House Bill 123 could bring changes to schools

House Bill 123 could bring changes to schools

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Georgia lawmakers are trying to change how and who controls public schools.

As the 2014 legislative session kicks off, it's possible a new bill could let parents have a bigger role when it comes to decision making.

"The bill is all about being able to take the power away from the public school system," said Monique Braswell who is running for a seat on the Richmond County School Board in the upcoming election. "The best way to do that is to go by way of the parents." 

If made into law, House Bill 123, or the Parent Empowerment Act, will allow parents to decide on turnaround models for schools if they are dissatisfied with the performance.

The bill will allow:

  • The removal of school personnel, including the principal
  • Complete reconstruction of the school by hiring new staff
  • Parents to have the option to relocate their student to other public schools within the school system

The bill will also call for:

  • A management team to be in place, financially supported by the school system
  • An intensive student achievement improvement plan
  • Or require restructuring of the school's organization

"It simply allows parents at a school, if they wish to convert the school from a traditional into a charter school, to petition their local school board," said Congressman Ed Lindsey, who serves in Georgia's House of Representative, representing District 54.

If 50 percent of parents at a school petition for the conversion, the school board will need a majority vote to rule against it. If 60 percent of parents or more at a school petition, the school board will only need 2/3 of the vote to stop the conversion from taking place.

"Keep in mind that, under the United States Constitution, Americans have the right to petition their government for redress," Lindsey said, who is a strong supporter of House Bill 123. "This bill basically takes that right and says not only do the people have a right to petition but their locally elected officials have to listen to them and react to those petitions."

Braswell says there is a better way to make changes locally.

"My recommendation for the school board is to start listening to your parents. Start listening to your educators. We can work together," Braswell said.

House Bill 123 passed in the House last year and is currently being reviewed by the Senate Education and Youth Committee.

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