How Nathan Deal’s bid to rescue failing schools would work

You can find the broader outline of Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to give the state new oversight in failing schools and the political challenges he faces over at ajc.com. And here’s your list of the 141 schools that would be eligible for state takeover – a list that includes more than 60 schools in metro Atlanta.

Below, we delve into the more technical aspects of how Deal’s signature legislative proposal would work.

A kindergarten student's first day in a new classroom.

The 10-page enabling legislation, which you can read here, creates an Opportunity School District which would pick up 20 failing schools each year. The overall number would be capped at 100 and the program would start in the 2017 school year.

Schools that score below a 60 on the state’s College and Career Performance Index three years running would be eligible for the program, but “other considerations” such as community engagement and feedback from the families of students would also factor into the decision.

Once the decision to intervene is made, the superintendent of the new district, who would report to the governor, can choose between four options:

  • Direct state management of the school
  • Shared governance with a local school board
  • Conversion to a charter school
  • Closure of the school

The opportunity school district’s superintendent would pick the school leadership team. And each opportunity school would have a nonprofit board to oversee its governance, though it’s unclear who would tap the members.

The funding of the program, which would start in the 2017 school year, would come from several streams of revenue. Each school would still receive their regular allotment of state grants, funding from the state’s education formula and federal dollars.

Opportunity schools would receive a “proportional share” of state grants and local funding determined by the new district based on the number of students enrolled. And the General Assembly would be allowed, at the governor’s urging, to set aside additional money for the special school district. Private donations would also be readily accepted.

To pay for the administrative side of the new school district, its superintendent would be allowed to withhold up to 3 percent of a school’s funding.

Under the proposal, the state school district would pick up the tab for routine maintenance and repairs. Local boards of educations would pay for more extensive repairs and any capital construction projects.

An opportunity school would purchase services from the state district, a local board of education or another provider for routine student support and operations. Local schools boards would be required to “cooperate fully” with the districts and make the services available at a reasonable cost.

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