When it comes to defining local school districts, it seems it’s the legislators who have the power to pretty much do whatever floats their boat. In Cobb County, the legislators have approved a reapportionment map that is not like the one the school board recommended.
The reapportionment map is being spearheaded by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) who says he has the votes to pass the legislators’ version. Board member David Banks, who doesn’t like the new maps, called Ehrhart “nutty.” My favorite quote machine responded, “Being called ‘nutty’ by David Banks is like being called ‘stinky’ by a skunk.” Where does he get these lines?
Still, it seems odd that the legislators would not listen to the board’s wishes. I don’t know all the details of why the changes vary in the maps of the two groups but I do know this much: It is all about politics. As usual, the kids and their teachers are just innocent pawns in this game. I can only imagine what teachers in Cobb County must think as they watch “nutty” legislators” and “stinky skunks” duke it out. Just one more reason to make them proud to be in the public education profession.
Things are even more adversarial in Cherokee County, home of State Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) of whom I think it is reasonable to say is not the first name that pops to mind when one thinks of strong supporters of Georgia’s public schools. (Sometimes my ability to understate things amazes me.)
Rogers has pushed every educational scheme imaginable except for taxpayer-supplied algae for schools of fish and for fully funding public education. Cherokee County, one of the excellent public school systems in the state, has had its budget cut by $118 million by the state over the past seven years. That is no skin off the noses of Rogers and the rest of the Cherokee legislative delegation since their kids don’t attend public schools anyway.
Unlike Cobb County, the legislators in Cherokee have run into a buzz saw in their efforts to draw new maps for the school district, courtesy of the school district and members of the board of education These folks don’t seem to be inclined to stand by and give the politicians a free rein to reapportion their school districts. As of this writing, the delegation has backed off plans to have the school board chair run countywide, although they would require board members to run in their individual districts.
There is also a strong rumor that the legislators intend to place two members of the current Cherokee school board into districts with incumbents as punishment for their opposition to a charter school proposal and which was turned down. This, despite the fact that the principles by which the reapportionment maps were to be drawn including “no unnecessary pairing of incumbents.”
Cherokee school superintendent Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo fired off a stinging rebuke, saying, “Long gone are the days when the Delegation supported and advocated for our award-winning, high-performing schools and school district. They have stood idly by while the State has cut $118 million of our state-earned funding over the last seven years. Instead of supporting and helping their community’s public schools, they have actively pursued and advocated for vouchers, private school scholarships, for-profit charter schools and various other efforts that continue to shift funding and local control away from one of the highest-performing public school districts in the state and nation!”
A letter from the school district offices to the Cherokee legislative delegation sent Thursday suggests they “respect the School Board’s unanimous approval of its Legislative Program,” rather than proposing piecemeal revisions or drafting a new map. The letter goes on to say, “If the same defects are presented again by the Delegation, such as the pairing of any incumbents in the same post, do not be surprised if the School District, the majority of the School Board and many constituents and voters throughout Cherokee County continue to oppose it.”
I’m not sure about Cobb County, but in Cherokee County, there is no question how school board members and the school district view “local control” when it comes to their schools. They think what legislators are trying to do to them is stinky like a skunk and they aren’t afraid to say so. Stay tuned.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.