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KNOW Summer 2014 | 13 As a result of those combined issues, GAE President Calvine Rollins thought it important to communicate with Governor Deal regarding providing some relief for school systems from the state level now that the state budget had improved. In a final meeting with Gov. Deal as GAE president, she asked him to provide feedback on where our public education system is now and where we go from here.  President Rollins: Governor, what is your vision for public education in Georgia and what additional positive changes for public education do you plan to make? Governor Deal: Strong schools are the only proven route to tomorrow’s good jobs, and we must focus efforts on producing well-prepared students who are life-, college- and work-ready. For decades, Georgia students, consistent with the nation as a whole, have lost ground to global peers and now sit in the middle of the pack when it comes to overall student achievement. In order to reverse this trend, there are five key areas upon which I believe we must focus.  Within education, the birth-to-age-8 time frame is increasingly critical. When we fail to strategically invest resources in our youngest students, we are forced to spend more money trying to remediate them later, regularly taking great pains to simply drag struggling students across the finish line to a diploma. By prioritizing early childhood education, we ensure that our youngest students are positioned for academic excellence. It is critically important that students are “learning to read” in order to be able to “read to learn,” and we can help them prepare both mentally and socially for reading proficiency by instilling language skills at a young age. Children not reading proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. We must increase the percentage of Georgia students that are able to read at the third grade level by the completion of third grade. My wife, Sandra, is a lifelong educator and she has spent much of her time and energy as Georgia’s First Lady going around this state with her Read Across Georgia Initiative. She has visited more than 300 classrooms in every single county and school district in this state. Her passion for instilling a love of learning in children is inspiring to me, and I am beyond grateful to have her as a partner working toward achieving this critical goal. The most important thing we can do for Georgia’s students is to make certain we place effective teachers and school leaders in our classrooms and schools with the tools they need to teach. We know that – more than anything else – effective teachers drive student achievement. We must use the state’s new teacher and leader evaluation systems to bring a higher level of accountability, and appropriate support to meet the accountability expectations, to educational practice in Georgia so that we increase student learning and academic growth. We must increase the percentage of teachers and principals that are considered effective. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) play a critical role in our state’s competitiveness and future economic prosperity. We must encourage more of our best and brightest young people to pursue careers in these fields; we must improve the content knowledge and skills of our K-12 STEM teaching workforce; we must encourage partnerships between the public and private sectors as well between institutes of higher education and our K-12 schools to improve educational opportunities for students in these areas. We must increase teacher competency and student proficiency and achievement in STEM. We must give traditional public school districts increased flexibility in exchange for increased accountability so that they have the opportunity to innovate and to improve student outcomes. Additionally, removing the strings from certain state funding streams allows budgeting to be done by those closest to the students. Highperforming charter schools are another way to promote competition, innovation and creativity while encouraging strong parental involvement. We must empower parents with public school options and local flexibility to improve student achievement. By 2020, more than 60 percent of job openings in Georgia will require some form of postsecondary education, whether a certificate, two-year degree, four-year degree, or beyond. To meet this demand, we must increase the number of students with access to some form of education beyond high school, and ensure that these students graduate with postsecondary degrees in a timely manner. The Complete College Georgia Initiative provides concrete steps to address both access and completion at all of Georgia’s institutions of higher learning. We must increase the percentage of Georgians who hold a postsecondary credential. President Rollins: The 2014 legislative session was pivotal in two ways for K-12 education. You made a budget recommendation for 29 percent restoration to austerity cuts. What allowed such a significant increase? Second. There was no legislation passed last session that educators can point to that had a direct negative impact on public education. How do you view that occurrence? Governor Deal: The fact is that we have increased K-12 spending each year I have been in office. Total revenues of the 180 local education agencies (LEAs) declined 2.9 percent from FY09 to FY13. This decline comes as a result of an 8.8 percent reduction to local funds. At the same time, both state and federal funds have increased, 1.4 percent and 3.1 percent respectively, over this five-year period. The share of total funding coming from state sources has increased over the last five years. In FY09, state funds accounted for 48.6 percent of total revenues, local funds 43.7 percent, and federal funds 7.7 percent. As of FY13, this breakdown is 50.8 percent state, 41 percent local and 8.2 percent federal. My current budget allocates an additional $547 million for K-12 education – the largest single increase in K-12 funding in seven years. Unlike the federal government, the state is constitutionally bound to balance its budget. In this first year of strong state revenue growth, the Georgia General Assembly and I put education first. Though the state budget has not included teacher furloughs or decreased instructional days “I am deeply appreciative of the commitment of Georgia’s teachers.” Governor Deal

KNOW Summer 2014
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