State Rep. Tom Taylor filed a bill Monday proposing a constitutional amendment to allow Dunwoody to create its own school system, with provisions to allow that district to join with Brookhaven and Chamblee or for those cities to form a combined system or one of their own.
The state constitution limits the number of school systems and must be amended if any more are to be created. That would require a two-thirds vote of the state House and Senate, to be followed in 2014 with a statewide vote on the amendment.
The action by the Dunwoody Republican comes after a show of support for the idea by the Dunwoody City Council.
The bill does not include detail on how school buildings might be acquired or staff retained. If the amendment were approved, Taylor said, studies would be required to determine feasibility and and legislation would be written.
“This is the beginning of a very long process,” Taylor said, acknowledging it will be a difficult fight since both Democratic and Republican legislators may fear such a schism in their home counties.
The state representative believes, however, that attitudes outside the metro area may be changing, pointing to the 115 votes cast in the House for reforms at MARTA.
“That’s just five votes short of a constitutional majority,” he said, “suggesting that what we do locally does have an impact on the state’s economy.”
Taylor’s action comes amid the chaos surrounding DeKalb County’s schools, with state and federal court hearings scheduled this week on Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision to suspend six of the nine school board members, excluding three newly elected members.
“This is the perfect time to do this,” Taylor said, “with the perfect storm around the school system.”
Monday evening, a poll was released indicating that Taylor may be close.
The poll conducted jointly by Landmark Communications and Rosetta Stone Communications reveals Georgia voters are split on the subject of a constitutional amendment to allow for the creation of new school systems in the state. The idea of an amendment is supported by 39 percent of Georgia voters versus 41 percent who oppose the amendment.
“Voters who consider themselves to live in metro Atlanta are in support of this measure by a margin of 48-36,” said Mark Rountree, president of Landmark Communications. “However voters who live outside the metro, many of who live in rural areas and in small counties, oppose the measure by a margin of 34-44.”
The idea for a school amendment splits down party lines. Democrats oppose the measure by a margin of 49-31 percent and Republicans support the measure by a margin of 46-34 percent.
“The key to this issue are the independent voters,” said John Garst, president of Rosetta Stone Communications. “They are dead tied at 41 percent approval and 41 percent opposition. If this were on the ballot today the decision would rest with the 20 percent of the undecided Independent voters in Georgia.”