You won’t be voting on this until the November election, but make no mistake. You will hear about SR 287 a lot prior to that vote.
SR 287 would change the Georgia Constitution and allow the state “to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance.”
At first glance, you may wonder what would be wrong with that? Plenty, say a number of education groups statewide that are making sure the voice of opposition is already being heard.
“I know that this is not the answer, I know it’s not. There is nothing in this language that shows what they will do to help,” says Theresa Watson from the Savannah Teachers Federation.
Watson says it appears to be nothing more than an attempt to privatize schools and says the losers in that scenario may be low income children who don’t always learn well or test well. “”It is definitely a way to eliminate those students who need that extra help or the ones who are not making the grade I believe it will. To me to be honest, I believe it’s a school to prison system.”
Watson says she believes in the teachers in Chatham County and knows they are “trying.” She says if the state really wants to help failing schools and students, it will properly fund education and help struggling communities since community issues are often reflected in the schools.
She believes the amendment would do nothing to help local communities. “They would definitely take local control away and it would be two school districts in one city.”
The amendment would create what’s being termed “an Opportunity School District” that would manage a certain number of failing schools each year.
But Watson says “who” is doing the managing and what, if any accountability would there be to the local community. She says now if you have a problem with how schools are being operated, you can at least speak at the ballot box in terms of a local school board election.
Recently, the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System board went on record opposing the amendment, passing a resolution at its April 6th board meeting.
Watson says she’s already seeking to speak before community groups to let them know Federation’s opposition to such a plan. She also encourages people with questions to “visit a school and find out what teachers are up against and do something to help.”
We reached out to Governor Nathan Deal’s office for comment on why he supports such an amendment. We received this response:
Regarding the need for an Opportunity School district, Gov. Deal is adamant in his belief that a child’s zip code should not determine the quality of his or her education. In schools where students can’t read and can’t catch up, they don’t graduate. In turn, students who don’t graduate are much more likely to live in poverty or be incarcerated. Improving educational outcomes, and breaking negative economic and life cycles, will provide these students with much brighter futures. Creation of an Opportunity School District (OSD) would allow the state to help rejuvenate chronically failing public schools and provide their students access to a quality education. In fact, the potential creation of an OSD alone has spurred a new sense of urgency in communities and school districts, where many are focusing additional resources and efforts on improving these schools and educational outcomes for their students.