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Rynders' legislation passes

ATLANTA -- Through a unanimous vote in both the House and the Senate, a bill authored by state Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, will halt the practice of school board's granting pay raises to superintendents while furloughing other school staff.

Rynders' bill, House Bill 977, which passed the House 162-0 and the Senate 99-0, states: "If any local board of education furloughs teachers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, support staff, or other non-administrative positions during any school year, such local board of education shall not use any state funds to provide a salary increase for the local school superintendent or administrators during such school year."

"Very rarely do you get a unanimous vote. I am obviously pleased that it has passed both the House and the Senate," Rynders said.

The bill was fueled by DeKalb County Superintendent Crawford Lewis recently being voted a $15,000 pay raise by the school system's school board, while school employees were required to take a furlough day. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Lewis' annual salary was increased to $255,000 by the DeKalb County School Board.

The bill also includes language that would force school boards that tried to bypass state funds to give an administrator or superintendent a pay raise to explain the rationale with a public hearing for community input. They would also have to give seven days notice of the public forum as a legal notice the county's legal organ.

Rynders -- whose wife and daughter teach in public schools -- said it was important to protect teachers and other school staff from these type of practices.

"I think it is important that we apply common sense by saying you cannot give one group pay raises while you are furloughing others," said the state representative.

Co-authors on House Bill 977 include state Reps. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, Valdosta school teacher and Democrat Amy Carter, and Jay Powell, R-Camilla. Lindsey is the Majority Whip and the former chairman of education appropriations. Millar is vice chairman of education.

The bill is supported by the Georgia Association of Educators and Professional Association of Georgia Educators.

Rynders said that HB 977 now only awaits Gov. Sonny Perdue's signature.

-- Albany Herald Education Writer Ethan Fowler contributed to this article.