A little over a year since Deal’s school takeover bill went into effect, more schools are pushing back against being labeled for takeover.
The so-called, state-mandated school “turnaround” program was pushed through the Georgia General Assembly by Gov. Deal after teachers, parents and voters in general overwhelmingly voted against it in November 2016.
Deal refused to accept Georgia’s answer and created the First Priority Act which created the position of the “Chief Turnaround Officer” or “education czar,” and allowed schools labeled chronically failing to be taken over by the state.
Deal made sure that he would have full control of the Chief Turnaround Officer by putting the position directly under the state board, the members of which are appointed by the governor. Although the state Superintendent was already working with struggling school districts, Deal gave the Chief Turnaround Officer position more power, control and nearly twice as much pay as the Superintendent.
Given Deal’s blatant disregard for what Georgians want and his obvious desire to remove school districts from local control, it isn’t surprising that so many school districts are pushing back against the school takeover.
The Macon County School System is the most recent of several school systems to decline school takeover. The Macon County superintendent even went to a state board meeting to publicly ask why his school was identified, while refusing to participate. After the meeting, Macon school board member Gail Spikes said that she felt the data used to include Macon Elementary on the list of failing schools was cherry-picked and unfair.
Many of the superintendents with schools on the list have already implemented improvement plans of their own with the help of teachers, administrators, parents and community members. They argue that they should be given the time to see if their changes worked without the unwanted “help” of the Chief Turnaround Officer and Deal and his cronies.
The Macon County superintendent even mentioned collaborating on his district’s plan with Richard Woods, the State Superintendent, and said that being forced to change the plan at the behest of the Chief Turnaround Officer would be a waste of taxpayer money.
Chief Turnaround Officer Eric Thomas has said that schools don’t have to participate in his program once identified. However, if schools choose not to comply they can be forced by the state school board to pay for costly mandates, which takes money away from schools that desperately need it. How is that supposed to help these schools improve?