Sept. 8, 2016. Gov. Nathan Deal, left, greeted state Superintendent Richard Woods at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis before speaking at the Georgia Education Leadership Institute, an annual conference for superintendents, school board members, principals and other education leaders. Deal promoted his education agenda, which includes a state takeover of “chronically failing” schools. TY TAGAMI/AJC

A dozen Georgia districts oppose Gov. Nathan Deal on school takeover

Two more Georgia school districts, including Rockdale County in metro Atlanta, have joined the opposition to Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to take over schools deemed to be failing.

The Rockdale school board voted 6-1 for a symbolic resolution against the constitutional amendment for an Opportunity School District, according to the Rockdale Citizen. And three weeks prior to Rockdale’s Sept. 8 meeting, the Jasper County school board adopted a similar resolution, the Monticello News reported.

Deal on Thursday praised school superintendents who have “kept their mouths shut” about disagreeing with the constitutional amendment, but he lashed out at school boards that have taken a stand against it, accusing local officials of allowing failure to fester in their schools, in some cases for generations, entrapping mostly poor and minority children.

Yet neither Rockdale nor Jasper have “chronically failing” schools that would be subject to a takeover. Neither do the school districts for Cherokee, Clayton, Fayette, Henry, Newton nor Troup counties, which also formally opposed the constitutional amendment.

However, some districts that have adopted resolutions against the amendment do have schools that could be taken over, including Bibb, Richmond and Savannah-Chatham. Each has schools that were deemed to be failing based on their performance on the state’s school report card, the College and Career Ready Performance Index. The index uses a variety of measures, including performance on standardized state tests.

There are 180 school districts in Georgia, and these districts comprise but a fraction of them. More may have adopted such resolutions, though. There is no central repository of these votes; the AJC is updating the list based on reports by newspapers and other sources, including school board meeting minutes and agendas.

If voters agree to change the constitution, schools could be absorbed into the new district and either shut down, run with or without the local school board or converted to independent charter management. The staff could also be removed. The decisions would be made by a new superintendent answering only to the governor.

School districts that oppose the Opportunity School District say it takes away their traditional control over education, and would allow the state to take local tax dollars to support the absorbed schools, creating another governmental layer.

The referendum is Nov. 8. The ballot item, Amendment 1, says nothing about the state taking over schools. Instead, it asks voters this: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

Read more:

Georgia PTA slams state over new wording for constitutional amendment

School boards defy Gov. Nathan Deal on state schools takeover

Deal blasts critics of his plan for taking over “failing” schools

Mapping the “failing” schools

Five things to know about the Opportunity School District proposal

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