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Passing ethics bill for school boards a quality decision

Between wave after crashing wave of economic strife reducing dollar after dollar to school boards throughout Georgia, House representatives passed legislation Monday that not only was needed, but was necessary for all.
Local school boards, like the one in Screven County, would have until October to adopt a code of ethics, and members who violate it could be removed by the governor, according to legislation.
The Senate passed Senate Bill 84 last year, but changes made to it in the House require the legislation to be considered again where it began. The House passed the bill convincingly earlier this week 137-33.
In addition to a code of ethics, the bill also makes it illegal for boards to hire relatives of board members or to do business with their employers. Relatives already on the payroll would be exempt.
If passed, this component of the bill may be a rather dicey issue for smaller communities like ours, but the reasoning is valid.
Gov. Sonny Perdue sponsored the proposal with recommendations from a panel he selected. The original push for it came from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations reacting to the removal of accreditation for the public schools in Clayton County in 2008. Since then, Warren County lost its accreditation in January.
“Make no mistake about it, this bill was brought for one reason only, economic development,” said Rep. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, vice chairman of the House Education Committee. “I don’t care how many tax incentives you give, you can’t get companies to come here if the school district isn’t accredited.”
In the last 40 years, only three public school systems have lost accreditation, and two were in Georgia. Both were because of unprofessional behavior by board members rather than academic problems.
“We don’t want to be the only state in the nation with these kinds of problems,” Millar said.
Perdue’s floor leader, Rep. Jim Cole, R-Forsyth, explained that one of the changes the House Education Committee made before approving the bill unanimously was to allow the governor to remove a local school board member only after receiving a formal recommendation from the State Board of Education which would be required to conduct a public hearing first.
Perdue doesn’t want to have to strip powers from an elected official, Cole said.
“This bill’s not about power, not about a governor wanting to have more power,” Cole said. “I’ve seen the pain in this governor’s eyes, two times when he’s had to deal with parents of children trying to get into schools.”
Colleges generally won’t accept graduates from unaccredited schools.
Boards of all kinds need to have checks and balances in place.
The exact wording of the potential code of ethics has not been finalized, but rest assured it will have a provision stating that board members cannot abuse their power along with the requirement that members must keep a watch on the finances of the district.
This bit of legislation should not affect a majority of school boards because they are ethical, but a safety measure is a safe move.