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Politicians spar over gains in education
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The dean of the Hall County legislative delegation and his Democratic opponent appeared together Thursday night at a forum sponsored by the Hall County Association of Educators.

Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain, and Christopher Strickland, a Flowery Branch Democrat, spoke briefly to the small crowd of about a dozen. Also appearing was Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, who is unopposed in his re-election bid.

Mills pointed to recent accomplishments in education. "One of the greatest things we have done in the past five years is we have increased the graduation rate by 10 percent throughout the state," Mills said. "From ’06 to ’07, we were able to prevent 2,200 less students, who didn’t graduate in the past, from dropping out," he said, attributing the change to graduation coaches that are in place in public high schools in Georgia.

Strickland, a teacher, said education has suffered from austerity cuts for six years.

"There is nothing austere about cutting education," Strickland said, "it is downright foolish."

He said the result of the cuts has been an increase in local taxes.

"For six years, we’ve seen the General Assembly raise property taxes by unfunded mandates. That has to stop."

Mills and Strickland will not face off until the general election in November.