High Quality Schools for All Our Kids

I’m running to be your Governor to bring back hope that no matter where you live in this state, you will feel good when you drop your children off at the school house doors.

I’m a product of public schools. In fact, I’ve spent 20 years in this state’s public elementary, middle, and high schools and its flag-ship university. My teachers and professors made me who I am today and I’m grateful. I want all children to have a quality school to attend no matter where they live.

Education is the backbone of a strong economy, and here in Georgia, our back is bending in the wrong direction.

Focus on the whole child

Students who are hungry, who can’t see the teacher as she presents math problems to the class, who have a learning disability, who have no lights or water at home, can’t be expected to perform up to their fullest potential.

We need smaller class sizes and more counselors so that no child falls through the cracks and we readily address individual needs. We should develop community school models to surround our children with the people and resources they need to achieve. Teachers can’t do it by themselves.

Allow teachers to teach and arm them with the training, development, and pay they deserve

It is imperative that we treat teachers with the respect they deserve as professionals and that we pay them a salary that reflects this respect. We must recruit, train, and retain the most talented educators. We must reduce the amount of testing we force on our students and teachers. “Teaching to the test” doesn’t help students and is unfair to teachers who wish to impart to students a love of learning.

Invest in our children

We have been under-investing in education for far too long. Rather than properly prioritizing and funding education, we have too often blamed our schools and teachers.

Plainly and simply, we are not arming our teachers and schools with the resources they need to be successful. Georgia ranks 38th in spending per K-12 student and invests nearly $2,000 less per student than the national average. In fact, under the state’s own spending formula, we have underfunded K-12 education every single year since 2003. The funding shortage has resulted in cutting days off the school calendar, reducing teacher and staff salaries, eliminating teaching positions, and cutting classes in art, music and other enrichment programs.

By short-changing our teachers and schools, we are short-changing our children and our economy. In 2010, the funding gap exceeded $1 Billon. Today, although strides have been made in the right direction, we are still $166 Million short of meeting the low standard of the state’s outdated formula. To make matters worse, the state also continues to shift costs to the school districts—in areas such as student transportation and employee benefits—leaving less money for the classroom and student learning.

Furthermore, the current spending formula is frankly too low a benchmark—it was designed 32 years ago and it does not align with the growing needs of our students. Any overhaul to the funding formula should include, at a minimum, adjustments for inflation so the formula keeps up with actual costs, a halt to cost-shifting, and increased funding for students, schools and districts with greater needs. Some schools and children are struggling more than others, and we should direct our resources where they are needed most.

We must start prioritizing education in Georgia—or our kids, for our teachers, and for our economy.

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