Deal plans to form group to examine ed reform

Gov. Nathan Deal announced Wednesday that he plans to appoint a group to examine and recommend changes to the state’s education system if he’s elected to a second term.

Deal is in a competitive race for governor against Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter, who has vowed to significantly boost public education funding. If re-elected, Deal said he’ll select a group of parents, educators and stakeholders to examine the state’s controversial funding formula for public schools, the takeover of failing public schools and areas where the state lags academically.

“With a broad coalition… we will be able to institute major reform in the way we pay for and the way we implement education, at least in the k-12 arena,” he told the state board of education at a special meeting in Gwinnett.

Deal also said he wants to push for merit pay for teachers tied to the state’s new student growth measurements. And he plans to ask lawmakers to approve a plan to provide free technical college tuition to students studying computer programming.

Carter ripped that idea, while addressing a gathering of the Georgia School Superintendents Association in Athens after Deal announced it.

The senator called Deal’s proposal “an embarrassment for our state” and “pure politics.”

“We all know there has been no vision over the last several years,” Carter said. “It is also evidence that what he sees out there, he’s still not sure what it should look like. And it also, frankly, is a blue ribbon admission of failure over the last four years. If you come to the end of a term, and you say that we have nothing to offer but re-doing everything, you are not the kind of person that we need to keep in the position that’s leading our state with respect to education.”

Carter, welcomed politely and occasionally enthusiastically applauded, touched on the education of his own children in explaining how public education is “personal” for him.

He began his remarks by claiming a sort of victory.

“Both sides now agree that this election should be about education,” Carter said.

Carter went over his plan to create a separate budget for education, criticized what he described as the failure of the state government to provide more funding to school districts and lamented teacher furloughs, shortened school calendars and increased class sizes.

But his strongest criticisms were aimed at Deal, whom he said has lost the credibility to lead.

“There has been a complete lack of a coherent vision with respect to the rest of the education policy of our state,” Carter said of Deal.

Deal pointed to his overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system, which won the Republican governor praise from the child advocacy community for its careful approach. The changes could take several years, but he said the task force’s first priority should be inequities in the state’s funding formula.

“We know it’s not tailored to meet our modern-day needs, and we need to figure out how to make adjustments,” he said.