ATLANTA — Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday signed a bill that would allow him to remove Atlanta School Board members if the system does not regain its accreditation by July.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in January placed the school system on probation. The organization threatened to revoke accreditation unless the system takes a number of steps, including using a mediator to resolve conflicts among school board members.
“It is my hope that the district will take the appropriate steps to move forward in order to avoid a sad and embarrassing situation,” Deal said in a statement. “We all benefit if this is resolved locally by elected officials in Atlanta. But we have seen the horrific consequences of schools that lose their accreditation.
“I believe in the sanctity of the ballot and in the power of the people to elect their leaders,” Deal added. “For me, removing elected officials would be a last resort. But with the future of Atlanta's students hanging in the balance, I believe it is better to be prepared with more options on the table than with less.”
However, not all lawmakers were in favor of the measure.
State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, opposed Deal's action, saying “the governor reneged on his commitment to maintain contact with Atlanta legislators.”
“I believe the bill is legally tenuous in two ways,” Fort said in a news release.
“First, it violates the Voting Rights Act by nullifying tens of thousands of minority votes, and second, its retroactive nature has serious constitutional flaws,” Fort added. “The accreditation agency said if board members are removed and new ones are appointed, they will restart the clock on Atlanta Public Schools' probation. Instead of helping, (the measure) aggravates Atlanta Public Schools' accreditation status.”