Senate gives final passage governor’s failing schools plan

The Senate gave final passage Friday to enabling legislation for Gov. Nathan Deal’s vision of a statewide “Opportunity School District” with authority to seize control of schools deemed to be perennially failing.

Senate Bill 133 and its companion piece, Senate Resolution 287, lay out a plan to give the state total authority over the schools put into the special district, and it could remove principals, transfer teachers, change what students are learning and control the schools' budgets.

Deal’s office estimates about 140 schools would be eligible for takeover, including more than 60 in metro Atlanta. The plan would allow the state to run schools, close them, partner with local school districts to run them or convert them into charter schools. The special district would be overseen by a new superintendent who would report directly to the governor.

Opponents to the legislation say it’s an overreach of state power and doesn’t address the larger issues of poverty, which challenges students at many failing schools.

SR 287 won final passage last week from the House. SB 133 needed a final send-off from the Senate after the House changed the bill in committee.