Jordan Johnson, president of the Young Democrats of Augusta, issued a call to action Tuesday at the Richmond County Board of Education.
With more than two dozen supporters standing nearby - some of whom held signs and donned T-shirts - Johnson made a plea to the community to vote against Opportunity School District in the upcoming Nov. 8 election.
“We’re here to urge voters to vote against this takeover of our public schools from Gov. Nathan Deal,” Johnson said. “One man can’t run the schools in this state and we have to vote no to Opportunity School District.”
According to the Governor’s office, Opportunity School District is designed to turn around struggling schools in Georgia. The bill is based on similar initiatives in Louisiana and Tennessee and would authorize the state to temporarily step in to assist chronically failing public schools and the students in them.
Richmond County school board members, Marion Barnes and Barbara Pulliam, each spoke against the legislation.
“This is a very dangerous bill,” said Pulliam, who wore a shirt that read Keep Georgia Schools Local. “The purpose of public education is to involve the public - not just the Governor. I’m here to ask everyone to vote no on Nov. 8.”
Barnes echoed Pulliam’s statement.
“This bill hasn’t worked in New Orleans and there’s no reason to believe it’ll work here,” Barnes said. “We need to give our school system a chance to prove itself. We need local control. With that being said, I urge and beg each of you to vote no.”
The rally lasted about 20 minutes, with each speaker garnering applause from guests in attendance. According to a news release from Johnson, if Opportunity School District is passed it will have authority to take control of 20-plus Richmond County schools deemed to be failing based off three consecutive years of College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores.
“The state of Georgia will have total rule over the schools that are put into this so-called Opportunity School District,” Johnson said. “It could remove principals and teachers. It could halt parent and community involvement, and even change what students are being taught. The state could control the school’s budget, leaving local school boards powerless.”
The legislation required a constitutional amendment, for which there must be a two-thirds majority in both chambers. The General Assembly passed the constitutional amendment resolution and the implementing legislation during the 2015 legislative session, according to the governor’s website. It now requires a majority approval by Georgia voters in this year’s general election.
State Rep. Gloria Frazier, who represents District 126, acknowledged Tuesday the problems at many local public schools but said government takeover isn’t the solution.
“Yes, we do have problems here with failing schools, but the Governor stepping in isn’t the answer,” said Frazier, drawing an ovation. “The answer is getting parents more involved - not the government.”