BRADENTON, Fla. - Georgia voters will decide whether to implement a process that allows the state to take over failing public schools.
The provision requires an amendment to the state's constitution, which will be placed on the November 2016 ballot.
Gov. Nathan Deal commended the General Assembly for agreeing with his plan to rescue children from what he called chronically failing public schools.
"I believe the voters of Georgia will wholeheartedly endorse this proposal because they want these children to have a chance in life, they want them to get an education, they want them to have good jobs, support their families, and be productive, law-abiding citizens," Deal said March 25, after the measure was passed in the House.
Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, sponsored the amendment on behalf of Deal. The Senate approved, sending it to voters on March 5.
The program would allow the state to take over public elementary and secondary schools that received failing grades and place them in the Opportunity School District.
The district would supervise and manage failing schools, and would be allowed to control the expenditure of state, federal, and local funds appropriated for them.
As envisioned by Deal, the Opportunity District would take in schools that score below 60 for three consecutive years on the College and Career Performance Index used by the Georgia Department of Education to measure school performance.
No more than 20 schools per year, up to 100 at any given time, would be admitted to the district. Schools would stay in the program for five years but no longer than 10 years.
"We have both a moral duty and a self-serving interest in rescuing these children," Deal said. "Every child should have a fair shot at doing better than their parents before them, and we as a society benefit if more Georgians have the education and job skills needed to attract high-paying jobs.
The annual legislative session is scheduled to end April 2.
Deal reportedly has said he will call a special session on transportation funding if lawmakers fail to pass House Bill 170 with adequate financing, according to published reports. The bill is now before a conference committee with both chambers recommending different funding formulas.