Brian Kemp: I will increase literacy and improve teaching conditions

As the Republican candidate for governor, Brian Kemp says,  “Our future as a state hinges on how we address the real challenges that exist in the classroom.” Kemp is shown here with his wife and daughters.

As the Republican candidate for governor, Brian Kemp says,  “Our future as a state hinges on how we address the real challenges that exist in the classroom.” Kemp is shown here with his wife and daughters.

Brian Kemp is the Republican candidate for governor of Georgia. I asked Kemp and his Democratic opponent to pen pieces on education. You can read Stacey Abrams' essay here.

By Brian Kemp

Childhood literacy rates in Georgia are alarming; 63 percent of third grade students are not reading at grade level. That means 1.7 million adults –  1 in 6 Georgians – have low literacy skills.

There is a direct correlation between reading skills and incarceration rates. State expenditures rise as literacy rates fall. Our future as a state hinges on how we address the real challenges that exist in the classroom.

Tackling childhood literacy was a focus of the Deal administration and First Lady Sandra Deal. As governor, I will support policies and incentives that are now in place to dramatically grow the number of quality-rated childcare centers in Georgia. To support Deal’s goal to have all childcare centers rated by 2020, we will continue the incentive program that provides increased Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) funding for qualified facilities.

On the campaign trail, Stacey Abrams touts a universal Pre-K proposal that ends parental choice by eliminating privately run Pre-K and childcare centers. Not only does her extreme plan grow government, but it is also an attack on Gov. Zell Miller’s lottery program that generates funding for both public and private options.

As governor, I will allow parents to decide what’s best for their children and will protect funding for Pre-K and childcare facilities – public and private - that are quality rated.

Abrams’ education plan includes expanding the HOPE Scholarship to include illegal immigrants, which would deplete funding for early childhood learning in Georgia. That’s wrong. I will protect lottery resources to ensure that funding is always in place for HOPE and Pre-K funding – even in a tough economy.

To streamline efforts at the state level, I will also tap a statewide coordinator for literacy to oversee the numerous childhood and adult literacy programs that are operating in state government. We will create a Literacy Council with lawmakers, subject matter experts, educators, parents, and private sector leaders to drive progress, synchronize efforts, and track key metrics for public consumption. This council will also work to identify and eliminate bureaucracy, and redundant regulations for better outcomes.

At the center of my plan to boost literacy rates through early learning is teachers. These hardworking men and women were called into a difficult profession to serve, inspire, and of course -- educate our children.

To enhance educational outcomes in Georgia, we must recruit and retain qualified teachers across the state. Recently, I announced a proposal to increase teacher pay while reducing high-stakes testing, burdensome mandates, and unpaid duties.

Georgia remains competitive amongst states in average salary, but our efforts since the close of the recession have not kept pace with other states. Georgia lags behind the national average in teacher pay – ranking 23rd out of 50 states. It’s no surprise that 44 percent of teachers leave the profession after five years.

The General Assembly provided in FY2018 a 2 percent across-the-board salary increase allocation to local school systems at a cost of $160 million.

My plan will permanently raise teacher pay by $5,000 a year.

In addition to giving educators a well-deserve pay raise, we will also lighten the load by eliminating burdensome mandates, regulations, and testing. We will dismantle Common Core, respect local control, and value teachers’ time so they can actually teach our young people.

Finally, our students and school personnel must be safe in the classroom, and have the necessary staff to prevent tragedies from occurring. That’s why I propose $30,000 for one-time security funding for every school in Georgia, and will fund a support counselor in every Georgia high school trained to address mental health challenges within the student body. This critical investment will ensure local leaders have the resources to protect our children and foster a safe learning environment for students.

This campaign for governor is about direction. Who is going to move our state forward? Who can carry on the legacy of Governors Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal?

As governor, I will continue to invest in education. We will empower parents, properly compensate our teachers, protect our schools, and put students first. Together, we will ensure that our best and most prosperous days are ahead.

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