Deal’s school takeover amendment squeaks by the House

[private]Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed legislation to have the state take over the operation of low-performing public schools was approved Wednesday by a slim margin in the House of Representatives, with the help of some Democratic lawmakers.

The House voted 121-47 to pass SR 287, a constitutional amendment authorizing the creation of a statewide “Opportunity School District” to run or shut down troubled schools. The amendment will go on the 2016 election ballot for approval or rejection by the state’s voters.

Because SR 287 is a constitutional amendment, a two-thirds majority, or 120 votes, was required for House passage.

The amendment passed the House with one vote to spare because 11 Democrats joined the Republican majority to adopt it. The Democrats were Stacey Evans, Mary Margaret Oliver, Mike Glanton, Craig Gordon, Mack Jackson, Ron Mabra, Mickey Stephens, Bob Bryant, Darrel Ealum, Valencia Stovall, and Erica Thomas.

They negated the Republicans who broke ranks with the majority caucus to vote against SR 287: David Stover, Tommy Benton, Kevin Cooke, and Susan Holmes.

The House later voted 108-53 to pass SB 133, the enabling legislation that goes with the constitutional amendment. SB 133 only required a majority of 91 votes to pass, a hurdle the bill cleared easily.

Supporters of the school takeover measures said they could be an effective means of turning around poorly performing K-12 schools.

“Every child should have a fair shot at doing better than their parents before them, and we as a society benefit if more Georgians have the education and job skills needed to attract high-paying jobs,” Deal said in a statement released after the vote.

“The governor is taking a risk, a political risk and a substantive risk,” said Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur). “He cannot allow this opportunity to fail. He’s going to have to make this work. I support giving him that chance.”

“If we wait, students will sit longer in schools that are failing them,” Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) said. “How long can we wait? Parents all across this state are waiting. We have to help children today.”

Critics of the bill said it transfers too much power to the governor, who will appoint the superintendent of the Opportunity School District.

“I worry about what that future governor may look like,” said Rep. David Stover (R-Newnan). “For me, a Democrat in charge may be bad. Again, think about who the future governor will be. Gov. Deal will only preside over this for two years.”

“This is an incredibly broad distribution of power to a single person (a future governor) that none of us has met,” House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams said. “We have never before vested every vestige of authority in a single person with something so grave as our system of education.”

“The governor you have down there may not be someone you have a good relationship with,” Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) said.

“I can call my school board, I can call my superintendent, and get things done,” Wilkerson said. But under Deal’s takeover plan, “that day is done.”

© 2015 by The Georgia Report


Tags: David Stover , David Wilkerson , low performing schools , Mary Margaret Oliver , Nathan Deal , Stacey Abrams , Stacey Evans , state takeover