James.qxp Sept Oct 2018 web (2) - Page 45



Election Season & Priorities
for Georgia’s Schools
This past summer in the annual education issue
of James we published an article entitled, “Is Georgia’s
Education Future on the Gubernatorial Candidates’
Minds?” The piece, which explored the education priorities of the then-three candidates running to serve as
Georgia’s next governor, revealed that education policy
was not central to any of their talking points.
Since then, Republican nominee Brian Kemp has reiterated his support for doubling the state tax credit for
student scholarship organizations and boosting funding
for charter schools. Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams
supports increased investments in early childcare and
learning and public schools, and a needs-based higher
education scholarship. She is also positioning herself as
the “public education” governor and coming out against
the tax credit scholarship. While the gubernatorial race is
the most high-prole of the 2018 election season, it isn’t
the only election that will impact education in Georgia.
Who voters elect to serve as the next state
Superintendent of Schools is also critically important.
That’s why on August 15 the Georgia Partnership for
Excellence in Education held an election forum for
Georgia’s two candidates for state Superintendent of
Schools– Republican Richard Woods and Democratic
challenger Otha Thornton. This elected position serves
as the chief state school officer responsible for the operation of the Department of Education and chief executive officer of the state Board of Education. This role is
critical in implementing education policy for all 1.4 million students enrolled in Georgia’s K-12 public schools.
The forum began with the results from the
Education Poll of The South, a regional poll of voters
across the south, including Georgia, that captured citizens’ views on the quality of public education in their
state and across the region. The number one priority for
Georgia voters was the economy and jobs (45%), followed closely by improving K-12 education (40%), which
polled more highly than infrastructure, cutting government spending, or holding down taxes.
When asked about which priorities they thought
Georgia officials needed to address to improve public
education, respondents replied:



Ensuring effective teachers
in the classrooms
57%
Helping high school students
prepare for real world and
teach life skills
56%
Making sure all children have
equal opportunity for a good
education
53%
With these poll results as a backdrop, the candidates
for state school superintendent were asked about their
own vision for public schools in Georgia and the priorities articulated by voters across the state. Both candidates had similar answers to these issues and other
important topics such as school safety and assessments.
They both spoke to the importance of:
continued on page 47
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
45

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