Even though the 2000 Georgia General Assembly is history, and even though Gov. Roy Barnes dominated its education initiatives, State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko wasted no time in unveiling her 2001 legislative agenda. Why so early? The combative Republican, noting she'll have an uphill fight for the wish list, says she'll need nine months to generate a public groundswell that will be more effective than her efforts this year.
The agenda includes some fine proposals, although one especially tweaks the governor. She would give teachers a 10 percent pay hike "to make up for the two years of Roy's letting us slide below the national average" and 15 percent to teachers willing to work in failing schools if they demonstrate success.
Where to find the money? There will probably be a state budget surplus, like this year. If not, she calls for trimming special grants for cities and counties (including her own) and re-targeting the appropriate money.
Other key proposals:
Schools would be granted $20 per full-time student so administrators could use it as they see fit for safety initiatives.
New buses bought after a certain date must be equipped with seat belts. This might be fine, but there are conflicting studies as to whether this is a major problem. More pressing is the need to ban any student from standing on moving buses.
"Three strikes and you're out" would finally give schools the authority to kick out any student after a third discipline breach.
End social promotion. Governors, legislators and local superintendents have been trying to do this for decades. But if the insidious practice ends, it will only occur through vigorous monitoring at the local system level.
Restore vocational and non-vocation education cuts. Legislators cut funding in this area -- a big mistake because, as Schrenko says, it leaves behind the children who are not in college prep classes as well as students who need biology or chemistry labs.