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Sackett Act back on bench

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. In this file photo, Rachel Sackett testifies in front of an education committee on Feb. 17 alongside Sen. Renee Unterman in Atlanta. Unterman is pushing legislation to allow kids who go to charter schools, like Sackett, to be eligible to play for the public high school where they live.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. In this file photo, Rachel Sackett testifies in front of an education committee on Feb. 17 alongside Sen. Renee Unterman in Atlanta. Unterman is pushing legislation to allow kids who go to charter schools, like Sackett, to be eligible to play for the public high school where they live.

Late-night political dealing on the final day of the Georgia General Assembly spelled doom for the Rachel Sackett Act.

As the session’s term wore down, the legislation, originally a stand-alone law, was attached to multiple education bills. Before any of the bills passed, the act that would allow public school students who attend charter or virtual schools participate in extracurricular activities for the school in the district they live was removed.

It lasted longest on a house bill originally focused on school funding.

Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth) sponsored the bill and said he did not have enough votes for the bill to pass out of the house with the Rachel Sackett Act attached to it.

The house removed the Sackett amendment and the senate approved the legislation, sans Sackett, at 11:28 p.m. Thursday night, 32 minutes before time ran out on the current session.

“We needed to get that thing cleaned up and I did not have the votes to get that out of the house (with the Sackett amendment),” Coleman said Friday. “I had legislators galore come to me and say, ‘We want it off, we want it off, we want it off.’”

Coleman made the motion to remove the Sackett amendment.

Rachel Sackett, a student at the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, lives in the Mill Creek cluster and lost her opportunity to play lacrosse at Mill Creek between her freshman and sophomore year when the program made the move from club to varsity sport.

Her state senator, Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), found Sackett’s story compelling and sponsored the legislation in its earliest form.

A former Berkmar High School basketball player, Unterman brought Sackett to the capitol to testify before a senate committee and was involved in adding the so-named “Rachel Sackett Act” to the other pieces of education legislation.

“I know that sports add an extra good quality to a well-rounded person,” Unterman said when Sackett testified in February. “I don’t think that Rachel should be penalized and just go to school and be a smart girl.”

Unterman did not return messages left at her home and on her cell phone Friday afternoon. The senator voted in favor of the final bill Thursday night after the house removed the Sackett amendment.

It’s a disappointed, that’s for sure,” said Rachel’s father Dave Sackett. The Sackett’s didn’t find out the bill passed without the Sackett amendment until late Friday afternoon.