Deal: A new failing schools plan is my main priority

Gov. Nathan Deal outlines his agenda in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Gov. Nathan Deal outlines his agenda in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Gov. Nathan Deal plans to put all his political might behind a measure that would give the state more power to intervene in persistently struggling schools, saying in an interview Friday that he is unlikely to push a more sweeping plan to overhaul the school funding formula until it passes.

Saying he was undeterred by the November defeat of his Opportunity School District initiative, Deal told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he is working with lawmakers on a plan that would give the state more power to let students who attend the 153 schools on the state’s failing list transfer.

“Sometimes it takes more than one bite of the apple to get it right,” he said of the failure of his constitutional amendment, which would have empowered his office to take control of failing schools. “Sometimes there are literally more ways than one to skin the cat, and we’re still trying to skin the cat of chronically failing schools.”

That means that an ambitious, and politically perilous, plan to overhaul the school funding formula will probably be delayed another year. Deal made rewriting the 31-year-old formula the centerpiece of his re-election campaign, but shifted to the failing schools initiative shortly after his victory.

“It’s not necessarily on the back-burner, but the first and most important thing is to deal with chronically failing schools,” he said of a funding overhaul. “And if we do not deal with chronically failing schools, rewriting the formula does not do anything to solve the biggest problem we have in public education.”

It was Deal’s first extensive comments about his education initiatives since the November vote.

Deal said the specifics of the legislative package are being worked out, but several people briefed on a House measure said it would involve a six-year process that would offer the state’s most troubled schools more administrative support and additional resources. If performance doesn’t improve, students could be offered vouchers or state help in switching to other schools.

The governor said he wants the measure that emerges from the Legislature this year to focus on elementary schools – the bulk of the schools on the state’s failing list – and give the state more ways to hold administrators accountable.

“It goes to fiscal responsibility. You need to be sure that the schools receiving these funds are using them appropriately, and many of them have had difficulties with audits and complying with deadlines for reporting,” he said.

Deal is likely to have key legislative support for his initiative. House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle both endorsed the idea of developing a new failing schools plan this week.

And other supporters said it would be designed to avoid the legal questions raised by a 2011 Georgia Supreme Court ruling that concluded that only county and area school boards have the explicit authority to create and maintain charter schools.

Deal, for his part, said he didn’t want the measure that emerges this year to be seen as a backup plan.

“There is no Plan B. Plan A has always been to help fix chronically failing schools,” he said. “And that remains my focus this year.”

Read more about Deal’s education agenda:

Georgia governor faces another perilous education fight in 2017

A new plan is in the works after failing schools plan’s defeat

Reader Comments 1


There is nothing more directly democratic than a referendum. The people of the state spoke. They want the state government to stay out of this.

jarvis1975 much money are the charter lobbyist giving him? The amendment attempt lost by nearly 20%.

The state congressmen would be wise to avoid this issue.


Even in "chronically" failing schools, there are students who are successful. Hypothetically, if there was a student in one of these schools who was a straight A student, would they be allowed to transfer? If yes, why? That school wouldn't be failing them if they are making good grades. It seems that logic would dictate that only those students who are failing in those failing schools should need the option of transferring. If that is the case, how eager would "successful" schools be in accepting those students? I believe that this concept of allowing students to transfer out of failing schools will result in the most successful students transferring while leaving those who struggle the most still in the failing school, but that failing school now has fewer resources to teach the most challenging students. I don't understand how this fixes any problem.


I'm all for school choice as long as transportation is provided as well. It doesn't help parents to be able to move their child to a new school if they can't get them there.

Let's be honest, the VAST majority of "failing" schools are located in areas where much of the population isn't able to drive their kids to a new school. However, I suspect that the nanosecond the state does something like that, someone in the new school's area will start screaming "bussing!!!!"


Black parents saddled with failing public schools aren't going to be ignored forever by the Democrat Party and its teachers' union masters.


  1. […] Education: The governor plans to put the full weight of his office behind a measure that would give the state more power to intervene in persistently struggling schools, even after voters resoundingly defeated a constitutional amendment that would have given his office the authority to do that. It likely means that Deal’s other major education initiative – fulfilling a campaign promise to overhaul the school funding formula – is sidelined for another year. Read more here. […]