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Board of Education adopts '09 legislative program

SUWANEE - The Gwinnett County Board of Education on Thursday adopted its 2009 legislative program, which will be shared with legislators before the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

The document outlines the school board's state funding improvement requests and continuing positions in areas such as state funding, flexibility and local control of public education.

School board members will again ask legislators to fully fund the Quality Basic Education Act state funding formula. Since fiscal year 2002, austerity cuts have resulted in a loss of $125.9 million in state revenue for Gwinnett County Public Schools. Another $1.9 million has been lost in that time because of reductions in state categorical grants, bringing the district's cumulative loss in state revenue to $127.8 million, according to the program.

The board will also request delegates continue to support the flexibility afford to school districts through the IE2 (Investing in Educational Excellence) partnership contracts between local systems and the state Board of Education. Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks has said GCPS plans to pursue such contacts, which will give schools flexibility from some mandates in exchange for increased accountability.

Board members this year added a statement to the document articulating their position that local boards of education should retain the authority to govern the local school systems they are elected to serve. In addition, the program states local boards should not be restricted by legislation from levying local ad valorem taxes to ensure funding for the quality educational programs the county's residents demand.