Shadow School Superintendent, Shadow School District

Radio Commentary, WMVV 90.7, WMVW 91.7 New Life FM, March 27, 2015

By Sue Ella Deadwyler

 

In his state-of-the-state address in January, Governor Deal announced that he would create an Education Reform Commission to implement his “vision for k – 12 education … system driven by student need [to give] local school and district leaders [real control and flexibility].”  The 33 people he appointed to that commission will report back to him.

 

There’s more to the Governor’s statement than meets the eye.  To legalize that particular “vision for k – 12” the State Constitution must be amended.  So, the Governor had his Senate floor leader introduce S.R. 287 to add a new paragraph to the State Constitution, which allows the creation of a state-wide Opportunity School District.  If voters ratify that change in the 2016 General Election, the Governor would appoint a “shadow” school superintendent who could identify and take over, or close, or re-staff, or reconstitute, and manage and control 20 “failing” public schools, annually (up to a total of 100).  

 

That plan means the current constitutionally elected state school superintendent will lose authority over schools the appointed shadow superintendent selects and commandeers.  Rather than giving “local school and district leaders real control and flexibility,” the plan strips control from the state-wide elected-by-voters school superintendent and locally elected boards of education. Meaning, the Governor’s plan, drastically, weakens the power of voters and over-rides local control over education.  

 

S.B. 133 outlines the process for implementing a shadow school district controlled by an appointed school superintendent in Georgia.  Without a doubt, voters will ratify the constitutional change because the question for the 2016 General Election Ballot is worded to elicit a YES vote.  It asks: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”  Every voter will vote YES, but, practically, NOBODY will know the ramifications of its passage.

 

In a nutshell:  A Governor-appointed school superintendent will select and assume control over, re-staff, or reconstitute, or close 20 schools per year (up to 100); the school superintendent elected by voters last November will supervise the left-over schools; and voters lose what little control they have over the education of their children.  Will this top-down take-over of schools mean Georgians can expect their children to be taught to read?  For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.