Originally created 02/12/99

Official rethinks promise



ATLANTA -- Only months after saying she wouldn't run for re-election, Georgia schools Superintendent Linda Schrenko has told Gov. Roy Barnes she may renege on her pledge.

In a letter to Mr. Barnes, Mrs. Schrenko voiced frustration over the General Assembly's unwillingness to support legislation that would make her office nonpartisan.

In fact, the superintendent said she can't even get a legislator to file the bill.

"As you know, I had previously announced my intention not to run in 2002. Yet, if I am unsuccessful in overcoming the partisan obstacles to this proposal, I will run for the office once again," she wrote.

Mr. Barnes' press secretary, Gary Horlacher, said the governor had no comment.

Mrs. Schrenko complained that lawmakers are blocking legislation she thinks is important for Georgia schools.

Shortly after winning re-election in November, she told Morris News Service that this would be her last term.

Other Republicans have mentioned her as a possible candidate in 2002 for Congress and other statewide offices such as lieutenant governor.

Last month, Mrs. Schrenko proposed making the office nonpartisan so that her predecessor would have an easier time dealing with politics at the Capitol.

She went through two years of political warfare with the Democrat-heavy state Board of Education after she was first elected in 1994. The battle waned only when then-Gov. Zell Miller fired the board and replaced it with Republicans.

Mrs. Schrenko said she has asked legislators from both parties to introduce the bill, but so far has found no takers.

"Although I have been twice elected as a Republican, I am firmly convinced that improvement of education is without party affiliation," Mrs. Schrenko wrote. "The education of our children should not be about politics.

"However, my attempts to find members of the General Assembly with a willingness to introduce the legislation have been futile," she added.

"The Republicans want to hold onto the office, and the Democrats want to regain it in the next election."

In the letter, Mrs. Schrenko asks that one of Mr. Barnes' floor leaders in the Senate introduce the bill.

State Sen. Don Cheeks, D-Augusta, said he hasn't heard of any organized effort to stall Mrs. Schrenko's proposal.

"I think that's a splendid idea. I don't think it should be partisan," said Mr. Cheeks, who added that he is probably too busy to handle the bill for Mrs. Schrenko.

"That's very typical of the way she runs her office," state Senate Education Chairman Richard Marable, D-Rome, said of the superintendent's statement.

Mr. Marable noted that he filed a nonpartisan bill a few years ago, and neither Democrats nor Republicans liked the idea.

"People think there ought to be some (partisan) debate on this," Mr. Marable said. "I don't think the bill is going to be introduced."