Gov. Perdue disputes Telegraph editorial

Observing the thinking behind The Telegraph’s editorial on “education governors,” it was clear to me that the board members are products of the educational efforts of the old Georgia and the governors which they laud. A sizeable amount of money may have been spent educating them, but it did not guarantee good results. Unsurprisingly, their math is bad and their reasoning is flawed.

First, the editorial board’s math is poor. Only editorial writers would take a $1.7 billion increase in funding since Gov. Perdue took office and call it a cut. In real dollars, the state currently spends $4,172 per student. When the governor took office, the state spent $3,436 per student. To help out the editorial board, $4,172 - $3,436 = $736. That means the state is now spending more per student than in the past.

What’s more, Georgia teachers are the highest paid in the Southeast and when pay is adjusted with the cost of living, Georgia teachers are the best paid in the nation.

Now let’s look at the editorial board’s flawed reasoning. I was dismayed to learn that the editorial board has the same counter-productive focus on inputs over results that characterizes ineffective government. They have absorbed the input-centered philosophy floated out there (with a wink and a smile) by politicians and interest groups more interested in turf and funding, than in serving the greater good.

They think that spending is a measure of educational success. If that’s true, it is hard to imagine why, when Gov. Perdue took office, Georgia ranked at or near the bottom in numerous measures of student achievement.

And why, under The Telegraph’s “education governors,” was the state only graduating 63 percent of its students? It’s because, like The Telegraph, previous administrations were focused on inputs rather than results.

Gov. Perdue has radically transformed our education system to focus on student achievement, not how much money we spend. That focus on increasing achievement led Gov. Perdue to create the Graduation Coach Program, which in just two years has prevented 4,500 students from dropping out. Since Gov. Perdue took office, Georgia’s graduation rate has risen from 63.3 percent to 75.4 percent.

That focus on measurable results is the common theme uniting the governor’s education legislation this year. It’s about gearing the state’s educational spending toward desired outcomes.

The first proposal recognizes the important role of leadership at the school level. Under the proposal, high school principals whose schools make AYP and who demonstrate improvement in graduation rate, SAT scores and End of Course Tests compared to their school’s most recent three-year average will be eligible for a $10,000 performance bonus.

The second proposal recognizes the role that quality teachers play in producing positive educational outcomes. The proposal would provide teachers who can show evidence that their instruction leads to improved student performance, and who are willing to serve as instructional leaders, with pay increases of 10 to 15 percent.

These are just two of the ways that Gov. Perdue is transforming education. While it may be difficult forThe Telegraph’s editorial board to comprehend, Gov. Perdue is improving education in Georgia by being the first governor to focus on results.

The governor has discarded the editorial board’s counter-productive mindset — a philosophy that prefers to look only at inputs. If the members of the editorial staff were to join the corporate board at Home Depot, they would have one goal: Increasing the amount spent to produce home improvement products. They would ignore ideas that would lead to more products, better products and more efficient products. They would then quickly find themselves fired.

To the relief of all homeowners and employees of Home Depot, the writers of The Telegraph’s editorials are only responsible for writing ill-informed opinion pieces a few times a week. Thanks to the governor’s transformation of education we can look forward to better researched and more thoughtful editorials in the years ahead, written by today’s students.

Chris Schrimpf is the press secretary for Gov. Sonny Perdue.