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For the children in failing schools, vote yes on Amendment 1

Gov. Nathan Deal and the state Legislature decided they wanted to do something new to try to save failing schools in Georgia. Amendment 1 on this year’s general election ballot would create “opportunity school districts.” I plan to vote for it and hope you will consider it.

A lot has been written about the plan. Very little of it has mentioned the children in failing schools. The biggest criticism of the plan has been about “local control.” The governor’s plan would take a limited number of failing schools and place them directly in the hands of parents and others under state supervision. The schools, in other words, would no longer answer to local school boards.

Local control is great. As a conservative I believe local government is vastly better than more distant government. But what if the local government is dysfunctional or incompetent? In Randolph County, Georgia, students were sent home the other day because the school system had failed to take care of a water issue. In Muscogee County, parents are no longer allowed to address the school board. Local control is great, but when the school board is more interested in money than students, we have a problem.

Amendment 1 is designed to address this. School boards would not be out of a bunch of money. What they would be out of is the money already allocated to the failing school. That money, however, would not be used to supply the salary of the deputy assistant superintendent in charge of photocopiers.

It would instead be used for the actual failing school. Likewise, schools that are not considered failing by the federal government would not be affected. Even of those schools that are failing, only a limited number would be taken over, and they could only stay in direct control by the parents and state government for a certain number of years.

Put it to you this way — there is a lot of criticism about Amendment 1, but no one is offering another solution for failing schools. The arguments against the amendment are about loss of money from bureaucrats. What about the children?

The literacy rate of students in failing schools in Georgia is 11 percent. Those students are going to get out into society at some point. When they do, if they cannot read and write, they are going to burden society. Every bit of evidence shows that these students will either turn to crime or be in poverty requiring state assistance.

For the people so concerned about the loss of local control and money, what about the money we will all be spending later on prisons and social welfare? I would argue we should at least try this.

The governor’s plan is not a panacea. It will not solve all the problems. It will not be able to address crumbling homes, the struggles of single parents, hungry kids and collapsing neighborhoods.

But at least it is a start. At least it is an opportunity to get kids out of a failing neighborhood knowing they will no longer be in a failing school.

There are some Republicans who oppose the governor’s plan because he vetoed campus carry legislation or the religious liberty legislation. I get it. I supported both and was angry with Gov. Deal for vetoing them. But Amendment 1 is not about the governor. It is about the thousands of kids in failing schools across Georgia who need help and who are not getting help from their dysfunctional local school boards. Please consider voting yes on Amendment 1.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.