Lilburn, GA (AP) — Like schools across the country, schools in Georgia face some big decisions over the next few years.
But polls show K-12 education trailing among voter concerns this year, with candidates spending a lot of time talking about inflation, the economy, abortion and guns.
When it comes to education issues, Gwinnett County parent and former teacher Missy Purcell says, “I don’t hear much.”
Incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams are not without suggestions on education.
Abrams proposes a significant hike in teacher salaries, more publicly funded preschool quotas for low-income families, and more college aid funded by legalization of casinos. She also pledges to work to thwart conservative laws that restrict what schools can teach about race and make it easier for parents to challenge books.
“From cradle to career, we must invest in our children, and we must pay educators professionally,” she said at the state convention in Columbus on Aug. 27. told the staff. not a court of law. ”
Kemp has announced a grant program aimed at helping students learn what they’ve missed during the pandemic, encouraging teacher aides to become full teachers, and increasing funding for school counselors. We have developed a more modest agenda.
“More work needs to be done to address the loss of learning due to the pandemic, to bring more educators and counselors into schools, and to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” Kemp said Monday of Statham. said at school.
But other concerns, especially among Democrats, seem to keep education out.
Coming home from Camp Creek Elementary School in the Gwinnett County suburb of Lilburn with her two children, Katherine Camp said her family moved to the area so her children could attend a highly regarded school. said.
“This is better than a private school in some ways,” Camp said, noting that both of her children have special education services.
Gwinnett is Georgia’s largest school district, with 180,000 students and more than 10% of statewide enrollment. It has been attractive to families, but in recent years there has been a struggle over the direction of the district as newly ascending Democrats have taken over the school board and other county offices.
But Camp said her biggest problem was health care and making sure state laws didn’t stop people from voting. , primarily about gun control throughout society.
This is a decline in what has traditionally been a central problem, especially in the southern states where educational attainment lags.
“We are proud to have an individual labeled Governor of Education, not just in Georgia, but throughout the South,” said Charles Block, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia.
In September 2018, an Atlanta Journal and Constitution poll found that 16% of Georgians said “public schools” were the most important election issue of the year, tied with health care as second overall after the economy. A Fox News poll conducted in August of this year found that 3% of registered Georgia voters said “education” was their top issue in the Senate election.
“Republicans want to talk about inflation and the economy,” Block said. “Democrats want to talk about the abortion decision, the failed expansion of Medicaid.
But Georgia’s incoming governor and legislators questioned whether the state should focus more on school districts to help students recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and whether the state should rewrite how K-12 is funded. Whether or not, you will face important decisions, including what Georgia can do for recruitment and retention. More teachers, and how to protect students from gunfire.
Georgia is spending more than $25 billion of its $58 billion budget on public schools this year, showing that education dominates state government. Her 120,000 public school teachers in Georgia have historically been a major voting block. For example, the 2002 Teachers’ Rebellion helped reject Democrat Roy Burns for her second term after the governor tied teacher ratings and bonuses to student performance and abolished tenure. rice field.
In 2018, Kemp appealed to teachers, promising a $5,000 raise that Abrams derided as a “gimmick.” Kemp sought their support in carrying out that pledge and supporting a move to reduce standardized testing.
However, Republican Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial victory in Virginia changed the tone of education in Georgia after conservative dissatisfaction with schooling was voiced. This spring, Kemp faced a major Republican challenge, so much so that he signed a number of culturally conservative school bills, regulating the way race is taught in schools and challenging books parents deemed inappropriate. and lobbied state athletic associations to ban it. A transgender girl from high school sports. Jonkin will campaign with Kemp on Tuesday.
Some teachers are sultry in these moves. Anthony Downer, a former high school social studies teacher, is the Diversity Coordinator for the Decatur School District. He is also Vice President of the Georgia Educators for Fairness and Justice, which opposes Georgia’s laws banning the teaching of “divisive notions” about race.
“Teachers are being targeted,” said Downer. “There are situations where parents have already complained about certain texts dealing with race or sexuality, or certain lessons or activities, and members of the community have already complained.”
Abrams proposed raising the average teacher salary to $75,000 and guaranteeing a starting salary of $50,000. The plan is projected to cost him $1.65 billion in new.
For Amber Karasik, a special education teacher at Jenkins Elementary School in Gwinnett County and a board member of the Gwinnett County Association of Educators, it sounds appealing. Karasik agrees with Abrams’ contention that while Georgia is considerably higher than its neighbors, it should not be complacent that the state’s average wage ranks 21st at $60,553 a year.
“We want to keep the best teachers, the best talent, in the state. Let’s go,” said Karasik.
Kemp has not offered a new pay raise plan. claimed.
Georgia is letting 181 school districts determine how to help students academically and socially recover from pandemic-related disruptions. But states such as Mississippi are hoping Georgia will better guide school districts on effective education, noting test scores have risen after implementing the changes.
Purcell said that when she briefly returned to teaching after having children, she felt that Gwinnett County had told her little about what had changed while she was gone. Her youngest son, Matthew, had trouble reading until Gwinnett County paid for him to attend a special school.
“From the state level, we need more direction for school districts to use evidence-based programs, especially in core subjects such as literacy and math,” Purcell said. “If you don’t prepare your kids for success early on, you basically give them a life sentence of failure.”
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