HR 4 – Independent School Systems: Explained by Stan Jester, District 1 DCSS School Board Representative

Originally posted by Stan Jester at the Fact Checker
(Mildly edited by DSW2)

GA-CapitolOur most recently ratified state constitution, ratified in 1983, is Georgia’s 10th constitution and our nation’s youngest. [Although Georgia, formed in 1733 was the 4th state admitted to the union, back in 1788.] Our current state Constitution includes an amendment, written decades ago in very different times, that allows all existing school districts (county and city) to remain but prohibits any new independent (city) school systems from forming*. Georgia was left with 21 city districts, 159 county districts and no new districts allowed to form.

The motivation behind the prohibition on new districts was mostly economic in nature. The result consolidated bureaucratic power and effectively eliminated competition in education for the next 30 years.

House Resolution 4 (HR 4) was submitted this year “proposing an amendment to the Constitution so as to authorize any municipality in the State of Georgia to establish by local law an independent school system;”  The amendment, a less restrictive update to HR486 created last year, will open the door allowing people statewide to discuss whether or not they would like their city to have an independent school district.

Important Changes

  1. ANY municipality (city) in the state of Georgia (regardless of incorporation date) will have the opportunity to create a city based school system, should the need and desire present itself.
  2. Independent school systems are defined as a school system that will exist within the boundaries of a single municipality.

The Benefits of School Systems of a Manageable Size >>

Economic Development

  • School systems of a manageable size, on average, have superior graduation rates to districts that are either very small or are overly large.
  • An increase in graduation rate will lead to:
    • More students attending college, leading to an increase in the Georgia professional work force.
    • High school graduates are more likely to be employed and earn more with a high school diploma.
    • The above increases taxable state income and reduces stress on state dependency.
  • Strong school systems attract strong business partners.

Intelligent Resource Management (Financial and Material)

  • School systems of a manageable size are able to more effectively spend their financial resources and develop programs to meet the needs of their schoolhouses and students.
    • Student and schoolhouse needs are more easily identified
    • Wasteful spending on programs that do not benefit an individual school’s needs, but receive them none-the-less because of broad based administrative decisions, are virtually eliminated.
    • Schoolhouses that need specific and individualized programs are more likely to receive them, as they are not lost among the other schools’ needs within overly large districts.

School Systems of a Manageable Size Are More Responsive and Proactive

  • Systems that are “close to home” have more direct, continuous, and in-depth relationships with students, teachers, parents, and the community.
    • Parent engagement is increased.
    • A sense of community among the schools is built.
    • Teachers and school level administration build a partnership with district level decision making.
    • Students’ benefit from programs to support their individual needs.
  • Because the pulse of the individual schoolhouse and district is easier to keep a direct eye on, proactive decision-making can occur in order to support continued success and ward off potential failures.
  • Reduce administrative layers, making it more effective and efficient for all members of the learning community to work within.

DATA POINTS

Two of the eight large districts in the bottom 20% are located in metro Atlanta, DeKalb and Clayton County School Districts. These two mega districts service ~40% (148,000+) of the students out of the 36 districts who have the lowest graduation rates in all of Georgia.

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*From the GA Constitution: Article XIII

Section 5: Local School Systems
Paragraph I
Text of Paragraph I:

School Systems Continued; Consolidation of School Systems Authorized; New Independent School Systems Prohibited

Authority is granted to county and area boards of education to establish and maintain public schools within their limits; provided, however, that the authority provided for in this paragraph shall not diminish any authority of the General Assembly otherwise granted under this article, including the authority to establish special schools as provided for in Article VIII, Section V, Paragraph VII. Existing county and independent school systems shall be continued, except that the General Assembly may provide by law for the consolidation of two or more county school systems, independent school systems, portions thereof, or any combination thereof into a single county or area school system under the control and management of a county or area board of education, under such terms and conditions as the General Assembly may prescribe; but no such consolidation shall become effective until approved by a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon in each separate school system proposed to be consolidated. No independent school system shall hereafter be established.[1]

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11 Responses to HR 4 – Independent School Systems: Explained by Stan Jester, District 1 DCSS School Board Representative

  1. dsw2contributor says:

    Surprise! Yesterday, District Attorney Robert James finally bothered to get a felony theft indictment against Daphne Murphy, a DCCS para who stole at least $13,000 from Miller Grove High School’s cheerleading team and senior class accounts back in 2009 and 2010:
    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/dekalb-indicts-ex-school-employee-for-embezzling-s/njpTn/

    Back in 2011, then-interim superintendent Ramona Tyson refused to accept Murphy’s attempted resignation and terminated her. Here’s an AJC article from back then, dated February 10, 2011, that is titled “Dekalb schools’ audit find evidence of theft, fraud”:
    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/dekalb-schools-audits-find-evidence-of-theft-fraud/nQqZF/

    Think about that timing for a moment: Tyson terminated Daphne Murphy in Feb 2011. Kids who had started high school that Fall (2010) went to high school for a full four years, then graduated last Spring (2014), and only now is the Dekalb DA getting around to indicting Murphy.

    Funny how it took the Druid Hills annexation and the serious talk of changing the state constitution (above) to finally wake the Dekalb DA up…

  2. Oh that’s nothing… we have heard that DeKalb has a backlog of over 250 murder cases!

  3. howdy1942 says:

    If our district attorney could get his attention off Burrell Ellis and that lady in Dunwoody, he might be able to get some things done for our residents. He’s tried Ellis once and that ended in a hung jury. Settle that case with Ellis – he resigns from his office as CEO and agrees not to attempt any reinstatement and the County drops a new trial. Think of how many potholes the County could fill if it chose to settle with Ellis.

    Stan, I fully support amending the State Constitution. The Dekalb County School System at that time was a very small fraction of what it is today. No one at that time could have ever envisioned the size of the system today and the inability to effectively manage it. My view is that the Dekalb School District should be broken up into at least seven smaller districts. As it stands, we have at least two factions in Dekalb County and neither is able to cooperate with the other. As a result, we see constant arguing, bickering, and negative publicity. A 4-3 school board split is no way to run a school system. Everybody north of US78 wants out of the existing Dekalb County School System and is pursuing every means to accomplish that objective. The State Legislature should just allow that to happen. I’m convinced that the schools in all areas of the County would be better served if that were possible.

    I think that we ought to look at the Decatur City School System as a model. It is ranked Number 2 in the State and, at present, Dekalb is somewhere below 100. It is much smaller than Dekalb and is obviously much better governed and much better managed. I know that the current Dekalb administration cites (as they see it) its ability to get better prices from vendors and consolidation benefits. I seriously disagree with that view. It seems to me like that we can’t effectively manage projects and that results in huge legal bills. And now the DCSS wants $2.5 million to fight Druid Hills, an issue that would just go away if we were able to have smaller school districts. Look at the record in Dekalb – for at least 15 years, we have had sharply divided school boards, superintendents who didn’t stay long enough to get anything done, one legal case after another, continuous issues with SACS, and endless negative publicity.

    Like a very bad marriage, sometimes it is just time to say enough is enough. Our kids and our people have suffered enough.

  4. thedeal2 says:

    This is THE only thing that is going to fix our schools. DeKalb Schools will never fix themselves.

  5. I believe that you will all find that Most of the North Fulton Cities will be starting up their own school districts when this passes. The Sandy Springs Riverwood District PTA has for the last two years voted to limited the number of transfer students to the High school and Middle School to less than 12 per year, due to crowding issues. But each time some Administrator from the Southside ships up ton of students from the S outh Fulton. So that it is easier on the parents who work at the perimeter. These parents don’t participate. The facts are their kids are grades behind and still maintain their gang affiliation from south Fulton. The Girls are fighting thugettes. White boys can not use the rest rooms starting in 6th grade.

  6. In addition, DeKalb schools are getting out of control with student behavior, violence and teacher response. Teachers are trained in how to ‘hold’ children who misbehave, however, this is just a one day training, and these ‘holds’ can be done incorrectly and in reality end up harmful. There are resource officers in schools (at a very high cost to taxpayers – more than any other county) – they should handle these situations. Any teacher who cannot control their own response should not be employed by our school district.

    This is not the kind of situation we like to see in our childrens’ schools yet, this kind of interaction is more and more commonplace in DeKalb schools >>

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/01/georgia-mom-shocked-by-video-that-shows-teacher-choking-11-year-old-boy/

    http://www.inquisitr.com/1752409/teacher-on-tape-choking-11-year-old-student-in-georgia-mother-demands-justice-video/

    Beyond the actual story, is the layered story of just how difficult the school district was in responding and how much effort it was for this mother to gain a copy of the video from the school district. The event occurred in May, 2014 yet she was not given a copy of the surveillance video until November, 2014, after numerous attempts and an Open Records Request.

  7. d says:

    Although I understand the sentiment behind this, this is an issue limited to a few if more than one district in Georgia. Convince a representative from Early, Appling, Dade, or Union Counties that this is of statewide importance. Convince voters from around the state of the same. Not such an easy sell.

  8. Actually, that’s not true. There are many areas of the state interested in releasing the hold on forming new school districts. Johns Creek and other Fulton municipalities are interested. Some areas of Macon and Columbus are interested. Granted this appeals to downsizing rather than fresh new start ups – so this appeals to people stuck in extra large school districts that have become unwieldy, unsuccessful and corrupt.

  9. dekalbteach says:

    “Teachers are trained in how to ‘hold’ children who misbehave, however, this is just a one day training, and these ‘holds’ can be done incorrectly and in reality end up harmful.”

    According to the Special Education teachers at our school, who did this training in the past, this is no longer available. The training had to be renewed each year and DCSS no longer pays for the teachers to obtain this training.

  10. September says:

    DCSD needs to do a better job of identifying students with behavior problems and offer learning situations that will actually help. Placing a volatile, or disruptive student in a regular classroom without the needed support is a problem for everyone. It impacts every student’s ability to learn. What do you do if you call for assistance and help doesn’t come quick enough?

  11. nannerpuddin39 says:

    Placing a volatile special education student in a sp. Ed. classroom with 10 other special needs children is a sin also but it happens! The paras are not trained how to “hold” them and many are injured permanently! The supervisor of special education for the county does a terrible job with placement. Those so volatile need to have their own rooms, the kids can be 5 or 6 but are extremely strong. Many special education students are in diapers and paras have to change many diapers daily. The public has no idea what a mess this department is. How can any learning be accomplished with all these distractions! The county wants/needs the extra money….from these students but does not go the extra mile to be sure they are properly cared for! If I had a child who needed this placement, I would be visiting the classroom very often!

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