Your opinion: Oct. 26, 2016

Published 4:30 pm Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Vote NO on Amendment 1
At the urging of Georgia’s political leaders, voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2012 establishing the State Charter School Commission with authority to approve and fund state charter schools. These schools are supervised by the Charter Commission rather than by local boards of education. To determine how well this is working out, refer to the most recent report of failing schools compiled by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. This report shows that schools operated by local boards of education had a 5.8% failure rate. Schools operated for three years by the commission had a failure rate of 25%. Draw your own conclusions.
Now, while ignoring, (1) the significant progress Georgia schools are already making, (2) provisions already in the law for dealing with low performing schools and (3) the impact of poverty and dysfunctional homes on school performance, our political leaders are asking Georgia voters to adopt another constitutional amendment to create the Opportunity School District (OSD).
The boundaries of the OSD would be the entire state. It would be managed by an OSD Superintendent, selected by and reporting to the Governor. This superintendent would select 20 schools labeled as failing per year, up to 100 schools, for an involuntary take over for from five to ten years. The OSD Superintendent would determine if the school taken over would be, (1) operated by the OSD, (2) converted to a state charter school, which currently are experiencing a 25% failure rate, (3) operated by the local board of education under strict supervision and veto power by the OSD, (4) closed completely with students re-assigned to other schools. The OSD superintendent would also determine if services would be purchased from for-profit educational service providers. The superintendent or charter governing board would make all decisions, including those regarding finances, personnel and curriculum. There would be no appeals. Local boards of education could be required to make major modifications and renovations to facilities at local expense. The OSD could direct the local board of education to provide services for the most challenged students, those with special needs or those requiring an alternative education. It could require the local board of education to provide transportation, food service and many other time consuming and often thankless services to OSD schools. Funding for opportunity schools would be with regular local, state and federal entitlements plus any special appropriations made by the legislature or received from private solicitations.
I urge you to vote NO on Amendment No. 1 in November. Then urge Georgia’s political leaders to redirect the $50+ million in tax credits given annually for scholarships to private schools. These schools are not subject to the state grading system and never risk being labeled failing. Use these redirected funds in schools labeled as failing to provide tutoring for students, additional training for teachers, school and district level leaders and parents and rigorous supervision by the Georgia Department of Education.

Robert A. Clay, Legislative chair
Lee County Retired Educators