Parents concerned with possible takeover of failing APS schools

ATLANTA — Some Atlanta Public Schools parents are very concerned about a potential state takeover of dozens of failing Atlanta Public Schools.

The Neighborhood Collaborative Group, a city wide coalition of Atlanta Public Schools parents convened a Town Hall style meeting at the district on Wednesday night to address APS's turnaround strategy for low-performing schools that may be affected.  

A total of 26 APS schools are currently on the list of schools that could meet the criteria for a takeover.

Gov. Nathan Deal's "Opportunity School District " proposes the creation of an Opportunity School District. It would authorize the state to temporarily step in to assist chronically failing public schools, according to state's website.

The district would take in no more than 20 schools per year, meaning it would govern no more than 100 at any given time. 
Schools would remain in the district for at least five years.

"One of the worst forms of child abuse is to lock a boy or girl in a failing school where their potential is hindered," Gov. Nathan Deal said in April, when signing the legislation.  The legislation now requires a majority approval by Georgia voters in the 2016 general election.

"We have 26 schools if the trigger were pulled today, but we have many other schools that are high risk," said David Jernigan, deputy superintendent for the Atlanta Public Schools.

Several people attending the town hall accused the superintendent of not giving them straight answers.

"People can criticize this administration all they want but I've only had one year to fix what is arguably a thirty year problem," said Meria Carstarphen, the superintendent for Atlanta Public Schools.

Most parents seemed to be in agreement, that the aim was to avoid a state takeover.

"If the State of Georgia were intent on funding and supporting public education they would funding it," said Abby Martin, a parent, "If they haven't been funded and supported up to this point, what gives you  any kind of sense they would have any better control of the school, actually running and operating it.

"In schools where students can't read and can't catch up, they don't graduate. Students who don't graduate are much more likely to live in poverty or be incarcerated. Improving educational outcomes, and breaking negative economic and life cycles, will provide these students with much brighter futures," said Martha Ann Todd, the executive director for the Governor's Office of Student Achievement in an email
 "Creation of an Opportunity School District would authorize the state to step in to help rejuvenate chronically failing public schools and provide the students in those schools access to a quality education. Similar models have been used successfully in other states, and just the potential for such a district to be created in Georgia has already created a new sense of urgency in many communities and school districts, focusing additional resources and efforts on improving these schools and the educational outcomes for their students," Todd said.

Click here for information about which schools are eligible for state takeover.