Independent city schools — not this year

From the Dunwoody Crier >>

Wait till next year. That is the status of the bill to allow new cities to create independent school districts.

State Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) asked Monday that the bill not be moved from the House Rules Committee to the floor after hearing from the majority whip that it didn’t have the 120 votes on the floor to pass as a constitutional amendment, a much higher bar than regular legislation.

Taylor said he was disappointed but he was pleased the measure was approved in two committees. He said he understands that much more work needs to be done with individual legislators.

The independent school district idea is wildly popular in Dunwoody because of the dysfunctional nature of the DeKalb school system that nearly cost it accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

But across the state and on metro Atlanta school boards, the idea of fragmenting large school districts or cherry-picking to carve out areas is feared. That Taylor had limited the idea to Georgia’s new cities individually or in combination, he said, hadn’t been widely understood.

“We’ll do our homework for the next year,” he said, “and bring it around again, hopefully to a much better reception.”

Read more >> Independent school system bill won’t advance

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19 Responses to Independent city schools — not this year

  1. ursokm16 says:

    True–all he has to do is make sure all legislators understand that a supermajority passed const amendment has no effect on 90% of the state. Lets get this right–a statewide const amendment that has no relevance to 90% of the state. Thank the Lord for supermajorities.

  2. Below is a comment in an AJC post on this topic, from Kim Gocke – founder of the Cross Keys Foundation and ardent supporter of the students within its walls >>

    Posted by KimGokce at 8:37 p.m. Feb. 25, 2014

    Yes, yes, those evil people in Dunwoody! Aren’t we glad they got turned away? And those filthy rich, untrustworthy people in Brookhaven, to hell with them – they’ve all got Audi’s, Land Rovers and their kids all go to private schools so who cares, right? If it weren’t typical of the uniformed and hateful blithering by both sides of this issue, I’d be angry. But it is typical and I’m simply sad for the kids who really getting the shaft while we pontificate about PWF. At the bottom of DeKalb public education politics and at the bottom of the civic dialog are the children of Cross Keys along Buford Hwy. These are the children who will most benefit when this unjust bit of Georgia law is removed. Our kids are neither white nor black but they are definitely poor by the standard measures. Ranging from 86% – 99% Title I and virtually 100% minority, our children and their families are the after-thought in systems like DeKalb County School District. The evidence is decades long and overwhelming. The capital spent on our school is as low as 1/3 of surrounding districts. Our attendance area boundary can’t be mistaken for anything other than what it is: a multi-year, concerted effort to isolate these communities out of Chamblee attendance area and others that surround it. When the Georgia constitution changes, and it will, these children will be able to be supported in municipal districts like Brookhaven and Chamblee and Doraville. These children do not belong to DeKalb County nor do they belong to any of the cities. They belong to God and damn us for our treatment of them and their schools. Let them go!

  3. There was no way they could get this done. These elected officials are unable to get much of anything done. In fact, it’s looking more and more like the school board election will have to be postponed (which, ironically, is what Michael Thurmond has been going around advocating for)… hmmmm. Who’s ‘really’ running things in DeKalb?

    Lawmakers face election deadline for DeKalb schools

    Posted: 6:09 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014

    Georgia lawmakers are approaching a deadline to restructure the DeKalb County school board, with the potential for election chaos if they fail to meet it.

    Candidates for the May 20 school election are supposed to start coming forward at 9 a.m. Monday, when the qualification period starts. But, so far, it’s unclear where the political lines will be drawn for the districts in which they’re supposed to run.

    “We just need to know,” said H. Maxine Daniels, elections director in DeKalb. She said lawsuits by potential candidates could result from a failure to get the lines drawn in time, and that she might have to seek an injunction herself.

    The row over the school voting districts reflects the role politics plays in public education and the struggle for control over institutions that consume a big chunk of taxpayer dollars. That same frustration drove legislation that sought to overturn Georgia’s constitutional prohibition on the establishment of new school systems.

  4. Gregory Walker says:

    The merits of the bill aside, as mentioned in another post on the subject, the “2005 and newer” provision was not, as this article describes, conveyed thoroughly or thought through logistically relative to how it would sell in all the other parts of the state. Simply, it seemed way too self-serving (to anyone living outside north Fulton and north DeKalb).

    If our goal, to beat the same drum, is to split the system up into smaller chunks, a comprehensive, thorough, logical rationale for what will be done, how it will be done, what time frame it will be done in, what the collateral damage will be, and how that will be dealt with will go much, much further with the average parent/citizen than the continued efforts to have this group or that break off their “independence” (without seeming regard for the consequences to everyone else). And, it’ll go much further with the Legislature as a whole. What’s not selling at the Gold Dome right now is even more cities/schools/etc. trying to ‘break free’ without any real, earnest planning done to understand what the consequences to everyone else are. It sucks (often) but it takes time to work through these things, to build a genuine consensus. And, we’re a big, diverse, complex county – consensus is hard and takes leadership that we don’t see too often and mostly snuff out when we do. But I have to believe that we move that way – holistically, with everyone at the table – instead of this constant sniping and nibbling around the edges to get ‘what’s mine’.

  5. ursokm16 says:

    Right Gregory–Its a STATE legislature for God’s sake, not a playground for a few “able” communities. Maybe they’ve had enough. I really think people around here lost perspective on how twisted this whole series of “regime change” politics became.

  6. howdy1942 says:

    This legislation was too wordy, too complex, and too narrowly focused. Can you imagine anyone reading that thing in its entirety on any ballot? Moreover, it would probably not have survived a Federal Court challenge because it allowed only cities formed 2005 or after to form their own school districts and deprive those who were formed prior to that time of doing the same.

    While I supported a movement toward independent schools and supported the Druid Hills Cluster, the message from the State of Georgia to all of us in Dekalb County – we are going to have to locally resolve the problems that plague the Dekalb County School System. The one step that the Dekalb County Legislative delegation ought to take is to allow the May elections to proceed with the seven districts absent the two at-large seats. We cannot tolerate another four years with the nine seats that has proven to be so dysfunctional in the past. That’s what the Legislature required long ago and that’s what Dekalb needs to do. Let’s get on with it.

    I appreciate Rep. Taylor taking removing his bill from this year’s Legislative agenda and would encourage him to refine it, shorten it, give the same latitude to all cities. I would also encourage him and others in this Legislature to remove the barrier that was the Dekalb County School Board to the Druid Hills Charter or to at least give petitioning bodies an avenue of appeal directly to the State Board of Education.

  7. Dekalbite2 says:

    Why not have a charter cluster state board to review charter clusters that have been denied by local school systems? Is that within the Georgia Constitution?

  8. ursokm16 says:

    Why not have the current Charter Commission add charter clusters to its purview–or use the State BOE?

  9. concernedmome30329 says:

    Because the state Constitutional change didn’t go far enough. School systems still own their buildings and the State DOE (or any state agency/official for that matter) has no ability to tell a system what to do with their buildings. It is a shame that the Constitutional change didn’t go further because it surely would have passed…

  10. September says:

    A different constitutional amendment could be written. It could continue to require county-size or larger school systems with a provision that allows a county school system to be divided into smaller systems when the number of students exceeds a specific student threshold. Keep that threshold high so it can only be used by very large systems and set a minimum number of students needed to create a district to avoid the problem of too small school systems. Is there really such a thing? There would need to be a way to begin the process and to approve it.

    The reality is that DeKalb is divided into regions. Each region could function as a separate school system. The regions are larger than many would like, but it would be an improvement over our current situation.

  11. YES! This is what the “Blue Ribbon Task Force” put together by Dr. Lewis recommended. But – alas! Like every other ‘community’ input – it was ignored.

  12. Kim says:

    Yes, let’s wait. If we cared about ALL children, we’d develop a comprehensive solution that could address all the variances we have in one hundred and fifty brazillion counties. Let’s refine. Let’s “ideate” further on one model that could address ALL possible concerns and constituents in both urban and rural, both rich and poor, both vegetarian and vegan.

    Yeah, that’s it. We could host a few “town halls” – oops, I mean “County seats.” We could have some strategic workshops, maybe a retreat or two for the really big thinkers. Then, we could consolidate all the outcomes and take-aways and stakeholder input, capture it in a 200 page slide presentation, convert it to an Acrobat file, post it on a web site, maybe even social media and then tweet it.

    Then, in about 5-10 years we could do it again. Wait, no, we already did that. Never mind.

  13. howdy1942 says:

    From my perspective, I was very impressed with the Druid Hills Charter petition. It seemed to me that it was well through out. It seemed to offer a fresh new idea and to offer an innovative approach that could have realized improved results and served as a model for the rest of Dekalb County. Because it required only 97% of the per-student funds, it could not possibly have had any measurable impact, positive or negative, on students outside of Druid Hills.

    Mr. Thurmond fought that proposal for all he was worth and a divided school board voted to deny us even the chance of seeing whether this bold new experiment could have worked. Once again, this was a debate among adults who ultimately decided to deny this petition based on adult issues with no consideration of what is in the interests of our kids. Yes, other communities throughout Dekalb, including mine, could have followed the example of Druid Hills, especially if the results were trending upward. But one thing is for sure, none of them could have done much worse than what we now have. After years and years of corruption, decline, arrogance, and embarrassment, so many of our people are simply fed up with this board and with this administration. I’m glad that SACS saw something to lift the probation, but I suspect that had more to do with political pressure, especially from the State, than anything else. True, members of this Board don’t seem to be yelling at each other or walking out on each other because they have been doing just what the superintendent wants them to do and living in fear of SACS thinking they were “interfering”.

    We all remember the specter of how Mr. Thurmond was appointed by the former school board, how he pleaded with both the State Board of Education and the Governor to keep the former board in place, how he just yesterday pleaded with the Dekalb Delegation to keep the nine-seat board in place, how he fought to delay the elections scheduled in May, how he promised to provide a full accounting of those 600 administration positions that supposedly had been eliminated, how he promised to initiate a full forensic audit, how he saw himself as a one-year interim, and on an on. We all remember the countless “executive sessions” of last January 2013, the questions surrounding Dr. Atkinson’s leaving, the turmoil surrounding the “re-election” of Eugene Walker, the endless discussions of the board as to funding a challenge to the Governor, the “found” $21 million and the abrupt departure of the Chief Financial Officer, We remember the indictment of Lewis and Pope and how it took four years to bring that case to trial, the abrupt termination its (DCSS) commitment to fund our teachers TSA (Tax-Sheltered Annuity), its decision not to work to settle that dispute but rather to fight it out in court with even greater legal expenses, the long drawn out thing with Eugene Walker, and the continued arrogance and disconnect of this school board. And now good old Jay Cunningham wants to pick up where he left off.

    Frankly, I would welcome a move by the Governor and the State Education Board to take over the Dekalb County School System. That could do nothing but improve our schools and create an opportunity for our community to heal.

  14. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @howdy1942 said this when talking about the Druid Hills Charter petition,
    Because it required only 97% of the per-student funds, it could not possibly have had any measurable impact, positive or negative, on students outside of Druid Hills

    I will say again that I supported the idea of a Druid Hills cluster. I consider Druid Hills a socially progressive community and considering the possible partnership with Emory, I also believe we could have learned a lot about what does and does not work with this model so this could be replicated to other clusters.

    I have not read the petition however take some issue with howdy1942’s assertion above. 97% of the per student funds would be GREATER than the amount currently provided for the students in that cluster. I remind everyone again that calculating the per student funding is a simplistic formula, the operating budget divided by the number of students. It does NOT take into consideration the funding provided for each student, especially Title 1 and Special Needs students. The dollars allocated to these students go into the pot that is used to calculate the per student amount. This amount also consists of other overhead necessary for operating a school district such administration, transportation and building maintenance. Does anyone believe that 3% of the buses and schools are in that cluster? Would they look to outsource students and business functions they can’t afford to provide? Wouldn’t City of Decatur costs go up if DCSS no longer provided outsourced transportation and access to instructional programs they don’t provide?

    The MATH to determine what is fair has many variables. Can anyone say they are comfortable in that they have all the information needed to make a decision and the per student money that should go to the Charter cluster? If 97% of the per-student funds is more than what they should receive, without question it negatively impacts those outside of the Charter Cluster. I am glad that the committee is re-working their petition as I would like to see this work. Hopefully there will be more transparency with the math so everyone can feel comfortable in moving forward.

  15. Gregory Walker says:

    Sen. Jason Carter’s e-newsletter from today (on the Lakeside bill):


    Among the most controversial pieces of legislation considered by the Senate this session has been SB 270, a measure sponsored by Sen. Fran Millar to create the city of Lakeside. This legislation passed out of the Senate last week. I spoke out against the bill and the unfair, secretive process that led to its passage. I recorded a NO vote on this legislation.

    SB 270 would create a City of Lakeside based on an entirely new map, which—to my knowledge—was not presented in any public community meetings prior to its consideration in the Senate. This new map extends well into the proposed City of Tucker and all the way through Central DeKalb to the corner of Lavista and Briarcliff.

    I have heard from a number of people who are concerned about the cityhood initiatives that are plowing ahead in central DeKalb County. I have heard from many people who are frustrated with the DeKalb County government. And I understand the frustration. I am frustrated too.

    However, I personally believe that we need an economically viable and sound county government in DeKalb County. To that end, rather than new cities, I would like to see us focus on (1) changing the form of government to eliminate the CEO position; (2) establishing a transparent procurement code; and (3) putting in place a workable ethics commission to rebuild public trust that has been lost. Once we’ve stabilized the county government, we can take up the issue of new cities.

    That said, and whatever you think about what is the best way to proceed – be it to create a single city, multiple cities or no cities — the process and speed with which the Lakeside bill moved out of committee and onto the floor of the Senate is disheartening and disappointing. SB 270 will now be taken up in the House, and has been referred to the House Governmental Affairs Committee for consideration. I will continue to work with other members of the DeKalb Legislative Delegation to address this issue, as well as keep you all informed of how this issue is moving as we get closer to Sine Die.

  16. Cedar says:

    Smaller, independent school districts that split from the behemoth, corrupt DeKalb is what’s best for the schools and the local citizens and their children, that is why it will be shot down and people will find all sorts of reasons why it’s unfair and shouldn’t be done. Sick people with a sick system want to cling to the sickness. Health, sunshine and fresh air makes them feel nauseous.

  17. From the Tucker City email >>

    Governor Deal discusses Faith in Public Life

    Our last email was sent to inform you of two separate, unrelated events: Governor Deal’s visit to Briarlake Baptist Church on Tuesday night to discuss Faith in Public Life; and separately a fundraiser for Tucker 2014 at Greater Good BBQ on Thursday.

    It would have been easy to misread our previous email and believe that Governor Deal is coming to Tucker to discuss cityhood efforts. In fact, another city group has already accused Tucker 2014 of planning to disrupt Governor Deal’s meeting. This is of course not true, as we know that the Tucker community will respect Governor Deal and the church during his discussion of Faith in Public Life. He will not be discussing local politics or cityhood efforts at this event.

    We know we don’t have to remind anyone in our group to remain as polite, respectful and positive as we have all been from the beginning of our effort. But we want to emphasize that no one from Tucker should expect Governor Deal to discuss or answer questions about our city at his event. Remember that some people are trying to cast Tucker’s cityhood efforts in the worst light possible, and we can’t let that happen.

    Please save your Tucker talk for the fundraiser at the Greater Good BBQ on Thursday night!

  18. The latest on the City of Lakeside >>

    Dear Lakeside Supporters:

    As you may have heard, the Georgia House Governmental Affairs Committee voted today to table SB 270 for the creation of a City of Lakeside today.

    Last night, Lakeside and Tucker leadership met for several hours to discuss options for moving forward with our cityhood efforts. From this meeting, legislators produced a compromise, agreed to by both parties, which was presented to the House Governmental Affairs committee today.

    Unfortunately,after the agreement was introduced to the committee, House Rules Committee Chair John Meadows made a motion to table the bill, and it is now stalled.

    We are obviously disappointed that the bill was not voted out of committee today, but remain optimistic that the legislation can be revived and passed before the end of session.

    Don’t forget, the one thing that is true in politics is that is not over until the gavel bangs.
    Please continue you to contact your elected officials and make your voice heard!

    Thank you for your continued support.


    Mary Kay Woodworth, LCA Board Chair

  19. New news —

    The House Governmental Affairs Committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow on Monday, March 17th at 3:30 p.m. in Room 606 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building with cityhood possibly on the agenda, although no public comment is anticipated.

    We have arrived at a critical crossroads in the cityhood process. You have a final opportunity to influence the elected officials who will decide on the cityhood issue. The Legislature will make a final decision this coming Monday. You will not get another chance to make your voice heard.

    Contact info >>

    Chairman Meadows: 404.656.5141

    Committee Members: 404.656.6801 404.656.0188 404.656.0178 404.656.0152 404.656.0314 404.656.5132 404.656.0152 404.656.0202 404.656.5052 404.463.3793 404.656.7855 404.656.0152 404.656.5024 404.657.0498

    House Leadership: 404.656.5020 404.656.5146 404.656.5025 404.656.5025

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