In my last post, I wrote about the silence from the gubernatorial candidates when I wrote about my education concerns. That changed today.
A savvy representative from the Brian Kemp campaign responded to me and pointed me to Kemp’s position statement on education. We then engaged in a series of emails discussing the professional nature of teaching and the need to honor that expertise. While I don’t agree with everything Kemp says about his plans for education, two of his priorities set him apart from others I have read about or heard in advertising.
- Reduce the state’s role in education and empower parents, teachers, local school boards, and administrators;
- Craft a student-based QBE Formula that expands local control;
- Respect teachers’ time by reducing paperwork, unpaid duties, micromanagement so teachers can actually teach;
- Reduce standardized testing so that our children will have more time to learn.
- Set high standards, especially in civics and encourage school boards to customize curriculums to meet the workforce needs of tomorrow (cyber, agriculture, technology, etc.)
- Support school choice while strengthening the public school system;
- Double SSO Tax Credits;
- Promote Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) starting with a pilot for military families
I can quibble with Kemp’s school choice position, but if he can accomplish 3 and 4, more parents may not need or want to leave their neighborhood schools. I like those two because they are measurable and specific tasks, not goals or promises that sound nice. I’ve done enough research to understand that the flight of exceptional teachers from public schools is dominated by a lack of autonomy and an increasingly rigid script by which teachers must adhere. In a job interview several years ago a principal actually told me that my creative and innovative ideas were fine, but “we have to pass the test.” I didn’t get the job–but I didn’t want it after hearing that. There are still lots of exceptional teachers in Georgia public schools. Many of them have advanced degrees and years of experience that would put them at the top of any corporation. But their calling and commitment are to teach the next generation. Respecting their time, reducing the non-teaching duties, and returning the profession to them is a place to begin.
I also like what Kemp has to say about expanding high-speed internet to rural areas. If all Georgia teachers are to have the same access to the wealth of materials and ideas that exist in open educational resources (OER), they all need the same bandwidth, speed, and hardware. It’s time to recognize that quality education should be available beyond the suburbs. More than that, it’s time to take action and make technology accessible to teachers and students from the urban to the rural parts of our state.
In my day-long conversation with Ryan Mahoney, Kemp’s communications director, I felt like my voice was heard. He asked for more information from my research, which I happily supplied. He took me seriously when I suggested Kemp focus less on the emotionally charged second amendment issue and more on the unifying aspects of teacher support and excellent education for all. Will our dialog ultimately make a difference in the campaign? I don’t know. What I do know is that the other top contenders are still letting the crickets chirp. Kemp’s campaign took time to fill the silence with a meaningful conversation.
That speaks volumes.