (AJC Photo / David Barnes)

Let’s deal with both.

To the first objection, the answer is: Yes, but only in theory. That’s because a 2011 Georgia Supreme Court ruling threw the state’s authority over schools into great doubt.

That 4-3 ruling overturned Georgia’s original law authorizing state charter schools. But it could cast a much larger shadow because the majority sweepingly declared — without justification, as Justice David Nahmias’ dissent explained in exacting detail — the Constitution “grant(s) local boards of education the exclusive right to establish and maintain, i.e., the exclusive control over, general K-12 public education.”

Never mind the state school board, state schools superintendent, House and Senate education committees, and reams of K-12 regulation from the state, not to mention the nearly $9 billion a year in state funding for public schools. Local boards’ control was deemed “exclusive.”

So if lawmakers want to step in and transfer control of a chronically failing school from the local board to the school’s leaders and parents, as the OSD provides for, they need a constitutional amendment. Make no mistake: Some of the very same people trying to reassure you this amendment duplicates existing law would be the first folks to file a lawsuit, citing that 2011 ruling, if the state tried to intervene without an amendment.

The second objection is more insidious. Critics don’t specify the terrible ways the law might be changed; they just suggest the state plans to use the OSD to ambush perfectly adequate schools.

Understand why this objection is made. Most negative claims about the OSD are undermined by the amendment’s companion legislation, Senate Bill 133, which details how the program would operate. That reality is inconvenient for the critics, so they simply say the law will be changed.

Well, any law can be changed; that’s the way laws work. The fact that this one is tied to a constitutional amendment doesn’t make that any more or less likely.

What’s important to note here is only the critics are even talking about changing the OSD. The original law was well-considered and much-debated. Problems may arise and need to be fixed, but the notion of a bait-and-switch, with radical changes to the law after voters approve the amendment, is unprecedented and absurd.

It all comes back to this: Speaking honestly about how the OSD would work doesn’t raise enough concerns among enough Georgians to kill it. That’s why you keep hearing opponents doing something else.

Reader Comments 0

152 comments
Astropig
Astropig

Kyle-


Speaking of lawsuits-What do you think of a legal strategy that would file suits against these districts for not providing an equal education that the law requires? Schools that consistently fail an objective measurement of achievement shouldn't be protected from consequences of their inaction.


If this doesn't pass,do you think that some pro-reform legal groups could force some change by hauling these systems into court and making them accountable for their years of redlining these kids?

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

I'm a constitutional conservative with a libertarian leaning on many things, well educated for those on the left who want people to believe we of this and similar political leaning are not. From my perspective we need to remain diligent in retaining local control of schools to the extent possible. When local schools fail the State has an obligation to step in and seek solutions, but the State should not be able to usurp local control. The potential downside of this power in the wrong hands (leftists or other tyrants) could be even more devastating than the current problems with failing, corrupted schools.

jarvis1975
jarvis1975

You call yourselves "Conservatives". Since when does a Conservative believe that the answer to any problem is to hand the problem over to a larger body of government?

Thanks but no thanks comrade. I don't need the more authority given to a more centralized government.


Reagan is rolling over in his grave.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

The simpleton answer is because it is unconstitutional.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

The real story that may be the October surprise is the eminent collapse of ObamaCare. Bookman, isn't going to write a commentary on this issue. Hopefully, Kyle will post some commentary. Trump, should be on this over the last few weeks of the campaign.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@SGTGrit


According to Jennifer Granholm (the former governor of Michigan): 84% of those enrolled in the ACA will not feel the effect of the increase because they will receive subsidies.  Hillary is going to allow people to enroll in Medicare, if they wish.  Also, Hillary is going to entreaty those states who have refused to expand Medicaid (like Georgia) to do so.  Also, Hillary says that the problem of increase has come about because of a lack of competitive insurance carriers, which she is going to try to rectify as president.


Hillary tried to give people universal medical healthcare in the 1990s and was unmercifully criticized for doing so ("too aggressive as a woman"). 


However, by not giving up in getting something out of her battle for universal health care for all people, at least Hillary was able to secure that  children with disabilities were able to have healthcare, which has saved the lives of many children.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

@SGTGrit Republicans are to blame for not working to fix problems.   All gov't programs have to be worked on.  Its your money, and you keep voting GOP.

Billn
Billn

Opportunity School District in Georgia, a Model For Failure


This program is based in large part on the Recovery School District initiative that happened in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Though the program received bipartisan support, it was a failure. Louisiana learned from its mistake, and Georgians should heed the message of this cautionary tale.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The model for the OSD is the State Charter Commission School District. It is a chronically failing school system with no transparency and no accountability to the taxpayer. 

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

@AvgGeorgian If you can show any proof of what you just said, I will join up with Kyle Wingfield and vote for hillary.



AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@IReportYouWhine @AvgGeorgian

You would have to actually  spend some time researching how REAL public schools post this type of data and then compare it to the way state run charter schools hide this type of data. You may be disinclined(too lazy) to try to back up your opinions with logic, facts, and effort-but maybe not. Have a go at it and report back. If after a couple of hours, you are still struggling, I will give you some hints.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

We're now only two weeks away from the most important national election in decades, maybe even in our history as a nation. School issues are indeed academic in comparison. The Democrats represent more loss in American academic achievement as compared to the rest of the world. The far-left ideology that controls the democrat party couldn't care less about American children's educational achievement they only care about politically controlling their minds.

Starik
Starik

@SGTGrit @Lil_Barry_Bailout More ideology than politics; everybody is equally endowed with intelligence, so poverty causes all the problems in the schools Try better teaching and higher standards, and tailor the schools to students' abilities.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@SGTGrit

Thanks to Democrats and teacher's unions, we spend more on education than all but two industrialized nations and get worse outcomes than about two thirds of them.

That's what happens when leftists put politics and their own greed above kids.  Which is always.

CheesesteakBob
CheesesteakBob

@Lil_Barry_Bailout @SGTGrit Don't blame teachers' unions for Georgia's mess.  GAE is the lamest union there is and does nothing for teachers. If it had a backbone, teachers would have decent benefits and competitive salaries.  All the people out there who want to blame teachers for the mess that is the education system in this state need to get their heads out of their rear-ends and set their crappy states on the politicians.  The endless stream of regulations prohibit teachers from doing their job, which everyone seems to have forgot is to teach.  It is not to raise your child.  And is is not to fill out form after form to satisfy some bureaucrat's ego. 


Deal and his henchmen(women) need to go pound sand.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

You didn't think leftists would be honest in their arguments against fixing the schools they've destroyed, did you?

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

An election from the past that most closely resembles this one, the outsider against the morose establishment candidate –

In a Gallup poll on October 26th in 1980, two weeks before the election, Gallup had it Jimmy Carter 47, Ronald Reagan 39.  That election two weeks later ended up in a landslide that was so big that Carter conceded before California closed. 

The New York Times verified this poll,

Ronald Reagan, who trailed President Jimmy Carter 47 percent to 39 percent in a survey completed on Oct. 26, 1980.

Carter wasn’t even close. hillary won’t be either.

whatsinthetaxes
whatsinthetaxes

Let me get this straight. The party that has spent the last 52 years arguing for local control of government services and against centralization now thinks it's essential that I vote to abandon local control and turn schools over to the state and for profit businesses. Split personality syndrome?

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@whatsinthetaxes

Big boys and girls are capable of understanding that local control is generally best, but that sometimes, incompetent Democrats are incapable of handling simple matters like teaching elementary school math, reading, writing, etc.  Republicans are willing to help them out though.

You're welcome.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Lil_Barry_Bailout @whatsinthetaxes

I think Barry is saying that he let's his republican masters do his thinking for him and doesn't let beliefs stand in the way. "You such a good little repuppy, Barry, yes you are"

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

Finally-



The National Education Association has spent $14 million so far to elect Hillary. The chances that a President Clinton would buck this industrial-age teachers union, whose raison d’être is killing teacher accountability, are zero. Her web site extols pouring more federal money down the public-schools mine shaft.



The proven alternative is charter schools run by innovative educators or voucher-supported schools run by churches—if they can survive. Talk to a charter-school leader like Eva Moskowitz in New York and she will tell you how they use squads of pro-bono, white-shoe lawyers to fight off nonstop litigation by the teachers unions hitting the streets for Hillary Clinton.



The school-choice movement gets everything thrown at it, such as the 19th-century, anti-Catholic Blaine Amendments in 38 states that thwart support for poor kids attending parochial schools. The Podesta-Palmieri-Halpin emails make clear this hoary religious bias thrives in the post-Obama Democratic Party.


http://www.wsj.com/articles/dumb-and-dumber-1476917265



Unbelievably, the Wall Street Journal just underlined the futility of Kyle's so called solution to the education problem and that is who runs the federal government. The states will never be allowed to make any changes to the status quo, they will be defunded or sued by the bureaucracy.


Unless, of course, you truly do care about our children's education and take the "chance" on the outsider.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@IReportYouWhine The current state run Charter Commission School District is a chronically failing school system that hides all spending, vendor payments, and hiring from the taxpayer.  is that what you promote?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

If you leave the door open, flies will come in. Period.


As to how it could be changed:  The law could be changed, if the amendment passes, to specify any amount of "administrative fees", or any number of schools, or the criteria for being on the list.  What if Kyle's child, who may go to a very high scoring school, is taken over because the law is changed to specify that schools have to make at least 10% increase in CCRPI (whatever form it may eventually take) over 3 years?  And that particular school already scores 85 %?  It is a lot more difficult to take a score from 85 to 95, than from 65 to 75.  But, by that new definition (taking into account the FRPL rates, etc) that school is UNDERperforming!  And, of course, working for 10 years with a "failing" already high performing school with its attendant higher local tax base, would be very much more lucrative than a poor school.  Not to mention that the charter company would get the use of the school and its equipment, plus the LEA would/could be asked to provide transportation, meals, special ed, and alternative ed services for the charter school "at a reasonable rate."


Kyle, I really don't understand why you, with so much at stake in your child's education, could support this.  You must be much more trusting in the state than many others are.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Wascatlady If you are bound and determined not only to imagine but to believe the very worst possible scenarios, then I can't stop you. But if you think those scenarios are going to change my mind -- or even sound remotely plausible -- you're kidding yourself.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Wascatlady It's fine, even correct, to be skeptical of those in power. But that doesn't mean always believing the very worst about them.

Mandingo
Mandingo

@Kyle_Wingfield @Wascatlady  Yet you believe the very worst about Trump and Clinton ? Many of us believe the very worst about Gov. Deal. He has shown us who he is and we believe him. What he says seldom lines up with what he does.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Kyle I give you a hard time about this. I know your heart is in the right place however. You want what is best for the kids. Some have suggested you profit from charters etc. Nonsense. 


I just dont see how turning the schools over to some state commission is going to change anything. The supposed miracles in New Orleans. Mostly smoke and mirrors. And dont get me started on charters or vouchers that were just a *wink* * wink* giveaway as reported by the NYT.


I wish you had other things to write about. Though I know this issue is important to you. Hell this time 4 years ago at least Romney was a viable candidate. 


And now....Georgia loses homecoming to Vandy. The Falcons look like they are back to being the Falcons and the Cubs are in the World Series. 

JerroldT
JerroldT

Another question you may be able to help with: A few years ago Gov. Deal was able to replace some members of the Dekalb school board. I haven't been able to find out where that authority comes from, and why wouldn't he use that again?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JerroldT OCGA 20-2-73, which reads in pertinent part: "Notwithstanding Code Section 20-2-54.1 or any other provisions of law to the contrary, if a local school system or school is placed on the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation for school board governance related reasons by one or more accrediting agencies included in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (6) of Code Section 20-3-519, the local board of education shall notify the State Board of Education in writing within three business days of such placement and the State Board of Education shall conduct a hearing in not less than ten days of such notice nor more than 90 days and recommend to the Governor whether to suspend all eligible members of the local board of education with pay. A majority of the members of a local board of education may petition the State Board of Education to continue any hearing scheduled under this subsection. Upon a showing of good cause, the state board may in its sound discretion continue any such hearing. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, deliberations held by the State Board of Education pursuant to this subsection to formulate its recommendation to the Governor shall not be open to the public; provided, however, that testimony shall be taken in an open meeting and a vote on the recommendation shall be taken in an open meeting following the hearing or at the next regularly scheduled meeting. If the State Board of Education makes such recommendation, the Governor may, in his or her discretion, suspend all eligible members of the local board of education with pay and, in consultation with the State Board of Education, appoint temporary replacement members who shall be otherwise qualified to serve as members of such board."

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JerroldT As for why he couldn't do that this time, the point is to be *less* of an interventionist in local matters. The OSD proposal limits the state's intervention compared to the power to remove school board members.

JerroldT
JerroldT

@Kyle_Wingfield @JerroldT Well I would suggest that if the local school board isn't able to fix these failing schools (and OSD assumes someone else can) wouldn't it be a more direct answer to tweak the school board? And it doesn't even take a deceptive amendment, just modify the law. Besides, if the OSD is not going to convert a school to a charter they have to give it back to the local board eventually anyway, so what has been gained?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JerroldT If the school board is overseeing other schools that are succeeding, why target the whole board instead of the schools that are failing?

As for the OSD giving back schools: That is envisioned for all schools where the OSD intervenes. What would have been gained? The hope is that the school would have gotten onto a successful path in the meantime, which could be maintained. Is that nothing?

Caius
Caius

If I listened to everything Trump has said about Hillary Clinton over the years I would be on here trying to get all you folks to vote for her. Trump spent money supporting her two Senate bids and publicly endorsed her.  Same when she ran for the Democratic nomination in 2008.

Same when she was nominated for Secretary of State.


We will know about 12:30 AM the morning of 11/9/2016.  Everyone has their favorite or lesser of the evils they will be supporting.


Prediction: the ladies are electing the next president as usual.  Trump bragging about his sexual exploits in public has been the nail in his coffin.  It is difficult to have a news conference with the Bill Clinton accusers and say "believe them" and then say about your own accusers "they are liars".


IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

@Caius Corrupt New York congresswoman for sale endorsed by a New York businessman, gasp, gasp.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

If OSD passes and the trend toward higher graduation rates continue


Kyle and his buddies will falsely claim that trend started with OSD


Watch and see.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

@Hedley_Lammar Lower the standards, get more "graduates."


Yes, the democrat plan.


Even cheat a little if you can't lower the standards far enough. Here's looking at you, ATL.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Hedley_Lammar Did you ever post the results for the specific schools on the list? The failing schools represent about 4% of all Georgia public-school students. The fact that the state's average rate is going up in spite of the poor performers doesn't mean we need to do nothing for the poor performers. In fact, that's how we got into this mess.