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I’m highly insulted that anyone would suggest that I don’t have high academic expectations of my students. I’m personally insulted by that! I do everything I can for my students.” 26 | KNOW • Volume 14 Issue 2 With Georgia’s education budget still trying to recover from many years of significant austerity cuts, the existing three (3) school systems are barely being funded. Nevertheless, the constitutional amendment would give the OSD the authority “to receive, control, and expand state, federal, and local funds appropriated.” Additionally, the OSD would have the ability to determine if and how much additional funds per student a school needed and could divert resources from other schools in the system to meet the determined need. Albeit a noble endeavor for one particular school, other schools in the district suffer from having funds diverted to the OSD school. To another degree, the OSD may withhold up to three percent of the school’s funding to cover administrative costs. OSD schools would be managed by Education Management Corporations (EMCs). These for-profit organizations have been a point of contention in many education debates. Some question whether or not EMCs have the academic success of students at heart or if there is not a more political motivation behind their efforts. “Follow the money,” urges GAE General Counsel Mike McGonigle. “OSD skims public money off the top and gives it to private education management corporations. These EMCs also make political campaign contributions to legislative supporters of OSD and other privatization efforts.” Lisa’s school could be under OSD control for up to ten years. During the OSD “occupation,” there is no guarantee that the EMC managing her school would keep her on to teach her kindergarteners and first grade students. Existing administrators would be automatically replaced. Furthermore, teachers run the risk of being substituted by non-certified personnel from organizations such as Teach for America. In particular, Teach for America often recruits and employs young college graduates from all over the country who may or may not have studied education in undergraduate school as a primary discipline. Whereas Lisa and her current colleagues at Midway Elementary are committed and invested in their local community school, the vast majority of their potential replacements return to their home states where they may or may not continue teaching. Famed author and former educator David Greene said about Teach for America, “They are in the business of creating policy and not creating career teachers.” Such was the case in Louisiana, the state whose post-hurricane Katrina Recovery School District, which the OSD is modeled after. “Practically every important policy maker in Louisiana State Education and the city of New Orleans is a former Teach for America corps member.” THE BAIL OF GOODS/THE BROKEN PROMISE To say OSD is modeled after a less-than-perfect system would be a gross understatement. In over a decade since the Recovery School District (RSD) was implemented by the Louisiana legislature, the students appear to be in an even worse predicament than before the natural disaster ravaged New Orleans of much of its resources. Furthermore, in the wake of RSD, schools that were taken over by the state recovery system have been either converted to charter schools or closed altogether. Dr. Kristen Buras, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at Georgia State University, noted that “...New Orleans is the nation’s first all-charter school district. Charter advocates describe the district’s achievements as nothing short of a miracle. The truth is quite different: Flooding New Orleans with charter schools has been disastrous.” Dr. Buras has conducted extensive research on RSD for both professional and personal reasons. The academician grew up in New Orleans and has had a keen interest in education reform in her home town. Her research illuminated some astounding facts: “...the performance of charter schools in the Recovery School District is dismal. In 2011, the state began issuing letter grades. All of the state-run Recovery School District schools received a “D” or “F” and 79 percent of charter schools in the district received a “D” or “F.” In 2014, RSD-New Orleans is still performing below the vast majority of the state’s other districts at the fourth and eighth grades in subjects tested by the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, including English language arts, math, and science...” The instituting of RSD in New Orleans can also be considered suspicious. Act 35, the legislation which redefined “failing” schools by increasing the threshold of an unsatisfactory score from 60 to 87.4, was enacted during a special session. The plans for RSD and the amendment of the state’s constitution took place at a home of a legislator whose purview was limited to his/her own limited exposure to pre and post-Katrina schools. Pitted as a noble gesture to help improve public schools, the enactment of the RSD has only further hindered learning for already disadvantaged students, ostracized local communities, and disenfranchised veteran educators - all ultimately at the expense of students. Dr. Buras interviewed one veteran New Orleans teacher who said, “It’s all about the dollars. Our rights as teachers have been trampled upon. Reformers say they are revamping the schools. They get rid of everyone, and they rehire whoever they want. In many cases, they replace veteran teachers with first, second, and third year teachers.” COMMODITIZATION OF EDUCATION Georgia’s proposed OSD legislation is indicative of being just as egregious as RSD. While policy makers, having a rudimentary theoretical understanding of the education profession, helped to derive the basis of the Governor’s proposal, educators in the alleged failing community schools had little input. Thusly, the idea that teachers are the cause of poor student performance is easily implied. The only way you’re going to solve my student’s problems is to come to my school - talk to me. Go to each of these schools - talk to the principals. If I never hear ‘failing schools’ again, I will be thrilled.


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