Gov. Nathan Deal today signed bipartisan legislation that will allow him to remove the members of the Atlanta Public Schools Board if the system does not regain accreditation by July.
“With the General Assembly out of session and a special investigation report forthcoming, it is essential that we have the necessary tools to ensure that Atlanta’s children are protected,” said Deal. “I made a promise earlier this year that I would not allow the future of these children to be harmed by adults who have failed them, and I will keep this promise.
“It is my hope that the district will take the appropriate steps to move forward in order to avoid a sad and embarrassing situation. We all benefit if this is resolved locally by elected officials in Atlanta. But we have seen the horrific consequences of schools that lose their accreditation. I believe in the sanctity of the ballot and in the power of the people to elect their leaders. For me, removing elected officials would be a last resort. But with the future of Atlanta’s students hanging in the balance, I believe it is better to be prepared with more options on the table than with less. Signing this bill into law is not a time for celebrating; it is a time for Atlantans to come together to work constructively so that the powers given to the governor’s office in this bill never have to be used. I, along with my APS liaisons and Mayor Kasim Reed, look forward to upcoming discussions with the school board as we work together with the best interest of Atlanta’s students at heart.”
This past January following the announcement that the system’s high schools were put on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), Deal immediately reached out to leaders in Atlanta, including Mayor Reed and the entire Atlanta legislative delegation. He also appointed two liaisons, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and Beth Beskin, a community leader in Atlanta, to monitor the school board’s progress in meeting the requirements set forth by SACS. It was at that time Deal first vowed to make every effort to ensure that Atlanta’s children are protected from a destructive situation.
In addition to the provisions regarding Atlanta Public Schools, SB 79 provides that members of local boards of education shall be elected for terms of not less than four years. It also provides that county boards of education shall consist of seven members elected from single-member districts, unless the number of members has been reduced by local legislation.