The AJC asked John Barge, state school superintendent candidate, his views on four issues. (This is part of a Sunday/Monday package in the print newspaper.)
1. How would you manage a mandated 10 percent cut in education spending?
2. How will you restore public confidence in test results?
3. Do you support vouchers for public education?
4. Do you support pay for performance for teachers?
1. The budget is the primary concern facing the new state school superintendent. We must cut waste at the State Department of Education.
This means getting rid of layers of bureaucratic red tape and consolidating a number of areas. We must return education to the local district as much as possible — this will free up money that is currently being wasted in Atlanta at the DOE while simultaneously enhancing education across the state.
2. If we brought back a common sense approach to testing in Georgia and reduced the amount of testing required by the DOE we would see an immediate surge in the confidence we have in our test results.Additionally, we would save a significant amount of money statewide. Such a move would reduce stress and let teachers get back to teaching the curriculum rather than teaching the test — all of this would restore confidence in our testing procedures.
Another way we can restore confidence to the area of testing is to stop lowering the standards for passing in order to produce artificial gains that make for good press. If we would spend more time educating and less time teaching test-taking, we would see our students perform better.
3. While I do believe we can work with school choice advocates to create a more rounded approach to choice that protects education while giving parents more options, I do not believe that vouchers are the silver bullet that will save public education. Given our current budget shortfalls I do not believe this is the time to institute a pure voucher system that would drain already dry public school budgets. This would only increase teacher layoffs and firings, further heightening our deficiencies in Georgia.
4. The recently proposed model of pay for performance would be harmful to public education in Georgia if implemented.
While in theory pay for performance sounds good, it will work to reduce teacher motivation, discourage teacher collaboration, and almost guarantee wide-spread cheating on standardized tests. I believe there is a way to work pay for performance into the system on a district-wide basis that would enhance education in Georgia.