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State school board endorses governor's Opportunity School District

At its meeting today, the appointed Georgia Board of Education endorsed Gov. Nathan Deal's Opportunity School District.

(Under Georgia law, the governor appoints the state school board with consent of the state Senate.)

The resolution says the state school board supports the OSD "in order to improve the education of Georgia children trapped in failing schools." Voters will decide Amendment 1 in November.

If the amendment passes, the governor will gain sweeping new powers to take over schools deemed failing by their performance on state tests. Deal and subsequent governors can choose to take over such schools and hand them and their local funding to the appointed OSD superintendent. Then, the schools can be reconstituted, turned over to charter management or even closed.

The state board resolution has some peculiar wording leading up to the statement of support, which may reflect political concerns among the 12 board members. The resolution seems to go out of its way to mention local districts, which will likely have little role in the OSD. And the resolution spells out the limited time-frame of a state takeover, which could be in deference to the charge the amendment tramples local control.

It states, "Whereas the mechanisms available to the Opportunity School District may involve the local districts, will involve the members of the community and will provide a mechanism for a period of up to five years to correct the problems within those failing schools, we, the state Board of Education, resolve that we support the Opportunity School District."

The resolution quickly drew praise and condemnation.

Louis Elrod is campaign manager for Keep Georgia Schools Local, which opposes the OSD. He said, "The State Board of Education, a board comprised completely of political appointees, acted against the interest of parents across the state. By passing the governor’s school takeover resolution, the State Board of Education is telling Georgia parents, students and teachers that they support gutting local control of our schools. The school takeover is a power grab that would silence parents by handing over our public schools to an unelected political appointee. The appointee could fire teachers without cause, close schools or give schools to out-of-state, for-profit corporations -- all while taking $13 million from school budgets for ‘administrative operations.’’’

Deal issued this statement, "I commend the members of the State Board of Education for their formal resolution in support of the Opportunity School District. There is a shared mission between the proposed Opportunity School District and the state school board, which is to establish an environment where every public school in Georgia is successful and every child can thrive. Students across our state have been left behind to languish in failing schools for far too long, and I believe Georgia can and must do better. By supporting the Opportunity School District, the State Board of Education is taking a stand against the failing status quo. They are seizing the chance to improve our schools and make our children's future brighter."


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