Budget is bad enough for Kathy Cox to break ranks and silence

It has to be dire for GOP School Superintendent Kathy Cox to break ranks with the governor and warn state budget-writers that Perdue’s proposed spending cuts could undo the progress that Georgia schools have been making.

In the past, I would describe Cox as a team player; she has not spoken out strongly in public against too many decisions by the governor. (She is running for re-election – to a third term – and he is not. And Cox has a line forming to challenge her, including folks from her own party.)

According to the AJC’s James Salzer, Cox told a joint House and Senate budget committee, “The 2011 budget takes away our ability as a state to do anything to help our schools.”

State School Superintendent Kathy Cox warned that budget cuts could reverse progress in Georgia schools

State School Superintendent Kathy Cox warned that budget cuts could reverse progress in Georgia schools

Among her points: Over the next 18 months, the cuts would give schools $710 million less in basic school funding. That could be a lethal cut to some systems. Gone would be the regional offices that DOE set up for teacher training and assistance; some of those offices have won raves from their client schools.

Cox has her detractors here on the blog, but she has been focused on improving teaching quality. She also has hired many good people at DOE.

Has she made mistakes? Sure, but I question the critics who blame her for the new accountability push and the pressure to improve test scores. That is a national movement and there is no escaping it.

It would not matter who led DOE – much of what has happened in Georgia was dictated by federal law.

What do you think?

144 comments Add your comment

jim d

January 21st, 2010
8:56 am

Best way to improve georgia schools will be to vote cox out of office

Indifferent on Cox

January 21st, 2010
9:04 am

She is a great cheerleader for Georgia public education. She touts great improvement that I have yet to see or understand. We have not declined any, but is that really improvement?

Cobb Parent

January 21st, 2010
9:26 am

Speaking of federal bureaucracy, I want to note that Cobb has decided to take a pass on joining race for the top…

http://www.mdjonline.com/view/full_story/5616413/article-Cobb–Marietta-schools-choose-not-to–Race-to-Top-?instance=home_news_bullets

Attentive Parent

January 21st, 2010
9:29 am

Kathy Cox seems to believe that her good intentions toward Georgia’s schoolchildren should shield her from the effects of her poor decisions and bad policies.

She should have been honest with Georgia taxpayers that she was changing Georgia’s math because the state DOE had obtained the PRISM grant and by its terms that meant pushing an inquiry approach to learning math. This is the instructional equivalent of pushing Whole Language as a method of teaching reading.

This article also comes across as an apology for Kathy Cox’s tenure which does not really seem appropriate in election cycle.

what's right for kids???

January 21st, 2010
9:55 am

Sounds like she’s trying to drum up some votes for her re-election campaign.

what's right for kids???

January 21st, 2010
9:57 am

Sounds like she’s just trying to drum up some votes for her re-election.

DeKalb Conservative

January 21st, 2010
10:00 am

@ Jim D. and Cobb Parent

I see you both on here alot. I’m embarrassed because I don’t know enough info about this to form an opinion. For starters is Cox a Republican that is being bold and calling out the system, or is she a liberal that ran as a Republican because it would increase her chances to get elected?

Northview (Ex)Teacher

January 21st, 2010
10:07 am

Leadership does matter. Cox has been a disaster from the start, and she has never before been anything but a mouthpiece for Purdue. She has sat by silently for years as Sonny has made cut after cut after cut. Now, all of the sudden, she is concerned. This is the worst form of election-year opportunism. She’ll promise us to be better, all in the name of getting re-elected and going back to DDSS.

When Cox and ol’ Sonny came to Northiview to present an award, she spent her entire speech talking about how Sonny was just about the best thing to hit Georgia education since grits. It was the most inappropriate partisan speech I ever was forced to sit through in my life. What made it so intensely galling was that we teachers were forced to sit silently and act as if we wanted to sip their koolaid. Although Cox turned what should have been a celebration of our students’ achievement into a partisan political rally, we were EXPLICITLY instructed not to show our displeasure in any way.

If you look at other states where the Superintendent operates independently of the governor, and sometimes at odds with the governor, you will see that many of them are making real educational progress even in the face of the same circumstances that Cox has faced.

All this blather coming from Cox is nothing but an election year conversion. I hope that Georgians are not dumb enough to get fooled again.

Send Cox packing. She may be smarter than a fifth-grader, but she’s not smart enough for us.

Mac

January 21st, 2010
10:08 am

Too little too late I’m afraid. While I applaud her referenced statements, a true advocate for education and what is best for students and teachers should have “broken ranks’ and taken a stand long before now.
As for the people at the DOE – who has been there long enough to know if they are any good? Hasn’t that place pretty much been a revolving door for the past few years?

oldtimer

January 21st, 2010
10:08 am

I don ont seee many choices in spending cuts….There just is no money. Ga is not alone.

Mac

January 21st, 2010
10:09 am

“If you look at other states where the Superintendent operates independently of the governor, and sometimes at odds with the governor, you will see that many of them are making real educational progress even in the face of the same circumstances that Cox has faced.”

Excellent point!

high school teacher

January 21st, 2010
10:14 am

at home today…

Ditto the comments of Northview (Ex) Teacher: she should have spoken up when the budget was slashed and the economy was still good, not now when Sonny’s not up for re-election.

Does anyone know any potential candidates for State School Supt?

George from Kennesaw

January 21st, 2010
10:23 am

I think it is too simplistic to say just vote out Cox. It does make a big difference who takes over and what agenda s/he will push. A part of problems in education is the directions change too quickly and too frequently. As a result, teachers become indifferent to any efforts to change as they know it will be something different in a couple of years.

I probably agree with Maureen that Cox gets blamed unfairly. Could she have done better than others who ran against her? I am not so positive. I would not want a change for the sake of change in this instance. I would like to compare what her competitor is planning to do and how realistic the changes s/he is proposing – not just grand standing.

Rural Education

January 21st, 2010
10:24 am

This speech should have be given in 2003 when the “fisherman” first started his destruction of public education.

Watching since 2003

January 21st, 2010
10:30 am

We need a superintendent in these difficult times who does not get a confused expression on his or her face anytime they are asked a question.

jim d

January 21st, 2010
10:38 am

Dekalb conservative,

Kathy Cox (born August 10, 1964) is the current[update] superintendent of public schools for the U.S. state of Georgia, and is a Republican. A high school teacher by occupation, Cox also served two terms, from 1998 to 2002, in the Georgia General Assembly, representing Peachtree City, Georgia, prior to her election as superintendent in 2002. Cox sought re-election in 2006, defeating Democratic challenger Denise Majette (a former U.S. representative), earning almost 60 percent of the vote.

On September 5, 2008, Cox became the first million-dollar winner on the American television game show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? In her case she was. Her final question was, “Who was the longest reigning British monarch?” Cox intended to donate all her winnings to three schools in Georgia: Georgia Academy for the Blind in Macon, Atlanta Area School for the Deaf in Clarkston, and Georgia School for the Deaf in Cave Spring. All three schools are under the auspices of the Georgia Board of Education. These plans were affected by her personal bankruptcy in late 2008.

Cox made national news in 2004 by proposing to strike the word “evolution” from Georgia textbooks and replace it with the phrase “biological changes over time

Cox has pushed for standards based classrooms, depriving teachers of the ability to teach their classes.

She has consistantly denied that gifted students are being deprived in attempts to bring struggling students up to meet the standards.

and these are but a few highlights of her career as School super. Dig a little I’m sure I omitted more than a few interesting facts.

jim d

January 21st, 2010
10:40 am

ok—check the filters

Maureen Downey

January 21st, 2010
10:43 am

jim d, you are out and about now

high school teacher

January 21st, 2010
10:45 am

George from Kennesaw reminded me of something:

LYNT – last year’s new thing
TYNT – this year’s new thing
NYNT – next year’s new thing

jim d

January 21st, 2010
10:47 am

Thanks Ms. Downey,

Did we learn anything yesterday?

what's right for kids???

January 21st, 2010
10:59 am

I’m confused. I got an update from PAGE, and it states that Cox is urging the Legislature to PASS HB 908. Below is what it says:

“Cox prefaced her comments, stating that she is mindful of Georgia’s constitutional mandate regarding a free and adequate education for all students. She urged legislators to consider passing HB 908, which allows school systems flexibility to disregard class size mandates, the state salary schedule, and other spending guidelines.

“Below are some of the most important budget recommendations that Cox mentioned:

“Additional three educator furlough days in the 2010 Supplemental Budget.

“A 4% reduction in Equalization funds in the 2010 Budget

“RESA funding is totally eliminated in the 2011 Budget.

“School nurses and school nutrition programs are cut back.

“National Board Certification stipends are totally eliminated in the 2011 Budget.

“QBE funding is reduced by an additional $479 million in the Supplemental Budget.”

Mac

January 21st, 2010
11:12 am

This is pitiful:

“I do not know how I’m going to go back and talk to these school boards,” state Sen. George Hooks, an Americus Democrat who represents parts of Peach County, told Cox on Wednesday. “Have you got an answer that I can give?”

Cox’s best answer?

“We’ve got to give them flexibility,” she said. “We’ve got to look at class size.”

How much are we giving to these standardized testing companies each year? Maybe a waiver should be considered there first. We know that decreasing class sizes improves achievement (the key to most private and charter school success)
Standardized testing? Not so much.

Put 40 kids ina 5th grade classroom and I will guarantee that student learning will decline. Rapidly.

Cobb Parent

January 21st, 2010
11:30 am

Cox is a Republican, that part is true. Whether she’s liberal or conservative is hard to say – her positions really span the entire spectrum (ranging from her eagerness to accept more federal regulation for schools to her bizarre advocacy of relabeling the word “evolution” so that teachers in “conservative” areas would not be offended). I think I would describe her philosophy as one that’s focused on bringing up the bottom rung at the expense of creating a challenging environment for our top students. I find this unacceptable – revolving the entire education policy around what works for the lowest performing students is not a good trade off for Georgia’s public education sector. She has a tendency to sugar-coat our abysmal testing scores by pointing to improvements within a few subgroups, which I also find abhorrent.

Personally, I will say that she is a hard worker and I did vote for her last election (she was clearly more qualified than Ms. Majette on matters of education), She visits a tremendous amount of schools and does have a physical (unfortunately not vocal) presence in our schools. As a caveat, looking at the DOE website, she has yet to visit Cobb and considering this is the second largest district in the state, I would suggest she do so prior to the election.

But, in any case, I vote for the policy and not the individual and her policies are not right for Georgia.

Gwinnett Teacher

January 21st, 2010
12:58 pm

Ok after reading some stuff here I decided to look at Sonny’s wonderful budget…

Highlights
Department of Community Health because of Medicaid is now spending over $666,000,000
Child Care Services Budget almost doubled from $36,000,000 to $65,000,000

Yet the Dept. of Education is expected to take a 617 million dollar cut?

How are teachers expected to want to keep teaching if they are not compensated for their work?
Good teachers will find alternatives and other states that respect the teaching profession accordingly.
Georgia will be left with teachers that either have no other options or are under-qualified…real good work Captain Perdue…

DeKalb Conservative

January 21st, 2010
1:17 pm

@ Jim D.

Great write up. I’m still a little new to GA (I’ve mentioned I’ve been granted political asylum from MA). I knew some of that stuff, but her name isn’t as familiar with me as it should be.

@ Cobb Parent

Great insight. After reading yours Cox certainly has the “R” in republican right, especially when it comes to wanting to change book text, that infuriates me.

DeKalb Conservative

January 21st, 2010
1:19 pm

Here’s my take. Cox is a Republican as much as Purdue is a Republican for going to Lake Lanier and having a “pray for rain” session. From what I’ve seen here, Cox is more than anything a Progressive, which can be very dangerous. Seeing her as a Progressive makes her dilemma with budgets make more sense in times such as this.

The take away as I see it is she seems to be less than an ideal person, but being progressive and running as a republican will make it tough to get her out of office. Sounds like she’ll be in that office as long as she wants and she’ll keep getting voted back in, likely as a lesser of evils.

jim d

January 21st, 2010
1:33 pm

DC,

dont be too sure. It looks like she may have some good competition from within the party.

pay attention folks

January 21st, 2010
1:36 pm

pay attention folks

January 21st, 2010
1:38 pm

Jim D-
When is the primary election?

North Fulton Parent

January 21st, 2010
1:41 pm

The Republican Primary is July 10

ga

January 21st, 2010
1:47 pm

If Ms. Cox is focused on teacher quality then she should also speak out against corporal punishment. Good educators don’t believe in hitting kids in a school setting.

Tonya

January 21st, 2010
2:07 pm

ga:

Why do you come on here and say the same thing on every post? Be creative! Corporal punishment is the least of concerns when teachers are facing the conditions they currently are.

Wounded Warrior

January 21st, 2010
2:20 pm

Kathy Cox is a teacher. Just because you teach does not make a leader. The problem with 2d grade teachers as principals or elected leaders is that she treats everyone on a 2d grade level. We do know that she is smarter than a 5th grader. But, if you can’t handle your own finances>>filing for bankruptcy, they you shouldn’t be in charge of any of the tax payers’ money. I agree about the math…thank God she can be voted out of office, unlike crawford lewis.

Ray

January 21st, 2010
2:26 pm

Wait until the elementary parents hear that the State is doing away with PE.

Having the GOP in charge of education would be like UGA hiring a head football coach who doesn’t like the Dawgs.

Eight years of Bush, a decade of anti-government (school) ‘leadership’ in GA, and now we’re really show our ignorance by scratching our heads?

EducationCEO

January 21st, 2010
2:28 pm

I agree with jimd. I also agree with Indifferent on Cox in that she is “…a cheerleader.” That’s the problem: Education is not a football or basketball game so we don’t need cheerleaders. We need leaders, e.g., those elected, to speak-up when decisions not in the best interests of all kids are made, even when it’s an election year. She has had the opportunity to serve and make changes. She has been silent for too long. It is time for her to move-on to something else. The measure of any good leader is being able to recognize when your vision/mission has run its course.

I hope the people of Georgia get out and vote because our kids still lag behind others and education initiatives have not been aggressive enough.

what's right for kids???

January 21st, 2010
2:39 pm

Although I think that Cox is not doing a stellar job, I do think that a teacher absolutely needs to be the State Superintendent of Education. Why do people who have NEVER been in the classroom think that they can solve all of education’s problems????

Tom

January 21st, 2010
2:42 pm

its about time someone challenged Perdue. Everyone talks about him and other members of leadership behind closed doors but out in public they go along with him.

Why make cuts to the most important part of the budget? what a DA! No wonder our state ranks at the bottom of education……its going to stay there too.

ga

January 21st, 2010
2:46 pm

To Tonya – I am sorry Tonya, but we can agree to disagree. It is a serious problem in Georgia Schools in my view. I won’t shut up until it goes away. With all these budget cuts – dontcha think the numbers of beatings are going to go up?? I will be sure to do open records and we will see. I am sorry you don’t see this as a problem, but I do. I don’t want this coming to my district and more districts now, today are going back to the paddle unfortunately, maybe you missed the last news report.. but go ahead and LOOK IT UP

what's right for kids???

January 21st, 2010
2:55 pm

ga,
what is the percentage of students who are corporally punished by their teachers?

The Truth

January 21st, 2010
2:55 pm

For crying out loud, why all of the definitions about Kathy Cox as she is a Republican, a school teacher, a whatever…. Let’s look at the bottom line…she has had EIGHT YEARS to make some progress and we are still right where we were before. Test scores show Georgia students still at or near the bottom in core subjects. Yes, we got the PR releases touting a 10 point increase in student testing but yet, we are still at the bottom…..HELLO!

I do not care what party wins in this election. The fact is that she has had eight years and there is no discernable improvement. It is time for a change so please Georgia, WAKE UP and look at the facts please…

Kenneth

January 21st, 2010
2:57 pm

Here are the problems with Ga public schools:

1. Teachers can’t teach anymore, they are way too busy doing all this unneccessary paper work
2. Mom and Dad have abdicated their responsibilities as mom and dad and expect the school to raise their children unless their needs to be some discipline.

Outsider

January 21st, 2010
2:58 pm

For all the money we spend on education what do we have to show for it . 48th or 49th ranking out of 50. Come on guys. Why not cut their budget. I am a state employee and I am currently on furlough but my department has documented proof and stats that show we are doing a good service to the state. Teachers and educators can’t say the same. We have some of the dumbest children in the country and I really don’t see it getting any better any time soon. Especially with the influx of illegals here in Georgia. So teachers need to shut up and be thankful they still have jobs. Some of us have to work year round!!!

DeKalb Conservative

January 21st, 2010
3:07 pm

What’s a realistic ranking to expect? Outsider makes a good point.

I see on this blog alot from many sources that people discredit many groups of students. I’m sorry but you can only point the finger at Rural Students, Special Need Students, Low Income Students and Minority Students so many times. Sadly from the comments you see here too often an outsider to GA would have to classify the typical GA students as one withe a learning disability from a poor family that speaks an odd version of English.

Let’s just focus on like-states — what do other deep south states do different? Not that many of them are dramatically better off, but they are ahead of GA. Are they doing something different, or are they just counting their students differently, which is giving them the perception of superior performance?

Joy in Teaching

January 21st, 2010
3:11 pm

@ Outsider:

I have three very simple questions for you.

1. In your department (whichever one it is on furlough since you didn’t say), do you deal with 33 or 34 clients at a time who are full of hormones, have no self discipline, and who may or may not be able to read or do math?

2. Are you expected to have ALL of your client perform at the same level at the end of a pre selected period of time “or else”?

3) Do you do work-related paperwork and make calls long after your working hours are over or on your furlough days?

Mark

January 21st, 2010
3:17 pm

To outsider
Teachers only get paid for a 190 days. There are over 1,000,000 students in the state of Georgia. There are teachers who very thankful for their jobs. However, the QBE has been cut for seven years and there are more students than every. Now teachers are going to be laid off. Soon as a teacher gets use to a new curriculum, it changes. Then the cost of books and etc. Everything is geared now to teaching the test–which is made of trick question. To say we have some of the dumbest kids in the country is wrong. For one thing the state of Georgia test everyone on the SAT. Not many states do that. Teachers for the most part are taking the furloughs the best they can. The problem is the funding for materials for students to learn. I believe we have some of the brightest students in the country. Do I support Kathy Cox-NO. She never once stood up to the students of our state. Even when the state was doing good. Perdue was slashing the budget. The General Assembly seems hostile to education and Kathy ignores it.

what's right for kids???

January 21st, 2010
3:19 pm

Dekalb Conservative:
Although I can’t speak to the little ones, I know that for SAT scores, they count thier kids differently. SAT scores are not reported for every student in other states.

East Cobber

January 21st, 2010
3:20 pm

Kathy Cox will be whoever she is. The bottom line is until I’m given someone with a better vision, better execution, better background, etc., there aren’t exactly a ton of alternatives for me to choose. Speaking of which, who are the candidates vying for her in the primaries/general?

ga

January 21st, 2010
3:21 pm

Read the ACLU report “Impairing Education” and you’ll get more data.

what's right for kids???

January 21st, 2010
3:23 pm

ga, I’m not interested in reading the data. I wanted you to tell me.

ga

January 21st, 2010
3:25 pm

I don’t have percentages but the numbers on the ORR I did are alarming IMHO.