CUMMING — A proposed constitutional amendment for low-performing schools in Georgia was the focus of a town hall meeting Wednesday night, with no one in attendance voicing support for the issue.
Organized by the Forsyth County Democratic Party, the panel discussion on Opportunity School Districts, drew a crowd of about 30 to the county administration building in downtown Cumming.
If approved by voters, the amendment would allow the state to intervene in “chronically failing” public schools.
It could place up to 20 a year in the opportunity district, which would have an appointed superintendent and be capped at 120 schools.
Schools would be assessed by their College Career Performance Index, with those scoring below 60 under consideration. No Forsyth County schools fall in that category.
The panel at the event included: Valarie Wilson, director of the Georgia School Board Association; Lisa-Marie Haygood, president of the Georgia PTA; and Rita Scott, of the Georgia Federation of Teachers. The moderator was Bette Holland.
All on the panel were critical of the bill for a variety of reasons, and went into why they thought the law was detrimental to state schools.
Wilson took exception to the fact that the schools would be evaluated based on tests that many in the state are attempting to opt out of.
“This is based on standardized test,” Wilson said. “Everyone else wants to opt out of these tests, but we’re going to measure these children and their success in school on standardized tests, and everyone else has come to the conclusion that it’s kind of faulty. So why are we using this to measure?”
Common themes throughout the presentation were that the opportunity district would heavily include low income and high minority areas, that it could move towards the privatization of schools and that language in the law was not clearly defined.
Anne Crow, who serves on the Forsyth County Board of Education, spoke against the amendment from the audience.
“We have other school districts across the country that are coming to Georgia to find out how we are doing things,” she said. “We are on the right track.
“Public schools across Georgia, we have 120 that are in [trouble], but there are hundreds of others across the state that are doing good work for our children.”
Amy Shadmuhry, an educator, said after the meeting that she appreciated the presentation, agreeing with a speaker who said voters can overlook amendments on Election Day.
“She was right. They said that sometimes you go in for the ballot and you’re looking at candidates and you don’t really know what is coming up,” she said. “I’m happy that someone is taking the time to inform us and that it’s available to hear about and learn more amount.”