Opportunity School Districts on November Ballot

Participants in a recent panel in Cobb County, GA on Education Reform gave their views on the Opportunity School District Proposal, which will go before voters in November. The referendum would allow the state to intervene in schools that are deemed failing for three years in a row by Georgia Department of Education standards. A number of the failing schools could then be closed and temporarily run by a newly created state district, or they could be converted into a state charter school. They could also be jointly run by local boards of education and the state. Georgia State Rep. Stacey Evans says the ballot measure is already having a positive effect. “You’ve seen several districts where they have schools that are on the list make that hard change,” said Evans “because this legislation, they feel that it’s coming. That is a threat, a stick, or whatever you want to call it that didn’t exist before.” Georgia State Rep. Erica Thomas says there needs to be laser focus and immediate action taken to improve failing schools: “I don’t think it’s perfect legislation,” said Rep. Thomas. “But what I will say is that if it can help these schools go up one point or even two points, then we’ve done something. I think that’s better than just waiting four or five years for a school board to act.” Petross agrees some school districts have made improvements as a result of the proposal. However, he believes the constitutional referendum will lead to more bureaucracy. “If the governor can find a politician who’s good enough to fix all the broken schools, why don’t we take that person and give them all of Atlanta, give them all of Savannah, give them all of the big districts that are problem.” Currently, no Cobb County schools are on the list of potential schools that could become part of the Opportunity School District if the plan is approved by voters.

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