Experience in building schools, communities needed

“You’ll hear many voices telling you what to do, but the ones you need to listen to are often the littlest.” That was the advice that was given to me when I was first sworn in as a member of the Board of Education for the City Schools of Decatur, and those voices of the children have guided everything I’ve done since – especially this campaign to be Georgia’s next State School Superintendent. I’ve been laser-focused on doing what’s right for our children, from serving for 12 years on my local school board, seven as chair, to joining the Georgia School Boards Association, where I was elected to serve as president.

For 20 years, I’ve worked alongside educators from both sides of the aisle to build stronger education policy and advocate for public education in Georgia. I was pleased to earn the endorsement of our current Republican State School Superintendent John Barge, which speaks to our shared commitment to uphold Georgia’s Constitution and its promise to provide a quality public education to all children.

When I’m State School Superintendent, fourth-graders in Catoosa County and high school freshmen in Hancock County, as well as students across the state will benefit from my commitment to fully fund their educations. More than 50 percent of students in both districts are economically disadvantaged. Both districts rely on federal dollars to provide wraparound services for students with special needs as well as students who qualify for free and reduced-priced meals. If we expect our students to do more, we can’t settle for shortened school years and bulging classes.

We must give each and every one of Georgia’s public education systems the same opportunity to thrive. With the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s recent findings that we shortchange our students by $439 per child, we must draw the line. Frighteningly, my opponent proposes cutting ties with our federal government and, in turn, shortchanging all of our districts, including Catoosa or Hancock, by an additional $2 billion in just one year.

In my four years as state school superintendent, Georgians will see a substantial change to the testing format. While it’s absolutely critical that we have assessments in place to ensure that our children are growing and our teachers are effective, the current structure prohibits teachers from truly delving into subject matter. I pledge to bring everyone to the table – educators, parents, students and community members – to ensure that we meet each child’s unique needs while easing the burden on our overstretched and understaffed public schools.

Georgians also can expect to see me collaborate with all of our legislators – not just one party - to restore funding so our districts can reinstate full 180-day school years as well as provide educators more support so that they, in turn, can support our children. Rather than saddling our districts with economic burdens, forcing them to make difficult decisions like furloughs, shortened school years and larger class sizes, I’ll work with elected officials from all parties for the greater good of our children and their educators. We’ve reached that point where we must remove “do more with less” from our vocabularies. With the ongoing implementation of Common Core, we absolutely must provide the professional development our educators need to truly delve into the content matter and provide high-quality instruction to our children.

All of my adult life, I’ve worked to build a better community, whether that was with Fulton County Human Services, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, the City Schools of Decatur board of education or the Georgia School Boards Association. I have the experience of managing budgets, allocating resources and collaborating with people from all walks of life so we can truly build a stronger education system for all of Georgia’s 1.7 million schoolchildren. Those little voices are calling, and it’s time for us to answer.