Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

$5.5 Billion Sought for Schools Board Doesn't Endorse Budget

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

$5.5 Billion Sought for Schools Board Doesn't Endorse Budget

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- The state Board of Education yesterday approved sending Gov. Roy Barnes a $5.5 billion budget proposal that would give local systems millions for school safety equipment and allow the state to develop an end-of-thecourse test in every grade.

However, the board sent Barnes the request for next year without its endorsement, an unusual move Republican state School Superintendent Linda Schrenko suspects is due to partisan politics.

"I think there are political pressures being brought to bear on this issue," Schrenko said. "Everybody wants credit. If you're a Democrat, you don't want to see Republicans come up with an idea.

"I'm pretty sure the governor has had some discussions with the board on this issue."

Barnes spokeswoman Joselyn Butler said politics isn't involved.

"What the governor is trying to do is improve Georgia's education system," Butler said. "He's not worried about who gets the credit."

Board chairman Otis Brumby, a close friend of the governor, said he had not discussed the issue with Barnes.

Budget proposals for schools, the largest expense in state government, are routinely approved by the board each summer after studying and making changes to plans drawn up by Department of Education staff.

The recommendations are used by governors to help them decide what to fund in the following year's budget.

Two things are different about this year.

The new board was appointed by Barnes only a few months ago.

"Because of the steep learning curve this board has been on, this board has not had time to work on this budget," Brumby said.

More importantly, Barnes' 64-member education reform commission has been working on issues like school safety, testing and funding throughout the summer. The commission will make recommendations later this year to Barnes, who is expected to spotlight education reform during the 2000 session. …

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