ATLANTA — Moving through the General Assembly is legislation to repeal nearly three dozen education laws, many enacted during the stormy tenure of ex-school Superintendent Linda Schrenko.
Others were outdated or never implemented.
The list of things to nix came from a commission appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal that looked at ways to give more flexibility to local school districts as a way to help them cope with tight budgets.
“It’s an ongoing process,” said Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R-Cumming.
Schrenko was the source of many of the laws, either because she directly proposed them or because they were designed by her political opponents to limit her power as the first Republican superintendent when Democrats controlled the rest of state government. Examples include laws that restricted her spending authority and prohibited her from hiring staff without the approval of the State Board of Education.
Although the last two superintendents who succeeded her have also been Republicans, what’s changed is the GOP now controls the legislature and governor’s office. So, lawmakers and the board expressed no hesitation to restoring the powers to the current superintendent, John Barge.
“All of the organizations that have an interest in education had an opportunity to weigh in,” said Calvine Rollins, the president of the Georgia Association of Educators. “All of the controversial stuff was taken out.”
The measure, House Bill 706, passed unanimously and now awaits Senate consideration.
Dudgeon told his colleagues Wednesday when the House voted on the repeal package that more would be coming from the education commission.
“There are number of programs that have never been funded, and there was no intention to fund them because education has been so decimated,” Rollins said.
Schrenko had proposed several of them. Her influence in the legislature was limited to passing programs but not to the difficult task of getting money for them. That’s because the choice came down to taking from existing programs or raising taxes.
She is currently in a federal prison serving her sentence for embezzling federal funds from the Department of Education to support her gubernatorial campaign.
Among the outdated laws was a prohibition against bringing a pager or any electronic device to school. It was written before the invention of cellphones and laptops and was designed to halt drug dealers who sent pages to children enlisted as drug runners. Now many teachers encourage students to use their devices for research, calculations or communicating with their parents during the school day.
“We did however, regret to see the school-wide merit pay disappear and the potential for differentiated pay in high-needs areas,” said Tim Callahan, the spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. “Both had merit in our view, but both were in conflict with the state’s Race to the Top plan.”