Democrats’ answer to Deal school plan: ‘Community schools’

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The Senate’s Democratic leadership is introducing its own plan to help turn around low-performing schools, a plan that takes a different approach from Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to have the state take over the operation of these schools.

The Democrats want to award monetary grants to low-performing schools that apply for conversion to “community schools” that would provide healthcare services, academic support and tutoring, and parental education programs to persons living in impoverished areas.

“The community school model is a model that has worked across the nation,” Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) said, citing success that Kentucky has had with a similar approach to improving schools.

“This bill is all about removing the impediments children find themselves in,” Senate Minority Whip Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) said.

Deal last week released a proposal to create a statewide “Opportunity School District” that would take over the daily operations of up to 100 public schools that are deemed to be “failing” their students.

Part of the governor’s plan is in the form of a constitutional amendment, which means it would require voter approval in the 2016 election. Local education officials have expressed concerns about having a state agency in Atlanta running public schools that could be hundreds of miles away.

“It’s a gun at the head of public schools, as compared to what we’re talking about,” Fort said.

Critics of Deal’s proposal said it does not address the poverty that can be a contributing factor to poor performance by a school’s students. The Democrats said their approach would try to alleviate some of the poverty factors that might be holding students back.

Deal said an education reform commission he recently appointed may evaluate some parts of the Democratic proposal.

“It does not appear to be an alternative to what I am proposing,” Deal said. “These are just operational things and they are not related to (school) governance. We believe the problem lies in governance.”

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson (D-Tucker) said the Deal plan was “too broad in its focus and could have unintended consequences.”

“There’s no urgency to pass it (Deal’s proposal) since it won’t go on the ballot until 2016,” Henson said, urging the governor to give legislators time to study his proposal thoroughly.

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: community schools , low performing schools , Nan Orrock , Nathan Deal , state takeover , Steve Henson