Deal’s school package approved by Senate committee

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The Senate Education Committee gave its endorsement Monday to Gov. Nathan Deal’s legislative package — SB 133 and SR 287 – that would enable the state to take control of up to 100 low-performing schools.

The committee gave “do pass” recommendations to both measures, which will get floor votes in the Senate prior to the March 13 “crossover day” deadline.

SR 287 is a constitutional amendment that would be placed on the 2016 general election ballot. If SR 287 is approved by the voters, the provisions in SB 133, the enabling bill, would take effect.

The legislation would create an Opportunity School District (OSD) headed by a superintendent appointed by the governor. The new district would oversee the operation of low-performing schools and attempt to improve their performance.

The superintendent could choose to directly manage the school, share the management responsibilities with the local school board, convert the school to a charter school, or close down the school entirely.

The plan defines “persistently failing schools” as those making a grade of “F” for three years in a row on the College and Career Performance Index, which the state Department of Education uses to rate school performance.

While the bills encountered no opposition votes in committee, several lawmakers expressed reservations about giving the state so much power to take over the operation of local schools.

“I do believe the (legislative) oversight needs to be improved before it moves to final passage,” said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome).

Hufstetler was also concerned about the governor having the sole authority to appoint the OSD superintendent.

“We don’t know who’s going to be in office in the future,” he observed.

“What options are there to mediate frictions between the Opportunity School District and a local school district?” asked Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta), who once was a local school board member. “How would it be handled if there isn’t an agreement?”

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: low performing schools , Nathan Deal , state takeover