State has power to take over failing schools, according to recent legislation

Published 7:35 pm Friday, March 6, 2015

Thursday, the Georgia Senate approved two pieces of legislation that would potentially give the governor’s office the authority to take over failing schools.
Senate Bill 133 and Senate Resolution 287 detail Gov. Nathan Deal’s vision of an “Opportunity School District” that would have the ability to take over continuously failing schools. The state would then have total control over the schools on everything from curriculum to faculty and the school’s budget.
“There is some concern about a piece of legislation taking property away from local boards of education,” said Decatur County School System Superintendent Dr. Fred Rayfield. “I think a lot of people see it as an overreach by the state government.”
Rayfield said that Decatur County does not have any schools that would be eligible for takeover, and the system does not plan to have any in that category.
Several opponents of the legislation, including the Georgia School Boards Association, cite current measures the state can currently take to assist failing schools but have never used.
“Maybe they’ve been successful at getting schools off the takeover list or leadership has said, ‘We’re not in the school takeover business,’” Rayfield said. “It takes a lot of money, and if they can’t push that bill to local boards, who’s going to pay it?”
SR 287 proposes amending the Georgia Constitution and requires two-thirds majority vote in each chamber.
“I think even though the Senate approved the legislation Thursday, we got word just this morning that the language will likely change going through the House,” Rayfield said.
“We don’t disagree that there are situations that need intervention to get things back on track,” Rayfield said. “Thank goodness we don’t have that need here.”

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