Originally created 08/02/97

Ga. businesses ignoring education warranty plan



ATLANTA - Gov. Zell Miller's much-ballyhooed warranty plan to have the state pay to re-educate Georgia high school graduates that businesses find lacking has quietly disappeared since being approved by the General Assembly two years ago.

No businesses applied to have the warranties enforced, and another education law eventually erased the statute - apparently without the knowledge of Mr. Miller or school Superintendent Linda Schrenko.

Mrs. Schrenko wants to expand on the idea by forcing school districts to pay when their college-prep graduates wind up in remedial classes in college.

The superintendent didn't know the earlier warranty plan had been killed.

"I thought it existed," she said. "I don't know of anything that would have nullified the legislation."

After winning re-election in 1994, Mr. Miller touted the warranty as a way of guaranteeing businesses an educated work force.

Under the law, if employees were deficient in reading, writing or math and in need of retraining, they could be enrolled at a technical school in Georgia at no cost to the employer.

The measure passed in 1995 and was to be implemented in 1996.

After being questioned by Morris News Service, the governor's office discovered a testing bill pushed by Mrs. Schrenko during last year's General Assembly session rewrote the state code section that included the warranty provisions and wiped them off the statute books.

"It's gone. I don't believe anyone knew it was happening," said Mr. Miller 's press secretary, Rick Dent.

Mr. Miller will try to revive the warranties through an administrative order or rule, rather than waiting for legislative consideration, Mr. Dent said.

Ironically, Mrs. Schrenko said she had recently discussed expanding the warranty with the governor.

She wants to give college-prep graduates entering Georgia colleges and universities a similar warranty.

State Rep. Charlie Smith, D-St. Marys, has sponsored bills the past three legislative sessions calling for school districts to repay colleges the cost of remediating students who graduated from their high schools.

Last fall, about 40 percent of 25,368 freshmen entering University System of Georgia schools needed remedial classes or had not met all of their core requirements.

Remedial education costs the state more than $20 million a year. Part of the University System Board of Regents plan to have stiffer admissions requirements in place by 2001 calls for dramatically reducing the number of students needing remedial help.

When students graduate with a college-prep diploma from a Georgia high school, they ought to be prepared for higher education, Mrs. Schrenko said.

"I think it will focus the attention on the quality of the college-prep program," Mrs. Schrenko said. "We don't want students graduating with a college-prep diploma not being able to pass first-semester English."

Mr. Smith said he was glad to hear of Mrs. Schrenko's support for his proposal.

"I look forward to working with the superintendent on it during the next session. Maybe with her strong support, and hopefully the governor's strong support, we can move it a bit," he said.