With the 2011 legislative session just weeks away, Rep. Howard Mosby (D – Atlanta), who heads the DeKalb House delegation, said legislative discussions about a proposed referendum that could reduce the county’s school board size is one of the delegation’s top agenda items.
“We plan to hold public hearings by mid-January to get input from DeKalb residents on this and other issues,” he said.
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D – Decatur) pre-filed a bill (HB 22) on Nov. 15 that asks DeKalb voters whether they want to reduce the number of school board members to five or seven, or remain at its current size of nine. Oliver said the purpose of her bill is to create a more effective school board that could maintain the school system’s accreditation.
Before the bill appears as a ballot measure in the November 2011 general election, the General Assembly must pass the proposed legislation, and the governor must sign it. If voters decide to change to a five- or seven-member school board, lawmakers would redraw school district lines in time for the November 2012 election.
Mosby also expects to engage in serious debates during the session over reapportionment of legislative districts and finding solutions to the metro area’s transportation challenges. He also expects an ideological struggle over the state’s budget. With unemployment high and state revenue income low, the battle lines are already being drawn over budget cuts.
Gov.-elect Nathan Deal has announced plans to shrink the state’s government by further laying-off and furloughing public employees. Tax revenue shortfalls make it impossible to pay their salaries, he said.
In a sign of how this debate will unfold in the weeks to come, Mosby said, “We should not try to fix the economy by putting people out of work.” Rather than contributing to the economy, this group of newly unemployed workers will have to depend on public services, he added. “Instead, we need to look at finding other revenue sources.”
Deal’s legislative agenda also includes additional cuts to public education—the largest piece of the budgetary pie. The incoming governor said education cuts are one of the tough choices that cannot be avoided.
Rep. Rahn Mayo (D – Decatur), a member of the House Education Committee, said Deal’s plan is “misguided.” He stated: “For the past several years, public schools have been the punching bag for state Republicans who have supported severe cuts and underfunding of education.”
He calls on lawmakers to invest in education rather than “doling out corporate tax breaks.” The governor-elect should not promote tax breaks to big business when educators are being furloughed and families with college students are financially overburdened, Mayo said.