State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb, said legislation to make local school superintendents electable would require several procedural steps before the change could be made, including a countywide referendum put before voters.
Senate Resolution 192 is not a state-mandated change and won’t be forced onto any school district that does not welcome it, said Tippins, who chairs the Senate Education Committee.
The Georgia Senate has already passed the resolution, which allows local school districts to choose if they want to elect a superintendent and have a school board appointed by a grand jury.
Local school superintendents are currently hired by elected school board members.
The House has to approve the resolution with two-thirds support, and Georgia voters would have to approve the constitutional amendment on the November 2018 election, said state Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, who wrote the resolution.
Then, local legislative delegations would decide whether to put the resolution before voters on a local ballot, which would then require at least 50 percent voter approval, said Tippins.
“This thing’s got a lot of steps,” he said.
Wilkinson said he wants local school districts to once again have the right to decide whether they want to have an appointed or elected superintendent. Districts used to have that option before a constitutional change in 1992, said Wilkinson, chair of the Senate Agricultural and vice chair of the Senate Education committees.
Wilkinson said there is no difference in student achievement in districts with elected superintendents compared to districts with appointed superintendents.
Tippins, who supported the resolution, said a few rural school districts have shown interest in the resolution.
“I personally did not think this was going to be an option for many people. I think they’d rather elect more members of the school board than have one elected member as the superintendent,” he said.
If a district does choose to elect a superintendent, Tippins said the superintendent candidates would have to meet election residency requirements in order to qualify for the race. That means candidates for superintendent would be limited to those who live in a particular school system.
The grand jury would appoint school board members from a pool of candidates who apply and interview with the grand jury to serve on the school board, Wilkinson said.
“It’s not like they just picked random people out of the phone book,” he said.
The resolution is currently in the House Education Committee, said state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, who serves on the committee.
Setzler said he supports having locally-elected superintendents, but the school board members should also be elected.
The chairmen of the Marietta and Cobb school districts oppose the amendment.
Marietta school board Chairperson Randy Weiner said elected superintendents could make decisions based on political ramifications and not on what is best for students and the school district.
Cobb school board Chair David Chastain added that elected superintendents would have to spend time campaigning and not running their school district.
“That’s not the superintendent’s job. That’s our job,” Chastain said.