You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

New failing-schools bill lacks a key element: Help for students


Lawmakers are taking another crack at improving Georgia’s failing schools, and it seems the new approach is to make it an inside job.

A new position of “chief turnaround officer” would be filled by a veteran of the public schools, with candidates suggested by the lobbying arms of the public-schools establishment. This turnaround chief would hire a cadre of “turnaround coaches” — on the advice of those same groups — to work with low-performing schools. The coaches would design and implement “school improvement plans” for two years, then re-evaluate. If a school doesn’t improve, the plan may continue. Or more managers may be brought in. Or, eventually, someone might lose their job. Or, after rampant, years-long failure across the entire district, school board members might lose their jobs.

If that sounds like meaningful change, you might be an educrat. Or a student with Stockholm Syndrome.

In fact, the best argument I’ve heard for House Bill 338 is it’s better than doing nothing. That’s quite a motto: The General Assembly: We (probably) aren’t making Georgia worse!

But if you’re wondering why a bill to fix failing schools would focus so much on what happens to the school and its employees, and not on helping students spending crucial chunks of their schooling in substandard settings, you’re not alone.

“If we don’t care about what happens to any one kid right now, then we don’t care about kids,” Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, told me this week, repeating a sentiment he voiced at a hearing for the bill last week. “If you don’t create circumstances where individual parents have real choice options for their kid, we’re not really serving many kids well.”

The original draft of the bill, I’m told, included a voucher for these students, though it didn’t kick in for six years. Instead, HB 338 allows them to choose another district school “from a list of available options provided by the local system.” Such “options” are supposed to exist today, but the better schools are invariably too full to accept any new students from the failing schools. It’s an empty promise.

I’m also told there’s one reason a more robust choice option didn’t make it into the bill: Senate leaders would balk.

I’ve never understood why the Georgia Senate’s leaders are so dead-set against these measures. Opinion polls show school choice is viewed favorably by a large majority of Georgians, and an even larger majority of those who vote in Republican primaries. You might think a Senate leader thinking of running for — oh, I don’t know — governor next year would take the opposite approach.

Nor am I sure why the House is letting the Senate hold an effective veto over the legislation it proposes. It’s one thing if the legislative process produces a watered-down, compromise bill. It’s another thing for the House to have effectively conceded defeat before that process began.

If HB 338 won’t include a real choice component, lawmakers could also pass separate bills to raise the cap on tax-credit scholarships, to create education savings accounts, and to strengthen charter schools. Otherwise, they’re consigning another generation of Georgia students to another adult-centric flavor of “reform.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Can we see past our own cultural blind spots?

Michigan is set to become the 26th state to join the federal government in criminalizing female genital mutilation, even as two Detroit area doctors and one of their wives await trial for inflicting the procedure on a number of young girls. FGM, which is common in some parts of Africa and the Middle East, involves using a razor to remove all or part...
Opinion: You can’t take the low road to the high place

The other day, a Muslim saved a terrorist. It happened just after midnight Monday in London. The terrorist, according to authorities, was Darren Osborne, 47, from Cardiff, Wales, who drove a rented van 150 miles to the British capital, where he jumped a sidewalk and plowed into a crowd of worshipers outside a mosque as people were attending to a man...
Opinion: Let us plunge toward our fast-unfolding future

WASHINGTON — In 1859, when Manhattan still had many farms, near the Battery on the island’s southern tip The Great American Tea Company was launched. It grew, and outgrew its name, becoming in 1870 The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, which in 1912 begat the first A&P Economy Store, a semi-modern grocery store. By 1920, there were...
Opinion: … because fathers deserve more than just one day

I know Father’s Day was last weekend and all, but this weekend I’m making an overdue visit to the parental units, so this is where my thoughts still are. Dad sang a lot of songs to us as we were growing up, accompanied by his trusty ukulele. His repertoire was mostly traditional folk songs like “The Ballad of the Boll Weevil&rdquo...
Opinion: Health care plan would dig big Ga. budget hole
Opinion: Health care plan would dig big Ga. budget hole

Since its inception in the late 1960s, Medicaid has been a lifeline for the nearly 2 million Georgians who depend on it for vital health services. The modest medical coverage provided by Medicaid goes to the most vulnerable in our society. In fact, 92 percent of Medicaid goes to children, seniors or the disabled. Medicaid is administered by the state...
More Stories