Board OKs legislative priorities

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Board of Education has adopted its legislative positions for the year that it will give to local delegates.

This year, the board approved 11 issues, which were developed by Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews and his executive leadership team by looking at other school systems, the Georgia School Boards Association and other resources.

According to the priorities, the board supports the concept that a curriculum should be maintained by state and local boards of education, as well as the continuance of state capital outlay dollars to fund school construction. It also supports tax reform and the requirement of a satisfactory annual written evaluation for certified personnel as a condition of eligibility for salary increases.

The board is opposed to vouchers, tuition tax credits and scholarships that allocate public funds to private or home schools, as well as the existence and actions of the Commission on Charter Schools, as it is in conflict with the constitutional authority of local school boards to make decisions to approve or reject charter applicants and financial support of schools in its own county.

In its legislative positions, the school board urges the General Assembly to sufficiently fund the actual cost of textbooks and electronic instruction materials, as well as to fund at-risk and remedial summer school programs and to provide state funds for immediate voice communication between teachers and school administrators for enhanced student safety.

School board member Eddie Johnson was the only member to vote against the positions because he didn't agree with another issue -- the board supporting legislation calling for the nonpartisan election of school board members. Currently, Newton County school board members are chosen through a partisan election.

"I can't abandon the party that brought me here," Johnson said.

Fellow board members Almond Turner and Shakila Henderson Baker said that school board members should not let party lines interfere with any of their votes.

"We should vote on what's best for our children," Turner said.

Johnson said he couldn't vote against the current process.

"We have to address the reality," Johnson said. "It has untold and unintended consequences."