Philip Lanoue, superintendent of the Clarke County public schools, wrote a strong column opposing Governor Nathan Deal’s plan to takeover “low-performing” schools. Deal wants to copy Tennessee’s faltering “Achievement School District,” which has shown no progress in the past four years. Why anyone would copy a failed model is puzzling.
Lanoue cites several reasons for opposing the state takeovers, the most fundamental being the elimination of local control of schools. He may not have known when he wrote this article that elimination of local control is
The Opportunity School District superintendent will have final decision-making authority over all aspects of the school, which would no longer be under the control of local superintendents and school boards. This is in direct contrast to current governance structures in public and charter schools, which require checks and balances through board governance models. In addition, the superintendent would have sole authority to select schools that qualify as “failing” schools. This does not align with the current movement to have more local control, as the selection of schools does not require any level of input by the State Board of Education, local boards of education, local school districts, governance entities or communities. The current budget for this program includes 3 percent administrative costs, and is concerning in this time when public education budgets are already suffering.
Here in Athens-Clarke County, a governance model based on democracy is a cornerstone of how we operate — as it is across the state. To take away democratic principles is monumental and allows Georgia communities to be stripped of their identities as having primary responsibility of educating their children. To impact schools and communities, we must take a collaborative and comprehensive approach to reform centered on the creation of dynamic learning environments strongly joined with quality early literacy; physical and mental health care; and positive and safe home and school environments. In a time where collaboration is the key to systemic change, simply changing governance as the key to reform has a greater result of creating divisions — not unity.
Educators, school boards and local school communities have the ultimate responsibility for providing engaging learning environments that ensure all students achieve. To change the Georgia Constitution to take away that responsibility will fragment communities across the state, and sets a very dangerous precedent for future decisions in educating all Georgia students.