Spending money to reform schools

Today’s ajc.com contains two editorials representing different viewpoints on a bill that had the potential to drastically change Georgia’s high schools. Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed the bill this week.

Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) crafted the BRIDGE program, which started as its own bill but folded into another piece of legislation.

The bill would have created a grant program so participating high schools could offer majors focused around high-demand careers. Students would select a career track before starting high school. Classes would be offered at high schools, four-year or technical colleges or business apprenticeships.

Millar said his program, which would cost millions, would keep kids in school and improve the state’s graduation rate. He proposed using some federal stimulus money to pay it.

Bert Brantley, the governor’s press secretary, wrote there were concerns about the cost of the program and where the money would come from.

He also said the program would dramatically change education policy and that such a shift needs “a full debate and an honest recognition of the costs associated with them.”

We blogged about Millar’s bill during the session. Many of you liked the concept, but questioned how it would work.

What do you think of the governor’s decision to veto this bill? What kind of school reform debate should the governor and Legislature tackle next year?

29 comments Add your comment


May 15th, 2009
9:09 am

So when the federal stimulus money runs out who pays for it?


May 15th, 2009
9:35 am

I like the concept of this but it would require change at the early grade as well. I never gave much thought to what I wanted to be in the early grades and very little attention to career path was given in those grades. I think the Gov. did right by vetoing this bill, planning is needed more so than “debate”.

Reality 2

May 15th, 2009
10:08 am

The quality and the merit of the proposal aside, it seems like we need much more careful scrutiny of the expenses and other impacts this proposal will produce.

Harper's Mama

May 15th, 2009
10:16 am

Throwing money at a problem with a “plan dujour” doesn’t make education better.


May 15th, 2009
10:53 am

I want to see this “reform” tried at least once….. It would be way cheaper and it just may work.

How about having only ONE administrator in a school – a principal. No asisstant principals, no secretaries except for one, and that’s it. Give the classroom teacher 100% authority and decision making. All parents must support the teacher or speak to the teacher only. The only time the principal is involved is when the teacher and parent have gone through a process and the principal only acts as a mediator. However, the teacher has final say. If the parent does’t like the school, the teacher, or the decision, they can pull their kid out and go to another school.

How about that proposal? Think of the money saved!

jim d

May 15th, 2009
11:29 am

rather than “TO” perhaps “FOR” would work better.

Dump the thugs!


May 15th, 2009
11:33 am

I would add to Reality’s idea: All principals teach one class a day (for example, one period of 4th grade math). And all CO staff be rotated into a regular (not specially selected) classroom every 4 years for a year of “reality testing/welcome to the real world.”


May 15th, 2009
11:36 am

The education system doesn’t need “reforms”, it needs triage. You know, stop the hemorrhaging.

It doesn’t matter what program a student is in if he is performing 2-5 grades below level.

Step One: Don’t pass students to the next grade who cannot do the work.


May 15th, 2009
12:09 pm

Hey Reality, most of the time, when a parent goes to the principal, we have ALREADY tried to work things out with the teacher.

BTW, your weak teachers don’t want “100% authority and decision making.”


May 15th, 2009
12:46 pm

Are you joking? Student rate of drop out are horrendous throughout the country. Standards are low and we can not compete in a global society.
Students are frustrated with a curriculum that in 50 plus years old. Why not encourage students to engage in an area of concentration that they find of inteest? We must realize that with technology, students are more sophisticated and exposed to much more, but they still need strong guidance. Let’s give students options and stop making schools a dictatorship. We need options such as various curriculum, strong standards and vocational schools to make our society capable to compete.


May 15th, 2009
2:16 pm

Something a lot like this seems to work rather well in Germany. I would bet money that a large part of our dropout population dropped out because of wanting to get into the real world and finding absolutely no relevance to the career they wanted to pursue in their high school. Technical programs are dwindling in Georgia’s high schools, but yet these are the programs that will enable kids to start working after finishing high school. Not everyone want to go to college right after high school, and not everyone SHOULD. Just check out the freshman dropout rate in Georgia colleges.


May 15th, 2009
2:38 pm

I don’t understand why the Governor has decided this is not a good idea. The Gov apparently thinks that the state’s (Cathy Cox’s Smarter than a Fifth Grader) curriculum is the be-all, end-all for each and every student. Here’s a fact – Georgia consistently ranks in the bottom 3 or so states in terms of performance and graduation. I’ve lived here over 25 years and that has never changed, no matter what any Gov has ever said or “done”. Why then, do we continue to allow our state to create new (often untested – as in the new math) programs when there are perfectly successful ones in other states? Why not spend our energy trying to copy something that works – and hire (steal) the people to make it work.

This “BRIDGE” program is really no different than Vocational/Technical programs that are thriving in highly successful states in New England and the MIdwest. It’s the reason those two areas of the country have a rock-solid middle class. Here in the South, the Gov insists on a college-prep curriculum for all – which to anyone with an ounce of sense is obviously not going to work. So consequently, we have an enormous dropout problem and an enormous poor population because if they can’t “make it” in a traditionally delivered, college prep high school, then they are on their own.

BRIDGE is the only idea in the last 20 years that is actually different, realistic and equitable. In my hometown in the Midwest, we have a fantastic vo-tech high school, which my sister graduated from in horticulture and then guess what – went on to get a college degree in Landscape Architecture. They are also teaching high tech auto mechanics and sending students on to the local community college where they intern with the automakers. Come on – sitting at a desk, listening to lectures, turning in written assignments is not the only path to an education. Unless and until we admit that not all students learn the same, or will take the same life path, will we have a society that offers an opportunity for everyone to at least earn a respectable living. As it is now – we either prepare them for college, or they can barely work the cash register at Mickey D’s.

School is not reaching so many young people – especially boys. When they are forced to sit in a desk all day and listen to lecture after lecture, it becomes almost torture. So many students need an active learning environment and this program not only provides it, but has a technical college component that will encourage post-secondary education.

Do we want to offer a new method of learning or do we want to continue to try new ways to force the current methodology on students who seem to only hear the “wah wah” speak of teachers like the one in Charlie Brown. Not everyone’s brains engage while sitting at a desk.


May 15th, 2009
3:31 pm

Hey Lee – It’s likely cause the parents that you refer to are the crazy idiot parents that think their child does no wrong and could never fail any thing. They think that they fighting “for” their child when really they are fighting to help their child learn the wrong things – that complaining brings success and they they don’t have to learn anything. Those include the parents that are never home and never ensure that their child studies or completes homework.

And, as I said, if “those” parents don’t like that teacher, they can take their child to another school – to likely repeat those results.

And, if there are “weak” teachers, they will quickly be rooted out because all of the students will be leaving that teacher’s classes, right?


May 15th, 2009
4:22 pm

The problem is, most 14 year olds don’t have a clue. They need to know where they are headed before they know what road to take. That has been what high school attempted to do: to get kids on a more level road and give them time to develop their aspirations.

I like the idea of theme centered high schools, but what about counties where there is only one high school? Theme centered halls?

And, once a student choses, how do they change their minds when they find out it isn’t “all that?” Or when they want to leave because a friend moved out of the program?

Our former Chancellor, Stephen Portch, attempted to do that, but found that 14 year olds (and many of their non-involved parents) are unable to plan past next Wednesday, much less think out their high school curriculum.

I’d like to see us let students show mastery of basic skills and move on, no matter what their ages, and HOLD BACK or redirect the kids who don’t have the mastery.

There is no reform

May 15th, 2009
6:54 pm

Unless and until we are willing to have a serious discussion about restoring the teacher’s authority in the classroom, there is no reform.

Call it what it is. Facade.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Evans

May 16th, 2009
2:22 am

There is no reform, you are correct! But you don’t go far enough. There will be no reform until classroom teachers reassert their authority to manage and control their respective classrooms. Understand that, GSBA, GSSA and GASBA!


May 16th, 2009
9:39 am

Interesting tidbit — 96% of teachers in England have pledged to boycott standardized testing next year.


May 16th, 2009
9:55 am

I sure don’t get why the Gov is not behind BRIDGE. We need to build a strong middle class in this state – we hardly have one. For example, can you find a really good plumber, electrician, mechanic, carpenter when you need one? Heck – can you even find someone who can count change back? This state has a two class system and there is some kind of weird benefit to maintaining the historical status quo. The solution is simple – get someone from a high performing state (all of which have excellent Vo-Tech programs, BTW) and let that person tell us what we need to do. There’s no reason for Georgia to keep using Georgians to reinvent the education in our state. The new math is going to be the biggest failure in our history. Go and get someone from somewhere where they know what they’re doing. (All the Georgians who know what they’re doing are involved in elite private schools.)

An aside – I have several friends and family members who attended vocational high schools in the Midwest (with a “rigorous” core curriculum and tech classes) – and went on to college. It’s not an either/or. People in Georgia just don’t know how this model works because they’ve never seen a really good one. This state is committed to keeping their underclass down. Things won’t change until that kind of antebellum elitist thinking changes.


May 16th, 2009
2:02 pm

Perhaps the biggest real issue in education today is the point made by education101. However, the curriculum of today is actually closer to 100 years old. It was established by a group of industrialists – not educators – and has been used to keep people down for a whole century.

A 21st century curriculum would have to be centered around technology, but that would be the vehicle for delivery, not the cores subject. While some people would have you believe that the majority of jobs in the future will be science and engineering. Unfortunately, this is one of the very misleading emphases in current political and business arenas. The truth is, the majority of jobs will be in the service areas – store sales, personal care (beauty shop), restaurant service, and other lower paying jobs. This doesn’t get much attention, though.

Regarding the idea that the workforce of Georgia is uneducated, let’s use the Peachtree City Panasonic closing as an example. Fayette County has some of the best schools in the state. Yet, Panasonic closed the factory there in favor of one in Mexico. Do you really think that Mexico has a better educated work force? The moving of clothing factories to foreign countries is more about lower wages than an educated work force, too.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Evans

May 16th, 2009
2:45 pm

Spending money to reform schools? No. Better: Spending money to help kids learn interesting, relevant curricula. And, by the way, what percentage of the 80-90% of local schools’ total budgets typically spent on salaries contributes to students’ learning relevant, interesting curricula? More bluntly, what percentage of these salaries are wasted in the furtherance of the hiding of inept people, of nepotism, of other forms of favoritism and of political spoils? Has any public educational system in GA ever contracted for an system-wide cost-benefit analysis on all employees with reputable, out-of-state auditors?

F;red A;gain

May 16th, 2009
4:38 pm

dr spinks is correct…this is what mace has been harping on for years. the classroom educators have no authority. they cannot even count off for papers being handed in late, kids caught cheating. this is rampant in pitifully-run school systems like dekalb county. crawfore lewis is a joke of a superintendent. i agree with dr. john trotter and mace: “crawford lewis is a candy ass.” his administration will not process grievances. it appears that crawford lewis and his administration (including ronald ramsey who is supposed to be in charge of the grievances) are super-sensitive to the charges of systematic cheating and the sweeping of disciplinary problems under the rug. http://www.theteachersadvocate.com. the mace teachers union is giving crawfore lewis h_ll, but he is not the only terrible superintendent. they are all over georgia, especially in the urban and metro areas. school reform? what a joke. you nead to read a couple of books on mega-studies of all the so-called reform movemennts of the last 25 years. later, i will supply the name of the books. nothing works until the teacher’s authority over the classroom is restored.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Evans

May 16th, 2009
5:26 pm

What percentages of local school system budgets are spent on salaries for deadwood in the forms of the inept, the related and the politically connected? A local system has 5K employees for 32K students. Is the system an educational or a last-resorts employment agency?

William Casey

May 17th, 2009
8:39 am

Who wants to be the one to tell the parents of a 9th grader that their child is simply not college material even though it is painfully obvious? Nobody… therefore, schools play “pretend” and the parents get to find out when the kid flunks out of college.

There are lots of good, hard-working teens who simply are not “academic.” But, the truth is that education is about a lot more than simply training for a job.


May 17th, 2009
1:40 pm

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Who said that? Wasn’t that what they say about that Clown of a Superintendent in DeKalb County, Crawford Lewis? He would not know school reform if it hit him square in the face…or free speech, equal protection, due process, and other time-honored values in a democratic society. I hear that cheating is rampant in the DeKalb School System. The Administration (headed up by Crawford’s flunkie, State Senator Ronald Ramsey) refuses to process grievances according to the State Statute…OCGA 20-2-989.5 et seq. I am sure that Ramsey is getting his marching orders from Crawdaddy. DeKalb County is a Gangsta School System, and people are talking about “reform.” Get real! One DeKalb teacher recently told me that he has 35 students in a Special Ed class (limited to 15). Teachers complain that the administration will not allow them to count off if papers are turned in late, if kids are caught cheating, etc. It is a cess pool in DeKalb, and we are talking about “reform”? What about State Take-over? I heard recently that at one middle school, the principal regularly pulls different teachers out of the classroom to serve as “assistant principals” roaming the halls. Not to mention the fact that this is illegal, they already have enough real assistant principals but not enought guts to suspend and/or expel the thugs. Bullying? Are you kidding? That’s like asking if it gets dark at night. Well, maybe not in the Winter in Fairbanks, but you get the point.

Dr. John Trotter

May 17th, 2009
1:56 pm

Hey Shoe: Is that Standardized Testing or Standardized Cheating/Fooling? Ole Rod Paige was good at that in Houston and then President Bush appointed him to head up education in American. Does this not tell us where public, mass education is currently? No edge to it at all. The administrators have to round the edges and make everything smooth so that, with some Outright Cheating (OC) and Modified Cheating (MC), the public can be fooled into thinking that “progress” has taken place. (Some of these “students” need to be in vocational training like they were for decades in American Schools, but no, our policy-nuts think that all students should be academic scholars. It’s just not going to happen. So, what does the American Educational Establishment do? Just a little winky-winky when it comes to “helping” the students on exams. Pitiful.) When the public thinks that “progress” is taking place, then the likes of Beverly Hall, Alvin Wilbanks, and Crawford Lewis can keep their high-paying jobs and even get higher salaries and more perks! It’s all a game. And, when a school board finally gets tired of a superintendent, the supe gets re-cycled to a new superintendency in a new location — like what is apparently happening with the California “reject” which the Clayton County School Board just hired, Edmond Heatley. School boards tend to be stupid (a harsh word, but it really is true) and superintendents are very manipulative and power-hungry. Enough for now. (c)MACE,2009

MACE at it again

May 17th, 2009
2:55 pm

Notice that when MACE posts on this board, all the people who criticize the mission of MACE don’t seem to have a rebuttal to the points raised?

That includes the AJC. Maybe that’s why the editorial board disparages MACE, but when given an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is and debate the head of MACE, they’ve repeatedly lacked the backbone to do so.

Maybe it’s the lack of backbone that makes them feel like such kindred spirits with the school administrations they continually spin for.

Buck Haralson

May 17th, 2009
3:36 pm

My mother is a retired teacher. She told me that her friends, who are still in education are forced all the time to cheat on standardize test and give grades away. Because if the dont it looks bad on the administrators and they will fire you if you dont. So, I know that no child left behind really meant make sure every kid pass no matter what the do in school. and from what I read in this news paper on Dekalb county students needing help on basic skills once they get to college they are leading the pack. MACE is a little extreme at times but they know what the real issue is public schools the More you CHEAT THE MORE $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ you GET.


May 18th, 2009
9:16 am

I’m with ShoeShoe…it’s a concept that works VERY well elsewhere. My two boys graduated from Miami Coral Park Sr High which is structured in this very way, with “academies” that allow the kids to pick a “major” while in high school (including an IB program) The school, as a result, is rated among the top 30 annually in Newsweek’s list of the top 100 high schools nationally. This is why Georgia is so backwards in education, and why i am SO glad my kids went to school in Florida.

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