Deal's proposal this year goes another step by creating a statewide "Opportunity School District" that can take in as many as 100 distressed schools. Under Deal’s proposal, the state would have final say over schools put into the district and could fire principals, transfer teachers and change what students learn. Schools would stay under state oversight for at least five years but no more than 10.
Democratic support is essential because Deal's proposal is a constitutional amendment, requiring two-thirds approval by both chambers before it lands on the ballot in 2016. The GOP holds a commanding edge in the House and a supermajority in the Senate, but Deal will need to pick off Democrats in both chambers to make up for Republicans who bolt.
Abrams said her caucus has attended Deal's listening sessions and has held its own roundtable discussion with academics on the merits and flaws of the legislation. Rather than put forward a competing plan, though, she signaled she would rather push for changes in the existing proposal.
"We need to see the legislation evolve," she said of the wait-and-see approach. "What gets on there the first day is rarely what makes it to the end."