Choices Now And Later For School Superintendent

This week’s Courier Herald column:

Education has defined much of the policy differences in Georgia’s ongoing Governor’s race.  Jason Carter has made it clear he wants a separate education budget for the state along with roughly an additional billion dollars per year in extra spending.  Governor Deal has pushed back strongly on the additional spending, demonstrating that there is no plan from his opponent to show where the money would come from year after year without raising taxes.

Deal also continues to highlight his plan for Recovery School Districts to take over failed schools, as well as expanding Hope Grants to match technical college training to the skills demanded by Georgia’s employers.  Carter, meanwhile, reminds voters that his plan to fix the Hope Scholarship would have had higher payouts than some students currently receive – though he doesn’t mention that his plans to means test the scholarship would have shut some students out of HOPE completely.

Where the candidates for Governor stand on Education is important, as the Governor is the single most powerful position with influence over Georgia’s public schools.  It is the Governor that appoints the members of Georgia’s school board.  It is the Governor that signs the state budget which funds much of Georgia’s local schools.  The Governor also holds a line item veto – a power that Governors often remind legislators who considering going rogue from the executive branch’s preferred policies.

Further down the ballot, Georgians will also elect a State School Superintendent. Many may be wondering why.

Despite clear differences between the candidates’ positions, almost one in five Georgia Republican Primary voters skipped the decision of voting between GOP nominee Richard Woods and his runoff challenger Mike Buck.  Almost one in four skipped the same race on the May 20th Primary.  One in ten Democrats picked a US Senate Candidate on May 20th but didn’t vote for a school board candidate.  Valarie Wilson defeated Alisha Thomas Morgan in the July runoff as the only statewide contest for Democrats.

There are clear differences between the positions of the two partisan candidates on the November ballot.  Valarie Wilson wants to ensure that schools are “fully funded” despite not having any statutory authority over the legislature that will ultimately pass her budget.  Woods wants to delay the implementation of new tests set to debut this Spring, which would require him to persuade the current school board – appointed by the current Governor – to do an about face on the policies and budgetary outlays they have just approved.

Regardless which candidate voters choose next month, the State School Superintendent is likely to be on a different page than the board he or she will sit on, the legislature that will fund them, and quite possibly the Governor who appoints their board.  Republicans are faced with a candidate who wishes to stall or undo many of the reforms made under Governor Perdue and Governor Deal.  Democrats have a candidate closely aligned with their gubernatorial one with a “spend more and figure the rest out later” message, but would still face a GOP dominated legislature who will hold their purse strings in January.

Neither candidate supported the 2012 Charter School Amendment to Georgia’s constitution, which Georgians passed overwhelmingly.  And yet, voters are now left to choose between the two.

There has been talk in years past of amending Georgia’s constitution to have the position of State School Superintendent appointed, possibly in exchange for voters electing their members of the state school board.  Given the apathy shown toward this race and the potential to have an elected official at odds with those given the direct power to influence this office, it is time to move this idea forward into serious consideration.

Georgia has long had a problem with educational achievement in many parts of our state.  While we have many excellent schools in our high growth Atlanta suburbs, many urban and rural schools continue to fail the children we send to them.  This is no longer just a problem of education but in many parts of our state it is also one of economic development.

To that end, Georgia should look at having the accountability for our schools performance fall in a more direct and linear fashion.  Voters need to know who exactly is responsible.  Those responsible need to be on the same team.

Georgians have a decision to make as to whom to elect on November 4th.  Perhaps they should make the decision via constitutional amendment in two years whether this is the last superintendent they will directly elect.


  1. John Konop says:

    I am totally confused by both candidates. Woods is running an anti-common core campaign using the math curriculum as his main reason. He wants local control and programs develop right here in Georgia. The current math curriculum called integrated math ie math 123 was develop here in Georgia, and is only being used here. Similar math programs like this have failed in other states. This math curriculum has nothing to do with common core, and was implemented way before common care. Many of the pro common core people now, supported this failed math program….

    The positive side is Governor Deal and Lt. Governor Cagle have been promoting more vo-tech opportunities and School Superintendent John Barge made the above math curriculum optional by county.


    Math 123: Failed Policy Masquerading as Progress:

    This was in 2011 before Common Core…….I was debating the establishment at the time who support Common Core now…..You cannot make this stuff up….My head is spinning…..

  2. FranInAtlanta says:

    The Georgia math plan sounded good to me at the time. However, it is so much out of step with programs in other states that families who are mobile (military) have their children hurt.
    Standard things taught in all states in the same grades (and it can be different for different levels) is necessary if we want to advance as a nation. I don’t care for the why-focused math as fundamental, but it isn’t Common Core that is behind it – it is Math Education in general.
    I preferred Buck. I can’t imagine letting local school systems decide what to teach across the state. My husband was in a slowed down system and his freshman year at Georgia Tech was a nightmare.
    While I consider myself a Republican, I intend to give careful consideration to the School Super – have voted for a Dem for that office in the past.

  3. Harry says:

    Can someone explain – when it comes to school board extortion – what’s the difference between a “Professional Association” and a “Union” ?

    • Charlie says:

      Unions have the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike, neither of which are afforded to Georgia’s educators associations.

      • Harry says:

        Yes that’s true, but the same results are obtained by threatening the school board and legislators with the teachers knocking on parents doors to get them (the politicians) voted out in the next election.

        It really grabs me that these professional educators have $59 billion stashed away in their pension fund. This is $6,000 per capita for every person in the state.

        • Charlie says:

          That doesn’t make them a union, and won’t, no matter how many times you continue to ask this question you already know the answer to so that you can then ignore it and profess your displeasure with public schools.

        • John Konop says:

          Do you think groups like the American Medical Association, American Bar Associations, National Restaurant Asocication….should be able to have a voice?

          • Harry says:

            Not if they extort Mercedes pensions from the taxpayers to the tune of $59 billion. Why isn’t social security coupled with a defined contribution plan good enough for these folks?

            • John Konop says:


              Agree or not we cannot become a banana republic….as you know I have been very outspoken about unfounded liabilities….but at the end of the day we do have elections….

              • Harry says:

                ..and elections have consequences for better of worse, don’t they? Whatever we’re doing it’s not working; it’s costing too much money and we’re destroying American education. It’s a similar situation with the cost/benefit of health care.

                • John Konop says:


                  Trust me I get your frustration… you know I have been attacked on all sides when I point out the math…but we must maintain a free society…

                    • taylor says:

                      I thought the government was taking away all my freedom? Is it too much freedom and liberty or too little? Or might we just not like decisions made by those in office so we use grand language to boast our argument?

                    • Harry says:

                      Just curious, how old are you? Since you make assumptions about my political motives, maybe I can ask about your age.

                    • taylor says:

                      Harry, I really am not assuming anything about your motives. And my statement isn’t restricted to a critique of only your statement. I think many of us make similar statements at times.

                      Now, I notice you didn’t address my comment. Instead, you are offended? And need to know my age, in order to dismiss my point? If you must know, I’m younger than you, but much older than many PP contributors.

                    • Harry says:

                      taylor, you did make an assumption about my political motives. Sure, you used the word “our” but the meaning was clear. Sorry, I took the comment to be that of a very young person. Please know that if Obama were to do ANYTHING other than actions to kill this country I’d give him credit. My opinion is, he is totally under Satanic influence but God will judge. It has nothing to do with Democrat vs. Republican. When Bush was wrong I had no problem calling him out and I did.

                      Will, in what way is the situation improving freedom in this country? Do you really think more people voting with degraded educational standards and lowered IQs is enhancing freedom? It’s enhancing dependency which is the opposite of freedom. This country resembles a free country less and less every day, but it seems you’re confused about what is freedom.

    • John Konop says:

      I am not a lawyer…but from what I understand it has to mainly do with the right to bargaining collectively with their employers. I do not think a PA has the right….and or legal standing…I am sure we got lawyers who know way more than I.

    • Dr. Monica Henson says:

      The Georgia Association of Educators, although a “professional association” in our state, nevertheless contributes a portion of each members’ dues to the National Education Association, an education employees’ union of which GAE is a state affiliate, one with a radically liberal political agenda. The NEA allows anyone who is employed in a public school and not in administration, not just teachers, to join, including paraprofessionals, custodians, and other nonprofessional staff.

      I have worked in both unionized and nonunionized states.


  4. Trey A. says:

    So, in Charlie’s column last week, he “jumped the shark,” coming out and saying that we should vote for Nathan Deal because Sen. Isaakson (or Nunn or Perdue) might die in office, like the late Honorable Paul Coverdell. God forbid we have a Democrat governor make the replacement appointment before a special election can take place.

    And this week, Charlie regurgitates at best “questionable” Deal campaign talking points in a column that basically amounts to “I don’t like the School Superintendent race because the candidates we chose in the primaries stink” and “Here’s some Deal campaign talking points.”

    Yes, Charlie, lots of us liked Mike Buck and Alisha Thomas Morgan. I voted for Buck twice. Of course, one of the reasons I liked Buck is because he and John Barge share much of the same vision–yes, the same John Barge who was so appalled by Governor Nathan Deal’s education policies (and who knows what else) that he declined to run for another term that was his for the taking and instead tried to unseat Deal in this year’s gubernatorial primary.

    Charlie, you’re losing your credibility with these Deal endorsements. Remember how you supported Carol Porter in 2010 in the name of “good government.” You were concerned with Casey Cagle’s perceived ethical lapses (rumored, but to my knowledge, never definitively proven.) And now we’re watching you stump for Nathan Deal. It’s unsettling. Unlike Cagle, Deal’s ethical baggage is out in the open–exposed time and time again in a pattern of corrupt behavior. I don’t get it.

    • Charlie says:


      This is a non-endorsement of the two candidates for State School Super. At this point I doubt I will vote for either, and will likely write in the name of a former school teacher.

      As for the appointment of their successor, that too has nothing to do with Deal. It would have to pass by constitutional amendment in 2016 for that to happen, and you can’t “unelect” someone currently serving a term. Thus, the next Governor elected in 2018 would be the one to appoint the State School Superintendent.

      • Jon Lester says:

        I might have done that if it weren’t 4:50 pm when I voted yesterday. I just voted against Valerie Wilson because she’s pretty clearly against school choice. I also felt that not being John Barge was good enough as a second reason to vote for the Republican guy.

  5. Trey A. says:

    Ergo, “I don’t like the School Superintendent race because the candidates we chose in the primaries stink.”

    I get that part. The part I don’t get is the regurgitation of stuff I get in my mailbox from the Deal campaign in the first two paragraphs of your column. Certainly less egregious than than the “a Senator might die” nonsense that muddied your column last week, but nonetheless a “vote for Deal” slant.

    I should probably just stay away from PP for a while. Deal is so ethically toxic and corrupt in my mind that I get irrationally angry every time someone even hints that they might be supporting him. He’s a Blagojevich, an Edwin Edwards, a Bob McDonnell. We deserve so much better… I should probably go out and cast an early ballot today so that I can vote for the Republicans I like before they end up sharing a stage or photo op with the governor.

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