BROOKHAVEN, GA, February 24, 2014: Sunday, GLASS (Georgians for Local Area School Systems) held a Press Conference to address HR 486 as it begins making its way through the State Legislature. HR 486 is expected to hit the House floor this week and if passed, will make its way to the Senate floor shortly thereafter. GLASS is advocating for passage asserting that it will help all communities in Georgia that want to increase their focus on public education.
HR 486, the proposed amendment to the Georgia constitution authored by State Representative, Tom Taylor reads, “an amendment to the Constitution so as to authorize any municipality created on or after January 1, 2005, and any municipality which is contiguous to a municipality created on or after January 1, 2005, irrespective of whether such municipalities may be in different counties, to establish individually or collectively by local law an independent school system; to provide for related matters; to provide for the submission of this amendment for ratification or rejection; and for other purposes.”
Shawn Keefe, a Brookhaven resident and GLASS Board Member said, “The intention of HR 486 is not to benefit the privileged few. We stand here today on the campus of Cross Keys High School which has a long rich tradition in our community. Unfortunately, the attention it receives from our current school system does not respect that history. Cross Keys currently has a graduation rate of 42%. I’m confident our local community can do much better for these students.”
Opposition to the Resolution claims that HR 486 is meant only to serve privileged communities.
Kim Gokce, President of the Cross Keys Foundation said the politics of the Resolution have become divisive and how the idea of privilege has a lot of rhetoric around it. “There are dimensions to this political debate that go to the heart of our politics as a community and in DeKalb. The politics of Republican and Democrat, to the politics of race and color. The children in this school defy those politics. Our schools here in the Cross Keys attendance area defy that as well. These children don’t belong to DeKalb County, these students don’t belong to the City of Brookhaven, they don’t belong to any of us. These children belong to God and we should be doing everything in our power to be sure they’re treated with the same respect and dignity at their school grounds as children anywhere else in our community,” said Gokce.
GLASS says these high minority and high poverty schools have their needs lost in the shuffle of DeKalb politics and bureaucracy. The high school is the only one in DeKalb without an auditorium, features a crumbling, thirty year-old asphalt track and lacks many of the basic amenities found at neighboring schools. While the cities that serve Cross Keys have passed resolutions supporting HR 486, because of partisan politics, HR 486 may not pass the House and these schools will continue disparate treatment by DeKalb County School District.
GLASS co-chair, Erika Harris said, “There’s enough research that shows that local school systems do see a benefit in creating a program that is directly targeted to their students needs.” She said HR 486 does not set up the structure for how local area school systems would be operated, but it gives the cities the choice to structure their own systems should they be inclined to do so.
State Senator Fran Millar told the Post, “You need to look at the demographics of this school. 80% of the students at this school are Title 1. People like to throw race into a lot of things in DeKalb County. They can’t play the race card in this situation. This [HR486] is across the board. It crosses racial lines and is all about the outcomes for children.” Millar said he hopes the Resolution gets to move forward – through the House and into the Senate.
Brookhaven City Councilmember, Rebecca Chase-Williams said that local school systems can do better. “The 42% graduation rate here at Cross Keys…we think that we could do better in the City of Brookhaven and whether we partner with Chamblee or Dunwoody or Sandy Springs, we have all of those choices. We just feel that the system right now, too many children are falling through the cracks and that’s not acceptable. We think we could put a laser focus on this school and give these children the quality education that all of our children deserve.”
City Councilman, Bates Mattison added, “This is truly about economic development. As a city, we have to have a successful school system to retain and attract jobs. That’s what economic development is all about. This is a key function of our area that we need to fix.”
State Rep. Mike Jacobs described the path for HR 486 as a difficult one, as it is a change to the State Constitution. But, he said, the GLASS group is working hard to get the Resolution through the Legislature and in to the hands of the voters.