The new leader for education policy in the Georgia Senate is a Gwinnett County lawmaker with little background in K-12 policy but a keen interest in a condition thought to afflict one in five students.
Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, previously served as vice chairman of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee. (In a bit of a swap, the former K-12 committee chairman, Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, who stepped down from leadership over a policy dispute last year, has now been made head of the Higher Education Committee.)
Education can be a hot-button issue, with sharp disagreements over funding for traditional public schools, charter and private schools.
In an interview Tuesday after getting his new Senate assignment, Martin said he will downplay partisanship on a committee that oversees a public service that consumes a third of the state budget. “I want to be a consensus builder,” he said.
It’s too early to predict what major legislation will be coming through his Education and Youth Committee, Martin said, but one bill that’s likely to surface involves dyslexia.
Martin has friends whose children struggle with the condition, and he is developing legislation with fellow education committee member Matt Brass, R-Newnan. Dyslexia is thought to affect one in five people, according to a summer Senate study committee, meaning more than 350,000 public school students in Georgia may have it.
The federal government doesn’t address dyslexia, so it’s up to states to determine what to do about it.
The first step, according to the Senate committee: better understanding.
The panel recommended public teacher colleges in Georgia offer curriculum identifying early “red flags” for the condition, that schools be required to screen their youngest students for it and that state agencies develop a handbook and a skills endorsement for teachers who’ve had special training in it.
Martin, a small businessman and insurance agent, has served four years in the Senate. In addition to Higher Education, he was on the committees for State and Local Governmental Operations, Insurance and Labor and Transportation.
He served on the board of Providence Christian Academy, a private school in Gwinnett, and said he attended Gwinnett County Public Schools, the largest school district in the state and among the most politically influential. He has two children in middle school.
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