Deal rolls out new education plan, still doesn’t take root causes seriously

Wasting no time licking his wounds after the defeat of his OSD referendum last November Governor Deal rolled out his new plan to fix failing schools throughout the state. HB 338 is clearly built on the model of OSD, but with a few tweaks that the governor hopes will appease critics of OSD. Instead of a Superintendent of the Opportunity School District, we will have a Chief Turnaround Officer. Who, like the OSD superintendent, will have the ability to implement changes to any district deemed failing. However, unlike the OSD superintendent the number of districts under the CTO’S control will be determined solely by the office budget.

There are several other important differences between this bill and OSD. The CTO will only have a set number of steps that he will he can take to improve a failing district, though those steps include the removal of any staff deemed to not be performing, as well as moving students to a nearby non-failing district. One change that may appeal to critics is the distribution of money. Under HB the money will only be taken from the local school district budget if they disagree with the charter options given to them by the CTO’S office and provides a specific alternative, which they will have to pay for. This is probably the biggest difference between the two plans.

Also included in the bill is the Educational Turnaround Advisory Council. This group will include the heads of the Georgia School Boards Association, Georgia School Superintendents Association, Professional Association of Educators, Georgia Association of Educators, and the Georgia Parent Teacher Association. This seems to be an attempt to give those groups a greater role in the new program, but the bill makes clear that the group will have no effective power, and will only be advisory in nature.

The bill also calls for the creation of the Joint Study Committee on the Establishment of a State Accreditation Process. This committee will explore the pros and cons of Establishing an accreditation process for public schools and schools systems. This group will be made up of three reps chosen by the Speaker of the House, three Senators chosen by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, 5 Governor appointees (local school board member, local superintendent, principal, teacher, and parent), as well as the Statewide School Superintendent, Head of the Office of Student Achievement, and the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia.

This bill may not be the nefarious “school takeover” that OSD was; but like OSD, the “Chief Turnaround Officer” will have a difficult time getting to the root causes of underperforming schools. The Governor seems to think if we can just take care of the 7 hours that a child attends school that we don’t need to worry about what the child goes home to. Kids who have parents who are always working, who aren’t getting enough to eat, or who are homeless will always have a harder time, no matter how great the teacher, or amazing the technology they are exposed to. This writer is as baffled as our legislature and governor seem to be as how we can overcome these problems, but we won’t get any closer until we start taking it seriously.

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