Local leaders discuss problems with proposed Opportunity School District at parent forum

Opportunity School District would be created by an amendment to the Georgia Constitution. At a parent forum Monday night, local leaders laid out the many problems they have with the proposal.
Opportunity School District would be created by an amendment to the Georgia Constitution. At a parent forum Monday night, local leaders laid out the many problems they have with the proposal.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)- The Opportunity School District would be created by an amendment to the Georgia Constitution. At a parent forum Monday night, local leaders laid out the many problems they have with the proposal.

On ballots November 8th, you’ll have the chance to vote to amend the Georgia Constitution with Amendment #1, which the ballot says “provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.” It will then ask you, “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

If it passed, a superintendent appointed by Gov. Deal would have the power to control the fates of schools that have received an F from the state for three years in a row. Richmond County has 19 of those schools.

“We started really looking at these children in the schools…and ask ourselves what’s happening to our children in the schools that seem to struggle the most?” said Richmond County’s School Superintendent Angela Pringle.

She says the problem isn’t our local schools, since most pass the test, but poverty.

“The number one challenge we saw was mobility,” she said. “”We cannot get away from the fact that we have a lot of families in our community who live in extreme poverty.”

She says at  low-scoring Jenkins-White Elementary, 47 percent of the students move every year, compared to just 7 percent at Lake Forest Hills. She also says there are 283 homeless students in the county, implying that it’s not the education system that needs improvement– it’s the poverty level, since the failing schools tend to fall within the same poor areas.

State Senator Harold Jones also says the system isn’t doing as poorly as the Amendment suggests.  He says 80 of the 127 failing schools are elementary schools.

“So as they go through the system, they are actually getting to be better,” he said.

School board member Jack Padgett Jr. says local leaders know more about fixing local problems than Atlanta does.

“It gives them total power to do anything they want to,” he said. “That’s not what the ballot will say. It just says a few words they take over and help to improve failing schools.”

Amendment #1 would not affect the amount you pay in tax dollars– just who spends them

“What we normally would be paying to run that school,” Padgett said.  “Except they would have total control over the school.”

The Tea Party, NAACP, Georgia PTA, Richmond County Board of Education and the Georgia Association of Educators have all come out against Amendment #1.

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