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Four signs Gov. Nathan Deal's Opportunity School District may be in trouble


On Nov. 8, Gov. Nathan Deal is asking Georgia voters to endorse Amendment 1, which will give him the power -- now forbidden by the state constitution -- to take control of struggling local schools and the local taxes that support those schools. Deal will then place some of the schools in a state-run district called the Opportunity School District that will be overseen by his appointed superintendent. That appointed leader can close the schools, turn them over to charter management or run them.

Here are four recent signs Deal's Opportunity School District idea may be in trouble

The first: Tim Bryant, a morning show host and on-air personality at WGAU/News-Talk 1340 in Athens, moderated a candidates' panel last week in Oglethorpe County and asked both candidates and the audience about Amendment 1.

Afterward, Bryant shared his takeaway on social media:

Amendment One is in trouble. I noted all five candidates for school board said they'd vote against it. I then asked the audience for a show of hands. "How many plan to vote for OSD?" Not one hand went up. Maybe 150-200 people in the room, not one hand in support of Amendment One. "How many plan to vote no?" Virtually every hand in the room goes up. I've never seen that before. Either Oglethorpe County is an outlier, or Amendment One may be about to go down hard.

Second: In a speech last week at the Commerce Club, Deal made a bizarre pitch for the OSD to an engineering association. Johnny Kauffman of 90.1/WABE-FM reported the governor tried to sell the OSD to the engineers as a way to decrease crime threats to their nice cars and nice homes. The governor said:

Why is it that we don’t have so many chronically failing high schools? Those folks are already gone. They’ve already dropped out. So, their bad test scores don’t show up in those high school scores. They’re already out there amongst us. And one thing about crime, there is an entrepreneurial element to it.

If you think that those who are coming out of bad schools and are dropping out and going to crime are going to only steal from people in their school district, you’re wrong. Those people don’t have anything worth stealing in many, many cases. They’re going to go where people have nice cars, nice homes, things that are worth a criminal’s attention. It’s time that we stop that. It’s time that a young person has an opportunity to see that if you will stick with me, and get an education there are jobs that are going to let you make a decent living and you will not have to resort to a life of crime. I’m passionate about this. I hope it comes through. I really am. I believe we have an opportunity, with all the other good things we have done, we have an opportunity to change the dynamic, not only of our state, but of our nation. Because we can show that people regardless of the color of their skin care about children and their education and if we work together we’re going to make a difference in that regard.

Third: Yard signs -- there has been an eruption of them over the past seven days and they all seem to be in opposition. (The OSD is opposed by several state organizations skilled at grassroots mobilization, including the Georgia PTA.)

Fourth: This morning former Atlanta Mayor Andy Young and baseball legend Hank Aaron held a press event urging Georgians to reject the OSD. “We have to defeat this, we have to vote ‘no’ on Amendment 1," said Aaron. Young took issue with Deal's description of schools and students as failing. “Self-esteem is the basis of good education,” said Young. “To take that self-esteem away from families, teachers, principals and boards of education locally and turn it over to a corporate-oriented state structure is a sin and a shame and we cannot allow it.”


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About the Author

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