Originally created 02/19/03

Perdue proposes more flexibility for school boards



ATLANTA -- Gov. Sonny Perdue continued to roll back key aspects of his predecessor's education reform Tuesday when he announced legislation to give school systems more flexibility.

"We will maintain high expectations, but we're not going to tell you how to get there exactly," Perdue said in a conference call with state superintendents. "We're going to let you use the uniqueness and creativity of your schools to determine what is best for them."

Perdue's legislation, which was introduced in the House, eliminates many provisions from Gov. Roy Barnes' 2000 education package and gives local school systems more control over funding, curriculum and class size.

"We don't need to micromanage what local systems do," state School Superintendent Kathy Cox said. "A one-size-fits-all approach to improving our schools simply doesn't work."

For example, the bill allows middle schools to determine how much time they want to spend on core academic classes. Barnes' law required middle schools to spend 30 extra minutes a day - about 5 hours in all - on core instruction, cutting into time for art, music and physical education.

Perdue's plan also would restore an appeals process for recently hired teachers when a school system decides not to renew their contracts.

"The old rules may have been a bit too costly for local systems who wanted to remove an ineffective teacher," Cox said. "But the removal of due process altogether has left good teachers with no protection from unfair dismissal or abuse of the process."

Perdue said the appeals process protects good teachers.

"We want good principals to be able to get rid of ineffective teachers, not bad principals to be able to get rid of good teachers," he said.

His proposal also puts the Office of Educational Accountability under the control of the state school superintendent and the school board.

The OEA was created by Barnes as an independent data management department to oversee new tests and collect data, but members of the school board and former state School Superintendent Linda Schrenko claimed it clipped their power.

The move to put OEA under the Education Department's control makes the department "a one-stop agency for education in Georgia," Cox said.

"It eliminates the duplicate bureaucracy that has stripped control from those at the local level and left them confused as to who was in control of certain areas," she said.