HR 4 – Independent School Systems

Our last constitution, ratified in 1983, is Georgia’s 10th constitution and our nation’s youngest. It allows all existing school districts (county and city) to remain but prohibits any new independent (city) school systems from forming. Georgia was left with 21 city districts, 159 county districts and no new districts allowed to form.
The motivation behind the prohibition on new districts was mostly economic in nature. The result consolidated bureaucratic power and effectively eliminated competition in education for the next 30 years.
Bill - Georgia LegislationHouse Resolution 4 (HR 4) was submitted this year “proposing an amendment to the Constitution so as to authorize any municipality in the State of Georgia to establish by local law an independent school system;”  The amendment will open the door allowing people to discuss whether or not they would like their city to have an independent school district.
Important Changes

  1. ANY municipality (city) in the state of Georgia (regardless of incorporation date) will have the opportunity to create a city based school system, should the need and desire present itself.
  2. Independent school systems are defined as a school system that will exist within the boundaries of a single municipality.

The Benefits of School Systems of a Manageable Size
Economic Development

  • School systems of a manageable size, on average, have superior graduation rates to districts that are either very small or are overly large.
  • An increase in graduation rate will lead to:
    • More students attending college, leading to an increase in the Georgia professional work force.
    • High school graduates are more likely to be employed and earn more with a high school diploma.
    • The above increases taxable state income and reduces stress on state dependency.
  • Strong school systems attract strong business partners.

Intelligent Resource Management (Financial and Material)

  • School systems of a manageable size are able to more effectively spend their financial resources and develop programs to meet the needs of their schoolhouses and students.
    • Student and schoolhouse needs are more easily identified
    • Wasteful spending on programs that do not benefit an individual school’s needs, but receive them none-the-less because of broad based administrative decisions, are virtually eliminated.
    • Schoolhouses that need specific and individualized programs are more likely to receive them, as they are not lost among the other schools’ needs within overly large districts.

School Systems of a Manageable Size Are More Responsive and Proactive

  • Systems that are “close to home” have more direct, continuous, and in-depth relationships with students, teachers, parents, and the community.
    • Parent engagement is increased.
    • A sense of community among the schools is built.
    • Teachers and school level administration build a partnership with district level decision making.
    • Students’ benefit from programs to support their individual needs.
  • Because the pulse of the individual schoolhouse and district is easier to keep a direct eye on, proactive decision-making can occur in order to support continued success and ward off potential failures.
  • Reduce administrative layers, making it more effective and efficient for all members of the learning community to work within.

Data Points
Two of the eight large districts in the bottom 20% are located in metro Atlanta, DeKalb and Clayton County School Districts. These two mega districts service ~40% (148,000+) of the students out of the 36 districts who have the lowest graduation rates in all of Georgia.
Within DeKalb County is the independent city school district, Decatur City Schools.  Decatur, at 4,200 students, has a graduation rate of 94%.  DeKalb County School System, at 98,000 students, has a 59% graduation rate.

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