State Rep. Morgan to run for state education chief’s job

As the mother of a first-grader, State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan’s sense of urgency about fixing Georgia’s schools is personal.

Morgan, 35, announced Tuesday that she will run for state school superintendent next year.

Morgan is the first Democrat to announce plans to run for the seat. On Monday, former DeKalb school board member Nancy Jester, a Republican, said she will seek the post. Jester is the fourth Republican to enter the race. The others are Richard Woods, a former teacher and school administrator; Fritz Johnson, a businessman; and Matt Schultz, a Bartow County school board member. Current state superintendent John Barge is running for governor.

“As a mom, I have an understanding of what it’s like to do homework at night,” Morgan said. “I don’t have 10 years to get it right, I have to get it right now.”

Morgan said school leaders need to take advantage of technology, which is guiding teaching and learning. This will give students a chance to take more advanced placement courses, arts and physical education. “We need to create classrooms with individualized learning.”

State and local decisions need to be more focused on student needs, she said. School bus schedules are set based on financial efficiency, she said. Flexibility in scheduling will allow students who need extra academic help to stay after school.

The state’s funding mechanism for schools also needs to be changed, she said. “We haven’t adequately funded the [Quality Basic Education Act] since I’ve been in the Legislature.

During last year’s successful campaign to reestablish the state charter commission, Morgan backed the constitutional amendment and offered a tough assessment of the state’s public schools. Charter schools are publicly funded but generally have more freedom than traditional schools.

“I’m a fierce advocate for parents and making sure they are empowered to choose schools that are best for their children,” she said. The job of state school superintendent is to create policy that will help children in all types of schools, she added.

Morgan’s support of the charter amendment, and charter schools in general, has led some of her colleagues in the state Legislative Black Caucus to question how much advocacy she would provide for students and teachers in traditional public schools.