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What to do with failing schools?

Legislation under review outlines new process



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:

  • HB 114 – Schools must allow dual-enrolled students participating in the Move on When Ready program to be eligible for valedictorian and salutatorian.
  • HB 224 – Children from military families can select any school within their home district to attend.
  • HB 273 – Mandates recess for 30 minutes a day for students in K-5. 
  • HB 280 – The reintroduction of the guns on campus bill, vetoed by Gov. Deal last year, allows college students with a concealed carry permit to possess a firearm on college campuses. Weapons would not be allowed in campus daycare centers. 
  • HB 425 - Prohibits a school system from taking punitive action against a student who has opted out of any federal, state, or locally mandated standardized assessment. All students must also have the option to take assessments in pencil and paper. 
  • HB 500 – A local board member must vacate his or her office if an immediate family member is named as a principal, assistant principal, or system administrative staff in the district in which the board member serves. 
  • HR 319- a Constitutional amendment to allow a school board to call a referendum for a 1 percent sales tax for maintenance and operations. 
  • HR 608 - proposes a Joint Study Committee on the Georgia Public Schools Calendar to study the issue of early school start dates to determine “its social, growth, and economic impact.” 
  • SB 29 - requires testing for lead contamination at childcare learning centers.
  • SB 152 – Would limit the time a student is assigned to an alternative school and would require a student who was to be suspended or expelled for more than 10 days must be assigned to an alternative school. 
  • SB 211 – Allows systems flexibility in student assessments to allow other testing instruments beyond the state’s Milestones Assessments.

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