In a pro/con today, suspended DeKalb Board of Education member Eugene Walker explains why the governor was wrong to suspend him and five other board members Monday. Taking the other side is state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta. Please read her piece here.
Here is Dr. Walker’s piece. Please focus on his arguments, which are the same ones that the lawyer for the deposed school board will put forth in court later this week. It is important to understand that under challenge is not just the removal of the DeKalb board, but the constitutionality of the state law that permits the governor to step in and yank school board members.
By Dr. Eugene Walker
The governor is wrong in his decision to suspend members of the DeKalb County Board of Education.
The DeKalb School District has been placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a private accrediting institution with considerable sway in the education community. SACS has made a multitude of allegations, some of which I agree with, but all of them were developed unilaterally in a shrouded process.
The leadership of SACS is not elected by the public, does not have to conform to open meetings and open records laws, and is not subject to constitutional due process as SACS sits in judgment of public institutions and elected officials.
The DeKalb Board of Education, like all school boards, is a public institution. We have open meetings, open records, due process, and we are accountable to the people who elect us into office. If there is cause to remove a member, such as an indictment or if a member resigns or passes away in office, the voters return to the ballot box to name the successor.
It is the democratic process: the electorate chooses its representative leadership. My constituents elected me, my colleagues’ constituents elected them and Gov. Deal’s elected him. It’s the model our founding fathers took great pains to create. It’s the way it should be.
What we have here is the state of Georgia once again meddling in local affairs. Rather than funding local school systems properly, the General Assembly chose to write Senate Bill 84, a popular but undemocratic law to impose state will on local politics. The governor has been hamstrung by an onerous law that gives an inordinate amount of power to a private company, SACS, and an appointed state Board of Education. One member of this board was appointed only last week and home schooled her children to boot.
This law, which requires the state Board of Education to recommend the removal of all or none of the school board members, if it were constitutional to begin with, replaces the legitimate will of the voters with that of an appointed group. This process is a clear attempt to circumvent or get around the democratic process — citizens electing and holding accountable their elected officials.
We have had problems on the DeKalb Board of Education. The DeKalb Board of Education is composed of Democrats, Republicans, black, white, men, women, liberal, conservatives and tea partiers.
By virtue of the electoral process, all are represented and have a seat at the table. The wisdom of the voters created the diversity, which is good and healthy for a representative democracy.
These problems of communication and respect for each other have been brought to our attention, and we are working on them. We have hired a new interim superintendent, we have passed a responsible budget, we have identified resolutions to many of the issues raised by the mighty SACS and I have resigned my chairmanship to effectuate the additional changes that are needed as we move forward.
It is against this backdrop that I take a stand to fight for and preserve the democratic process and remain hopeful that those who believe in and support the U.S. and state Constitution will join. I will not quit or step aside. Gov. Deal is wrong to thumb his nose at the U.S. and Georgia constitutions, and he knows he is wrong.
I place my faith in God and the voters of DeKalb County, not elitists under the Gold Dome who never set foot east of Moreland Avenue.
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog