Protecting Local Schools
No one knows better what students in Cobb County, in Augusta, in Savannah, or in Columbus need than the teachers, parents, administrators, and local school boards in those places. Our public education system has long been set up in a way that allows the state to set important educational standards to ensure our children can compete in the national and global economies, but that enables local government and communities to by and large, make important everyday decisions about how best to meet those standards.
Regrettably, Amendment One, also known as the Opportunity School District, has now jeopardized that system. If passed Amendment One would allow for an unelected, statewide superintendent appointed by the governor—any governor—to make decisions that directly affect administrators, teachers, children, and parents at up to 100 “failing” schools statewide. That superintendent would be able to convert a school to a charter school or shut a school down entirely without any input or possibility of appeal by the community it serves. Put another way, it creates another layer of state bureaucracy that is unaccountable to the voters and subject to political pressure.
I oppose Amendment One for a great number of reasons, but predominantly because it fundamentally misunderstands what state government’s role in education should be. For well over the last decade, austerity cuts enacted by Republican leadership have underfunded public education by billions of dollars, resulting in teacher furloughs, increased class sizes, and a lack of access to important teaching tools from textbooks to computers. To suggest that a statewide takeover is the answer to fixing our struggling schools is disingenuous given that we have failed to give teachers and students the resources they need to succeed. It’s like failing a student for not writing her answers on a test when she hasn’t been given a pencil in the first place.
The state legislature’s role should be to set standards and provide resources, thoughtfully and efficiently. As your State Representative I will fight to ensure that we place education first, not neglect to do our job as legislators and punish local schools for our sins. Our state needs leadership when it comes to education—not scapegoats in the form of teachers and administrators across Georgia doing their level best to educate our kids when in reality we never gave them the chance they deserve. Local schools belong in local hands, and I’ll fight to do everything I can to empower parents and teachers to make the best decisions for their children, and to give them the tools they need to do so.
Pursuing Collaboration in Education
I am a firm believer that when it comes to providing Georgia’s children with the best educational opportunities we must think creatively and utilize the tools at our disposal that best fit our needs at the given time. That includes supporting charter schools in addition to existing public schools.
Charter schools can create amazing opportunities for students. Some may provide an increased focus in math, science, and engineering. Some may celebrate and promote the arts. I am a proponent of charter schools in Georgia, provided that two important criteria are met. First, in order for there to be true school choice for parents and students, every choice must be an acceptable one. That means ensuring that local public schools provide a quality education in addition to charter schools so that each child can receive the education that is best for them and prepares them for adulthood according to their needs. Second, charter schools must be accessible to all students, without allowing for private or corporate dollars to corrupt admissions processes or limit those schools to serving only one part of a community.
Charter schools are an excellent tool at our disposal, but we should pursue an education system in which charter schools are collaborative with our traditional public schools, not competitive. As your State Representative I will always fight to keep private and corporate interests out of public education, and to make sure that we continue to search not only for the best solutions to our students’ educational needs, but that we do so in a way that ensures an equal opportunity for every child.
Funding our Future First
As I mentioned above, Georgia’s public education system has gone underfunded according to our state’s own funding formula for more than a decade. In fact, schools statewide are already preparing for a statewide shortfall of over $150 million. These deficits are due in no small part to the fact that while education makes up the largest single portion of the Georgia state budget, our state legislators routinely rob the education piggy bank to pay for other initiatives or services. That simply cannot stand.
I support a separate state budget solely for education, with a prohibition in place to ensure that we can’t take money out of education to pay for whatever pork project a powerful legislator wants to get funded in his or her district. If Georgia is serious about education, then we must be serious about funding it. That starts with a dedicated budget that not only provides our schools with the resources they need to thrive, but also the peace of mind in knowing that they might have to do more with less year after year. As your State Representative I will make it a priority to advocate for a separate, independent educational budget, because if we can’t fund our students today, we certainly can’t expect to continue our economic growth tomorrow.