Georgia voters to decide on failing schools takeover in 2016

The voters of Georgia will decide in November 2016 whether the state should be allowed to intervene in chronically failing schools.

The constitutional amendment and its enabling bill, proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal, would create an Opportunity School District with its own superintendent appointed by the governor that would allow the state to take over the schools, turn them into charter schools, or shut them down.

To qualify, a school would have to score below a 60 on the state's index for measuring student performance and growth for three years in a row.

Around 140 schools in the state would qualify, with nearly half in metro Atlanta.

Deal modeled the measure after similar school districts created in New Orleans and Memphis.

The constitutional amendment, which already passed the Senate, needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

It barely did in the House by a vote of 121-47, with mostly Democrats voting against it.

"There are no checks and balances in this amendment; there's not an elected school board in the state that has the power to respond," says House Minority Leader Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta).

But not all Democrats oppose the idea.  Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) says the state has to do something to address failing schools.

"We are simply sitting on the shore watching kids drown debating over whether we should throw them a line or buy them a boat," she says.

The enabling bill which spells out how the district would be created passed by a vote of 108-53.  Because changes were made in a House committee, it must still go back to the Senate to approve the changes.

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