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$67M at risk for schools
Lawmakers may eliminate local taxes on motor vehicles

SUWANEE - Members of the Gwinnett County Board of Education voiced their concerns Thursday about legislative proposals that would limit the school board's ability to collect local revenue

The board members, who met Thursday with members of the Teachers' Advisory Council, told the educators to pay attention to the legislators' proposals, some of which they said could jeopardize public education.

"It's interesting that the people who claim to be interested in public education are starving us to death at the same time," board member Robert McClure said during the monthly work session. He added, "They (state legislators) want us to deliver a quality education for less money. We do it for less than the state average and achieve more than they expect."

Gwinnett County Public Schools spends an average of $7,800 per student each year, but the state average is $8,400 per student per year, said Rick Cost, the school district's chief financial office.

Cost said the school district is at risk of losing $67 million - $40 million if the state eliminates local taxes on motor vehicles and the General Assembly fails to reimburse the school district for the money it would have collected, $13 million in austerity cuts from the formula used to fund public schools and $14 million from a reconfiguration of the formula used to provide equalization grants to 75 percent of the school systems in the state.

Daniel Seckinger, the board's vice chairman, said he doesn't want to be an alarmist, but he believes there needs to be a "substantial change" in the mindset of some legislators.

"I believe with all my heart without public education - and good public education - we would not be the same America we are today," Seckinger said, adding, "We just can't keep doing more and getting less year after year."

During its monthly business meeting, the board approved more than $23.3 million to purchase textbooks and other instructional resources, including the following:

· Instructional materials for mathematics in kindergarten through ninth grade. About 250 elementary school teachers, 130 middle school teachers and 50 high school teachers piloted and reviewed materials including student textbooks, comprehensive teacher resources and technology applications.

· Instructional materials for social studies in kindergarten through fifth-grades. About 260 classroom teachers piloted and reviewed the student textbooks and teacher resources, including map and globe skills sets.

· Engineering and Chinese course materials for Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology. Engineering is a required course for ninth graders at the charter school, and Chinese is a language choice.

The school district receives $5 million annually from the state to purchase instructional materials, Cost said.