This November you will have a decision to make on the Georgia Constitution. One of the Constitutional amendments will be to ratify an amendment relating to failing schools. Here is what you will see on the ballot:
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?
( ) Yes
( ) No
A one question description is inadequate to fully explain the impact of a yes or a no vote. A simple reading of the text above would likely generate a response of “of course!”
The Democrat party of Richmond County wanted to get feedback from Democrat voters on the amendment. This is the wording of a non-binding question on the May 24 Richmond County Democrat Primary ballot:
Shall the constitution of Georgia be amended to allow an appointee of the governor to bypass the elected state school superintendent in order to take over local school operations, buildings and control of all federal, state and local funding if a school has low scores on standardized tests or for any other reason a future legislative act may allow?
( ) Yes
( ) No
The first one, which is the one to be on the ballot in November, would likely generate a positive response. The second one, which will not be on the November ballot, is just as likely to generate a negative response. Both of these questions refer to the same Constitutional amendment.
Any conservative who believes in smaller government should give pause before automatically voting “Yes.” This amendment creates yet more layers of bureaucracy and government growth beginning with the Opportunity School District (OSD).
The OSD would be under the Office of Student Achievement which is controlled by the Governor. The Governor appoints a School Superintendent for the OSD. The OSD Superintendent reports directly to the Governor. Here are some key quotes from the bill:
* The Opportunity School District shall be authorized to select up to 20 qualifying schools to add to the OSD in any single school year.
* the final selection of which schools are transferred into the OSD shall be in the sole discretion of the OSD Superintendent.
* The OSD Superintendent is authorized to waive specifically identified State Board of Education rules, regulations, policies, and procedures, or provisions of Chapter 2 of this title for opportunity schools.
These are just three bullet points that are found on a single page of the 13 page law. We are expected to conclude that these extra layers will result in “improved student performance.”
There is an addictive urge to grow a bureaucracy. Given the power to add 20 schools per year, you can predict that the OSD Superintendent will identify exactly 20 schools every year that need the special attention.
Just about every candidate running for office will call for local control of education and smaller government. Yet this amendment does just the opposite. At some point, we have to seriously challenge and allow local communities to address their own educational issues at the local level.
I am not convinced that state intervention in chronically failing schools will really improve student performance. I am convinced that it will add more administrators, burn up more tax dollars, and frustrate local communities. It will also place yet heavier burdens on one group that can improve student performance – the classroom teacher.
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