This election season in Georgia there are four amendments for the voters to decide upon. Amendment One, also known as Opportunity School District (OSD) garnered much controversy and debate throughout the state. OSD was created by Senate Bill 133 and would allow the government to take over “chronically failing” schools and inject various policy changes (detailed below).
The OSD superintendent would be appointed by the governor to oversee the process of state intervention in schools. Supporters argue that the school boards have done little to improve their schools and OSD would help student’s futures. Opponents believe that taking away local control will hurt everyone in the school system and that OSD funds will be siphoned from local districts.
The state would have the power to take over “persistently failing schools.” Under OSD, “failing schools are defined as those scoring below 60 on the Georgia Department of Education’s accountability measure, the College and Career Performance Index, for three consecutive years.” If a school does not meet the standards set by the state government they would be deemed a failing school.
There would be four possible actions for a chronically failing school. The first action is the OSD would directly control the school. The second action is a contract would be formed for shared governance in which the local board of education operates the school but the OSD superintendent directs changes to the school. The third action would be to turn the school into a charter school. The last action would be to shut down the school.
Inspiration was taken from plans from several other states, including Louisiana’s Recovery School District (RSD) and Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD). Despite reported success those states serve as warning against it. Louisiana’s House and Senate voted to reverse RSD. T.C Weber, a parent with children in the Tennessee public school system, called ASD a “mitigated failure” and stated, “The only thing the ASD has been successful at is creating another government entity rife with financial mismanagement and becoming an endless source of debate as they constantly change goals.” Similar feelings have developed in Georgia. The wording of the amendment has been labeled misleading, so much that a lawsuit was filed against it. Many fear there is monetary incentive to be gained for the administration and not the school.
OSD was introduced as a way to help failing schools, but it comes down to where the power goes to. Authority would be taken away and given to bureaucrats. Some schools could be shut down and students forced to relocate. Other students would have charter schools forced on them. Keep in mind is that the outcome will affect families and educational staff throughout the state. Improving Georgia’s school systems is an important task, but there has to be a better solution.
Written by Alanna Pierce, fellow of the Representative Spencer Frye Fellowship