published Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

'Deal: Atheist books OK in cabins' and more Chattanooga region news


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Deal: Atheist books OK in cabins

ATLANTA — Gov. Nathan Deal says he believes in the right of atheist groups to donate literature for use in cabins and lodges in Georgia's state parks just as Bibles are allowed.

Deal said Tuesday, "If somebody doesn't want to read the Gideon Bibles, they don't have to take it out of the drawer. If there is some atheist literature, they don't have to read it."

He added he wasn't sure of the response from visitors, saying, "If they want to put it there, I can't guarantee its safety."

American Atheists says it plans to donate several books including "Why I Am An Atheist."

Park managers initially removed Bibles after receiving a citizen complaint. The state attorney general later advised it was OK because the Bibles weren't paid for by the state.

Graduation rate nears 70 percent

Georgia's high school graduation rate for the class of 2012 has increased to nearly 70 percent, a slight increase under a new formula under which the rate dropped considerably in recent years.

State officials on Tuesday released the statewide rate of 69.7 percent for 2012, up roughly two points from 2011 -- which was the first year of the new calculation and well below the 80 percent the state had under the old system.

For years, states had been free to calculate their own graduation rates, which officials said created inconsistent, noncomparable data across states. Critics said the rates often were based on incomplete information, so the federal government announced the new formula in 2008 and made it mandatory starting with the 2010-11 academic year.

Georgia schools Superintendent John Barge said he was pleased the state's graduation rate showed an increase. He pledged the state was working to keep students engaged so they stay in school and graduate.

"While our graduation rate is still far too low and we have much progress to be made, we are moving in the right direction," Barge said.

Courts facing layoffs of 150

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama's chief justice expects to lay off 150 employees after the state's new fiscal year starts Oct. 1 unless the court system gets more money than the Legislature appropriated.

Chief Justice Roy Moore said he's grateful that the General Fund signed by the governor Monday increases the court system's appropriation by $5.6 million to $108 million for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, but that is $8.5 million short of what's needed to maintain the current staff.

The new budget includes a provision that allows the governor to release extra funding to some state programs if tax collections exceed expectations. If he does so, he must give $8.5 million to the courts first.

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