There were a lot of high points in Gov. Nathan Deal’s State of the State address Tuesday. His budget, which the House will begin work on this week, addresses a myriad of issues that had been left to flounder in the face of the economic depression. From infrastructure (ports and water), health care (a new cancer center), corrections (accountability courts) to education, Deal’s budget proposal would start the state back on the road to intellectual solvency.
In no area are his wishes more needed than education. While it doesn’t appear the austerity cuts have gone away, at least the $1 billion hole may not get any deeper. And while some teachers will get a raise because they have added to their training and experience, there will be no across-the-board raises for teachers. Frankly, we can live with that. The governor has proposed k-3 reading mentors, recognizing, as the governor put it, “Students must learn to read in order to be able to read to learn.”
The governor’s proposal will also restore 10 of the 20 days cut from the pre-k program and no additional cuts to the Quality Basic Education and Equalization funding programs. There are a few areas of concern. The first is the $8 million slated to help a small number of charter schools that had not received approval of their local school boards. Last year, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that those schools couldn’t receive tax money. If the governor can persuade the General Assembly to change the law, that’s fine, but doing an end run around the court shouldn’t be contemplated. While we like the idea of charter schools, rules are in place for a reason, and the success of charter schools remains a matter of debate.
All and all, though, the governor’s proposals should be welcomed, but the General Assembly has shown itself not to be a friend of public education. It has given millions of dollars in tax breaks to private schools, and there is a move afoot by Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, to push his voucher bill (SB 87) again. It’s the same bill that failed last year and should fail again this year.
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-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board