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‘Plan B’ for failing schools under consideration

New legislation addresses issues in previous attempt

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ATLANTA – Gov. Nathan Deal’s anxiously awaited “Plan B” to fix low performing schools was unveiled last week in the Georgia Legislature with a more realistic vision of raising achievement levels for thousands of students.
House Bill 338 was dropped into the hopper last week by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) as the alternative version of the Opportunity School District which passed last session. That plan was soundly rejected by Georgia voters in November who saw it as an overreach of the state into local school governance.
The revised plan – HB338 – still focuses primarily on improving achievement in the state’s lowest performers, but removes the firm control from the governor’s office.
Under the new proposal, a Chief Turnaround Officer (CTO), with a mandatory education background, will be appointed by the state Board of Education to direct intervention efforts.
State education groups gave cautious approval to HB338, noting it addressed many of the concerns raised in the Opportunity School District plan.
“[We thank] Rep. Kevin Tanner for understanding that disagreeing on how [the state does] something is not the same thing as opposing doing something,” said Angela Palm, legislative director of the GSBA. “It has been a friendly, collaborative effort and we look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Tanner and others as the bill moves forward.”
The Professional Association of Georgia Educators also weighed in with support, noting in a statement they were “pleased to see the bill's provision for a more robust root cause analysis of why schools are struggling, including community factors.”
PAGE was, however, concerned the Chief Turnaround Officer answered solely to the appointed State School Board instead of the elected State Superintendent of Schools.
The new plan is also a stark departure from the Opportunity School District which envisioned a completely separate school district composed of the low performers. Under HB338, intervention and direction would be, at least for two years, within the existing school district.
Exactly which schools would be eligible for intervention would be up to the turnaround officer. But it would likely include those schools which score below 60 on the state’s 100-point College and Career Readiness Performance Index – the annual evaluation tool for all public schools.
Under this measure, nearly 130 schools would currently be eligible for intervention, including 10 in the Fulton County School System.
Other provisions of HB338 include:
•The CTO will appoint coaches to assist schools in their intervention efforts, who will collaborate with districts to address specific issues impacting student achievement.
•Charter systems (which include the Fulton School System) can amend its flexibility contracts to agree to receive assistance from the state for schools identified as requiring intervention.
•Local boards that have no flexibility contract can sign an intervention contract to agree to receive assistance. If intervention is rejected, the State Board of Education can implement any of the interventions available in current law.
•Within 90 days of entering into the contract, a comprehensive evaluation of the school will be conducted, with recommendations to help develop an intensive school improvement plan.
•After two years, if the school is not improving, there are up to 10 interventions available. Those range from continuing the implementation of the plan, takeover by a non-profit entity or another school system, or a complete change in leadership and staff.

A sampling of education bills currently under review by the Georgia General Assembly

-HR 58 amends the Constitution to allow the creation of new city school systems.  The law currently limits school systems to counties (unless grandfathered in).
-HB 9 makes it unlawful to "upskirt" a person if they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Currently it is not illegal in Georgia to photograph up someone's dress in an open area.  This bill would apply to those 16 and over.
-HB 32 would make it a sexual assualt if an employee or non-student official of a school engages in sexual contact with a person known, or should have been known, to be a student at the school
-HB 77 requires the Georgia Department of Education to provide a list of training materials for awareness in mental health, behavioral disabilities and learning disabilities to school systems.
-HB 90 makes it illegal for a member of a school board to participate in a discussion or vote on the purchase of real estate if there is a vested interest in the sale.
-HB 114 prohibits any school system receiving QBE funds from excluding students enrolled in oneor more dual enrollment courses from being eligible to be named valedictorian or salutatorian.
-HB 178 establishes funding for counselors for students of military families at a rate of one counselor per 200 students.  A minimum of 50% of the counselor's time would be spent counseling or advising military students or their parents.
-HB 194 requires zoning standards to include consideration of the effect of the proposed zoning actionon the school district and the potential overcrowding of schools.
-HB 198 requires education on meningitis to also require education on influenza.
-HB 200 would allow students to carry and self-administer sunscreen.
-HB 211 crreates a new income tax credit for purchasing and occupying a home in the attendance zone of an elementary school ranked in the lowest performing five percent of scools in the state.
-HB 217 increases the income tax credits allowed for donations to student scholarship organizations from the currrent $58 million maximum to $180 million.
-HB 224 allows students of military families to attend any public school in the district in which they live with the parents responsible for transportation.
-SB 3 the "Creating Opportunities Needed Now to Expand Credentialed Training (CONNECT) Act focuses on work-based learning and industry certication for students.
-SB 68 establishes a new voucher in the form of a "savings account" voucher that parents can use for private school, curriculum materials, postsecondary instruction, etc.
-SR 95/SB 76 attempt to change the Constitutional language about splitting SPLOST proceeds between a city and county school district.  If the districts cannot agree to call for a SPLOST, the district(s) with the majority of the students can move forward with the referendum.
-SR 105 allows public funding to flow to religious organizations (requires Constitutional amendment).

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