Sen Dems Confront GOP on Local Control

FEBRUARY 23, 2012
 For Immediate Release
 Liz Flowers
 Senate Democratic Caucus

Floor debate of online grad testing underscores state interference, class issues

Atlanta, Ga. – Feb. 23, 2012 – Georgia’s Senate Democrats worked today to defeat another effort by Republicans to chip away at local control of school systems and throw another hurdle in the path of low income students.

Senate Bill 289, authored by Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) requires high school students to complete an online course in order to be eligible to graduate. Also known as the Digital Learning Act, this legislation mandates that beginning with the 2014-15 school year entering ninth graders must complete at least one online instructional course as a prerequisite for high school graduation.

“After years of hearing the GOP mantra of ‘local control,’ a series of Republican-backed measures demonstrate they have lost sight of communities determining their own path. SB 289 fails to take into account fiscal issues of local school systems and creates an unfunded mandate,” said Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta)

Fort authored an amendment that would have placed some restrictions on the bill. That amendment fell just a few votes short of passage.

Fort said SB 289 uses the same arguments that have been crafted in recent debates on state funding for charter schools. He said the state should not be allowed to spend local money, without accountability and with unfettered power.

“Local taxpayers have less and less power with these new state control initiatives. But believe me, they will be left with the consequences,” Fort said.

For said that during the past decade, school systems have lost 25 percent of their funding. Some school systems have survived in spite of the cutbacks, but in many areas – particularly rural areas of our state – administrators are at a financial tipping point. Either removal of any more money or requirements for new spending would mean collapse – not just of one school but of entire systems – leaving thousands of children without their primary constitutional right of an adequate education.

Sen. Donzella James echoed Fort’s concerns and added that many children simply do not have access to computers.

“Whether it is online testing, charter schools or failed HOPE programs, the GOP has launched a class warfare that will not turn out for the best of our citizens. We cannot create a strong and prosperous state economy when we address only the needs of a few,” James said.

SB 289 moves now to the House. ###

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