On the eve of the last day of the legislative session, Cherokee County Board of Education Chairman Mike Chapman again urged Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the original version of a controversial redistricting bill that would change the way voters elect the school board.
"This bill is clearly an effort by the Cherokee County Legislative Delegation to restructure the governance model of the school Board and reapportion its posts for political reasons," he said in the letter, his third appeal to Deal.
Despite fading support and a warning from the agency that accredits schools and colleges, the Georgia Senate on Feb. 28 passed House Bill 978, which has become a flashpoint in the fight for local control of the Cherokee school board.
The vote was 47-0.
According to the Georgia General Assembly's website, the governor "may sign bill or do nothing, and bill becomes law. Governor may veto bill, which requires two-thirds of members of each house to override."
If the bill becomes law, the school board chair would be elected countywide and school board members would be elected from the posts where they live. Chapman and Janet Read would be drawn out of their posts.
After the Feb. 28 vote, the delegation agreed to retool the measure and substitute a redistricting map that maintains seven posts with no countywide chair. The end result, House Bill 1223, elicited the same reaction as the original version.
Still, it passed the House on March 12 by a vote of 127-31. Currently, it is stalled in the Senate.
For more of Chapman's letter to Deal, open the attached PDF or read the text below.
On behalf of the Cherokee County School Board and as Chairman of the School Board, I again respectfully that you veto House Bill 978, as this bill is clearly an effort by the Cherokee County Legislative Delegation to restructure the governance model of the school Board and reapportion its posts for political reasons.
In addition to vetoing the bill, I respectfully ask you to urge the Delegation to adopt the reapportionment map submitted to it by the School Board.
The School Board, at a public meeting last fall, unanimously adopted a Legislative Program that was presented to the Delegation. The first priority in that program was to maintain the current governance model.
The School Board, also at a public meeting last year, by a supper majority, approved a reapportionment map and sent it to the Delegation. This map follows the basic principles of reapportionment, offers a more even population split, keeps communities of interest intact, more closely parallels school attendance zones and does not draw incumbents into the same post.
House Bill 978 threatens the past decade of success experienced by the Cherokee County School District, which has been achieved largely in part as a result of the current governance model; and the bill also potentially jeopardizes our School District’s accreditation, which currently is at the highest level attainable by a school system in Georgia or the Nation.
The Cherokee County Legislative Delegation has created unnecessary anxiety and uncertainty in our community by politicizing the reapportionment process; and I respectfully request that you end this by vetoing HB 978 and urging the Delegation’s adoption of the reapportionment map submitted by the School Board.
Chairman, Cherokee County Board of Education