A year and a half ago, Better Georgia and a coalition of teachers, parents and advocates fought hard to stop Gov. Nathan Deal from taking local control away from our public schools and handing them over to his handpicked, unelected education czar.
Thanks to a lot of hard work by the coalition, voters overwhelmingly rejected Deal’s school takeover measure at the polls in 2016, marking a huge win for pro-public education Georgians.
But instead of listening to what Georgians actually want, Deal decided to slither around voters last year. He underhandedly implemented the policy through legislation called The First Priority Act. The First Priority Act allows the “education czar” to take schools away from school district control if they haven’t improved three years after being identified as low performing.
Chief Turnaround Officer Eric Thomas, the so-called education czar, chose his first round of schools back in December. Although he said he was “invited,” he was met with protesters.
Thomas is now about to pick his second round of schools for eventual takeover. Since nearly half of the 104 schools whose performance was rated low enough for Thomas to come in are in metro Atlanta, it’s likely that’s where he’s headed next.
“The data told us, you’ve got to look at Atlanta metro. The data told us something in sort of the Augusta area, and also in sort of southeast Georgia,” said Thomas, who was hired in November to fill the post. “That’s where we’re going to be looking sometime this spring for the next set of schools and districts.”
The trouble is, all of the data shows that schools with high rates of poverty are more likely to score a D or F from the Governor’s Office of School Achievement. We know these schools are struggling to provide for the basic needs of their students, yet instead of helping them, the state is determined to siphon off their resources, give them a failing grade, and take them away from their school districts.
We still don’t know who will benefit from school takeover, but it is certainly not the students.