When schools struggle academically, is the state obligated to intervene? If so, to what degree? Georgia's House Education Committee wrestled with those questions Thursday during a hearing for a bill that targets low-performing schools.
The bill is considered a replacement for the governor's school takeover plan, which was defeated by referendum in November.
Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, is the bill's lead sponsor. He said instead of taking over schools, the legislation creates a position, called a Chief Turnaround Officer, who would help schools develop improvement plans.
"In this legislation, this Chief Turnaround Officer would be hired by the state board of education, and they would work for the state board of education,” Tanner told the committee.
That feature wasn't so popular with some critics, who said the CTO should report to the state superintendent instead. Richard Woods, the current state superintendent, said otherwise there would be plenty of confusion within Georgia’s Department of Education.
"A dual executive leadership structure will indirectly create a lack of departmental leadership continuity, operational issues, fragmented staff, resources, and work priorities, and unnecessary work silos,” he said.
Other concerns: the bill doesn't identify a funding source, and it doesn't say how low-performing schools would be identified.
However, most seemed to agree on one part of the bill: it requires the state to address root causes of low performance, like poverty and a lack of resources. Even so, some called on Tanner to outline more specific solutions. Georgia Association of Educators President Sid Chapman made some recommendations.
“[These] factors include but are not limited to: access to high quality early childhood and Pre-K education, collaborative and stable school leadership; wrap around support services in mental and physical health for students and families; and restorative practices in student-centered learning environments,” he said.
Tanner said he’s open to working with advocates and lawmakers to revise parts of the bill.
The committee is expected to vote on the legislation next week.