Little chance Legislature will interfere with Atlanta's School Board... for now

7:41 PM, Mar 22, 2011   |    comments
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  • Mayor Kasim Reed talking about the Atlanta School Board, 1.18.11
  • State Rep. Ralph Long (D-Atlanta)

ATLANTA -- Just as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has decided to ask the State Legislature for control over the city's bickering school board, the clock appears to have run out for this year.

He believes the Board has made little or no progress toward saving the system's accreditation, which has been on probation since January.

They have until next September to show some progress to their accrediting agency, The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

"Would I like to erase the Board, to be honest with you, and start over? Yes, I would," State Representative Ralph Long (D-Atlanta) said on Tuesday.

Although no ally of Reed, Rep. Long introduced a bill Tuesday to let the Mayor and other politicians appoint most of the Board's members.

Under his legislation, voters would only elect the Board Chairperson.

Two members would be appointed by the Governor, two by Atlanta's Mayor, two by Atlanta's City Council and two by Atlanta area legislators.

But even Long knows his bill has no chance.

First, because there are only eight days left in this year's forty day legislative session.

And second, because many lawmakers are afraid of the precedent of taking away the voters' right to pick their school boards.

"Even though the situation in Atlanta is not good, I need more convincing than I have right now, so my initial reaction is not so sure about that," said Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Forsyth County) a former member of his county's school board.

Many believe taking Atlanta's School Board selection away from the voters would require an amendment to the Georgia Constitution.

Even Governor Nathan Deal is wary of moving too quickly.

"We have to be sure we've given the system the opportunity to correct itself before legislative or constitutional action is taken in that regard," the Governor said.

While legislation is not given any chance during this year's regular session, the General Assembly will hold a special session later in the year to take up the touchy issue of redistricting.

But many believe that once-in-a-decade battle over their own seats will not leave any time for lawmakers to worry about who sits on Atlanta's School Board.

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