The Opportunity School District
In its 2015 Legislative Session, the Georgia General Assembly passed two pieces of legislation aimed at allowing a state takeover of struggling schools in Georgia. This takeover plan is known as the “Opportunity School District” (OSD). The first piece of legislation was a resolution (SR287) proposing an amendment to the Georgia constitution to create a new state-wide school district – the OSD – in order to allow state takeover of schools that have been labeled “failing.” The voters of Georgia will now have the chance to vote on this proposed amendment to the Georgia Constitution (Amendment 1) on November 8, 2016. The second piece of legislation passed was the “implementing legislation” (SB133) that details how the OSD will operate, if it is approved by the voters. Learn more about the legislation. Currently, 127 schools in Georgia have been identified by the state as candidates for takeover under the proposed OSD.
Public Education Matters Georgia is a member of a state-wide coalition working in opposition to the OSD constitutional amendment. The opposition to this sweeping state takeover of schools is multi-faceted and includes citizens across the political spectrum, and an ever-growing list of community organizations and local boards of education. Some of the most severe critics are superintendents (Letter 1, Letter 2, Letter 3) of local school districts, who understand the true nature of this power grab. Some of the major reasons we and others oppose this plan are:
1) In the state’s own words, this takeover plan is based on what the state has determined are “similar, successful initiatives in Louisiana and Tennessee.” This rationale is disingenuous at best, as any claim that the takeover plans of Louisiana or Tennessee have been unqualified successes is patently false. Learn more.
2) Removing schools from their current districts and placing them within the OSD wrests control of the affected schools from local communities and their elected officials (local boards of education). Some of the most egregious results of loss of local control are the following items:
a) The loss of local tax dollars. Under current law, state-run charter schools (like those that the state BOE or the State Charter Commission has created) are not allowed to take local tax revenues to run state schools. State schools were given supplemental money from the state but they could not usurp local money. The OSD allows for “failing schools” to be converted to state charter schools and allows them to utilize local funds.
b) The OSD will result in the loss of local school facilities.
c) The schools within the OSD will be controlled by an OSD Superintendent chosen solely by the Governor, and responsible only to the Governor. While Senate approval of the appointment is necessary, this “czar” will have no accountability to local constituents or parents.
d) The OSD superintendent has sole discretion in choosing the schools to take into the OSD. Despite alluding to public input, local district consultation etc., the superintendent has unfettered, sole discretion in choosing the takeover schools.
3) If a school in OSD is converted to a charter school, the newly formed charter school can contract with a FOR PROFIT entity for management services.
4) The state determines the definition of “failing.” Under the implementing legislation, the Governor’s office will assign a grade of A-F to each school in the state based on the state accountability system; currently this is the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI). CCRPI was never intended to measure failure/success, but instead was created to measure growth.
5) The OSD gets to keep 3% of local funds to use for administration of the OSD. In other words, for the “privilege” of being pulled into the OSD, local districts will pay 3% of their dollars to the OSD, further robbing their students of much-needed resources.