Under the guise of racing to the top, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is speeding our children to the bottom.
Republican leadership in this state has continued to disrespect our hardest, most important workers in the state - our teachers. Georgia's education system used to be one of the most dynamic systems in the U.S., but education continues to move lower and lower on the state Republicans' list of priorities.
The governor's proposed budget includes hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to education, which will join billions in cuts over the past eight years. The Republican budget not only puts less money in the pockets of teachers, it also means per student state spending falls to the lowest level in decades. When our state is in peril, now is the worst possible time to stop investing in our futures: our children.
The proposed budget includes:
- Three additional furlough days when our children will be without instruction;
- $800 million reduction in the basic funding schools receive;
- The elimination of programs that provide incentives for teachers to get advanced degrees in critical shortage areas and to entice college students to become teachers; and,
- The elimination of the stipends the state gives to more than 2,000 of its most highly certified teachers.
Budget cuts are forcing some school districts to adopt four-day work weeks, and others to move to 160 days of longer classes.
The governor and the Republican-controlled General Assembly have handed out countless tax exemptions over the course of his two terms. Why is he giving money away while our children suffer in failing schools?
Perdue recently announced his big initiative to appoint the state school superintendent rather than elect her. This is yet another devastating blow to local school districts, teachers and our children. The primary reason for such a move is to stop the people's superintendent from speaking out for our students. If successful, this move would ensure that the last voice speaking for our teachers and our children is silenced.
How can we ask school districts to sustain or improve the quality of education they provide our children if we are constantly cutting their funding? We cannot.
Democrats are clear on what lawmakers' priorities should be, and education is at the top of the list. We support targeting specific programs versus broad based budget cuts. We believe in supporting our children and teachers over providing tax cuts to the governor's cronies.
We cannot continue to balance the state's budget on the backs of our children. During these tough economic times, when jobs are scarce, we cannot afford for our children's education to suffer due to poor planning and irresponsible budgeting by Georgia's Republican leadership.
Our future can't afford it.
(State Rep. Ernest "Coach" Williams, D-Avondale Estates, is a retired teacher.)
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