School board wants local control

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Board of Education is trying to do its part to stand up to state laws that members believe could hurt the school system.

The school board members recently signed a resolution that supports local control and not the control that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission recently has been exercising.

Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley said the commission has approved two charter schools in Georgia that the local school boards denied.

"The school districts' state funds were then reduced," he said in a recommendation to the board. "There are at least 34 other charter schools in the pipeline seeking approval by the commission and thus circumventing approval by the boards at the local level."

Many local school boards in Georgia are signing petitions that formally disapprove of this action.

"The statute appears to be in conflict with provisions of the Georgia Constitution in relation to the authority of the locally elected board of education to control, manage and raise local funds only for the public schools in their district," Whatley said. "To demonstrate our concern for this potential encroachment on the constitutional responsibility of this Board of Education, a resolution has been drafted which expresses our concern. This resolution will be attached to our legislative positions to be approved and presented to our legislative delegation."

Whatley said two school districts are suing the state regarding this use of local funds to support charter schools that local boards rejected.

"I feel passionately that local funds should be controlled by the local people (the public) elected, not a board elected by the governor," said Newton County school board member Cathy Dobbs.

The board also plans to discuss this issue with the local legislators, with whom they meet every year prior to the legislative session.