The Atlanta Public Schools accreditation probation problems are at the root of the April 11, 2011 Georgia House of legislators voted to give Governor Nathan Deal the power to remove all nine board members. Senate Bill 79, still awaiting a Senate vote, passed with a 109 to 62 vote in the House. There was much floor debate for and against the measure. Some legislators believe that the Atlanta Public School Board should be given time to address the recommendation set forth by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SACS. The board has until the end of September 2011 to in a nutshell: prove that it can govern without fighting, built community trust, select a superintendent with public input and transparency, operate under approved board policies, and re-focus on teaching and learning.
The issue here is that many elected officials don’t believe that the APS board will meet the challenges in time to save the system’s accreditation. House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R- Atlanta says Senate Bill 79 is a “safety net”. Lindsey says, “This give us a mechanism, a Plan B, to take care of the Atlanta school board and make sure we have a fully accredited system.” Even Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed supports the measure saying, “It is vital that the members of the legislature create a tool that can be used in the event that the school board fails to make the necessary progress.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 11, 2011
On the other side of the issue are the representatives who believe that the board should be given time to address the presented problems and if anything, the Governor should not be given the power to remove APS Board members. In the April 11, 2011 AJC article, Representative Sandra Scott, D- Rex, says board members should only be removed by a recall petition, except in cases when a crime has been committed.
The governor’s reach may also touch DeKalb County. The Bill includes cutting the nine member board down to a seven members. This too is a decision some elected officials say should remain in the hands of the local community. But a concern over DeKalb County’s accreditation issues and the school board’s ability to meet the SAC recommendations has for many state legislators placed DeKalb in the same light as the Atlanta Public School System.
So should the school systems be allowed to address the issues before them or should the state intervene in an effort to make sure communities don’t suffer if system accreditation is lost? If the senate passes the measure, Governor Deal will have the power to act if he chooses to do so. At this point it is imperative that the Atlanta and DeKalb school board members demonstrate that can do the job that they were elected to do. The community is depending on them, while the state is waiting to take control.