Rep. Tom Taylor admits his proposal to allow creation of more city school districts faces a tough time in the Legislature.
“It’s going to take some heavy lifting,” Taylor said when he and Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) spoke to the Dunwoody Homeowners Association on Jan. 11.
Because the proposal, called HR 4, calls for an amendment to the state Constitution, 120 votes are needed in the House of Representatives.
“120 votes is a high bar,” Taylor said. “We have 23 new members, which are unknowns. It’s more about having 120 people who are going to vote for the bill present on the floor at a given time.”
Taylor said a hearing on the proposal – revised and expanded from a similar plan Taylor sponsored in the last legislative session – has been set up for the first week of February with the Education Committee.
Taylor has revised his plan to extend to the entire state the possibility of creating new city school systems. His original bill called for starting new systems only in cities created since 2005, or adjacent cities. Taylor said last year he thought that a limited bill had a better chance of winning legislative approval, but has said in recent public meetings that other cities didn’t want to be left out.
The proposal must win 120 votes in the Georgia House of Representatives and 38 votes in the Georgia Senate before it can be placed before the voters in 2016.
In Dunwoody, the plan has won strong support, especially among parents who are critical of the DeKalb County schools.
During the Dunwoody City Council meeting Jan. 12, Councilman Denny Shortal recommended a vote showing council support for the bill remain its own item so members could voice their support publicly rather than moving it to the consent agenda.
“It’s just that important,” Shortal said.
The Georgians for Local Area School Systems group, co-founded by Dunwoody resident Erika Harris, wants to create smaller school systems to help better manage finances, develop programming to meet student needs and increase graduation rates overall. She argues the DeKalb school district is simply too big.
Harris says the independent city school district, Decatur City Schools, has a graduation rate of 94 percent for its 4,200 students, while the DeKalb school system has a 59 percent graduation rate for its 98,000 students.
Taylor and many Dunwoody residents believe passing the Independent School System bill will help get DeKalb County headed toward a position where its graduates can compete in the workforce.
“I don’t think there’s one thing we’re going to do all year as important as this,” Shortal said. “It’s a win-win.”