If voters agree to Amendment 1, they’ll be approving a change to the state constitution. Opponents and proponents are making claims in their competing ads about what the change would accomplish. This is what it would actually do. (Erica A. Hernandez)

Is Opportunity School District about the money or better schools?

In another debate about Georgians’ pending Opportunity School District vote, the leader of the state School Boards Association squared off against a representative of Gov. Nathan Deal, with both making impassioned arguments that are by now well-known among those following the issue.

Only a handful of people turned up to watch the Monday afternoon event sponsored by Better Outcomes for OUR Kids.

The state school boards association has quietly facilitated a rebellion by local school boards, offering on its website a model resolution against the proposed constitutional amendment. More than 40 local boards have now taken an official stance against the ballot measure, which will appear as Amendment 1 on election day, Nov. 8. Deal has fired back at the boards, saying they want to maintain the status quo, even if it means failing schools.

7 things to know about the Opportunity School District

Valarie Wilson, executive director of the school boards association, argued that the proposal is modeled on similar efforts in other states that stripped schools from local control and got lackluster results. It offers no specific new services or resources for students in poverty or those who enter school behind. And it targets fewer than 130 schools with around 68,000 students, a fraction of the 1.7 million in Georgia.

She said the state just wants to get hold of the money that flows to the schools that would be taken over. The legislation would allow a superintendent appointed by the governor to take up to 20 schools per year. “This not about student achievement,” she said. “This is about money and facilities.”

Tony Lowden, appointed by Deal to the State Charter Schools Commission, acknowledged this is a controversial proposal, saying he’s been called a “sellout” for supporting it. But the Macon minister who served on one of Deal’s criminal justice reform committees said too many children cannot read by third grade and that prison planners build prisons based on third-grade literacy rates. School districts have failed to improve and now it’s time for a change, he said, noting that one metro school district, DeKalb County, has more than 20 schools on the target list.

Lowden suggested parents are doing whatever they can to get their kids into a school in neighboring Gwinnett County, which has none on the list.

“Should a parent have to lie on an application and say they live in Gwinnett when they live in DeKalb? I say the answer is no.”

You can find information about your school, such as test scores, graduation rates and school climate rating at the Ultimate Atlanta School Guide.

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