Friday, February 29, 2008

Governor Perdue Announces Filing of Legislation Enabling Voters to Replace Local School Boards

Governor Sonny Perdue today announced the filing of legislation which would put a referendum on the ballot to replace the school board in schools districts that lose accreditation. This legislation is being carried by Senator Ronnie Chance, one of Governor Perdue’s floor leaders.
“We appreciate and respect local control of education, but we cannot allow Georgia’s students to suffer when school board members willfully neglect to uphold the necessary standards,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “This legislation will enact a fail-safe measure that will allow voters affected by the loss of accreditation to hold those elected officials accountable.”

This legislation would require that a referendum be put on the ballot in a school district that loses accreditation, or in a district where all of its schools lose accreditation. The referendum would determine whether or not to remove all members of the local school board from office. If the referendum to remove is approved by a majority of voters, then the State Board of Education would appoint replacement members to serve out the remainder of the removed board members’ terms. When those terms expire, a new board member would be elected by the voters of that district per normal voting procedures.

“We in the General Assembly guard the future of Georgia’s children and we cannot tolerate a decline in the quality of their education,” said Senator Ronnie Chance. “We share Governor Perdue’s concern and we will act to be sure that the voters have a chance to act if their school boards do not fulfill their duties.”

Accreditation is necessary for students to have their diplomas recognized by most technical schools, colleges and universities. Accreditation is also necessary for students to receive the HOPE Scholarship under current law.

Governor Perdue called for this legislation to be drafted after Clayton County schools were notified by their accrediting institution, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, that their accreditation would be revoked September 1, 2008, unless urgent action was taken to correct operational practices and policies.

In response to this potential loss of accreditation, Governor Perdue appointed two special liaisons, William (“Brad”) Bryant and James Bostic, Jr., both members of the State Board of Education. They are working with the Clayton County school board in an advisory capacity to assist the board as they seek to maintain the system’s accreditation.

Governor Perdue also offered state assistance to the school board in meeting three of the nine requirements for the system to maintain accreditation. The state auditor’s office will review the financial statements of Clayton’s school system. The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement will audit the system’s attendance records. On Monday, Secretary of State Karen Handel, in her capacity as the state’s chief elections official, announced that she would have her inspector general’s office audit the election of the school board members, as Governor Perdue requested, to ensure that the elections comply with state law.

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