By unanimous vote, the Newton County Board of Education (BOE) adopted a resolution opposing Governor Nathan Deal’s proposed “Opportunity School District” at their June 21, 2016 combined work session/monthly meeting.
Newton BOE members expressed their firm belief that the authority to manage and control the operation of local public schools should continue to rest with locally-elected boards as dictated in the Georgia constitution. As noted in the school board’s resolution, the proposed constitutional amendment regarding the Opportunity School District (OSD), which will be included on statewide election ballots in November 2016, will result in or have the effect of limiting the authority or revenue generating potential of local school systems, if approved.
Newton BOE members warned that decisions regarding local community schools could be made by government-appointed officials with no ties to Newton County if the Opportunity School District is approved on the November ballot.
“You may have a board member that lives in the city of Savannah if this goes through,” warned Mrs. Shakila Henderson-Baker, BOE District 3 representative. “Someone who has never set foot in Newton County, someone who does not know the demographics or the makeup. You could have somebody in Valdosta, somebody that you cannot easily contact.”
School board chair and District 4 representative Almond Turner questioned how the state would have funds available to “fix” schools but doesn’t have the money to send to school systems now to provide the educational opportunities they say they can deliver to failing schools.
“Why not provide us with the necessary funds and equipment that we need, because if we’re not doing the things that we need to do here locally then they’re going to come in and they’re probably going to have additional moneys to try to improve things,” said Turner. “So my problem with this is, why doesn’t the state give local boards the finances to be able to do the things that they’re saying they can do?”
He added, “My second concern is, if they come in to your school district and take your school over, what if they’re not successful? What are they going to do then? There’s a number of things in my opinion that have not been thought out. I think there should have been a lot more input from local teachers and parents in the communities to try to come up with workable solutions to address these concerns.”
District 5 representative Abigail Coggin questioned the need to adopt the proposed constitutional amendment at all considering the fact that the Georgia Department of Education already has the ability and authority to step in and assist at-risk or failing schools.
“The State Department of Education already has the ability to do this same sort of thing,” Coggin explained. “This is just another way of government expanding, coming up with another program, spending funds—taxpayer money—to develop this program when they’ve already got a system in place that they just don’t use. From my understanding, the State Department of Education has the ability to do this right now, go in and help fix schools, but they’re not doing it.”
All five Newton BOE members signed the resolution, which is posted on the Newton County School System website, at www.newtoncountyschools.org.
Click here to read resolution.