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.”
The powerful House speaker pro tempore, Jan Jones (R-Alpharetta), put a positive spin on Monday’s development.
“Tom did a tremendous job in moving this Constitutional Amendment forward,” she said. “Getting HR 486 out of subcommittee and the full Education Committee with one hearing each is real progress. This is most definitely a heavy lift to accomplish. As Pro Tem, I am still fighting to get Milton County, and this is even more significant because of statewide implications. In the end, there were not enough votes to ensure passage, but I am urging Tom to bring this back next session where I look forward to working with him to get it passed.”
In another DeKalb school development Monday, the interim superintendent, Michael Thurmond, said he would not run for state school superintendent. He said it was more important for students that he engage in closing the constant racial north-south divide in the county. Thurmond cited the drive for independent school districts and a conflict in the General Assembly over drawing new lines for a seven-member DeKalb school board.
The current board wants it to remain a nine-member body and has support in the DeKalb delegation. But last year, the full House overwhelmingly supported reducing its size. Qualifying for office begins next week.