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Educator: Sales tax plan could be Georgia's "greatest economic disaster ever"
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A sales tax to replace property taxes as an education funding source could be "the greatest economic disaster ever to hit" Georgia, the president of the Georgia Association of Educators said Wednesday.

Jeff Hubbard, who stopped in Gainesville as part of a statewide media tour, talked about House Resolution 900, also known as "Georgia Repealing Every Ad Valorem Tax," and other key education issues, including the reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Hubbard said he is particularly concerned about the sales tax proposal, being pushed by House Speaker Glenn Richardson, if the economy makes a downward turn, such as after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

"You cannot budget based on ... economic possibilities," he said. "If everything is based on the sales tax and the economy goes down, you have nothing to budget on."

Hubbard added that "not only is the sales tax hit or miss, it is also a regressive tax."

Adding pennies to the dollar might not hurt the wealthy, but it could significantly hurt low-
income residents.

Hubbard said he also fears that under the tax proposal, school systems would lose control of the tax money generated in their districts.

"I believe Gainesville city schools and the Hall County school system know best how to fund their systems," he said.

Hubbard has more positive vibes concerning No Child Left Behind.

The law, which governs whether schools are making "adequate yearly progress" and placing sanctions on those that are not, is up for renewal in Congress.

There is talk about making some key changes, including a "growth model" that would measure school progress based on an individual child’s progress.

The current system is based on how one group of students in a particular grade compares to another group of students in that same grade from one year to the next.

"Let’s see how the child is doing and if there is a hiccup ... did the child have a problem that year? Was it the instructor?" Hubbard said. "We have to look at accountability from all sides. Are there things going on, weaknesses that might have occurred that year that we could address?"

Hubbard said he also is concerned about the "multiple classifications of a child" when a school looks at how well students are doing academically.

Ironically, given the law’s name, not all children are counted toward AYP, while others are counted several times based on demographic "subgroups."

A Hispanic second-language learner from a poor household, for example, could be counted in three subgroups.

And if there aren’t enough students in a particular subgroup, that subgroup doesn’t count at all.

"One student (in several subgroups) could cause a school that would otherwise (make AYP) to fail," Hubbard said.

Some other education issues Hubbard is concerned about are increasing parental involvement in schools and pushing for more professional development for educators.

He said he also would like to see the state government use some of its $650 million in surplus revenues to make up funding cuts to local school systems over the past few years.

One issue that lights Hubbard’s fire is the ranking of states based on SAT scores.

Georgia perennially ranks at the bottom of those rankings, while some states that place a much higher emphasis on the ACT college-entrance exam rank at or near the top.

Also, schools should be judged by other factors than a "single test snapshot in time," Hubbard said.

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