Education is Georgia's First Priority

A new law that aims to turn around low-performing schools passes the State House and Senate.

On Friday, March 24, the Georgia State Senate passed legislation dubbed the First Priority Act to help strengthen the state’s lowest-performing schools. One of the first few bills from the current legislative session to end up on Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk, the bill is likely to be signed into law.

If made law, the First Priority Act will allow for the appointment of a chief turnaround officer, establish an Education Turnaround Advisory Council, and provide for the creation of the Joint Study Committee to help with the establishment of a state accreditation process. For hands-on improvement at the individual schools, the bill will provide turnaround coaches along with comprehensive on-site evaluation and recommendations that will then be used to establish an intensive school improvement plan. Such a plan would be implemented over a two-year period, and if the school does not improve over that time, the state would provide an emergency intervention. Harsher punishments persist if schools don’t improve, with members of the local boards of education subject to removal if one-half or more of the schools in the local school system have received an unacceptable rating for five or more consecutive years.

Beyond passing both the State House and State Senate, the bill has the endorsement of Lieutenant Gov. Casey Cagle. In a release announcing the initiative, Cagle said: “The First Priority Act empowers local leaders to address each school’s individual shortfalls early and honestly. We are also investing in new resources to ensure we have strong leaders at every level of our education system who refuse to settle for anything less than student success.” — Tommy Crawford

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