How Many Georgia Legislators Does It Take To Screw In A Lightbulb?

Got your attention?  This is no joke.  And the real question isHow many Georgia legislators does it take to improve DeKalb County students’ education?

The answerAs many as it takes to vote to change Georgia’s state constitution to allow the creation of additional school systems.

Fortunately, there is legislative precedent!

The first State of Georgia Constitution, in 1777, created eight counties carved out of the coastal areas that were settled when Georgia was a British colony.  Since then, multiple revisions of the state constitution have increased the number of counties until today’s total of 159, the limit specified in the Constitution of 1983.

Having a large number of smaller counties has served Georgians well.  More counties gave Georgians more direct representation in state government and more towns that became county seats, thus increasing cultural and business activities in those towns.

Now there is a need to serve DeKalb County’s children better.  Those children are trapped in a too-large, unwieldy, low-performing, out-of-touch school system with a culture of corruption.  A smaller, more manageable school system, closer to the point of service and more accountable to stakeholders, is the answer.  And there is precedent in the Georgia General Assembly to change the Georgia Constitution and make that happen, just as the General Assembly did when, pressured by citizens, repeatedly increased the number of Georgia counties.  As history has shown, never say, “Never” to Constitutional changes wanted and needed by voters.

Of the 180 public school systems now in Georgia, 159 are county systems and 21 are city systems.  Sixty-five percent (65%) of Georgia’s school systems have fewer than 5,000 students.  In fact, 89% of Georgia’s school systems have fewer than 20,000 students.  Only 4 school systems – Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett – have 89,000 students or more.

Most of Georgia’s 180 school systems are of a manageable size – under 20,000 students – however, the Atlanta core metropolitan area contains Georgia’s four largest school systems, including DeKalb County Schools.  These metro school systems have only a few representatives out of the hundreds elected to the Georgia General Assembly, one of the largest state legislatures in the nation.  So as far as the majority of Georgia’s large pool of state legislators are concerned, an outsized school system is not a problem – and therefore not on their radar.

Yet, “America’s top performers [in education] are states well known for their abundance of small towns and small schools” noted Larry Frase and William Streshly, authors of Top 10 Myths in Education.

Frase and Streshly also conducted a study of organizational climate involving more than 600 Californiaschool administrators from large and small school districts.  They employed Halpin and Croft’s Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire, modified for upper echelon school district administrators.  Frase and Streshly’s analyses “revealed that large district organizational climates tended to be ‘closed’ while small districts tended to be more ‘open.’  Big district central offices exhibited generally closed organizational climates and fostered those closed climates in the bulk of their schools.  This means [according to Frase and Streshly’s research into open and closed organizational climates] that large school districts are less flexible, less productive, less innovative and less responsive to the needs of the community.”

Can you spell “DeKalb County Schools”?

Frase and Streshly go on to say, “Public schools are a function of the legislature of each state.  These governmental bodies have the responsibility [for] creating and dissolving local districts and [for] establishing rules and guidelines to ensure that high-quality education is delivered to the children of their states.”

Clearly, before another legislative session is convened, it is up to our local state legislators to explain to their legislative peers the need to allow very large school systems to divide into smaller, manageable school systems – and to allow cities and towns to establish their own school systems – as desired by the stakeholders.  It is up to us – all of us – to give our state legislators the necessary nudge – preferably in writing – to speak to their legislative peers about enabling DeKalb County Schools to divide into smaller school systems.

Click here to find your state legislators.  Write them!

Meanwhile, can anyone explain why the number of school systems in Georgia should be a function of the state constitution?

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About dekalbschoolwatch

Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
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32 Responses to How Many Georgia Legislators Does It Take To Screw In A Lightbulb?

  1. anothercomment says:

    I totally agree, I went to one of those Top 10 States, where the districts are all small minus NYC schools. The districts are 1 or 2 high schools big at most. For Example, The City of Dunwoody would have Dunwoody High School and its feeder middle school and Elementary School. Sandy Springs would have Riverwood and North Springs and their Feeder Middle Schools and Elementary Schools instead. So neither one would be part of Dekalb or Fulton Respectively. Just Like Campbell would be the Smyrna/Vinings School District. Lakeside would be the Tucker School District. Chamblee would be the Brookhaven/Chamblee District.

    Even the Walton’s and Riverwood’s don’t come close to the average High School in the top 10 States in the North East or Midwest. I went to High School, College and Graduate School up there. It is so obvious. The majority of people in those areas feel very comfortable with their children in their small local school districts. So much so that many of the Catholic Schools have had a hard time staying open and have closed. Those that remain open are less than $4,000 a year. Here the competition to get into the Catholic K-8 schools is immense and they cost over $8,000. Marist is over $16,000 and almost impossible to get into. That is not the case up North. My friends from high school and college are going public all the way. These are people who can well afford Private schools, especially private schools at 1/2 the cost in Atlanta.

    The cost savings with all the extra central office overhead is huge. No huge Supt. salary. Purchasing is local, decision making is local. Teacher turnover is low.

  2. Such a good dream says:

    Oh my how I wish this could happen. Not trying to be a naysayer, but can you imagine the fight Dekalb would put up? Just using Dunwoody as an example because I know it would be the first to want to suceed from the district, the county would fight like crazy (as they did when Dunwoody became a city) Not that this is a reason to not try. Just saying if you think getting the legislature to approve just the opportunity to vote on it is going to be hard, it will be a cakewalk compared to the fight DCSS would launch to keep top performing schools from leaving their district.

  3. Rick says:

    This will be an uphill battle in rural Georgia. In areas outside of the metro area the county school systems are one of the largest employers. Many spouses of State reps and senators work for their local county school system. The fear of allowing cities to create school systems is real in rural counties across the state. They fear loss of tax revenue, and also fear the loss of their big-time football programs. If legislation could be crafted to make sure it would affect only metro counties, it would have a chance. But state lawmakers are growing tired of getting involved in the conflicts of creating new cities (Dunwoody, Brookhaven) and issues relating to MARTA.

  4. ILuvJay'sPizza says:

    Not until the PowerPlayers in N Fulton demand a break from Fulton County Schools will we see any action on this issue. Cities of Sandy Springs, Milton, Roswell, Alpharetta need to suffer more under rule of Fulton County schools before an uprising is brought to the feet of Jan Jones. But these N Fulton cities have better representation now than in years past with Fulton Schools, and they all have new buildings. The only issue remaining for these northern Fulton cities is quality of teachers being forced on them from the central office. When the screams get louder in N Fulton, things will happen. You want new school systems? Work on your political friends in N Fulton to get it done.

  5. ILuvJay'sPizza says:

    One more thing. When Mary Margaret Oliver wants a split of DeKalb school System, that is when it will happen. Those of you waiting on Fran and Jacobs to do it will be disappointed.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Amen. Amen. And Amen. I will write the letters this week.

  7. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Like Walt Disney said, “Dreams can come true!” However, as long as Eugene Walker, Ron Ramsey, Mary Margaret Oliver and others are in power there is no chance this would work. DeKalb County and CEO Ellis are actually finding out what it will be like without the folks in Brookhaven, if that vote passes. Money for DeKalb County is dwindling and these power brokers from the south know they need the funds from the north to survive. Not sure how the funding can work out equitably and that will be the biggest part of the debate. The control of the money is what it’s all about in DeKalb.

  8. Dekalb Tax Payer says:

    Not sure why you include Mary Margaret Oliver in this group. She was the major objector to the gerrymandering of districts to keep the same BOE members in power. Look at the video of the meeting where the gerrymandered map was rejected.

  9. Miss Management says:

    That’s easy. Just write the law so that it says ‘any school system over 30,000 students can choose to divide into smaller school districts or groups of schools within a large school district as well as within a city with its own tax base can choose to secede the school system and form their own in order to provide better local control.” Add something like, “in order to form a new school system there must be sufficient tax revenue and a minimum of XX students”… Big woo. You can write whatever you please into a law. Or a Constitutional Amendment.

  10. Miss Management says:

    True that. DeKalb is the ‘forgotten county’ in the legislature. And in the media. The other day I heard Neal Boortz ranting about public schools and he listed every metro county EXCEPT DeKalb. We are way off the public radar.

  11. Weary worker says:

    Using the wisdom of Solomon to determine if size is all that matters, draw a line north to south through the center of DeKalb and create a East DeKalb System and a West DeKalb system. Let’s see how many people would be happy with that. The truth is it’s not size but demographics that are pushing this issue. People have a harder time addressing that this is not just about control but type of people they want in their local schools.

  12. ILuvJay'sPizza says:

    Oliver is included because SHE runs the DeKalb delegation, Republican and Democrats. She fought for FernBank, nothing else. Fought gerrymandering? Did you see the elongated east-to-west district she fought to preserve?

  13. Dekalb Tax Payer says:

    DeKalb contains Perimeter Mall and its wide array of office complexes, Emory, the Centers for Disease Control, etc. DeKalb supplies much of the taxes for the rural areas (we have $80,000,000 in taxes a year that leaves our county and flows to other school systems in Georgia. Not being named by Neal Boortz would be a compliment IMO.

  14. @ Weary Worker

    Well, it took only 7 hours and 24 minutes for the first person to raise the racism flag — although you did not have the guts to say it straight out. This has NOTHING to do with “the type” of people wanted in our local schools.

    It has EVERYTHING to do with taking back control of our local schools.

    Your charge of racism rings hollow! DeKalb County is majority African-American. DeKalb County School System is majority African-American. African-Americans live throughout DeKalb County, as do Asians and Hispanics and Caucasians and a variety of other colors and cultures. The schools are great melting pots. No one wants to change that.

    The reason why DCSS should be split in half (or even in thirds) horizontally instead of vertically has to do with driving distance to schools and the horrendous traffic that envelops DeKalb all day. A slight accident can block I-285 for miles; when it rains all bets are off. Students coming from South DeKalb to North DeKalb are often late.

    We support the neighborhood school concept. Students who live near to their schools are more likely to feel a connection to the school and to be involved in after-school activities — again, a known contributor to student academic improvement and to significantly reducing drop-outs. Parents who live (and maybe work) near to their children’s schools are most likely to be parents who are involved with those schools — a known contributor to improved education. The best schools also serve as community centers — in use for the community nights and weekends.

    So, just take your tired old cry of “Racisim” and crawl back under your rock.

  15. The Deal says:

    Besides, DeKalb could and should be chopped up into a minimum of 4 districts with 100K students.

  16. dekalbmom says:

    The CDC is part of the federal government. Don’t think it pays county taxes. Not sure about Emory. I think the Perimeter Mall area is probably the largest commercial tax generator in the county with the DeKalb portion of Brookhaven next.

  17. The Other Anon says:

    Interesting reaction – Weary Worker didn’t really charge “racism”. I read it as being a socio-economic comment, and reasonable given some of the commentary in other threads.

  18. Dekalb Taxpayer says:

    Regarding Emory and CDC – DeKalb houses these powerful and influential organizations that contribute tremendously to the Atlanta economy and prestige of the metro area. They are a powerful draw for internationally renowned researchers and medical personnel. The employment of Emory and CDC personnel during this recession has had a very stabilizing influence on the high property values in the Clifton Corridor. Perimeter Mall is one of the few malls still anchoring the retail industry. Consider what is happening to Gwinnett Place Mall, formerly one of the most successful malls in the SE U.S. DeKalb still has many beautiful, tree lined, close in neighborhoods with proximity to all that midtown and downtown have to offer. I recently looked into moving to John’s Creek. One look at the absence of trees, horrific traffic and lack of easy access to cultural and entertainment venues quickly dissuaded me. DeKalb has many unique attributes that Cobb, Fulton, and Gwinnett do not have.

  19. momfromhe11 says:

    @dekalbmom – You’re correct. Emory and CDC, while they give prestige to DeKalb and provide a huge number of jobs, do not pay taxes. The heavy retail of Perimeter and Brookhaven are big sources of tax income. The GM plant in Doraville could also be a good source if it is ever developed.
    The recent flap about the City of Decatur trying to annex two small retail areas in unincorporated DeKalb (primarily for the taxes, many think) is another symptom of the scramble for tax income.

  20. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Totally agree, but nothing is going to happen without her involved. That’s all I meant. The other two are corrupt while Mary Margaret would not let this happen either. There is too much money on the north side of DeKalb getting funneled into South DeKalb for the school district to separate. Just look at CEO Ellis and the scramble the county is taking, since the polling looks good for the City of Brookhaven.

    Redovian has a nice dream of two or three districts in DeKalb, but he also knows the nasty deals that have to be made, behind closed doors, for anything to get done. Jester refuses to deal behind closed doors, which is why I think he does not like the job she has done since being elected.

    Walker and Ramsey are dishonest and the citizens should be outraged that nothing has changed in their schools for the better part of 10 years. It’s been on a gradual slope downward into the abyss of failure, which for some reason Walker and Ramsey seem to celebrate..

  21. justwatch says:

    This won’t happen because it takes a state Consitutional amendment, not because DeKalb folks wouldn’t want it to happen. The county has virtually no power to control what happens at the state — look at the City of Brookhaven potential. Do you think that the vast majority of DeKalb’s delegation wanted that to happen? No. Our delegation is meaningless.

    Where did you see/hear that Redovian doesn’t like the job Jester has been doing. Defensive some?

  22. The Other Anon says:

    “Redovian has a nice dream of two or three districts in DeKalb, but he also knows the nasty deals that have to be made, behind closed doors, for anything to get done. Jester refuses to deal behind closed doors, which is why I think he does not like the job she has done since being elected.”

    Can you site your source on this please? I’ve heard VERY differently, especially regarding Jester, but won’t give specifics without validation.

  23. Screwed says:

    dekalb just axed 130+ school house positions. Glad to know that when I return on Monday I might not have a job as a teacher.

  24. Dekalb Taxpayer says:

    What do you teach?

  25. Screwed says:

    I won’t comment here publicly any specifics, but I will say I teach secondary education in a core academic area.

  26. Dekalb Taxpayer says:

    It’s shocking to think that they would eliminate core academic positions when our academic scores are so in need of improvement, our class sizes are so large and we have 8,500 admin and support versus around 6,500 teachers less than 4,000 of them being content (core) and grade level teachers. That means less than 4,000 employees out of 15,000 are responsible for teaching the content (math, science, social studies, and language arts) that students come to school to learn. Mastery of math, science, social studies, and language arts core content are the ONLY reason our schools exist and the ONLY reason tax payers pay school taxes. If we can’t get that right, we don’t have an educational system. Did Dr. Atkinson hear parents say they want MORE content teachers, not less and smaller class sizes not larger and less admin and support personnel? What are they thinking?

  27. Ned says:

    I tend to agree. The divisions in DeKalb are as much $ as color, with the south still perceiving it is “owed” by the north, the north wishing to secede to “keep what’s theirs” and the center squeezed and forgotten.

  28. Dekalb Taxpayer says:

    I would have bet money on that a year ago, but now I’m not so sure. The charter school Constitutional amendment referendum passed pretty easily so why wouldn’t this? Once it’s on the ballot, it only requires a majority of voters in the state to change it. The Republicans have a 2/3s majority in one house and almost the same in the other. They can pretty well bring up any amendment they want at this point. The question is would this get a simple majority in an election referendum? I guess the charter school vote will tell us the mood of the statewide electorate.

  29. Anonymous says:

    What kills me is there are 15,000 employees and ONLY 300 are unnecessary???C’mon, they had to know taxpayers and those of us who have long beleaguered thes point would just start laughing, roll our eyes and think ssdd. Did they think we would be impressed? And what should be cut is the ap jobs? If she were smart, she would come out personally and say that report was useful but not at all what we are gonna do.

  30. Steve Smith says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of creating smaller school districts. However, I disagree with others here who think it is a pipe-dream. The following statement made by the OP is incorrect:

    “These metro school systems have only a few representatives out of the hundreds elected to the Georgia General Assembly, one of the largest state legislatures in the nation. So as far as the majority of Georgia’s large pool of state legislators are concerned, an outsized school system is not a problem – and therefore not on their radar.”

    Fulton, Gwinnett, Dekalb and Cobb counties have 3.1 million residents, which is almost one-third of the state’s population. There are currently 62 state house members and 19 state senators from the four-county area. They each make up just over one-third of each legislative chamber. So as you can see there is proportionate representation.

    Look at what just a few state legislators from DeKalb are able to do. They can call for the creation of new cities, they can reduce the number of school board members and then delay that reduction and set a new timetable to their liking. All this was done over the objections of the school board, county commission and majority of the local legislative delegation. It is obvious that Republicans are in control and that local or statewide Democrats can only sit and watch (as well as file the occasional lawsuit that eventually gets dismissed).

    The charter school amendment will be an interesting trial balloon to watch. If voters overwhlemingly approve the amendment, an emboldened and larger (due to redistricting) Republican majority will continue with their education reforms, which I could easily see as including creating smaller districts in the metro area. They won’t have to worry about what rural legislators would think, because they can tailor make the bill for DeKalb just as they did to shrink the school board.

  31. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Not defensive at all! Redovian talked about Jester in a reply to me in the thread that he wrote on this blog..

  32. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Are you referring to the deals behind closed doors Redovian made or Jester? Not aware of any Jester has made up to now. Redovian told my wife and I some of the deals he had to make, one we were not too happy about. Water under the bridge now. The BOE could have made better choices for chairman last year and the past 5 years leadership has lacked at that level.

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