5 things to know about Gov. Deal’s Opportunity School District

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5 things to know about Gov. Deal’s Opportunity School District

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Bob Andres
March 23, 2015 - Atlanta - Students of all ages, including students from Columbia High School, Cedar Grove Middle, Cedar Grove Elementary and Oak Grove Elementary in DeKalb County, rallied against the proposed education bills in the Capitol. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Introduced in the 2015 Legislative Session, Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan would create a statewide school district and give his office broad new powers to take over failing schools.

It would for the first time ever create a statewide “Opportunity School District” to oversee the program — led by a superintendent who would report directly to the governor and not the state education department.

In 2016, Deal’s plan could hit the cutting room floor or Georgia voters could approve it for a 2017 start. That being said, here are the five most important things to know about the “Opportunity School District.”

1. Here is how it would work: The plan would create a statewide “Opportunity School District” with authority to seize control of schools deemed to be perennially failing. The state would have total authority over the schools put into the special district and could remove principals and teachers, change what students are learning and control the schools’ budgets.

2. These are the schools in danger of takeover: If voters approve the Opportunity School District deal, the state would likely start taking over schools beginning with the 2017-18 school year basing its selection on College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) data from the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.
This map displays failing schools CCRPI scores from 2012, 2013 and 2014. Click on a point on the map to see that's schools CCRPI scores from the past three years.

3. The idea is modeled after the Recovery School District in Louisiana, where 10 years ago the state snatched more than 100 of New Orleans’ worst schools in a Hail Mary attempt to revamp the district. Georgia’s “Opportunity District,” if approved, would be Deal’s signature piece of education policy and a drastic departure from the state’s current, more passive approach to failing schools. Advocates of the model say it show what’s possible when elected school boards, unions and poorly run school systems get out of the way and let school leaders decide how to educate students.

4. This is when it would happen: In November 2016, Georgians will vote on authorizing the takeover district.

5. Some people don’t like the school takeover plan: Opponents of state takeover say it would give control of schools to an aloof entity that is not accountable to voters or parents. They say it’s unclear what the state would do to improve schools that local districts aren’t already doing. And the real issue for many schools, they say, is poverty. 

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