March 23, 2015
Today, March 23, 2015, the House Education Committee voted out of committee the Governor’s Constitutional amendment SR 287 and the enabling legislation SB 133 to take over local schools that are considered “chronically failing schools.”
A constitutional amendment to “authorize the state to assume the supervision, management, and operation of public elementary and secondary schools which have been determined to be failing through any governance model allowed by law.” That authorization would include “the power to receive, control, and expend state, federal, and local funds appropriated…in accordance with general law.”
The information below was sent to us and is from the Georgia School Board Association (GSBA) about these bills.
You should be aware of this information as it can affect how local schools will be controlled.
POINTS TO CONSIDER:
The language being placed in the Constitution is very broad particularly since the state determines all aspects of this process — the accountability system, definition of failing — and can change any of the operational details through general law.
The cap on the size of the OSD is not in the Constitutional amendment so could be changed at any time.
The state is once again turning to a funding model that takes local dollars for state schools and this time they take the facility too. If the school taken over becomes a state charter, the facility and local funding remains with the school forever.
Below are some of the provisions with line numbers to SB 133, if you’d like to check it. The word “transfer” is used in the bill rather than “take over.”
Who runs it?
The Opportunity School District (OSD) Superintendent would be appointed by the Governor, confirmed by the Senate, and serve solely at the Governor’s discretion. The Superintendent:
- sets the rules for the operation of the OSD (line 49)
- has sole discretion in which schools are “transferred” (line 62)
- has sole discretion in the timing and sequencing of transferring the schools (line 64)
- determines which intervention model to use (line 75 and lines 106-7)
- can close and reassign students (line 116)
- is authorized to waive most State Board rules, regulations, policies, and procedures (line 77)
- supersedes any charter, charter system, or IE2 contract in place (line 96)
- decide whether any personnel previously assigned to the school remain, if not the local board must decide what to do and follow the Fair Dismissal requirements (lines 157, 161-166)
- shall select, approve, or remove the school principal for the OSD schools and governing board members for OSD charter schools (lines 175-177, line 189, line 200)
- determines each student’s proportional share of local revenue that will then be deducted from the state earnings of the local school district (lines 303 – 305, 315-317)
Since the OSD Superintendent has no board, there are no public meetings where decisions would be discussed or made in the open as is the case with the local district, the State Board of Education and State Superintendent, and State Charter Schools Commission.
There is no appeal process for parents, taxpayers, or the elected local board.
What goes besides the students?
Facilities of the schools taken are under the control of the OSD (line 235).
- All contents of the facility must remain with the facility. (line 239)
- If the OSD Superintendent closes the local school, the local board is not allowed to open a school with the same grade span or attendance zone for three years. (lines 242-244)
- OSD is responsible for routine maintenance but the local board is responsible for extensive repairs and capital expenses (lines 245-252).
- If the OSD school becomes a state charter, the local board is required to continue all facility use and service agreements for as long as the school wants even after the state charter is no longer part of the OSD (lines 219-222).
There is no requirement that the OSD get the local board’s permission before making structural changes to the building.
If the local board needed another facility, taxpayers would have to pay for more land and another building since they would be unable to use their own.
How is this funded?
As noted above, funding of the schools in the OSD includes a “proportional share of local revenue” which is determined by the OSD Superintendent. That amount is then subtracted from the local district’s QBE earnings (or whatever it’s called by then). State and federal funding, of course, goes with the students.
- The Superintendent can hold a school in the OSD for 5-10 years (lines 257-266).
- Within 3-6 years though, there are unlikely to be any students left for whom the local board was ever directly responsible given the usual school configurations of K-5, 6-8, and 9-12.
If the Superintendent chooses the state charter as the intervention model for the school (line 112), that school continues to get local funding forever (lines 318-320). The Constitutional amendment also contains this provision (lines 15-17).
The OSD can withhold up to 3% of all the funding as an administrative fee, just as the State Charter Commission is funded. (line 306)
What is the role of the local board?
Other than serving as a revenue source and doing what the OSD Superintendent says, the local board has little to do with the school(s) taken. It is not clear whether the “agreements” are actually negotiated or whether the terms are simply dictated.
- The OSD Superintendent must conference with the principal, local board, and local superintendent to share his evaluation findings to discuss options for remediation before taking a school over (lines 66-71).
- One of the intervention models is shared governance in which the OSD Superintendent and local board enter into a contract for the board to operate the school and the OSD Superintendent to make the decisions. (lines 109-111) There is also a required agreement for specific goals for higher academic outcomes for students, quality careers for graduates, safe and positive learning environments for children, parents, and community engagement, and the efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars (lines 192-196).
- The OSD school may purchase services from the OSD, the local board, or an educational service provider for routine student support and operational services.
- The local board is required to cooperate fully with the school to make available at a reasonable cost all appropriate services requested including, but not limited to, transportation, cafeteria services, custodial services, alternative education, broadband, utilities, special education services, test administration services, and student information services. (lines 144-149)
- If the OSD school did not become a state charter, the OSD Superintendent is to engage the school, the school community, and the local board in a negotiation to determine the best transition plan for the school to leave the OSD (lines 267-269).
- If an OSD state charter does not want to remain under the State Charter Commission, the OSD shall coordinate the development of a transition plan back to the local board which may include approval by the local board of the school as a local charter. (lines 275-277)
- The local board is responsible for all data reporting under the shared governance model. (line 288)
- If a school qualified for take over but was not taken, the Department of Education can do an on-site evaluation that includes the local board chair. (330-333)
- If a local board fails to implement interventions prescribed by the State Board of Education or the Office of Student Achievement, the school system will earn only funds for nurses, accountants, visiting teachers, school psychologists, and secretaries.
This bill should come up for a vote soon as it was voted out of committee today. Contact Rep. Susan Holmes firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know your feelings on this matter.