Dunwoody’s advocates of smaller school systems are gearing up to take their cause to state lawmakers again before and during next year’s legislative session.
“I think this is our year,” State Rep. Tom Taylor told about 20 people attending at public meeting on the subject at the Dunwoody library branch on Oct. 12. “We’ve got this thing teed up.”
Taylor, a Dunwoody Republican, and members of Georgians for Local Area School Systems, or GLASS, admit they face an uphill fight to convince legislators to call for a constitutional amendment to allow the creation of smaller school districts. “It’s a change of about three words [in the Constitution],” Taylor said, “but it’s a massive seismic shift.”
Taylor’s legislation allowing a public vote on the amendment has repeatedly stalled over the past several years. Still, supporters aren’t giving up. Taylor and GLASS leaders recently hosted a pair of community meetings to try to stir renewed interest in the proposal.
They encouraged people who attended the first of the two meetings to contact friends and family members across Georgia by phone and social media to campaign for approval of the legislation.
“We need to reach out to all parts of the state,” GLASS member Allegra Johnson said. She said proponents of the change need the backing of residents of areas other than Dunwoody in order to get the attention of lawmakers from other communities. She said she’d discovered that some state lawmakers care only about the interests of residents of their districts. “It has been an eye-opener to me to go down to the Capitol and be told, ‘You don’t matter.’”
Johnson and fellow GLASS members Erika Harris and Evan Wetstone argued the change to allow smaller school districts was needed to improve education in the state. Smaller districts, they said, would allow more local control of the schools and better accountability.
“It’s so much harder to hide things is a smaller district,” Wetstone said. “The possibility is still there, but it’s a lot harder to hide.”