ATLANTA, Ga. - With only days left in the 2017 Legislative Session, a number of education bills remain to be considered, most notably how to fix the dozens of schools in Georgia considered failing. Commonly referred to as “Plan B”, Senate Bill 338 is the latest approach to how best support the state’s lowest performing schools.
Last year, Plan A — Gov. Nathan’s Deal plan for an Opportunity School District — was shot down by voters concerned with the overreach of the state into the dealings and finances of locally-elected school boards.
After much tweaking and more stakeholder input than with Deal’s plan, SB 338 garnered bipartisan support by including more decision-making at the local level, but still providing state input and overall control.
But conflict is emerging over who is ultimately in charge. Under the current bill, a Chief Turnaround Officer (CTO) would head the program and report directly to the appointed State Board of Education.
But officials with the Georgia Department of Education (GDOE) say the CTO should report to the agency, headed by the elected state superintendent of schools.
During testimony before the Senate Youth and Education Committee, Superintendent Richard Woods said the GDOE is charged with carrying out the educational directives of the state and should lead the process to improve schools.
He also urged that criteria for what is considered a failing school should align with the federal definition. In the bill, a failing school would include one that has received “an unacceptable rating and any other factors deemed appropriate” by the CTO).
Officials with the Georgia Schools Board Association as well as the state’s largest education association, PAGE, also cited concerns over the reporting structure for the CTO.
Other concerns included the lack of a defined exit criteria for schools which show improvement, the lack of funding and a provision which outlines the removal of local school board members.
Other education legislation currently under consideration in the Legislative Session include: