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Disagreement over who should control Georgia’s school turnaround work

Georgia’s elected school superintendent argues that he should be in the middle of any major school turnaround effort as lawmakers consider a bill that focuses on struggling schools.

House Bill 338 by Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, passed the House last week and is now up for debate in the Senate. It creates the position of “Chief Turnaround Officer,” overseeing state intervention in the lowest-performing schools.

Tanner chose to have the officer report to the state Board of Education, which is appointed by the governor, rather than to the state superintendent, who is elected. Asked why at a hearing of the Senate Education and Youth Committee Monday, Tanner said it’s because the board sets policy for the state Department of Education.

“So the real power base is with that state board,” he said.

But the superintendent is in charge of the education department and its staff of roughly 600. They have deep experience and direct access to funding. Richard Woods, the superintendent, said the turnaround chief would be better off reporting to him.

“Having this individual fully incorporated with the structure of DOE is very imperative,” Woods said.

The hearing was cut short and will resume Friday, with Woods and nearly a dozen others scheduled to testify.

HB 338 is what some have referred to as “Plan B” for the Opportunity School District proposal, which was struck down by voters in a referendum in November.

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