Updated Dec 7, 2021 - News

Atlanta's school board opposes Buckhead cityhood

Illustration of the map of the city of Atlanta with the Buckhead neighborhood breaking off.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education has come out against the push to create Buckhead City.

Why it matters: APS argues that Buckhead’s secession would significantly impact its budget, school board chair Jason Esteves told Axios.

  • About 5,500 APS students would be sent to the neighboring Fulton County School System if Buckhead City became a municipality, Esteves said.
  • Thousands more who attend schools in Buckhead, but don’t live in the area would also be affected if the area incorporated, the board chair said.

Driving the news: Opposing Buckhead City is part of the Atlanta school board’s 2022 legislative priorities, which was approved Monday by the board during its meeting.

Catch up fast: State Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta prefiled legislation to incorporate Buckhead, Atlanta’s whitest and wealthiest part of town. Proponents say they want more control over crime and how their tax dollars are spent.

APS stands to lose about $232 million from its annual budget, according to a study commissioned by the Buckhead Coalition, a community group that opposes cityhood.

What they’re saying: Along with diverting financial resources, Esteves told Axios that the change would take up a lot of administrative bandwidth because employees would have to figure out something “that’s never been done before.”

  • He also said there’s no guarantee that APS students living in Buckhead would be allowed to continue attending schools in the city.
  • “They are making promises based on hope and not the law,” Esteves told Axios.

The Georgia Constitution doesn’t allow new cities to create their own school systems, so Buckhead City students would have to attend Fulton County schools.

The other side: Bill White, chair of the Buckhead City Committee, says while APS is allowed to expand its boundaries to match any new annexation incorporated into Atlanta, that policy doesn’t address what happens with those boundaries shrink.

  • White, a business consultant and Donald Trump fundraiser who moved to the community a few years ago, told Axios that enabling legislation for cityhood could include language that would allow Buckhead City students to attend APS schools.

White said APS should focus on improving student performance on test scores rather than weighing in on something “that’s none of their business.”

  • “A better use of the board members’ time would be to try and get those scores up rather than interfering with what 70% of Buckhead voters think, which is their right to vote,” he said.

Opposition to the Buckhead City proposal is growing. The North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools’ executive board last week released a statement announcing it would support APS’ stance.

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