Published Online: March 5, 2013
Published in Print: March 6, 2013, as Ga. and Texas Officials Remove Local Board Members

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Ga. and Texas Officials Remove Local Board Members

DeKalb County board suspended by governor under contested 2011 law

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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal suspended six of the nine board members of the 99,000-student DeKalb school system in suburban Atlanta last week, following a recommendation from the state board of education.

The governor, a Republican, exercised powers granted by a 2011 law that allows the state's leader to suspend and remove board members. The school system, Georgia's third largest, is in danger of losing its accreditation in the wake of a scathing report from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools detailing corruption in the school board. The district has been on accredited probation since December.

With two-thirds of its members suspended, the school board is unable to make any legally binding decisions.

A federal judge in Atlanta was scheduled to hear a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law that allows Gov. Deal to suspend board members. The governor has exercised this authority before: Board members in three other counties have been suspended over the past year.

The DeKalb board members are currently suspended without pay and must wait 30 days to ask to be reinstated. A nominating committee has been created to find new board members, though the confirmation of any new members will depend on the outcome of the legal challenge.

While several states have laws allowing the state to take over failing districts, and some allow a governor to suspend elected board members, such actions are rare, according to Kathy Christie, the vice president of the Denver-based Education Commission of the States.

In Texas, meanwhile, the El Paso school board's challenge to the state education commissioner's decision to install a new board was denied.

The Texas Education Agency said that the Dec. 6 decision is now final and only needs clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice before the new members can take over. Education Commissioner Michael Williams said he took the action to restore public trust after a high-stakes testing scandal that landed the former El Paso school superintendent in prison.

Vol. 32, Issue 23, Page 4

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