Here is the link to HB 904–if someone could summarize it into something that everyone could understand (including me), I would greatly appreciate it.

From today’s Sentinel:

Remillard: Bill would slash school funding
by Winston Jones/Sentinel

Douglas County School Superintendent Don Remillard call on local legislators to vote against the proposed House Bill 904, known as the equalization bill, which he said would cause severe cuts to the county’s school funding.

Remillard, Board of Education (BOE) members and school administrators met Friday with state lawmakers representing Douglas County in the Georgia General Assembly. The meeting was hosted by Rep. Bill Hembree (R-Winston).

Remillard said the equalization formula will be great for smaller school systems but would punish metro systems such as Douglas County.

“If this goes into effect, the losses will be huge,” he said.

Remillard presented a chart which showed the level of state spending per student of the several school systems. Douglas County’s total was $8,151.88, below the state average of $8,895.25 and below all others in the metro Atlanta region.

BOE member Larry Barnes asked the lawmakers to look at a different funding formula for the College and Career Institute (CCI) which the school system opened this year on the West Georgia Technical College campus. He said it needs a different type of funding from other dual-enrollment programs which don’t have their own buildings.

“This is different from other joint enrollment programs and needs to be looked at in a different way,” Barnes said.

Hembree said a bill is already being drafted which addresses CCI funding.

Remillard also expressed concern that all sales tax is not being collected by the state. He called on the lawmakers to consider a system similar to Alabama where a private agency handles collections. He said there are flea markets and kiosks which aren’t paying sales tax.

Remillard also asked for support of RESA (Regional Education Service Agency). He said it has been reported to be on the governor’s veto block and he hopes it will survive.

“RESA is a valuable service to us,” Remillard said. “It saves us a lot of money by sharing services and allowing us to get competitive prices.”

Remillard said the school system has made so many cuts that it’s to the bare bones now. He called on the state to continue giving local systems flexibility to handle the diminishing funds, such as continuing to allow larger class sizes.

Rep. Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta) expressed concern that extra children in classrooms would mean cuts in the number of teachers and layoffs.

“When you start laying off, teachers start seeing ‘ghosts,’ the morale and proficiency goes down,” he said.

However, Barnes said personnel is about the only place left to make cuts. The state has already instituted furlough days.

“We’ve cut and cut and cut,” Barnes said. “We’re down to it. We’re to the point where the only thing left to cut is personnel.”

Remillard called for being “very careful” with legislation proposed by Gov. Perdue which would reward teachers for their students’ improved grade scores rather than education and experience. He said it’s difficult to come up with a fair way of doing it.

For example, he said classes, such as in special education, are very different from those with gifted students.

In addition to Hembree and Bruce, other legislators participating in the session included Rep. Tim Bearden (R-Villa Rica), Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) and State Sen. Donzella James (D-College Park).

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