Georgia’s education funding formula, the role of charter schools, and the Common Core standards are major topics in the races for governor and state school superintendent. This morning, Education Week takes a look at how issues affecting K-12 education are affecting the two contests.
The question of how to properly fund public schools has become a major campaign issue in the governor’s race. Democrat Jason Carter wants a separate education budget, which includes over half of state spending. He proposes spending an additional billion dollars on education. Governor Deal proposes changing the state’s QBE funding formula to reflect new teaching methods, such as online classes.
GOP school superintendent candidate Richard Woods wants to audit the education department’s budget and favors a funding formula change, while Democrat Valarie Wilson says that any changes to school funding should be guided by educators on the ground rather than bureaucrats.
Governor Deal’s support of charter schools is well known, and one of the highlights of his first term was getting the charter schools amendment to the state constitution passed in 2012. According to the Education Week article, Carter thinks that the push for charter schools takes attention away from the need to properly fund traditional schools. Wilson fears that a focus on charter schools will give the impression that traditional public schools are failing, while Woods supports them.
In the contest for State School Superintendent, the issue of Common Core and the battle over federal vs. local control of education looms large.
Ms. Wilson and Mr. Woods are both eager to criticize federal K-12 policy as well. Mr. Woods, for example, is a common-core opponent, but he is also echoing American Federation of Teacher President Randi Weingarten and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan by calling for a two-year moratorium on using common-core-aligned test scores in teacher evaluations. The standards, together with federal K-12 policies, create a “straitjacket” on schools and teachers, in his view.
“I never saw common core as something by itself,” Mr. Woods said in an interview. “We’re still assuming that every child is the same, that every child is at the same level.”
Unlike Mr. Woods, Ms. Wilson is a strong supporter of the common core and argues that the state, rather than vacillating as Gov. Deal has done by ordering a review of common-core classroom materials last year, should back the view of teachers and stick with it.
But she also says that the common core has been damaged because it has been “married” to evaluations that base half a teacher’s score on student test results through Race to the Top. A better Race to the Top program, she said, would have simply identified innovative district-level approaches and provided them with a federal funding boost, instead of attaching strings and caveats to the grants.
A bill sponsored by State Senator William Ligon that would have stopped the use of the Common Core standards in Georgia failed in the waning days of the 2014 legislative session. A committee consisting of House members and educators has held several public hearings to examine the federal role in education. A study to be released later this month shows Georgia’s teachers approve of the wording of the Common Core standards.
While tinkering with the QBE funding formula is possible, it’s difficult to see how a Governor Carter would find the money to significantly increase the education budget without a tax increase, likely a no go with what is already guaranteed to be a Republican General Assembly. Charter schools are already a reality, despite an unwillingness in the Senate during the most recent session to accept them. The outcome of the governor and state school superintendent elections will likely affect any action taken by the legislature in 2015 with regard to Common Core.