Education superintendents criticize lawmakers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Education superintendents criticize lawmakers

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May 4, 2006

Albany -- They'll either help Georgia schools catch up with the rest of the country, or push us further behind, depends on who you believe.

Governor Sonny Perdue says new laws that lower class sizes and require school systems to spend more money in the classroom will improve education. But some school superintendents say the Governor's playing politics with education just to get re-elected.

Local school districts must now spend 65-percent of their budgets on classroom expenditures. And while the figure may look good on paper, some educators don't think it's good or fair for all districts.

"Who came up with 65 percent? What's it based on? Does that take into account poverty and the needs that go along with poverty? Special education and the rural nature of counties where kids need to be bused as opposed to affluent counties," said Robert Lloyd of Dougherty County School District.

Dougherty County's school finance director says until parameters are set for exactly how the 65-percent can be spent, there is no telling if the new law will benefit learning.

More than two dozen Georgia school superintendents signed a letter criticizing the governor. They call the laws a political ploy for the governor to gain votes. The Georgia Association of Educators agrees.

"It doesn't add any more money to education, it just cuts the pie up a little differently. And that's why I say it's more of a political. It's done in other states to say this is what we're doing," said Bert Wagnon.

Educators agree smaller class sizes help students learn. However, there are problems that must be overcome, such as the ongoing teacher shortage.

"Unfortunately the state doesn't send all the money for the teachers that it takes to reduce class sizes. They claim that they're already doing that, but they're not. There's a lot of expenses associated with employing a teacher that they're not sending down," said Lloyd.

The new laws are meant to improve classroom learning, but each county has it's different needs.

Dougherty County School Superintendent Sally Whatley would not talk to us about this issue, but a spokesperson says her office never saw the letter signed by the other superintendents.

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