Georgia voters soundly defeat school takeover proposal

Source: Mark Rice, Ledger-Enquirer, November 9, 2016

The governor and more than two-thirds of the legislators supported the proposal, enabling it to be on the ballot, but Georgia’s voters soundly defeated Tuesday’s referendum that would have empowered the state to take over chronically failing schools or convert them to charters or even close them. With all 159 counties reporting, Amendment 1 failed 60 percent (2,400,312 votes) to 40 percent (1,599,649 votes) statewide, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. Locally, however, the majority of voters in Muscogee and Chattahoochee counties favored the proposal while the majority of voters in Harris County rejected it. … If voters approved Amendment 1, the state would have created an Opportunity School District, which Gov. Nathan Deal proposed based on similar initiatives in Louisiana and Tennessee. The proposal would have allowed Georgia’s governor to appoint an OSD superintendent, separate from the Georgia Department of Education superintendent, who is elected by voters. The OSD superintendent could have taken over as many as 20 eligible schools each year and could have controlled no more than 100 such schools at any time. The OSD superintendent could have waived Georgia Board of Education rules, reorganized or fired staff and changed school budgets and curriculum. The state also could have converted OSD schools to nonprofit or for-profit charter schools or closed them if they didn’t have full enrollment. …

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What’s at stake in Atlanta’s experiment in outsourcing public schools
Source: Molly Bloom, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 27, 2016

If everything goes as planned, the reopening of Thomasville Heights Elementary School this week will be the start of the most ambitious outsourcing of public education in Georgia. This winter, after calling out Thomasville as one of the worst schools in the state, Atlanta school Superintendent Meria Carstarphen hired Purpose Built Schools to run the school. Purpose Built is a nonprofit affiliated with Drew Charter School, a well-regarded east Atlanta charter school. … It’s also an attempt to avoid the state potentially taking over Thomasville. If voters approve Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District plan this fall, the state could take over low-performing schools like Thomasville and close them, turn them over to charter school groups or run them itself. Carstarphen has said showing the state she’s making dramatic changes could help shield the school from takeover. Her plan is for Purpose Built to run a cluster of three schools in south Atlanta feeding into Carver High School, and eventually Carver itself. …

APS test about to begin: Can new team transform struggling school?
Source: Molly Bloom, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 25, 2016

By 2018, as many as 2,000 Atlanta students could attend public schools managed by Purpose Built. Another nonprofit, Kindezi, will manage a fifth school. The schools aren’t technically charter schools — Carstarphen has pledged they’ll accept all students in their attendance zones — but they’ll have much of the same flexibility in how they operate. … Most of the Thomasville’s new staff are veteran teachers from Atlanta, nearby districts or charter schools, including Drew. They include some of Thomasville’s old staff who won their jobs back. … Thomasville’s new model will borrow extensively from Drew Charter School, which opened 16 years ago in a former Atlanta Public Schools elementary school. Today, the state rates Drew’s elementary school higher than nearly 80 percent of schools in Georgia. Like Drew, Thomasville will focus on teaching through class projects. Students will get extra help through reading and math tutoring. And after-school programs followed by dinner will keep kids at school until at least 6 p.m. …