Category Archives: Legislation

Plan B – Legislation For Chronically Failing Schools

There are over 100 schools across the state identified as chronically failing.  Governor Deal’s plan to address these chronically failing schools with the Opportunity School District (OSD) referendum was voted down by the public last November.
Plan B, otherwise known now as House Bill 338 (HB 338), is being billed as a collaborative effort with the Governor’s office, legislators from both parties, and various interest groups to address these schools.

SACS Kicked Out Of Georgia? – Part of this bill also includes creating a joint study committee to look into establishing a state accreditation process for public schools and school systems.
The committee will also consider the possible consequences of losing state accreditation that could be administered, such as removal of local board of education members.

Chief Turnaround Officer (CTO)
A Chief Turnaround Officer (CTO) would be appointed by the State Board and report directly to them. The CTO will recommend “Turnaround Coaches” to assist schools identified as in the greatest need of help with ongoing assistance and input.
Turnaround Coaches
Turnaround Coaches wil assist in creating local collaborations to address personal and community conditions, which shall include the needs, issues, and problems within the communities of such school or schools, such as poverty, lack of economic development, safety, transportation options for parents and students, adult educational opportunities, wellness, and mental health services and shall assist in identifying state and community resources that are available or that could be built upon, reallocated, or repurposed to address the issues impacting such school or schools.
Which Schools?
The Chief Turnaround Officer shall annually identify the low-performing schools that are in the greatest need of assistance based on the number of years such schools have received an unacceptable rating and any other factors deemed appropriate by the Chief Turnaround Officer. The number of schools identified annually shall be at the sole discretion of the Chief Turnaround Officer, based on the capacity and resources available to the Chief Turnaround Officer.
Plan C
If after two years of implementing the plan, the school is not improving, as determined by the Chief Turnaround Officer, the Chief Turnaround Officer shall require that one or more ofthe following interventions be implemented at the school, taking into consideration the ongoing cooperation and collaboration exhibited by the school:

  1. Give it some more time on the same plan
  2. Appoint a school master or management team to oversee and direct the duties of the principal of the school
  3. Removal of school house personnel
  4. Implementation of a state charter school
  5. Remove all personnel and reconstitute the school
  6. Mandatory parental option to relocate students to another public school in the school district
  7. Restructure the school’s governance arrangement
  8. Change governance of school to another school district
  9. Change governance of school to a private non profit entity
  10. Any other interventions or requirements deemed appropriate by the Chief Turnaround Officer and the State Board of Education for the school.

Removal of Local School Board
If One-half or more of the schools in a local school system have received an unacceptable rating, as defined by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA), for the fifth or more consecutive year, the State Board of Education will conduct a hearing and recommend to the Governor whether to suspend all eligible members of the local board of education.

Remove Central Office? – Note this bill currently allows for the CTO to remove the Board of Education and anybody in the school house. Apparently the central office is untouchable. While the Superintendent and senior administrators are most responsible for the performance of the schools and district, superintendents across the state wouldn’t let this bill pass if their jobs were on the line.
State Superintendent Richard Woods’ thougths? – The state legislature is working with everybody and their dog on this bill … except for the State Super and the GA DOE.
According to the AJC, Richard Woods is not taking a position on the bill yet. A spokesman said he will comment eventually, but needs time to review it. “He looks forward to working with the legislature and Gov. Deal on a bill that appropriately addresses improving under-performing schools,” the spokesman said.

Education Turns Into Social Services And Health Care

What do YOU believe is the role of school districts in providing health care and social services to families?

The Gwinnett Daily Post is reporting that with the failure of the Opportunity School District referendum, some state lawmakers expect the issue of how to improve failing schools to move toward providing more services, social and healthcare in particular, as an operational component of school districts.

Senator Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said one response to the proposed Opportunity School District being voted down in November is that the focus may shift from the academic nature of the issue, to reasons why children are sick, or have poor attendance.

Rep. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, suggested an audit for schools that have high poverty rates to identify the core issues.

“What are the problems, is attendance bad? Well, what’s causing that,” Coleman said. “Is it illnesses? Are they sick a lot? Is it the fact they’re not getting enough food? Let’s analyze, audit, what do you think is the root cause that your school is failing. … Well, what are you missing, and then analyze and try to provide those services. That’s the first step, is to provide those needs because let’s face it, (if) the child’s not in school, they’re late, if they’re not present, if they don’t feel good, you can’t start the learning. But if they come on time, they come fed, they come without a toothache, they come feeling good, then you can get about the learning.”
Unterman and Coleman each admitted that school leaders and those who work in education would push back at this notion because their main focus is education.

Stan Jester
DeKalb County
Board Of Education

The DeKalb Board of Education met with the county’s state legislators a few weeks ago. I asked them

1. Does the state believe that tax payers should provide health care and social services to families? If so, then who should do that and how is it funded?
2. What does the state believe is the role of school districts in providing health care and social services to families?

Many school districts across the state attribute poor academic performance to the effects of poverty and family dynamics. Numerous school districts have departments dedicated to “Wrap Around Services” that try to mitigate these effects by providing additional services to students and their family.

Wrap Around Services at DeKalb Schools
DeKalb Schools has created a Student Support and Intervention Division to provide “Wrap Around Services” and address the diverse needs of students and families. The current profile of “Wrap Around Services” available to support students and families in DeKalb Schools include School Counselors, School Social Workers and Homeless Liaisons, School Psychologists, School Nurses, Student Support Specialists, Post-Secondary Transition Specialists, Parent Liaisons, EL Success Facilitators and Check and Connect Mentors.

Furthermore, DeKalb Schools is
• Giving stipends and signing bonuses to attract and retain talented, motivated teachers
• Appropriating $1.9 million for literacy and mathematics initiatives
• Spending $750K for the 10 Horizon schools to partner with Discovery Education
• Spending $398K to partner with IIRP(International Institute for Restorative Practices) to reduce the number of suspensions

I couldn’t disagree more with Sen. Unterman and Rep. Coleman in their assertion that school leaders will “push back” on the notion of adding services via the school district so long as the funding is provided. Mr. Unterman and Mr. Coleman need to refer to the Rules of Bureaucracy.

Rule #1: Maintain the problem at all costs! The problem is the basis of power, perks, privileges, and security.
Rule #2: Use crisis, and perceived crisis, to increase your power and control.
Bureaucracies are famous for their mission creep. Their incentive is always to address inputs and never results. As Thomas Sowell reminds us, “You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”

School districts that are already large and highly bureaucratic will be quite welcoming to enlarging their reach and responsibility. It makes them more powerful. The state has no enforcement mechanisms of any consequence. Giving the same people more money to do more things without any meaningful accountability measures means that your taxes are just going to purchase more failure.

What are your thoughts?