Ga. school supt. candidates argue qualifications

ATLANTA --- The top contenders for state schools superintendent haggled Sunday over who has the best résumé and argued over a lawsuit that local districts filed against the state seeking more funding.

During Sunday's debate, Republican John Barge accused Democrat Joe Martin of wasting money on the lawsuit he spearheaded. Martin convinced more than 50 districts to contribute money for legal fees for years of preliminary filings before he recommended the suit be dropped when he didn't like the judge assigned to hear it.

Martin said the suit made its point even though the state won.

"We made the point that the state has a constitutional and a moral obligation to provide adequate funding of our schools," Martin said.

"I understand that the money would have been better spent in the classroom," Barge shot back.

Martin asked Barge what executive experience he's had in large organizations. Martin, an Atlanta businessman, served on the Atlanta Board of Education for 20 years before his first run for superintendent 16 years ago.

Barge noted that as state director of career and technical education in the state Education Department, he oversaw a multimillion-dollar budget and that as a principal he managed a staff and hundreds of students. He also has experience as a public school teacher, Barge said, something Martin has never done.

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