It’s a Must: Say YES to Fixing Georgia’s Failing Schools

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The opposition to Georgia’s opportunity school district referendum has stockpiled millions of dollars to fight against desperately needed measures to help students in failing schools.  The opponents of Amendment 1, which voters will consider this November, include the Georgia Association of Educators and the Geogia AFL-CIO, along with many other members of the public school establishment.  The National Education Association has dedicated 1.5 million dollars for an ad campaign to oppose the Opportunity School District, and opposition groups recently spent $730,000 to run television ads against the initiative.

The Opportunity School District initiative, known as Amendment 1, addresses the 127 failing schools in Georgia that have not attained a 60 percent score for the last three consecutive years on the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Ready Performance Index.  The Opportunity School District (OSD) is a proposed constitutional amendment that must receive voter approval on November 8th, and is modeled after similar initiatives in Louisiana and Tennessee.  This legislation will allow the state to temporarily step in to aid schools that have struggled for years to successfully educate students, who are compelled to attend based on their zip code.  The state’s involvement would last anywhere between 5 to 10 years and then would return to local control.

Recently, Governor Nathan Deal presented his case in support of the OSD at the Georgia Education  Leadership Institute:

Let’s start talking about the children.  Let’s make sure that our schools serve their best interests and change them when they don’t.  Let’s end a status quo that does not produce results, despite ever-greater sums of money.  Let’s listen to the numbers – which have no agenda – instead of to the advocacy groups and resentful partisans who do.

He addressed the constant demands by opposition groups to simply spend more money on education in Georgia:

…I worked with the General Assembly to allocate a total of $8.9 billion in state funds for K-12 education in the FY 2017 budget.  That includes $300 million in additional funds for salary increases for educators….You know, it’s funny that we often get accused of cutting spending on education, when in actuality we’ve increased it every year that I’ve been in office.  In fact, my administration has spent more of the state budget on education than any administration in the past 50 years since Governor Carl Sanders was in office.

He continued his address stating:

But as I said at this very same venue last year, the underlying issues facing our classrooms today – the challenges that often lead to academic failure – cannot be solved by simply throwing more state dollars at the issue.  And we know that money alone does not result in improved student performance because over the forty-year period between 1970 and 2010, education spending nationally increased 185 percent in the United States while performance on our national exams remained the same.

Many opponents of Amendment 1 argue, as they almost always do, that improving education can be done by allocating more funding for education.  Current opposition also includes a rejection of the state’s involvement in education in favor of continuing local control.  But if local control has continually yielded schools that cannot properly educate students, then why should that failure continue to be enabled and funded?

The Georgia Federation of Teachers website includes this dubious statement on why voters should oppose the referendum: “What parents, educators and community members really want is schools where educators are respected and well-supported, and children can get a well-rounded, vibrant curriculum.”  As a parent, I can assure you that my chief priority in the education of my own children is, instead, a stellar education that guarantees a bright future for my kids, rather than propping up a school that continues to fail.

Georgia must improve these schools that have already failed to educate 68,000 students, regardless of how loudly powerful bureaucrats, lobbyists, and interest groups that act in the interest of adults may complain.

-Rhonda Gatch

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