Education shoved to legislative back burner

General Assembly seeks quick exit to campaign



ATLANTA – Aside from a few jabs at the Common Core Standards and possibly an attempt to allow guns into more places, the 152nd session of the General Assembly could be more notable for its lack of boat-rocking when it comes to education issues.

With the entire legislature up for re-election, the focus will likely be on less divisive issues, as legislators look for a quick exit come March so that campaigning can begin in earnest.

State law prohibits campaign fundraising during the 40-day session, and a primary election on May 20 leaves little time to fill coffers back home.

Now that hot topics such as charter schools and local control have been dealt with in previous sessions, education-related issues are not rising to the forefront this session – yet. Add to it the state superintendent of schools is challenging the sitting governor for the top job, and it still could make for an interesting session.

Education funding gets

much-needed bump

Education insiders are doubtful Gov. Nathan Deal will support any legislation that could give State School Superintendent John Barge a push in the polls.

Last week, Deal unveiled a $547 million increase to the state’s education budget – sending 80 cents of every new dollar in revenue to education. Take away the amount that covers student growth, it still leaves more than $300 million in additional dollars for K-12 education and the university system.

While the additional dollars are nowhere near the cuts school systems have absorbed over the past 10 years through austerity cuts, the increase could go a long way in reducing furlough days, adding additional days to the school calendar and restoring some programs. Teacher raises would be up to each school system.

Common Core Curriculum

likely gets no action at Dome

A bill looking to cede Georgia from the Common Core Standards will likely be considered; but based on a temperature check of legislators, its passage does not appear likely this session.

During a media symposium Jan. 10 hosted by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, key House and Senate leaders seemed lukewarm to any attempt to drop Georgia from the national education standards.

Georgia teachers have been held to three different standards over the past 15 years – the Quality Core Curriculum, followed by the Georgia Performance Standards and finally the Common Core Standards. To try and develop a fourth standard for teachers to implement would likely lead to revolt, noted the panel members.

Last fall, Georgia opted not to use the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests aligned with the Common Core. Instead, Georgia will create its own standardized test to evaluate student competency on the curriculum. The move was seen by many as a compromise to shelving the Common Core.

“We pulled out of the PARCC, which was the right thing to do,” said Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Cobb). “If you control the testing, you control the curriculum.”

The panel also included Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Gwinnett), who chairs the House Education Committee. All concluded the Common Core simply establishes the standards, with the responsibility of how to reach those standards left to the state and local school systems.

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