Gwinnett Intervention Education (G.I.V.E) Center West teacher Alex Robson speaks during a press conference for the Hungry for Education movement at Christ Church Episcopal Parish Hall in Norcoss, Monday, August 13, 2018. Hungry for Education, a group of local teachers, parents, and students whose goal is improving student outcomes through full funding of Georgia public schools, ended its two-week hunger strike early after it acheived its goal. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

Organizers call end to teacher hunger strike

After reaching their goal of a commitment for four more years of fully funding public education in the state, a group of teachers has called an end to their hunger strike.

“We achieved what we set out to do and everyone’s healthy and happy, so there’s really no need to continue the hunger strike,” said Alex Robson, organizer and founder of Hungry for Education.

Robson and several dozen teachers throughout the state vowed not to eat solid food for 14 days in an effort to urge state administrators, legislators and political candidates to follow in Gov. Nathan Deal’s footsteps and end so-called “austerity cuts” that kept the state from fully adhering to its school funding formula.

For the past 15 years, a slow economy and the Great Recession prompted the state to make cuts in public school funding. In March, Gov. Deal signed a budget that eliminated those cuts and fully funded public education based on the formula, called Quality Basic Education.

“This may be the first hunger strike in history not to try to change something, but to keep it the same. In 2018, Georgia public schools were fully funded for the first time in 16 years. We are hunger striking because we want this to continue, and we want Georgia public schools to be a priority in our upcoming election,” Robson said at a news conference Monday.

Both Stacy Abrams and Brian Kemp, candidates for governor have pledged to continue the work.

“I have committed to fully funding our public education formula because every child — no matter who they are or where they live — deserves an excellent education from cradle to career. Under my leadership, we will modernize our formula to improve teacher and staff pay, provide for wraparound services like health care access in schools where students need it most, and ensure our student transportation options meet the needs of the community,” Abrams said in a statement released to Hungry for Education.

Kemp said pretty much the same thing:

“Thanks to Governor Deal’s conservative leadership, our state weathered the Great Recession and emerged stronger than ever. In addition to making Georgia the number one state for business, reforming our criminal justice system, and slashing taxes on hardworking Georgians, Deal also restored QBE funding.

“As governor, I will build on Nathan Deal’s legacy and fully fund public school education. We must invest in our future today and ensure that all students have access to a quality education - no matter their zip code.”

Events planned around the hunger strike are still on.

There will a rally Saturday at Orpheus Brewery and a march at the Beltline near Old Fourth Ward on Sunday, Aug. 26 — what would have been the last day of the hunger strike.

“This isn’t the end,” said Robson. “We will monitor our elected officials and hold them at their word.”

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