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Rynders introduces furlough legislation

ATLANTA -- After DeKalb County Superintendent Crawford Lewis recently was voted a $15,000 pay raise by the system's school board, other school system employees protested the move when they were required to take a furlough day.

State Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, authored a bill late Tuesday afternoon that would halt such practices. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Lewis' annual salary was increased to $255,000 by the DeKalb County School Board.

House Bill 977 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."

The bill also includes language that would force school boards that try 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 in a local newspaper or publication.

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

"We wanted to send a clear message that you shouldn't be furloughing people on one end, while giving others pay raises," Rynders said in a phone call Tuesday from Atlanta. "To me, that defies common sense. I want to protect the people that are in the trenches."

Rynders -- whose wife and daughter teach in public schools -- said the initial response to the bill has been strong.

"Up here, it's been overwhelming," he said. "They think it's a good idea. Let's see what happens when we put it in a committee for a hearing."

Rynders said the bill will be read again today and would be assigned to a committee by the end of the week.

"I anticipate it will go in the Education Committee," he said.