• Governor signs failing schools bill; opponents call it a gimmick

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    ATLANTA - Opponents of the governor's massive school reform plan that allows the state to take over failing schools are calling it a gimmick.
     
    Gov. Nathan Deal signed part of his plan into law Tuesday, but now he'll have to get the approval of voters. 
     
    “The children in failing schools are more likely to drop out and we need to break that cycle,” Deal said.
     
    Deal will now try to convince voters the way to break that cycle is for the state to take over chronically failing schools. 
     
    He signed legislation that would pave the way for the state to create a new "opportunity" district with its own superintendent. 
     
    “The whole purpose of this is to demonstrate that you can make a difference,” Deal said.
     
    Deal's office reports there are almost 140 schools that would be classified as chronically failing. Sixty of those schools are in metro Atlanta. 
     
    “When it does not work, we change it,” parent Brodrick Hall told Channel 2’s Lori Geary.
     
    Hall spoke at the bill-signing ceremony. He said he went to a failing school in Savannah, managed to go to college and now wants better options for his daughter.
     
    “Let's take away the politics, let's look at the morality. This is about the students. These are our future,” Hall said.
     
    But opponents, including local school boards and teachers groups, say a new school district doesn't solve a core issue of failing schools: poverty. 
     
    Verdailla Turner with the Georgia Federation of Teachers called the governor's plan a gimmick.
     
    In a statement, Turner said: “Georgia's public school students deserve schools that will give them the best chance to climb the ladder of opportunity. Sadly, the opportunity school district law will pull rungs off that ladder. It would be a tragic mistake to change the constitution to impose a new educational system that actually will do more harm than good."
     
    “One of the worst forms of child abuse is to lock a boy or girl in a failing school where their potential is hindered,” Deal said.
     
    The new law will allow the state to close these schools, turn them into charters and fire administrators.
     
    Voters will decide on the issue in November 2016.


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