I   pledge to do everything in my power as the State School Superintendent to return control of Georgia’s schools to the local level.  You see, I believe that education should be a local issue.  The role of the State is to oversee and support the local school systems as they educate our children.  This is a philosophy that separates me from my opponents in this race. 

I am not just talking about getting rid of federal control of Georgia’s educational system—something we have to do.  I am talking about returning the State Department of Education to its proper role. 

And what is the State Department’s proper role?

I think the answer is simple.  The State is there to support the local school systems.  Support them as they teach the right core curriculum to our children.  We must support them by taking off the handcuffs that are forcing teachers to teach the test rather than the curriculum.  We must support them by properly allocating the money that is given to the local system.

Most important, we must support them by stopping the useless spending on layers of administration in Atlanta that do not serve the actual function of our education system—educating children.  We can begin working within the education budget by ending waste at the State level first.

 The State Department of Education is there to oversee the running of school systems as they teach the core curriculum.

 This is not magic—it is common sense.  And common sense is something we seem to be short on in Atlanta right now.

 With your help I will bring common sense back to the office of the State School Superintendent.

I listened with such frustration yesterday to two different webinars hosted by the Georgia Department of Education concerning the rollout/implementation of the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

The rhetoric flowing out of the DOE on this issue is incredible. I do not fault the presenters themselves. They are following directions. If you listen to both presentations, one describes the mathematics CCSS while the other details English/language arts. The presenters are quick to point out that these standards were designed by and agreed upon by the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers among other groups, and that 48 states and 2 territories have adopted them.

They also point out each time that Texas and Alaska are the two states that have not adopted them. I guess they are trying to shame the Governors of these two states into adopting so they can have the whole country! Anyone have land for sale in Texas or Alaska? Actually, the presenters address a question posted by one of the listeners about “adoption” and Kentucky is the only state to have officially “adopted.”  Of course they fail to even acknowledge the direct questions like, if we don’t adopt these standards, will we still get the Race To The Top grant? Why weren’t we included in the development of these? And, can we get a copy of the names of teachers included in the writing of these CCSS?

It really concerns me what the real agenda may be behind these CCSS.

  • These standards have been being developed for over a year in total secrecy
  • They were introduced to the public on March 10, 2010.
  • The public has until April 2, 2010 to comment on them.

Okay, so “they” spend over a year developing these documents and guidelines that are over a hundred pages in length that are so filled with educational jargon that most of the general public won’t understand a thing they say, and they expect our feedback in two weeks?  Where is the equity in that? What is the URGENT rush? Why are these bring rammed down our throats?

One answer: Race To The Top. If the state doesn’t adopt these standards, we won’t receive the Race To The Top grant. The federal government wants control over our educational system and this is the avenue. The presenters in these webinars explain that common national assessments will come 3 to 4 years down the road. When the government controls the assessments, they will control the curriculum. Why? Because another key piece of Race To The Top is teacher merit pay. In order to receive Race To The Top monies the state must also adopt a merit pay system for teachers that bases teacher pay on how well their students do on these assessments.

When the merit pay piece is added in, the teachers will teach exactly what is in the CCSS and nothing else because that is what the national assessments will cover and the amount of their pay will be based on how well their students perform on the assessments.

In these horrific economic conditions, thousands of teacher layoffs, multiple school systems around the state already borrowing money to make payroll, educational programs being cut, WHY are we choosing now to do this? Consider this:

  • The state legislature is still toying with the idea of cutting the number school days for students next year AND the number of teacher planning days. When we will have time to train?
  • The systems have no professional learning money to pay for teacher training. It has been cut.
  • We haven’t even finished rolling out the new Georgia Performance Standards and we are already changing them?
  • Curriculum maps, frameworks, unit plans, and assessments that systems have been developing for the past several years will have to be redone to align to the new CCSS. We have no money or professional learning days left for that.
  • At a time when teachers are facing furloughs, pay cuts, layoffs, and attacks on their integrity, I am afraid we’re going to discourage potential new teachers from entering the profession while simultaneously encouraging others to leave.

The presenters reiterate over and over how similar the new CCSS are to our Georgia Performance Standards and the fact that Georgia’s standards were used to write the CCSS. If that’s the case, why do we need to adopt standards we already have and subject the educators in our state to another layer of federal oversight and control to adopt a curriculum we already have?

I submit to you that it is not at all really about this phenomenal new curriculum that is the silver bullet fix for educating our children. It is about the current federal administration wanting to control the education of your children, including what goes into the textbooks. Kudos go out to Texas and Alaska for resisting this movement. I end as I began, anyone have land for sale in Texas or Alaska?

Wow, so much is going on today. While our current State School Superintendent is in Washington, D.C. turning over control of our public education system in Georgia, those of us back here in the trenches are trying to figure out the mess that we have received from her department this week.

Several years ago the Georgia Department of Education (GADOE) began implementing its new, streamlined and rigorous curriculum the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS). We still have two years remaining to complete fully implementing the mathematics GPS and we receive word this week that we will begin training teachers in the new national common core this August?  Give teachers a break, they haven’t even become confidently grounded in the GPS and you are going to change it? It’s no wonder teachers are frustrated, stressed, and burned out.

Valerie Strauss a reporter with the Washington Post wrote an enlightening piece on the “Common Core” a few days ago. It highlights many of the objections that I have including:

  • Why were these developed in such secrecy?
  • Why weren’t educators from our state included in the development of these? Maybe they were, but because it was kept so “secret” most educators in the state were completely unaware.
  • Where is the rigor? The Common Core Standards are extremely vague.

Click here for a complete text of Strauss’ column

 Strauss also cites Linda Darling-Hammond’s latest book “The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future.” Strauss states that Darling-Hammond, who served as Barack Obama’s chief education adviser during the presidential transition, makes clear that this isn’t the case.

 In her book, Darling-Hammond explains how Finland, now widely hailed by U.S. policymakers, turned around its school system not by establishing a highly centralized national system with detailed national standards, but by shifting “to a more localized system in which highly trained teachers design curriculum around very lean national standards, and where all assessments are school-based, designed by teachers, rather than standardized.

Maybe we should take a closer look at Finland’s turn around model. I imagine when we do will find the key to their success was the local control not the federal mandates and federal assessments.

Let’s restore hope for schools!

The Federal Government and Georgia Education

Education is a local issue. 

My first concern is education in Georgia.  It is where I have dedicated my entire life and the resources of my professional life.  Like all parents who live in Georgia I have a vested interest because this is where my daughter is educated. 

I have always believed that education is a local issue.  Local communities and states better understand the needs of children.  Furthermore, it is at the local and state level where the moral obligation of our families resides.  The federal government is an intruder when it steps into the field of education. 

We must stop this intrusion!

Current U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is very clear on the control the federal government is looking for in the education of your children.  At a recent national conference of school system leaders, Duncan said “Our aim, and the President’s aim, is to provide a well-rounded education for children from cradle-to-career.”  Secretary Duncan has, thankfully, alerted us to the government’s desire to determine what is important for our children from birth.  This is not the role of the federal government.  It is the role of parents and families.

Saint Francis Xavier understood the value of the years from cradle to elementary school when he stated, “Give me children until they are seven and anyone may have them afterward.”  We cannot afford to let the federal government control our children from the cradle.

This is a critical time in our nation’s history; a time when there is a battle looming for who is going to determine what are the proper values for our children to learn.  Whether it is battling with textbook companies regarding what is going to be in the next generation of history books, or battling with the federal government over who is going to control our educational systems, we have to do everything in our power to keep the control of our schools as close to our families and our local communities as possible.

That is why I am committed to not giving control of Georgia’s educational system to the federal government.  I am committed to keeping the control as close to the local community as possible.

I am committed to that ideal because I am a parent and I know that we have to trust our parents, our citizens, and not look to the federal government to solve our problems in education.

As we began so we end—education is a local issue!  Anything else is unacceptable.

For how much money is current State School Superintendent Kathy Cox willing to sell the education of our children to the federal government?

On January 19, 2010 The Georgia Department of Education submitted a grant application to the U.S. Department of Education to be considered for the federally funded Race to the Top grant. If “selected” to receive this grant, the state stands to receive $200 – $400 million over the next four years ($50 million – $100 million each year) to drive massive education reform in the state of Georgia.

Let’s do the math. For Fiscal Year 2010, the education budget for the state is $7.4 billion. On the low end of the Race to the Top grant, the amount of money we could receive amounts to a mere 0.67% of the state’s education budget for the year. On the high end, the amount increases slightly to  1.35%! If we are in such dire need for this money, surely the state could cut some pork barrell projects to make up for the deficit.

I ask this question, “Is it worth it?” The Race to the Top grant is being funded through the $700 billion dollar American Recovery Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which we all know is not money that the federal government has. It is additional debt owned by foreign investors. In other words, your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have been saddled with paying this debt back.

Apparently, Superintendent Cox has no qualms with saddling future generations with mountains of debt since she is so eager to get her hands on this Race to the Top money.

But wait, in a op-ed piece written and sent out by Superintendent Cox on March 8, 2010 she states, “Georgia law requires the legislature to approve  a balanced budget, which I believe is very wise. In these difficult economic times, I do not envy the task they have before them. But just as we should not saddle the next generation with our debt, we also should not take away the opportunity for our kids to receive an education that prepares them for their 21st century world.”

Superintendent Cox, I challenge you, if you truly believe what you said in this op-ed piece, do not accept the federal government’s money from the Race to the Top grant. If you do, you will nullify your own stated belief. More importantly, you will turn control of our educational system over to the federal government in the form of “strings” attached to the money, some of which include:

  • Common, national standards
  • Common, national assessments to hold teachers/systems accountability for teaching the common, national standards
  • A teacher salary schedule that ties teacher pay to how well students perform on those assessments.

There are many other requirements, too numerous to list here. Georgia’s Race to the Top application is 200 pages long.

What’s Georgia’s educational system worth? Apparently, not much to our current administration.

Vote for John Barge, State School Superintendent,  in the July 20th Republican Primary and let’s restore hope for our schools.

www.electjohnbarge.com

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