Opinion written by Joene DePlancke
Sounds like a good idea, but IS IT REALLY?
It is October 30th, and if you haven’t voted yet and are not sure what Amendment 1, “Save the Failing Schools,” is really all about, here is a layman’s summary and my recommendation to VOTE NO. Every day on TV there are numerous ads telling you to vote Yes followed by an ad to VOTE NO.
Keep in mind that the very carefully crafted language on the ballot is designed to sound like this is a really good and beneficial amendment. I mean, who wouldn’t want to fix these schools that consistently receive an “F”. But here is the real scoop.
This amendment is supposed to provide funding to create a whole new department under the Governor. The Governor will personally select an Opportunity Superintendent (CZAR) that will administer this program. That means we will be adding another high level salary, creating a department with staff, and need annual expenses to administer this program.
Then this CZAR gets to personally select schools deemed to be failing based primarily on the Georgia Milestone tests. So, as if these tests weren’t important enough already, causing teachers to have to almost abandon regular curriculum lessons to cram for these tests, now low scores on these tests could mean that the school will be taken over by the CZAR and the teachers, parents and County Board of Education will no longer have ANY say in its operation.
This CZAR can take over 20 schools per year up to a maximum of 100 under his/her control at any one time. But once taken over, a school must remain under the CZAR’s control for a minimum of 5 years up to a maximum of 10 years. And, on top of this not only does the CZAR get all the funding for this school, he/she gets an additional 3% of your school budget.
Now, exactly what can this CZAR do that the county couldn’t have already been doing? Really nothing that is important because he can’t change the evaluation methods for the teachers or leaders and he can’t fire any of them. So, since most of the failing schools are located in very poor areas laden with crime and high turn over of principals and teachers, if the problem in the failing school is poorly educated teachers, (which is only a small part), creating an Opportunity School District cannot fix that.
Another major reason for failing schools is lack of parental involvement. But the new CZAR cannot change how public meetings are conducted under the Roberts Rules of Order, so should a parent be so emboldened to attend a school board meeting, that parent cannot speak unless the parent requested permission before 9 AM on the day of the meeting. Now, tell me, how would a parent wanting to question some new program or changing of the bus schedules, or want to know why their child’s school is failing, some of the things that might be discussed that night; how would the parent possibly know they wanted to speak until they heard what the Board was saying? And, keep in mind, that even if you do put yourself on the agenda and get up and ask why is your child’s school doing so poorly, remember, the School Boards are taught in their “how to become a school board mime” never to answer a question asked by a parent or concerned citizen. So the Board just sits there, the parents ask questions, and no one says a word, except “Thank you Mr. ___ and please sit down.” If you ask aren’t they going to answer, they are then told if they submit the question in writing, the Board will respond in 30 days. As you can see, this policy would encourage a lot of parental involvement.
And then there is the real elephant in the room. The majority of schools that are failing are located in very high crime rate areas and the students are more likely to be unruly. Neither of these issues is addressed by this Constitutional Amendment and the creation of a CZAR to fix everything would have no power or jurisdiction to fix or affect the crime rate in any way. And until crime and intimidation are addressed it is almost impossible to attract highly qualified teachers and administrators.
Bottom line, you can’t solve this problem by passing a constitutional amendment that continues to add to the administrative bureaucracy of this State.
Vote NO on Amendment 1.