The list of “chronically failing” schools grows as lawmakers await governor’s plan for the problem

The number of Georgia schools deemed "chronically failing” has grown by 20 percent, according to a new state count.

It comes amid speculation about Gov. Nathan Deal’s plans to confront the problem after his proposed solution, a statewide Opportunity School District that required a constitutional amendment, lost at the polls in November.

There’s been talk of a “plan B” that would require legislative support. Leaders of the state House and Senate offered no details Thursday though they said they supported some kind of action. The legislative session begins Monday.

"Putting aside all the rhetoric and the debate over the constitutional amendment that we just came through, the fact remains we still have almost 70,000 children in failing schools in Georgia,” Rep. David Ralston, the House speaker, said. “And so what we do about that is going to be important to me, it's going to be important to the House.”

Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said he’s uncertain what Deal has in mind but said Rep. Kevin Tanner has been working on a bill for a few months. Tanner could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said he hadn’t talked with the governor about his plans but said he and the Senate would not ignore the plight of children in failing schools.

“That is not something that is acceptable to me and I don't believe it's acceptable to the members of the Senate,” he said.

Cagle said he supports local control of schools -- a contentious point in November’s referendum that likely played a role in the measure’s defeat since the state would have taken control of failing schools -- but he also believes local school leaders must be held accountable for “a performance level that is satisfactory for every student.”

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement released the new list of schools deemed to have achieved a failing score three years in a row on the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Ready Performance Index, a kind of school report card.

The list grew to 153 schools from 127 in 2015, with 13 dropping from the list but 48 performing poorly enough to get added to it.

The schools are in 35 school districts. Three districts have fewer schools on the new list: DeKalb County (two fewer), Bibb County (two fewer) and Muscogee County (one fewer).

Fulton and Chatham counties have the largest increases, with four Fulton schools added to the list and six in Chatham.