Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT

Here is a very important piece of legislation to follow.  We were first made aware of it by Rep. Mike Jacobs via his comment on the blog -

Senator Millar and I have worked with the House Education Committee and Mary Margaret Oliver to amend Senate Bill 79 to shrink the DeKalb BOE to seven members as a matter of general statewide law. The bill passed full committee this afternoon and is now in the House Rules Committee. The bill also addresses problems in Savannah-Chatham County and the Atlanta Public Schools.

In essence, this bill, which seems to have some serious support, trumps all of the others that prompted the board to write a letter, signed by each member to Sen. Mosby, the head of the DeKalb delegation, stating their (obvious) lack of support. We discussed that letter, which you can view by clicking the post, Self-preservation? Another political power play by the Board!.

They really need to get a clue. SACS recommended a reduction in the size of the DeKalb school board. This is the fifth bill introduced into the Georgia legislature attempting to reduce the size of the DeKalb school board. At what point will the board stop and self-assess? What will it take for them to "hear" the message? They are elected by the people, yet they won't even support Mary Margaret Oliver's attempt to allow the people to vote on what the people would prefer as the size of the board (HB 22).

Enter Senate Bill 79 which states in part:
(a) Members Effective January 1, 2012, members of local boards of education shall be elected for terms of not less than four years, provided that longer terms of office may be unless their terms are otherwise provided by local Act or constitutional amendment.

(b)(1) Each local board of education shall have no more than seven members as provided by local Act. (2) This subsection shall not apply to a local board of education whose board size exceeds seven members as provided by local constitutional amendment or federal court order or pursuant to a local law in effect prior to July 1, 2010; provided, however, that if the local law of any such local board of education is amended to revise the number of members on such board, paragraph (1) of this subsection shall apply.

(c) Members of local boards of education in office on July 1, 2011, who are serving terms of office of less than four years shall serve until December 31, 2012, and until their respective successors are elected and qualified. Members elected in 2011 shall serve until December 31, 2014, and until their respective successors are elected and qualified. Successors to all such members shall be elected to serve four-year terms of office and until their respective successors are elected and qualified.

Further . . .
(a) On and after January 1, 2013, in counties in which there is being collected a homestead option sales and use tax pursuant to Article 2A of Chapter 8 of Title 48 and a county sales and use tax for educational purposes pursuant to Part 2 of Article 3 of Chapter 8 of Title 48 and the county board of education consists of more than seven members, such county boards of education shall comply with this Code section. Such county boards of education shall consist of seven members elected from single-member districts of approximately equal population. The number of members may be reduced to less than seven members by local legislation, but such members shall be elected from single-member districts of approximately equal population.

The bill also allows the governor to step in and take control of a school board in a system that has lost accreditation (Atlanta) along with a few other stipulations.

Please let your legislators know your thoughts on this bill.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

what is the purpose of the Bill? How does reducing the Board from 9 to 7 fix anything? Jay won with 65%; he's not going anywhere. If the 'super district' seats are gone, does anyone know what district Pam and Walker reside? Will Jay and Walker face off?

Anonymous said...

It was about ten years ago - if memory serves - that the DeKalb School Board was enlarged to 9 members through what can only be called interference by a certain member of the GA General Assembly. She did not serve DeKalb, but acted at the the behest of certain DeKalb legislators who did not have the support of their colleagues to get such a bill out of committee. It was a terrible misuse of legislative power and it immediately ushered in an era of ill-prepared board members who did not know their roles, who thought this was a job that should give them a full time salary. The board was far more functional when there were fewer members who actually had to be accountable for knowing the issues and coming to meetings prepared. With a 9 member board, members can always blame other reps for the inability to make forward progress. Follow City of Atlanta and you'll see when there are too many members, they do not have to get along or reach consensus. The issues simply stay more muddled and confused. This is a step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

I would hate to see us go back to the old days where 4 votes will get you anything you want. I am also concerned about losing the at large seats. It appears the at large members are concerned with at least half of the system instead of a schools in there District which is "a natural" lte's face it.

Cerebration said...

Due to a large amount of spam, we are now requiring registration in order to comment. If the spamming goes away or Google gets better control, we will reinstate anonymous commenting. Until then, please log in using any kind of identifier you choose. Thank you for participating in the blog.

interestedin said...

Won't they all be "at large" members?

themommy said...

Nine isn't working. SAT scores have dropped substantially in the last decade. Things weren't great with 7 but they were better. Having a nine bosses is impossible. Seven isn't as good as 5 but it us an improvement. The savings in savings could pay for two paras.

The politicking has been unbelievably bad since we expanded to 9. We need our board members to represent more people so they think more of the entire system and less of reelection.

Ella Smith said...

It looks great. Now it must be passed. Let's see what happens. Let's hope it passes as it is benificial to several school boards in the state.

Susan Curtis said...

TheMommy is correct - the more children(constituents) a Board member represents, the less politicking. Also, hopefully, with Board members representing a more diverse range of children, the more the Board will think of how to solve the SYSTEM's problems, not just the schools they represent. I personally wish the legislation said 5 Board members, and that those members were to run county-wide. Then everyone would be responsible for everyone!

unknown said...

anon 1016,
You asked the question I have - how does changing the Board size fix anything?

themommy and susancurtis,
I don't think that having fewer districts or electing them county wide will mean that the members will have a bigger picture. I think this could cause even more inequity. Just because they are suppose to represent an area doesn't mean they will really represent the whole area. They may pick and choose areas to favor. All areas are not equal with voter turnout or numbers in general. We elect the CEO countywide and see how that has worked out for parts of DeKalb. Fewer board members will concentrate the power into fewer hands and make collusion easier. Look at the land deals in Gwinnett. We just had an election and look who the voters put back in office. Why would you think that would change?

I agree that our board could be improved but how do we go about it?

atl said...

I think the bill for the Governor to step in pertains only to Atlanta.

Cerebration said...

Yes. Actually as Mike points out in his comment, it affects Savannah-Chatham county as well (and any other district that would lose accreditation in the future...)

Cerebration said...

From MMO --

The 2011 General Assembly will adjourn Sine Die on April 14th, and major remaining issues must be resolved in the last three long days of work. On Monday, April 11th, SB 79 will be voted on in the House to lower the size of the DeKalb Board of Education and to allow the Governor to appoint members of the Atlanta School Board if the Atlanta City School System loses accreditation from SACS.

HOW WOULD YOU VOTE ON SB 79? You may review this bill and other legislation on the Georgia General Assembly web site, http:/www.legis.ga.gov/legislation.

SB 79 combines provisions for governance of School Boards for Chatham County, DeKalb County and the Atlanta School System in one bill. Late in the Session, it is common practice to combine multiple bills in one legislative proposal. In November, MMO pre-filed HB 22 which gave DeKalb voters a referendum opportunity to choose whether the DeKalb School Board would have 9, 7 or 5 members. The DeKalb delegation was inconsistent in supporting HB 22, on some days voting yes, and on other days voting no. Moving forward with the provisions of SB 79 to establish the DeKalb School Board at seven members was a bi-partisan compromise of a group of DeKalb legislators.

Supporters of lowering the DeKalb School Board size state a smaller size Board is in response to SACS governance issues with the School Board, and last year’s SB 84 which established a seven member board as the model. A smaller School Board is supported by EduKalb, a leadership group of DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce. Research demonstrates that smaller Boards have a better chance to work collectively, offer more cohesive policies, and DeKalb School Board requires some structural changes. Opponents of SB 79 state the DeKalb School Board size should be decided only by the DeKalb delegation, not the entire House, it is a local issue, and that the voters can vote out any School Board member they do not like.

The City of Atlanta School System provisions of SB 79 create a safety net for the Governor to appoint new Atlanta School Board members if SACS determines the Atlanta School System loses accreditation in September under the current work plan and probation period. These provisions continue the protections for school children where a District loses accreditation in the same procedures that were passed in SB 84 in 2010 but then serving Board members were “grand-fathered” protections.

What do you think? Thank you for your interest and opinions!

To reply to the weekly question about SB 79 and the DeKalb School Board size, please click “reply” or email me at mmo@mmolaw.com

themommy said...

It may not make a better board but it will make it easier for the next Superintendent. Unknown, certain board members have always favored one part of their district over another. Look at SCW. Until they wanted to close Avondale, you wouldn't have even known that she represented anything other than her beloved Avondale. Walker has Fernbank.

Changing the number of voters in each district might not change their behavior, but it will make it a lot harder to get reelected.

The land deals in Gwinnett are wrong. But the members of the Board, on most other issues, seem to have a more global view.

Cerebration said...

Gwinnett may have missed some big land deals that construction developers manipulated, but our 9 member DeKalb school board totally missed the fact that their own superintendent and head of construction (with combined salaries over over a half-million dollars) were (allegedly) running a criminal enterprise right under their noses! Heck, they signed off on every action Lewis put in front of them.

Cerebration said...

On another note, I wonder if the board collected rent on this project -- and if so, which budget did it attach to?

MTV Releases 'Teen Wolf' Trailer Starring Old Briarcliff High

MTV has released a trailer for its forthcoming TV drama Teen Wolf, which has been shooting in the shuttered Briarcliff High School/DeKalb School of the Arts building on North Druid Hills Road since November.

Cerebration said...

NEWSFLASH!

We have heard that this bill just passed the House. This makes it on it's way to the Governor.

Avidfan said...

Cere, I think it still has to pass the senate.

Cerebration said...

Oh - I guess it was changed a bit in the House so it has to pass the Senate again... oy!

Cerebration said...

Here's the AJC article on the subject:

House agrees to give Deal power to remove APS board members

atl said...

The AJC quotes several DeKalb legislators that are against the bill, but none that are for it. Strange since most are for it.

Cerebration said...

They are using the excuse that this is a local issue - but they had a chance to allow only local voters to go to the polls and decide on the size of the school board. Mary Margaret Oliver's first bill on this issue did just that -- put it to a local vote. These same people - crying that it's a local issue - were the very ones who would not even allow this to go to a vote by the people! They had their chance - they didn't put their money where their mouth is and now their using "local control" as a smokescreen. Apparently, when they say "local control" they are only speaking of their own opinions, not those of north DeKalb legislators - or the people of DeKalb county.

Cerebration said...

Follow this link to see how each legislator voted on this bill -

[SB 79] House Vote #273 (PASSAGE)

M G said...

I am at the Capitol this passed ad an amendment to another bill goes to Gov Deal

Cerebration said...

Wonderful! Thanks for the update. Now let's figure out exactly what this means...