Edited by Brittany Clingen
In November 2016, voters in Georgia will have the final say over a contentious legislatively-referred constitutional amendment that would give the state the power to intervene in the management of failing schools. At the local level, ballot measures addressing development are dominating the news in California, with one measure set for the ballot and another headed to court.
Georgia failing schools amendment officially certified for 2016 ballot:
The State Intervention in Failing Public Schools Amendment, known in the Georgia Legislature as Senate Resolution 287, was officially certified for the 2016 general election ballot in Georgia when the House narrowly approved the bill by a vote of 121 to 47.
A two-thirds vote in both chambers of the legislature was required to put the measure before voters; the Senate had previously approved it, primarily along party lines, by a vote of 38 to 15. In general, Republicans have supported the measure, while Democrats have dissented.
The measure, upon voter approval, would empower the state "to assume the supervision, management, and operation of public elementary and secondary schools which have been determined to be failing through any governance model allowed by law." Approval of the amendment by voters would trigger the implementation of Senate Bill 133, which would provide for three governance models of schools under an "Opportunity School District" (OSD) agency.
The three models would be (1) direct management by the OSD, (2) shared governance between the OSD and local board of education and (3) transformation of the school into a charter school. The OSD would also have the power to close schools as the “intervention of last resort.” The Athens Banner-Herald said the amendment is modeled after the Recovery School District in Louisiana.
With November 2016 well over a year away, the measure is already garnering significant attention from supporters and opponents alike. Gov. Nathan Deal (R), an ardent supporter, says the measure is "rescuing children" from a cycle of poverty and that "education provides the only chance for breaking that cycle." Meanwhile, Philip Lanoue, superintendent of Clarke County School District, argued against the measure, saying, "Educators, school boards and local school communities have the ultimate responsibility for providing engaging learning environments that ensure all students achieve. To change the Georgia Constitution to take away that responsibility will fragment communities across the state, and sets a very dangerous precedent for future decisions in educating all Georgia students."