Ga. Administrators Decry Cuts in Central-Office Funds

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Georgia lawmakers have dealt local school administrators a one-two punch by removing many of their job protections and slicing the state aid that helps pay their salaries.

The blows were delivered in an otherwise welcomed budget package that contains more than $590 million in new public school spending, financed by lottery revenues and the state's general fund. Lawmakers approved the budget this month after voting overwhelmingly to add the two provisions relating to administrators.

William M. Barr, the executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, said last week that the measures would financially weaken district administrations at a time when more demands are being placed on them. Even before the funding cuts were proposed, he said, the state "did not provide sufficient money to carry out the [required] central-administration functions."

Gov. Zell Miller had called for the reductions in state spending on district administration as part of a broad education-reform agenda. "We need to focus our resources on children and teachers, not on central-office bureaucrats," he said.

The Georgia School Boards Association helped persuade lawmakers to include the other provision, which revokes a law giving certain protections against dismissal to administrators who had held their jobs for at least three years.

The members of the G.S.B.A. had wanted the ability to remove administrators "without having to go through an arduous due-process proceeding," Gary Ashley, the organization's executive vice president, said last week.

Large Districts Hit

Governor Miller, a Democrat, initially called for cutting administrative funding by $29.4 million, which would jeopardize about 1,200 of the 2,680 state-funded positions in district offices around the state. He urged that the savings be used to provide each public school with a part-time technology specialist and to hire counselors for children in the early grades.

Noting that the state's five largest districts each had more than 100 state-paid administrators, the Governor also had proposed limiting each district to 12.

"If the larger school systems decide they want more bureaucrats, they can decide to pay for them from local funds and be held accountable by their voters," Governor Miller said.

The state superintendents' association and lawmakers who represent large districts strongly opposed the plan.

"The utter irresponsibility of that kind of cut amazed me," said Rep. Earl Ehrhart, a Republican from Cobb County.

Noting that the plan would reduce the number of state-financed central-office administrators in the Cobb County school system from 173 to 12, Mr. Ehrhart said: "There is no business in the world that can make those kinds of cuts immediately."

In subsequent legislative wrangling, the size of the proposed cut was reduced to $16.9 million, with much of the savings earmarked for technology specialists but none for guidance counselors.

Proposals Scaled Back

The legislature also modified proposed changes in the state formula for distributing central-office funds to Georgia's 181 districts. The largest districts will still receive less administrative funding per student, but the 12-position cap was removed, allowing districts like Cobb County to pay for 50 or 60 positions with state money.

The state's 121 smallest districts actually stand to get increases in central-office aid under the new formula. While some have not been getting enough state money to pay their superintendents' salaries, all are now assured at least enough aid for a superintendent, an accountant, and a part-time secretary.

Vol. 14, Issue 27

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