Gov. Deal considers new plan to help failing schools

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Georgia Governor Nathan Deal's initiative to create an Opportunity School District may once again be back on the table this year despite Georgians voting against Amendment 1 in November. It would have allowed the state to take control of failing schools.

I spoke to Senator Lester Jackson on Tuesday who says Gov. Deal is working on a similar initiative to try to get passed during this upcoming session.

"With the opportunity school district, I think it's a measure that the vast majority of Georgians don't want," said Sen. Jackson.

Sen. Jackson says voters spoke loud and clear back in November when nearly 60 percent voted "no" for Amendment 1, which would have allowed the state of Georgia to take control over chronically failing schools. But Jackson says Gov. Deal isn't giving up.

"There's talk of a new version of opportunity school districts that won't go on the ballot but will be voted on by members of the general assembly," said Sen. Jackson.

The six schools in Chatham County that were on the state's failing list in 2015 also made the state's list for 2016 that was recently released: DeRenne Middle, Haven Elementary, Hodge Elementary, Mercer Middle, Myers Middle, and Otis Brock Elementary.  But Jackson says it's still unclear what the new initiative will look like but he hopes the results will be the same.

"We hope the vast majority of legislators will vote with their constituents," Sen. Jackson said.

Schools are also still worried about losing local control. In fact, the board of education asked local representatives, like Jackson, to make local control protection their number one priority this year because the school system is already working to help their chronically failing schools.

"We will continue to focus on improving student achievement. We'll continue to work to accelerate achievement," said Deputy Superintendent Ann Levett.

Sen. Jackson says he's anxious to see the new plans because he's anxious to protect SCCPSS, in addition to all of those who took a stance on the issue back in November.

"We need things in writing so that we can articulate ideas but more importantly that we can effectively debate the issue," said Sen. Jackson.

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