Opinion Pieces

Congressman Scott Fights for Students in Clayton County

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Washington, September 1, 2008 | Ashley Tanks (770-210-5073) | comments
College registrars and admissions officers may be aware that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) revoked the accreditation of the Clayton County Public Schools system, effective September 1, 2008. As a member of the United States Congress and a representative to the more than 50,000 students who are educated in Clayton County, Georgia, I must take the opportunity to explain the extraordinary circumstances that led to this decision. Students who will rightfully earn a diploma should not be punished for problems beyond their control.

Clayton County Public Schools provides a sound education to many hard-working students who matriculate to various post-secondary institutions throughout Georgia and across the United States. We are home to the Jonesboro High School, whose mock trial team won the National High School Mock Trial Championship for the second consecutive year. This same high school also educated a former member of my staff, a 2005 graduate of the University of Georgia Honors Program, who is now a second year law student at Harvard Law School. Let me be clear: the loss of accreditation was not due to curricular deficiencies within the school system, but by the actions of members of the Clayton County Board of Education over the past several years.

Plagued by ethics violations, micromanagement and squabbling, the school board was often composed of individuals who placed their interests ahead of the students and families they represented as elected officials. On February 15, 2008, SACS deemed the school board "fatally flawed" under the organization's criterion for "Governance and Leadership." Its report required the school district to investigate and fix what had become nine documented problems by September. When SACS handed down its decision this month, the majority of the requirements, which concerned the corrupt actions and practices by school board members, were not adequately corrected. They revoked the accreditation because the school board could not even fulfill its most basic responsibilities; the performance of educators and students had nothing to do with these problems.

I am appealing to members of AACRAO to consider the facts surrounding Clayton County's accreditation when reviewing applications from my constituents this fall. I cannot stress enough that the loss of accreditation was not due to a substandard curriculum or an inferior educational experience. In fact, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has already announced that admissions officers would not consider the loss of accreditation in admission decisions to Georgia's public universities and colleges.

Please give the benefit of the doubt to the many students with excellent S.A.T. scores and grades who apply to out-of-state schools or private institutions within Georgia. Many Clayton County students have worked far too diligently to let the actions of a few alter the trajectory of their futures.

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Tags: Education