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Dear Decaturish – State has no experience turning around failed schools

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Dear Decaturish – State has no experience turning around failed schools

Gov. Nathan Deal. Source: Georgia.gov
Gov. Nathan Deal. Source: Georgia.gov

Gov. Nathan Deal. Source: Georgia.gov

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Dear Decaturish,

We do need to improve our schools, but citizens should be aware Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan is to create a statewide school district would be run under the control of the governor’s office, and not by the superintendent of the state department of education. It would partner with local school districts to run them or create charter schools. What is also notable about the plan is that there is no exit plan for the schools to return to local control.

Where is the evidence that the Opportunity School District reform proposal that will appear on the November ballot would work? There is no evidence. The State has no experience in turning around failed schools.

As it stands it would have an impact on DeKalb Schools’ budget since DeKalb has the largest number of failed schools in the state of Georgia.

The DeKalb School District is the third largest in the state, has 100,000 students. There are approximately 8,500 teachers. The district is 88 percent nonwhite. The district’s demographics do not reflect the county’s demography. The county is 59 percent African-American and 37 percent white with the remainder other.

It was just three years ago, that the district was thinking about becoming a charter school district. Now the school district does not support the opportunity schools district proposal. So what is the plan? How long will it take to make significant improvements in student achievement?

Why would the state pass a statewide law to correct a problem that does not seem to be widespread, unless it has another agenda?

The OSD reform plan is based on models from two states that rank worse in education than Georgia: Louisiana, and Tennessee.

The Governor’s Office would have final say over schools put into the Opportunity School District and the new reform would have the ability to fire principals, transfer teachers and change the curriculum.  In addition, it would take money from the local school district. Could it work? No one knows. We do not have the facts. The best I can tell is that the proposed OSD referendum is just another scheme to privatize schools and reduce the monopoly that public schools have on K-12 education.

The State currently has under its jurisdiction Georgia Academy for the Blind and the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf. None of their scores are reported by the state. In addition, the Juvenile Justice students’ test results are reported by the local school districts. There is no evidence that these state controlled schools are performing on grade level.

Citizens are being asked to relinquish total control to the state of failed schools as a solution to improving student achievement. There is no evidence that central control will solve the district problems and improve student achievement.

Of the 179 school districts in the State of Georgia there are only five school districts that have failed schools in double digits. Most of all the other failed school districts are small and do not have the number of schools nor the demographics of DeKalb except the City of Atlanta.

The state currently has 179 school districts. I believe before it is all over, the citizens should watch for the state politicians to allow for several more school districts to be created. It has been the goal of some political entities to allow the new cities being created in the metro Atlanta area to create their own school districts. The charter schools’ agenda and the new opportunity schools district proposed by Gov. Deal, if enacted, could change the policy and organization of the DeKalb school system.

There are 127 schools that are failing in 2016 according to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. These schools are in various school districts throughout the state. The DeKalb school district has the highest number of failing schools in 2016. The failed schools include 28 schools in DeKalb, 22 in Atlanta, 19 in Richmond County, 13 schools in Bibb County, 10 in Fulton County, and eight in Muscogee County.  There are several other school districts with failed schools in single digits. A majority of the schools in DeKalb on the list are elementary schools in south DeKalb. This leads one to ask how the elementary schools can be failing and not the middle schools or high schools. What does this information from the state mean? Can it be that more middle schools and high schools will fail in the future?

The citizens of the DeKalb should be ready for the break-up of the DeKalb school system. This is what’s coming down the road. The hidden agenda is to remove the limitation of forming new school districts which are currently prohibited in the Georgia constitution. The trend to privatize and create charter schools will likely continue as minorities increase in population. The rules are being rewritten as minorities are taking over the governance in school systems and local governments. Governor Deal should work on reducing the size of some of these schools.  Today, many of the schools are too large, both in total enrollment, and class size. However, this will not be proposed because it will cost too much money.

Remember the No Child Left Behind Act 2001? Then President George Bush promised that no child would be left behind by 2014. Well, it sounded good, but nothing changed. This is what the politicians do every 10 years—they come up with a new plan, essentially rearranging the chairs, and nothing seems to change. The standards and the criteria are changed to match the outcome expected. This is what has happened in the New Orleans recovery district and in Tennessee.  Can you believe it? The Governor wants to emulate them. The new Opportunity School District plan, if passed and implemented, will siphon money from the public schools. There needs to be changes in how schools perform, but I believe the governor’s education proposal needs some revision.

– Ed Williams

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