Georgia Chamber of Commerce President: There Are No Easy Choices in Fixing Failing Schools
Friday, October 28th, 2016
The business community understands that education and job creation are the most effective solutions to improve economic mobility and success. If Georgia can better educate its students, our state will see more jobs created locally and more companies choosing to locate here. These new jobs will do more to improve economic opportunity than any public or private sector solution. If the goal is for the economically disadvantaged to start the journey towards a successful career, the foundation begins with education and requires real leadership.
On Nov. 8, voters across Georgia will have the chance to demonstrate that our state residents are serious about leadership by voting yes on Amendment 1 and approving the Opportunity School District (OSD) amendment.
If you've worked in a business of any size, you know there is a constant need to measure performance. You look at your balance sheets to see which portions of the business are succeeding and which ones are failing. You focus efforts on fixing what is not working and you strategically improve your operations. In situations where the solutions are not easy, real leaders step forward and make tough decisions. For most schools in the state, that's exactly what they do. Most schools have strong leaders who set goals and take creative actions when their goals are not achieved. In the case of public education, the goals are definitive and simple: provide every child in Georgia with the opportunity to succeed.
Unfortunately, there are schools in this state that are consistently low-performing and though bureaucrats might ignore the problems we know that teachers, parents and students are desperate to try something different. That's where the OSD comes in. Much like a business bringing in a management consultant, the OSD would allow schools to bring in a team of experts to improve the lowest performing schools in Georgia, currently the bottom six percent. These are the schools that have been failing for at least three consecutive years and in many cases have been chronically failing for decades. Leaders would have various options to improve the schools, ranging from changing the management to restructuring. Yes, this could be dramatic and different and a major shift in education. But if we're serious about ensuring a quality education for every child, it's a step that is absolutely necessary.
Gov. Nathan Deal has proven to residents across the state that he is serious about ending the cycle of poverty plaguing our state's most vulnerable communities. He has already demonstrated it through his work on criminal justice reform, which is nationally recognized as the gold standard. Governor Deal has shown that his legacy will be that Georgia is a state that is open for business. I trust Governor Deal, the son and husband of public school educators, to demonstrate that same level of leadership through the Opportunity School District.
As you cast your ballot this year, I don't want you to think about your local school, which is likely already doing all the right things to help kids in your community succeed. I encourage you to think about those kids who are seniors in high school, who are now attending a failing school for the 13th year in a row. In many cases, these children were born into economic disadvantages and they have never been in an education environment that places them on a path to success. In a state as prosperous and vibrant as Georgia, we can't sit on the sidelines and allow this cycle of poverty to continue. If you believe like I do, that all Georgia students deserve an opportunity to succeed, I encourage you to join me in voting Yes on Amendment 1.