DeKalb County School Board member Vickie Turner is telling voters to know the facts when voting on the Opportunity School District referendum question in November.
“I’ve been telling people, for whatever it’s worth, don’t fall for the okey-doke,” Turner said. “Pay attention to the fine print. Do your homework because making a decision to render over control of our schools is going to cost us dearly.”
Turner was at the April 4 Lithonia City Council meeting to discuss the Opportunity School District referendum, also known as Gov. Nathan Deal’s school takeover plan, with community members.
If approved by voters, the bill would allow the state to take over up to 100 schools that failed to meet performance targets three years in a row. Persistently failing schools are defined as those scoring below 60 on the Georgia Department of Education’s accountability measure, the College and Career Performance Index (CCRPI), for three consecutive years.
DeKalb County has 29 schools on the list—all located in south DeKalb.
Turner said she has done research on the Opportunity School District, which has established in other states, and discovered it does not work.
“It was broken in Michigan, it’s broke in Louisiana, it’s broke in Tennessee. So what does that mean? It didn’t work. They tried it; it didn’t work.
“This new Opportunity School District…something is wrong,” Turner said. “The superintendent is only accountable to the governor. When [they] get in behind closed doors [they] can come up with anything [they] want. And all of us out here [are subject to] your decisions that you make behind closed doors.”
Under Deal’s plan, Turner said the state government can close the school building and the local school districts would not have access to the building.
“And guess who has to keep the maintenance up on the property? We do,” Turner said. “That’s so interesting.
“We’re going to lose local, state and federal dollars because it follows the children,” she said.
Turner also told voters that there is no plan for special needs children under Deal’s plan.
Turner encouraged Lithonia voters to take ownership of their community schools.
“The governor wants to take the school,” she said. “Unless the communities come out of their homes, unless the community comes out of their places of jobs and employment and come in to the schools and say ‘these are our schools and we won’t let you have them;’ if we don’t do that the governor is going to take them.”
Turner said school board members have met with each other to talk about the plan and met individually with DeKalb Schools Superintendent Stephen Green. She said the schools on the list have received the support needed to improve.
“They‘ve received increased instructional support,” she said. “Dr. Green has come in and our board has committed financially. Whatever the resources [they] need to help [them] increase student performance in the classroom we’re going to give it to [them].”
“You have to go and vote and say what you want for your family,” Turner said. “Go to the polls to vote and say not on my watch.”
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