In his recent State of the State address, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal confirmed that he would focus 2016 on the reforms of state’s education system.
Deal is committed to allocating $26.2 million for wage increases of pre-K teachers, and the amended budget proposal also included an additional $7.9 million for a merit pay increase. K-12 education spending was expected to be increased by $300 million.
The funding will go directly to schools. They would not be required to use it for pay increases, but if they did not, it would be difficult for the state to ensure that local schools had flexibility in the spending of state education funding.
Smaller class sizes, admission to gifted or special education classes, increased state help to charter schools, and more flexible rules on testing were also among the subjects for further discussions, reports the Rome News-Tribune.
However, Deal was clear that new legislation is postponed for the 2017 session, meaning it would take effect after July 2018. Georgia lawmakers would have all of 2016 to examine the current state of local education and to discuss the recommendations of the Education Committee.
Deal pointed out that during his last visit to several public schools in Georgia, he was very impressed by the commitment and strong working ethic of students, teachers, and school officials.
As we continue to discuss the recommendations of the Education Reform Commission, it is important for teachers and administrators to know that just because we are examining ways to allocate taxpayer dollars more appropriately and put in place different models to achieve better education results, it does not mean that you are not appreciated.
Because the graduation exam was jettisoned last year, Deal recommended that public schools re-consider their approach to testing. In his opinion, the main aim of the tests was to reveal the areas that needed enhancement. Deal said that tests that fail to improve educational achievements need to be abolished, writes Ty Tagami of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Deal emphasized that about 74,000 local children attend “chronically failing” schools. According to him, the approval of the Opportunity School District Constitutional Amendment in 2016 will have a positive impact on that number.
Teacher groups who had been fighting against merit pay proposal during the past months were surprised by the Governor’s address. Associated Press reports that Sid Chapman, the President of Georgia Association of Educators, considered Deal’s speech indicative of progress.
“We were very pleased,” said the president of the Georgia Association of Educators. “We felt the commission wasn’t made up enough teachers to start off with it.”
The Governor also expressed his willingness to create a teacher advisory committee that would review the recommendations of the Education Reform Commission. Finding ways to overhaul the funding formula used for years would be one of its first tasks — something previous governors have failed to do.
To address those who disagreed with the proposed new blueprint for Georgia’s education, Deal turned to a quote from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair:
“The scope, speed, and scale of change demands that we educate students for a future vastly different from our past.”