James.qxp Sept Oct 2018 web (2) - Page 47

Increased teacher salaries along with
increased respect and the professionalization
of the field
Increased supports for student psychological
and emotional health
Increased supports for low-income students
Expanded wrap-around services and
community engagement
Expanded online education programs,
especially for rural and low-income students
Streamlined state-level testing regime
More specically, incumbent Woods spoke to his
record in the job, highlighting a shifting focus away
from high-stakes testing to the whole child and building
opportunities for all children. He also focused on the
importance of local control and the Department of
Education’s support role for districts as opposed to the
traditional compliance role.
Challenger Thornton emphasized his experiences as a
former National PTA President and military officer and
focused on his desire to push for more wrap-around services for struggling and low-income students, highlight
school safety, and address funding adequacy and
inequities. He also directly addressed the issue that divides
our candidates for governor – the tax credit for student
scholarship organizations. During this past legislative session, the cap on the tax-credit scholarship program was
raised to $100 million. Woods had no vote on that law and
did not address the issue during the debate, but Thornton
said that he would work to reverse the legislation, as it
“takes money out of the public education system.”
So where does all this leave the future of education
policy in Georgia? The answer is still to be determined.
What we do know is that in the K-12 space, the gubernatorial candidates are focusing on the merits of choice,
with some added focus on the importance of early
learning and need-based nancial aid for post-secondary
education from the Democratic candidate. And the two
candidates campaigning to head the Department of
Education generally agree that they need to work with
lawmakers to ensure all students have the supports they
need to be successful— whether that be highly qualied
teachers, access to STEM classes, remedial supports, or
differing post-secondary options.
Still, what is evident is that Georgia needs a clear
vision for public education that empowers state and
local leaders as well as parents and students to make
decisions that best support the educational needs of all
citizens. Georgians deserve as much and must demand
that the most pressing education issues in the state be
top priority for our leaders.
Dr. Dana Rickman is the Vice President of the Georgia Partnership
for Excellence in Education.


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