State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, fired a large salvo at the Gainesville City Board of Education meeting Monday night by suggesting the school system could be dissolved by an act of the General Assembly.
Rogers, with the unanimous support of the Hall County legislative delegation, could introduce local legislation that would be the death knell for the Gainesville City School System.
Local legislation bills affect only a specific county or municipality and are generally not debated by the legislature. The rules require that all members of a delegation sign off on local bills. Technically, only Rogers, state Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, and state Sen. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, represent the city of Gainesville in the legislature.
However, Rogers said the measure, if needed, would have an impact on the Hall County school system, which would have to absorb the city students and facilities. Therefore, he said he would seek the support of the entire delegation, including Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain, and Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson.Rogers, who grew up and lives in Gainesville and is an alumnus of Gainesville High School, makes it clear that dissolving the school system is not his first choice in dealing with the situation.
He said Tuesday that his phone had been "ringing off the hook" in support of the proposal.
"Carl wants the city board of education and superintendent to be able to solve this problem," said Hawkins, who was at the meeting Monday night. "If that doesn’t happen and the budget is in deficit, there are only two choices."
He said the choices would be for the county schools to absorb the city system or ask the Georgia Department of Education to intervene. Mills, the dean of the Hall County delegation, was on vacation. However, reached by phone, Mills said he was not familiar enough with Rogers’ proposal to comment specifically. However, as a property owner in the city, he said he is upset by the busted budget, which has a deficit estimated as high as $6.5 million.
"As someone who pays taxes in the city of Gainesville, I’m extremely disappointed," Mills said.
Collins, who represents the northern portion of the city, said Rogers has made it clear that there could be serious consequences.
"I think Carl has laid out options that are all available and on the table," Collins said. "Carl’s expressions bring to light the severity and the problems that currently exist with the Gainesville school board."
Rogers said he was also exploring other corrective legislative actions, including establishing a position of board chairman to be elected citywide.
Hall County already has such a system.
The current board, since January, has been unable to reach a consensus on a chairman and has reverted to a rotating chairmanship. This month’s chairman is Willie Mitchell.
"I don’t want to see Gainesville become another Clayton County," Rogers told the school board Monday night.
The lawmaker was referring to the threatened loss of accreditation of the Clayton County schools by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The five-year accreditation process takes financial management of systems into account.
According to the SACS Accreditation Standards for Quality Schools, the system is required to:
Budget sufficient resources to support its educational programs and to implement its plans for improvement.
Engage in long-range budgetary planning and annually budget sufficient resources to support its educational programs and to implement its plans for improvement.
Ensure that all financial transactions are safeguarded through proper budgetary procedures and audited accounting measures.