School board group opposes school takeover plan

The Georgia School Boards Association, a training and advocacy group for local boards, came out strongly against Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to create a state-run school district to take over failing schools. Legislation enabling the special school district passed the Senate Thursday and heads to the House.

Angela Palm, who represents the group, said the state already has legislation allowing the state to influence school improvement and believes the “Opportunity School District” will end up costing taxpayers.

“Taking over schools brings a whole host of issues,” she said. “If the school becomes a state charter, local funding flows to the students of that school forever and the facility stays with them. Local taxpayers could end up paying for more land and building a new building because they can’t use the one they own.”

“Personnel is another issue,” Palm said. “If the OSD does not want the personnel, then the local board is responsible for the legal repercussions. We are appointing someone with no oversight except the governor. When making such a change I suggest everyone think of their least favorite governor and imagine him with this authority.”

Deal’s plan has been laid out in two companion pieces of legislation, Senate Resolution 287 and Senate Bill 133. The Senate’s first vote on SR 287 was considered a key test because, as a proposed amendment to the Georgia Constitution, it needed two-thirds support in the chamber. It got it, but not one vote more.

The plan is based on a model used in Louisiana, which has produced notable academic gains in New Orleans but had less success in other parts of the state. A similar approach has also been adopted in Tennessee and Michigan.

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