Is Georgia’s Opportunity School District Plan Immoral?

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Is Georgia’s Opportunity School District Immoral?

From The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President of the North Carolina NAACP, came a letter from The Nation that I think is crucial as we act on recent actions by the Georgia Legislature and Governor.

The Governor of Georgia, with the backing of both Democrats and Republicans in the Georgia Assembly approved a bill that would call for a change in the Georgia Constitution that would enable the Governor’s office to create a separate and centrally controlled school district composed of so-called “chronically failing schools,” based on an arbitrary score primarily based on student achievement test scores.  The new district would be called the Opportunity School District, which will be a copy of the Louisiana Recovery District, and the Tennessee Recovery District, each of which has resulted in failed attempts to improve education of students in schools, especially in New Orleans.

In Dr. Barber’s letter, he calls for a movement that isn’t liberal or conservative, but based on moral, fusion language (using his term). The Opportunity School District that voters in Georgia will vote on in the November 2016 election is not in the interests of students and parents that will be labeled as attending “chronically failing schools.”  You can read the bill here.

I believe that creating such a district is immoral, and lacks common sense for our students and their parents.  Twenty schools will be forced to become part of the Opportunity School District based solely on student achievement test scores.  After the first year, the Governor’s Office can force up to 20 more schools into the district, for five years.

The plan for the Opportunity School District is based on a “turnaround the lowest-achieving schools” philosophy that is outlined in Georgia Department of Education documents you can find here.  That philosophy is best described by Mr. Ed Johnson as “turnaround delusion.”

Turnaround delusion, according to Johnson, is promoted by reformsters who:

try and manage and control and ultimately standardize the “huge variety of value demand” that shows up at school every school day, mostly in the form of children. They know not to think to learn to absorb the value demand the children bring with them to school. After all, the children are the students, not them. Their delusive decision to turn APS into a Charter System exemplifies the genesis of the kind of failure demand they generate and then try to manage and control through standardized teaching and learning and performance (email correspondence from Ed Johnson, May 27, 2015).

Dr. Barber reports, that in North Carolina,  a movement had already reformed the voting laws before Obama was on the ballot—an interracial, intergenerational, anti-poverty, pro-labor fusion movement that was challenging even Democrats to be more committed to a moral vision.

It was unfortunate that Georgia Democrats in the Senate lacked the moral conviction to vote against the Governor’s bill (Senate Resolution 287).  Instead, some of cast a quid pro quo vote.  Where were the progressives among the state Democrats?

Barber goes on to explain the nature of a movement that needs to take root in Georgia if we are to affect the very nature of schooling for communities that is community based, and not controlled by administrators far from the center of the lives of Georgia students in “chronically failing schools.”

Here is what Dr. Barber says about “a different kind of movement”

Since the social, political, and economic system of slavery was defeated by progressive Northern white families aligning with hundreds of thousands of African slaves and freed people in the South in 1865, The Nation has fought to repair the deep breaches this system created in the human family of the nation. Today, when Southern legislatures have fallen to Tea Party zealots, the need for a Southern-oriented anti-racism mass movement is greater than ever. The Nation will continue to play an important role in building this movement in the South, and explaining it to the rest of the nation.

We need a transformative movement—state-based, deeply moral, deeply constitutional, pro-justice. We need to build for the long-term, not around one issue or campaign.

We need the kind of language that’s not left or right or conservative or liberal, but moral, fusion language that says:

  • It is extreme and immoral to suppress the right to vote.
  • It is extreme and immoral to deny Medicaid to millions of poor people, especially when denied by people who have been elected to office and receive their own insurance through that office.
  • It is extreme and immoral to raise taxes on the working poor and cut earned-income tax credits, especially in order to slash taxes for the wealthy.
  • It is extreme and immoral to shut off people’s water in Detroit.
  • It is extreme and immoral to end unemployment compensation for those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own.
  • It is extreme and immoral to resegregate and underfund our public schools.
  • It is mean, it is immoral, it is extreme to kick hardworking people when they are down.


The Governor’s plan is full of hypocrisy and lacks the moral vision that Dr. Barber calls for, and that a growing number of citizens of Georgia are setting the stage to act on.  On Monday, June 15, there will be a STOP OSD! Coalition Meeting at 1:00 P.M. at the Wheat Street Baptist Church, 359 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30312.

Georgians need to unite to defeat the Opportunity School District, and insist that the Georgia Legislature fund schools a levels that will enable local school districts to carry out their own community based plans.


About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University