Superintendent Michael Hinojosa spent about 30 minutes of last week’s work session talking about what the state will call the “Statewide Tiered Accountability and Flexibility System.”
The plan stems from former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and the General Assembly’s push in 2007 for districts to choose a school model.
Georgia’s 180 school districts can currently choose between being a charter, IE2 or a “Status Quo” system. Cobb is a status quo system currently because officials had not chosen a specific model before 2013.
Hinojosa said a new bill, being drafted by Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek) in preparation of passage by the end of March, would replace the current choices.
A district would have to apply to become a charter school system or be named by the Georgia Department of Education as a “High Performing” or “Strategic” system by 2015.
“This legislation has support from both chambers, the House Public Education Committee, the Senate Public Education Committee, the lieutenant governor’s office and the governor’s office, so this one has legs, and I would be very surprised if it doesn’t pass,” Hinojosa said.
Districts must apply to become charter systems, which would run similarly to Marietta City Schools, which recently applied for renewal of its five-year charter and should hear from the state later this spring on whether it was approved.
The bill would allow districts to receive supplemental funding and flexibility from all Title 20 requirements, which cover system expenditures, class sizes, seat time and salary schedules.
School districts would be graded for the high performing or strategic systems categories based on their score after the recently introduced College and Career Ready Performance Index.
A high performing system, which is a district designated with an A or B grade, must maintain the high performance at individual school levels and “demonstrate significant growth” in its score.
Hinojosa said as few as 25 of the 180 school districts in Georgia could be selected as “high performance” school systems and that at least 90 percent of the schools in a district must receive an A or B grade as well.
He personally believes Cobb would have a “good shot” at earning that status if they decided not to go the charter system route.
Hinojosa said 90 percent of Cobb’s 112 schools, more than 100 schools, would have to earn an A or B from the state to qualify.
Strategic districts, which have a C, D or F grades, will receive some flexibility with regards to Title 20 regulations but will get “very strong” oversight from the state to “ensure the development and implementation of the strategic plan, the appropriate use of flexibility and improved local capacity.”
Not meeting these requirement could result is revocation of district flexibility.
“If you’re performing well, you’ll get a lot of flexibility and if not, you won’t get much flexibility,” Hinojosa said. “Part of that is exciting, but some of it is scary, but the devil will be in the details.”
Hinojosa said he hopes to keep the board updated monthly on the status of the bill and for members to keep in the back of their minds which route they would like to go.
Scott Sweeney, who represents east Cobb, said the district should keep a close eye on which schools apply for charter system status because if nearly all districts apply, the supplemental funding charters receive will be very little.
“There are a lot of nuances or unintended consequences that are going to fall out, depending how many apply, who applies and what happens,” said Hinojosa in agreement.
Board Chair Randy Scamihorn said he is a little worried about it.
“Anytime that I see the federal or state government start throwing terms around like ‘flexibility,’ I don’t believe it,” he said. “I understand the snowball is headed down the mountain and it’s probably too big to stop, but I’m concerned because what I believe this will do, is the principals will lose more autonomy, not gain more.”