Stan Jester has posted a new Fact Checker, ‘Flexibility Decision – DeKalb Schools Will Choose’
According to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-81.3, by June 30, 2015 each local school system must choose to operate as one of the following:
* Investing in Educational Excellence School System (IE2)
* Charter System
* Status Quo School System
* Strategic School System
* System of Charter Schools
Investing in Educational Excellence School System (IE2) IE2 is a local district that has a performance contract with the state (both the State BOE and the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA)). The district is allowed waivers like those for class size and school schedule in exchange for increased academic accountability. If the local district fails to meet the standards set out by the charter and state accountability measures, the non-performing schools could be converted to an independent charter, operated by another school system or operated by a private third party. If DeKalb Schools chooses to go with IE2, a community could take over under performing schools without approval from the local board. The county would lose those students and funding.
A Charter System is a local district that has an executed charter from the SBOE (State Board of Education). Like the IE2, the district is allowed waivers like those for class size and school schedule in exchange for increased academic accountability. Ideally, in a Charter System you would want to see the district decentralize decision making and empower local schools to be responsible for their finances, staff and innovations. The problem is, that a “charter system” can use the word “charter” but maintain central control over financial and staffing decisions at each school. This option could end up looking like exactly what we have today. If the local district fails to meet the standards as a whole set out by the charter and state accountability measures, the charter status of the district could be revoked and the school system would revert to a “Status Quo School System”.
Status Quo School System
A Status Quo System is a local district that has formally rejected all flexibility options and waivers. There is no performance contract, nor district flexibility from Title 20 or SBOE rules including class sizes or student learning days. Current class sizes in DeKalb are over the state size limits. In a “status quo” option, DeKalb could no longer be granted waivers and would have to lower class sizes to comply with the law. As odd as it seems, the “status quo” option is the only option that would force money to be invested in lowering class size and move more teachers into the school house. Any other “contract” or “agreement” with the state will allow DeKalb to continue to get waivers from state mandates such as class size.
Strategic School System
This option would require an agreement between the district and the state BOE. It appears to be a “lighter” version of the IE2 option discussed above.
A System of Charters
This is where a school district has converted all of its schools into independent charters. Each school (rather than the district as a whole) would have an agreement with the state. Unlike a “charter system” this would guarantee that decision making is made at the schoolhouse lever. This is true decentralization and school based autonomy and accountability.
I have been to community engagement sessions, parent councils, charrettes and committee meetings all over DeKalb. The most consistent and unifying request I hear from various communities is to lower class size. There is deep and broad agreement on this. Despite its name, the Status Quo choice is, ironically, the exact opposite of what its name implies. It is the one choice that will force the school system to lower class size. Lowering class size would mean hiring more teachers. In order to hire more teachers, DeKalb would have to realign its spending away from the central office and ineffective “programs” and spend more money on instructional, school-based employees. Because of the necessary realignment of the budget, I foresee DeKalb choosing to become a Charter System and only allowing limited schoolhouse decision making. Financial and staffing decisions under such a plan would continue to reside with the central office. I will continue to follow developments on this issue.
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