You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Lawmakers unconvinced by a “drunk” on the school board and a blown budget

Elected school boards and appointed superintendents may be imperfect, but lawmakers reject amendment that could have brought grand juries into the selection process

Someone famously said democracy is the worst form of government -- except for all the rest, and Georgia lawmakers couldn’t find anything better when they looked around on Thursday.

Voters across all of Georgia will continue to elect their school board members, after a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way local education leaders are selected was shot down during a legislative hearing.

Senate Resolution 192 would have allowed a referendum to amend the constitution so that voters in school systems could have chosen to have grand juries pick their school board members. Currently, school boards chosen by voters hire superintendents but the constitutional amendment would have allowed voters to elect their superintendent instead.

This is how it worked in most of Georgia until 1992 when a constitutional amendment mandated the current way of selecting school leaders.

The author, Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, said it would reduce the politicization of education to have one elected school leader rather than five, the typical size of a school board.

Members of the House Education committee wondered how it would work.

Education has become increasingly technical and they asked whether it would be possible to find residents who were qualified to administer a school district, especially in smaller communities.

Wilkinson said a hiring process was no guarantee of quality, citing fiscal woes under an appointed superintendent that led to a shortened school calendar in his grandchildren’s north Georgia school district.

“My grandchildren missed 15 days of instruction at a formative time in their lives,” he told members of the House Education Committee.

Rep. Mike Glanton, D-Jonesboro, said he liked the idea of electing superintendents but said elections were no guarantee of quality, either. He cited an example in his area of someone chosen by voters: “We had a member of the board of education who had a third grade education and came to every meeting drunk,” he said, “so let’s talk a little bit about qualifications.”

Wilkinson assured him that elected superintendents would need to have the same educational qualifications as appointed ones. He also said school districts that chose the proposed leadership model could save money on the superintendent hiring process, which typically involves a national search and consultant fees. He added that appointed superintendents tend to turn over more frequently than elected superintendents did back when Georgia had them, so his proposal would bring stability.

The other part of his proposal was the most troubling for the House members. Several said they didn’t like the idea of having a grand jury appoint school board members.

Glanton said it would give district attorneys influence over the school board selections, since they work closely with grand juries on criminal cases. And Rep. Brenda Lopez, D-Norcross, a lawyer, worried grand juries would lack diversity.

Wilkinson responded that grand juries are at least as diverse as the electorate since their members are chosen from the pool of registered voters.

In the end, he was unconvincing. The committee voted 17-1 against his resolution, which had passed the Senate floor by more than the two-thirds vote necessary for constitutional amendments.

It was an unusual rebuke. Often, committees table bills rather than outright rejecting them, but this vote was on a rare “do not pass” motion by Rep. Howard Maxwell, R-Dallas, who said the grand jury part “really really bothers me.” 

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Education

School-to-work bill takes on speed cam amendment
School-to-work bill takes on speed cam amendment

Legislation for automated speed traps in school zones seemed dead but got a new life in the General Assembly Tuesday. House Bill 458 allows jurisdictions to police school speed zones with speed-detecting traffic cameras instead of just traffic cops. “The whole concept of this bill is to slow folks down going through school zones,” said ...
Georgia Senate: School financial transparency bill passes, with strings attached
Georgia Senate: School financial transparency bill passes, with strings attached

For the second year in a row, the Georgia Senate has passed a financial transparency mandate for schools that came from the House of Representatives. House Bill 139 requires the state Department of Education to collect and publish prominently on its website the expenses at every school, including those for salaries, construction and maintenance. The...
Gov. Nathan Deal gets authority to intervene in schools
Gov. Nathan Deal gets authority to intervene in schools

Gov. Nathan Deal now has a legal mandate to intervene in Georgia’s lowest-performing schools. The House of Representatives’ approval Tuesday of House Bill 338 is lawmakers’ response to the failure in November of Deal’s referendum to create a statewide Opportunity School District for “chronically failing&rdquo...
Governor’s office pulls back curtain on school performance
Governor’s office pulls back curtain on school performance

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement has a new internet tool that allows direct comparison of schools with similar demographics. Georgia Schools Like Mine, unveiled Monday, wrestles complicated data produced by the Georgia Department of Education into a simple interface that allows one to compare student performance at a handful...
A better way to do high school prom? Picking dates out of a hat?
A better way to do high school prom? Picking dates out of a hat?

You could hardly go anywhere in Atlanta this weekend without running into glamorous teenagers. Prom season is underway. And what used to be a teenage dance has escalated into a mega industry with $1,200 gowns, rented limos, pre-prom photo shoots and expensive Buckhead dinners. Another new twist on prom: The “promposal” where kids go to...
More Stories