Opinion: Georgia’s worst schools aren’t alone in needing attention

The fight to fix Georgia’s worst schools didn’t end with the Nov. 8 defeat of the Opportunity School District by Georgia voters. It just shifted tactics.

That’s the clear message from Gov. Nathan Deal as the General Assembly opens its 2017 session Monday. Armed with fresh data showing the number of Georgia schools that have received grades of “F” for at least three straight years rose last year by 20 percent — and the number of students in such schools by 30 percent — Deal is pressing lawmakers to take another shot at the problem.

Gov. Nathan Deal greets legislators before his 2016 "State of the State" address. (AJC Photo / Bob Andres)

Gov. Nathan Deal greets legislators before his 2016 “State of the State” address. (AJC Photo / Bob Andres)

“My priority is the same this year as it was last year, and that is to deal with the worst situation we have in k-12 education, and that is chronically failing schools,” Deal said in an interview Friday with the AJC. “The trajectory is a downward spiral. The number of chronically failing schools has increased. The number of failing schools on a one-year basis has also increased. That is not the direction that we need in the state of Georgia.”

It sure isn’t. But it is a sign local school systems don’t know how to fix the problem. Here’s another: Out of some 2,200 schools statewide, 882 (about 40 percent) received a grade of either “D” or “F” last year. They serve some 576,000 students, about a third of all Georgia students.

Those broader figures show just how deep-seated the problem is. And that focusing only on chronically failing schools isn’t nearly enough.

When one-third of Georgia’s students are attending schools that rate so poorly, our state’s future success is tenuous at best. That’s particularly true when, as Deal noted about the chronically failing schools, so many are elementary schools. Those students will lack the literacy and numeracy skills to continue learning, earn diplomas and move on to postsecondary schools — a track that increasingly is the only path to a solid career.

Deal has said often in recent years that one component of addressing the bigger problem is updating the state’s school-funding formula so that it is focused on students. He was right then. It would be wrong now to wait another year before acting on this relic from the era of jelly shoes, parachute pants and Commodore 64s. Why wait for the other 729 “D” and “F” schools to become chronic failures?

Consider a football analogy. Having failed to move the ball last time (with the OSD amendment), some coaches might elect to punt the ball, play defense and try to improve their field position.

But this game (Deal’s tenure as governor) is officially in the fourth quarter. He isn’t just playing against his opponents; he’s playing against the clock. And, as in a real fourth quarter, it just might be that Deal’s team never gets the ball back.

Unlike a game clock, political capital doesn’t run out in a linear fashion. Its depletion accelerates as the end of a term nears. There are already whispers in the Capitol that Deal has lost more political capital than he acknowledges. By next year, those observations will be spoken a lot more loudly.

But let’s not put this all on Deal. How many Republican legislators have talked about the need for school reform? How many of them remember that 75 percent of GOP primary voters last year said “yes” to a ballot question about empowering parents through school choice measures? They can take that ball and run with it just as well as Deal can.

This is not the time to abandon the children in those chronically failing schools. But the clock is also ticking for the half a million children whose education is scarcely any better.

Reader Comments 0

70 comments
Trude Sansbury
Trude Sansbury

How about the next election we vote in someone who is really and Education Governor, not just someone who speaks out of both sides of his mouth.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Today, we have it within our power to finally merge the two differing visions for America of Hamilton and Jefferson if the Republican Party and the Democratic Party can understand that NOW is the opportunity for America to fulfill Washington’s dream of unity and harmony between the ideas of Jefferson and Hamilton.

Hamilton pursued a course for America based on a strong central government in which commerce played a major part in building America’s status and greatness, which benefited the aristocracy, especially, although it also allowed for upward social advancement of the lower classes. On the other hand, Jefferson pursued a course of social democracy that was conducive to the advancement of the common man, especially, which reflected his views that all men, under God, were created equal.

Washington wisely saw that both commerce and goodness in social consciousness were necessary for America to thrive. The best in Donald Trump could possibly build better commerce in this world, with America leading the way in commercial endeavors. More importantly, imo, Jefferson’s social awareness and belief that all humanity is equal to one another, in God’s omniscient eye, is essential to making America a moral leader for this world. Hopefully, if the better angels of our nation’s people will prevail in this national crisis and hold our nation together as one union, the Utopian “line” of Washington’s dreams will finally form and commerce (Hamilton/today’s Republicans) and social consciousness of others, not just of ourselves (Jefferson/ today’s Democrats), will make our great nation the leader of the planet’s future, under God. But, this huge feat will take both of our political parties’ coming together to complete the forming of our more perfect Union for the betterment not only of ourselves, but for all of humankind.

We must keep public education available for all of America's students and not allow commerce or business to take over every aspect of American society, including our schools. Balance must prevail.


Mr_B
Mr_B

"it is a sign local school systems don’t know how to fix the problem."

Kyle, the problem isn't that local schools don't know how to fix the problem. We have known for a long time. Local school systems don't have the capability to fix the number one indicator of academic success or failure: economic status of the student. 


Until we figure out a way to make economic opportunity truly equal, we will have generational poverty, poor neighborhoods, and ,sadly, "failing" schools.

Katrina Bishop
Katrina Bishop

Under whose definition are these schools chronically failing? CCRPI? You mean that index that was NEVER designed to grade schools? how about the fact that 50% of that score is based on standardized test scores for a test the State disqualified for student promotion/retention and teacher evaluation but it's still good enough data to grade the schools? Money and control of money is the key player here--- try fully Funding the QBE like State Law dictates and see if those schools Don't suddenly do better...

Sally Williams
Sally Williams

Deal set the funding formula for public schools to require $161mil but then only gives them $9mil, it looks like he intentionally set our schools up to fail.

Scott Thompson
Scott Thompson

Deal et al. do not know the first thing about staffing and running schools in neighborhoods such as these.

breckenridge
breckenridge

I hate to say this, because it is so repulsive, but the government benefits greatly from stupid children and adults. The dumber you are, the more likely you will need government assistance.

Ah. You're right in neighborhood - not the stupid thing, but rather the poverty thing -  on why we fiscal conservatives are so very opposed to the defunding of Planned Parenthood.  Every year PP spends well over $200 million providing birth control to women who could not otherwise afford it. Take that away and what do you get? A massive expansion of Medicaid, welfare, government assisted housing, etc etc etc.  More big government. 

And this is exactly why republicans George H W Bush, Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon worked so hard to get PP federal funding in the first place.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@breckenridge

You can lead a person to birth control but there's no guarantee they'll partake.

All sorts of child tax credits being offered out there. 

Barry Pendry
Barry Pendry

Deal won’t stop until he destroys public education in Georgia.

Sally Williams
Sally Williams

If that's true Terry Case why would he intentionally set a budget formula that require $161mil but only allocate $9mil?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

What is the difference between "failing" and "successful" schools here in Georgia?  Family structure and family resources.


If the problem is the schools, then bus the underperforming students to the highly performing schools, and the highly performing students to the failing school.  Keep the same teachers, the same level of finance by the school system.  What change will you see?  Virtually none (other than the highly achieving students' parents will remove them to go to private school, and likely, a bunch of teachers will leave the system)  IF YOU REALLY BELIEVE IT IS THE SCHOOL, MR. DEAL, DO THIS. If you don't do it, you will acknowledge that it ISN"T the school that holds the kids back.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@Wascatlady Not a bad idea but wouldn't it be easier to move the successful schools teachers to the failing school and vice versa? 


I like it. It would be embarrassing to the failing school's teachers, as-suming they even care,  and maybe they could get an education from the smarter kids.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Wascatlady


The key, relative to success in both medical care and educational care, is individualizing diagnosis of problems and prescribing plans pertinent to each patient or student.


Where that kind of educational plan occurs is not contingent upon the school's whereabouts.  Start with local schools and stay with wise, sophisticated, and individualized plans in those local community schools, wherever they are.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@AndyManUSA#45 @Wascatlady No, because the "school" is the problem--the building and its contents, as well as the teachers.  At least according to some of our "leaders."  So you would have to do the busing.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@Wascatlady @AndyManUSA#45 Disagree. The successful school's teachers would serve as a second set of eyes, advising on improving the building and it's contents. 


And then it would be up to the local school district to act on those recommendations.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@AndyManUSA#45 @Wascatlady Perhaps.


But it won't happen because the result would prove that all the "reform" discussed would be attacking the wrong "problem."

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@AndyManUSA#45 @Wascatlady I think it would be the "successful" school's teachers who would do the most learning.  They would be "schooled."


You know, it's the old "easier to score a run when you start on third base" thing.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@Wascatlady @AndyManUSA#45 I totally agree. There is nothing like a good challenge to bring out the best in people. And that would be exactly what the successful schools teachers would be faced with. A challenge.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@AndyManUSA#45 @Wascatlady Until I came here 43 years ago, I had been around/worked with kids from middle class families.  My friends' parents were middle class.  Most of my schoolmates were middle class.  My college classmates were middle class.


It was a steep learning curve for me--I had no real idea about teaching kids whose parents had not gone past 10th grade.  That first year, I had one child who had both parents who were high school graduates, and one child who had a parent who had graduated from college--in a class of 28! The mothers generally left school at 10th grade, and the daddies at 8th, or a few after 6th.


The parents (only one who was a single parent) generally consisted of a father who worked in the carpet mill or chicken plant, a mother who stayed home, and the family lived on land owned by the grandparents.


I learned a lot from these folks, and have continued to learn a lot over the years, although the family compositions have markedly changed, and more parents have high school diplomas.


I think teachers whose experience has been with well-to-do or well-educated parents would find it quite a challenge.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

I'm having a difficult time ignoring one poster's idealistic dreams about what liberals can bring to pass.

My view?

Liberals can kill a person's own initiative with their "kindness".

In can, in reality, be crippling. 

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Something that needs to be clearly stated and clearly understood regarding this issue; the interest of the government in education is the interests of the government. They care more about themselves than they do the children. They've had every opportunity over the last several decades to correct the deficiencies themselves but, instead, it just keeps getting worse. 


I hate to say this, because it is so repulsive, but the government benefits greatly from stupid children and adults. The dumber you are, the more likely you will need government assistance. And the more dumb children and adults there are, the bigger the government gets. The government has no motivation whatsoever to educate it's children. In fact, education, and the attendant  self reliance of it, only harms the government.


It is well past time to relieve the government of it's duties in education.


You're fired!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@AndyManUSA#45 So we go back to schools where black kids don't have modern textbooks?  Where sped kids get to wash the lunchroom dishes (vocational ed), and some don't get to come at all?


I don't know how old you are, but I certainly remember those things, "before the federal government got involved."

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

I'll like to see Deal go big or go home on education, but you're right, Kyle. Others can succeed where he failed.

A lot of kids come from dysfunctional home environments and it's likely they'll do no better in school than they do at home.

Sad but true.

I was surprised to learn that Hillary not only supported gender-selective schools but boarding schools for poor students.

And so let's get our heads straight about how we support the most challenged classrooms to do better. I started a school when I was Senator, I worked with 100 Black Men, we started something called The Eagle Academy. Because there is some evidence that same sex schools and high school for poor kids, is a good choice that should be available to them. I had to fight to get the Department of Education to let us go forward with that, to support charter schools that were public charter schools but wanted to try this. So I'm really evidence-based. I think there are some, we need to experiment even with, if we can do it right, with boarding schools for poor kids. There's just a lot I'm excited about, if we actually get back to looking at what works.

Good for her!

It may take a boarding school to educate a child born into a dysfunctional environment. I'm in favor of whatever it takes to get kids on the path to prosperity.

breckenridge
breckenridge

 Let's see, when Johnson was president, the United States was one of the most highly educated nations in the world. But then we kicked the Church out.

"That diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some; and to their eternal infamy, the clergy can furnish their quota of impas for such business." James Madison, Father of the Constitution, 1774


Jeff Sessions ..........is a far better selection than Ashcroft.  James Madison would not have been at all pleased with the holy roller Ashcroft's attempts to inject his fundamentalist insanity into the public sphere.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

If this nation is ever to become the more perfect Union that it was designed to become, in finding harmony for egalitarianism within the ideas of both Hamilton (commerce) and Jefferson (human beings' inherent rights), it must never relinquish public health insurance/care as offered through Obamacare or single payer if the ACA is repealed, Medicare, Medicaid.


I have no doubt that under the new administration's Republican rule that commerce will thrive. However, the human rights (as communicated by FDR) part of the American Experiment/Equation may flounder and die if liberals do not hang tough for the continuation of public/government healthcare and public/government education.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

In an election where the electorate should have favored this, it was soundly rejected (61%). Voters want them to leave this alone. Leave it alone and do some of the things voters actually want.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

One of the factors affecting failing schools/students is the home life and parents of these students. Without fixing their home life (students spend 3/4ths of their time there) how can the schools overcome the lack of direction, discipline, adequate diet, etc? What is in the Governor's plan that will address this???


I was fortunate to have parents and step parents that set a positive example, required discipline and achievement, and fostered a life of trust and learning. 

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

"An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views. Their voice has been taken away," Trump said. "I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and to protect free speech for all Americans."


http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jul/22/donald-trump/donald-trump-correct-lyndon-johnson-passed-legisla/


Let's see, when Johnson was president, the United States was one of the most highly educated nations in the world. But then we kicked the Church out.


Welcome back, Church.


Fasten your seat belts.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion to another . . . in the words of Jefferson, the [First Amendment] clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between church and State' . . . That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.


US Supreme Court Decision 1947 Everson v. Board of Education

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Caius @Hedley_Lammar Exercise is good for you but most people don't do it enough, or they pay for clubs and spas to help them do it.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

In the year of our Lord 2017, if any young adult has to sign their name with a X, we have all failed. And it is time for something entirely different.


Fasten your seat belts.

Caius
Caius

@AndyManUSA#45 Time will tell Andy, but I do not see anything that would cause me to need to fasten my seat belt. I see 4 to 6 years of Republicans once again increasing the size of government. Calvin Coolidge is not being sworn in on the 20th. And the Speaker and the Majority Leader are both proponents of Big Government despite their denials.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@Caius @AndyManUSA#45 A government that works on behalf of it's citizens would be a beneficial improvement to our society. Right now, we don't have that.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.


- Thomas Jefferson

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@Hedley_Lammar That's nice but when you kill off the tax exempt threat that has been maliciously wielded over the last several decades, it no longer makes a difference what you think.


Fasten your seat belt.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 Out of some 2,200 schools statewide, 882 (about 40 percent) received a grade of either “D” or “F” last year.


Whenever I see numbers like this I wonder how much they are cooking them to make their point. In new Orleans they cooked them to make the RSD look like a success. So how much are they cooking them here to make them seem more dire ?

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@Hedley_Lammar I thought government didn't "cook" numbers?!?!? When I questioned climate data, employment figures, economic numbers, I recall that you freaked out. Now it's just routine?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Hedley_Lammar Well, the way the CCRPI was calculated has changed EVERY year it has been in existence!  I would say that smells like cooking!

lvg
lvg

Deal is confused. Georgia is supposed to win the race to the bottom in education, health care, transportation and job training.

Concentrate on guns everywhere, abortion and repealing Obamacare - much more important.