by Georgia Charter Schools Association
By Scarlet Hawk
Governor Deal announced last Wednesday that he would like the General Assembly to consider the creation of a New Orleans-style Recovery School District in Georgia. As he was campaigning recently with Governor Bobby Jindal, Governor Deal inferred that Georgia has much to learn from the successes in New Orleans and expressed that Georgia schools face similar challenges. Greg Bluestein covered it last week. Peach Pundit’s Eric the Younger covered it this week.
It is unclear at the moment what parts of the program in Louisiana Governor Deal would like to adopt and how he plans to implement it.
In 2003, the state of Louisiana passed a Constitutional Amendment that allowed the creation of a state-run charter school district called a Recovery School District. Following the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, the policy began to be more effectively explored as New Orleans’ lowest performing schools were converted from regular, local school board district-led schools to charter schools. Since then, the schools have exceeded expectations and the problem that will shortly face Louisiana is what to do when your lowest-performing schools become your highest-performing ones? Do they become “regular” schools again or do they remain charters? Either way, it seems like a great problem to have.
Yet many of Georgia’s failing schools exist in more rural locales, not an urban setting like New Orleans. The technology and lack of robust tax digest in less densely populated areas of the state will present a challenge. I particularly wonder about districts like Taliaferro County, where its population and tax digest are dwindling. I volunteer my time in that community every summer and wrote a few months ago about how Deal’s plan to have all school districts go online offer courses online may be a challenge in areas like that. One of the other aspects to consider is that in New Orleans, the Recovery School District has a board that is state-run; it does not have the local control most charter schools in Georgia enjoy. Whether Deal intends to mimic this aspect of the program in the Big Easy remains to be seen, yet a question that should be posed.
This type of statewide school district could be a fantastic alternative to having the Governor step into Board of Education challenges around the state. Please see also Clayton and DeKalb. The Governor has supported charter schools from the beginning, and this may be just the innovative solution Georgia needs.
Whatever the Governor’s vision may be, it will be a few years before coming to fruition. While the Governor has already hinted that he will take up QBE funding in the 2015 session, there has also been discussion of finally extending insurance coverage for autistic children AND passing the bill regarding medicinal cannabis oil to treat medically fragile children that the General Assembly missed out on in the last session. Oh, and there’s that little issue of transportation…. Maybe the General Assembly can get it together quickly, but my guess is this will be passed over to the 2016 session and is being used as political talking points in an otherwise heated race to the house on West Paces. A constitutional amendment in what already will be a slammed legislative session in 2015 seems very ambitious for a General Assembly and Governor that have stymied only the most minor or even virtually ineffective legislation in decades. Please see also: Georgia’s last attempt at ethics reform that consequently dropped the title of “ethics” from the government agency’s name that pretends to uphold it.
We shall see.
What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in New Orleans, goes home with you. (Laurell K. Hamilton)