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Buckhead council votes to discuss education options citywide
by Caroline Young
November 08, 2012 08:55 PM | 2963 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Buckhead Council of Neighborhood members passionately discussed the issues behind the struggling Atlanta Public Schools system and possible solutions Thursday night.

In lieu of the passing of the charter school amendment Tuesday, attorney Glenn Delk, who represents historic Brookhaven on the council, said it is now realistic to change the broken school system and possibly bring charter schools for “some or all of north Atlanta.”

“The depth of the problem is [Superintendent] Erroll Davis has proposed a five-year strategic plan. He wants to keep control,” Delk said at the council’s meeting at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead.

He said the statistics from the Georgia Department of Education website prove the system’s poor academics, such as 40 out of 53 elementary schools and 15 out of 17 middle schools in the system, had scores in the 30th percentile or lower.

“What I would like to see, with this vote on the amendment, … is action with a sense of urgency, and to ask the board [of education] to issue an RFP [request for proposals] for the best charter operators in the world to compete with Davis,” Delk said. “If he wants to run his five-year Soviet plan, fine, but let’s let the parents decide.”

Eventually, the council unanimously voted to “open a discussion with other neighborhoods and organizations around the city to look at school choices in APS.”

“We need to reach across the city because it affects more than just us [in Buckhead] and show what the charter option is,” said council president Jim King.

He said the council will bring in outside expertise, instead of just local opinion, to educate everyone about charter schools.

District 8 Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, who represents part of Buckhead, said, “Our friends in the south side of town are very motivated. When schools fail, neighborhoods fail. There’s crime. … Then a downward spiral and it’s devastating.”

In other topics, Adrean brought to the council’s attention it is time to discuss alternatives to the failed statewide Transportation Investment Act, or T-SPLOST.

“I would love for the state to allow local municipalities to tax impartial pennies. We have whole pennies that are devoted to MARTA, the schools and the sewer,” she said. “If we had partial pennies and share pennies, we might be able to make progress on issues plaguing the city and affecting your quality of life.”

Adrean said from her experience with living in different U.S. cities, she found initiatives of partial pennies have higher rates of acceptance than whole pennies.

“It won’t solve the whole problem, but since we don’t have TIA, we need incremental steps,” she said. “At the capitol, it hasn’t had any energy. Maybe they thought the act would pass and they would have a source of funding.”

Additionally, Adrean said motor fuel taxes should be used to support roads but a penny of the tax goes directly to the state’s general fund, which is not helping the issues.

“The formula they use to share gas taxes with the city favors urban people versus the city,” she said. “The gas taxes are among the lowest. The formula they use to share with us is also amongst the lowest. It’s kind of a double a whammy.”

Adrean stressed to the council she needs people who agree with her views to talk to state legislators to “get momentum behind this.”

“It is plaguing the city. It requires somebody at the state level to sponsor it and move it through," she said. "It’s been on the city’s list for three years and no one has really gotten behind it in a serious way. I think it could be part of the solution.”
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