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DeKalb joins growing list of Opportunity School District opponents as battle heats up


The battle against the governor's Opportunity School District went into high gear this week with the rollout of another TV ad this morning and a spurt in school boards opposing the controversial constitutional amendment that grants the state sweeping new powers to take control of local schools.

The state PTA has a press conference today at noon explaining its opposition to Gov. Nathan Dean's proposal to take charge of failing local schools, and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators makes its case in DeKalb at 6 tonight to the public at the Community Achievement Center on Flat Shoals Parkway. Schools are deemed failing by low state College and Career Ready Performance Index scores.

Proponents are also pushing their cause with more vigor, although they have an ace in the hole -- the ballot language is so benign that many voters will reflexively vote "yes." It states: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

The OSD, which will appear as Amendment One on the November ballot, is being opposed by a growing list of school boards. Last night, the DeKalb County board approved a statement urging county residents to vote "no" on Deal’s plan.

"We believe it is not only wrong, but risky to give up local control to a new state bureaucracy,” said board chair Melvin Johnson, adding the board “strongly believes the answer to improved academic outcomes and achievement is in the classroom and schoolhouse.”

As of now, 31 Georgia school boards have spoken out against Deal's plan to put chronically failing schools and the local funding to those schools under the control of an appointed superintendent in the model of Tennessee's Achievement School District, which has had disappointing results thus far. Once in state control, the schools can be reconstituted, turned over to charter management or closed.

(You can track the school board count at the Facebook page of Public Educations Matters Georgia.)

In a speech earlier this month, Deal characterized opposition as coming from districts at risk of losing schools to the OSD.  Indeed, DeKalb, one of the state's largest districts, has more failing schools on the list than any other system. But on Thursday, the Forsyth County Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution opposing the OSD despite having some of the state's highest-performing schools.

Here is the new ad that began airing this morning by the Committee to Keep Georgia Schools Local, whose members include Georgia Association of Educators, Georgia Federation of Teachers, Georgia AFL-CIO, PAGE, Georgia Stand-Up, Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Public Education Matters, Southern Education Foundation, Working America, Pro Georgia, Better Georgia and Concerned Black Clergy of Metro Atlanta.


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Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.