Karen Handel: Does she have a big picture vision for education or is she just looking for run-off votes?

Karen Handel remains vague on her exact plans for improving Georgia's schools

Karen Handel wants to reform Georgia schools through "local flexibility and choice."

Having seen Karen Handel outline her education plan at the Georgia School Boards Association meeting in Savannah last month, I was underwhelmed. More relevant to this election, so were many of the school board members I talked to after the panel, most of whom were from outside metro Atlanta. They weren’t really clear what Handel was going to do to help their systems, if anything, based on her comments to them.

As I reported at the time, Handel said, “I am not going to lay out my legislative agenda here today. But my pledge to you is that I will have your leadership at the table. But I can tell you one thing I won’t do; I am not going to have the budget balanced on the backs of teachers and furloughs.”

In fact, Handel and her run-off opponent Nathan Deal had the least concrete plans of any of the GOP candidates on the panel, which I found odd since they were speaking to the elected officials from across the state whose only focus was schools. (Eric Johnson had the boldest idea, vouchers, but it was the least attractive to the school boards.)

Perhaps aware of her shortcomings in education ideas, Handel just sent out this release, although nothing here jumps out at me and yells “Big picture vision for education.”

You may see more innovation in her ideas than I do:  (You can read her ideas in greater detail here.)

Former Secretary of State and candidate for Governor Karen Handel today rolled out her plan for 21st Century education reform in Georgia.

“We must all unite to ensure that every child has access to a high quality education and the opportunity to graduate from high school and be prepared for whatever is next – whether that is college or technical school or another path toward workforce preparedness,” Karen said.

The Handel Plan focuses on:

  • Creating 21st Century classrooms that leverage technology and partner with community organizations and the private sector to enhance learning
  • Recruiting and retaining the best and brightest as teachers by reinstating the Master Teacher Program, recruiting top candidates for teaching positions and rewarding teachers for success.
  • Declaring a “state of emergency” on Georgia’s drop-out rate using teachers and technology to detect at-risk students and bringing technical college programs into middle schools to provide an alternative path for those students who will not be pursuing a four-year degree path.
  • Reforming the system through local flexibility and choice.
  • Creating a 21st Century workforce
  • Using transparency and cost savings to focus educational dollars on classroom education
  • Creating a new funding model for education in Georgia

“Education will be a top priority as Governor,” Karen said today. “We will fix education in Georgia in a way that will become a model for other states and our children top competitors in the 21st Century economy.”

Handel has previously released detailed plans on ethics reform, job creation and economic expansion and permanently cutting the state workforce.

72 comments Add your comment


July 26th, 2010
1:33 pm

Umm underwhelmed by a candidate who doesn’t possess a college degree. Shocked I say.. Shocked!! i wonder if Ms Handel is elected will she be the only Governor without a college degree?


July 26th, 2010
1:35 pm

Can we fit in any more buzzwords into this statement?

Guess she wants to “Get a Handel
on Education?” I can see the bumperstickers now!

Maureen Downey

July 26th, 2010
1:39 pm

@catlady, You ought to send that slogan to Dan McLagan, who is guiding Karen Handel’s campaign. He used to work for Gov.Perdue and he’s a pungent writer. I’ve saved a few of his miffed missives over the years to me just for the great language.


July 26th, 2010
1:41 pm

Would any school system hire this woman as their Chief Executive Officer?

This woman is possibly the next governor of our state, but most school systems want applicants to have masters degrees to teach gifted courses.

The question should be do we have a big picture vision or are we all just nuts?


July 26th, 2010
1:42 pm

Handel need to drop out of the GOP Race and go back to school.


July 26th, 2010
1:45 pm

Karen Handel is an insensitive candidate. I will stop short of calling her racist but… during the last Presidential campaign…while Ms. Handel was still Secretary of State, she send out a mass mailer which started out…”Dear Mr/Ms xxxx…there is information in your voter registration which suggests that you may not have the proper identification to vote in the upcoming election ( or something to that effect). I am still smarting regarding that mailer because it was targeted at African Americans and I guarantee you that the recipients of the mailer were the registered African Americans on her voter registration rolls. How dare she……not only did I have a Georgia Drivers License but I am a long respected member of my community with professional degrees to boot. To lump all of the registered African -Americans as potentially not having proper identification still grips my @#& and I would never vote for Ms. Handel.

Ms. Handel lacks the racial sensitivity to hold the hallowed Office of Govenor in any State.


July 26th, 2010
2:07 pm

“•Creating a new funding model for education in Georgia”

Ah-h-h. Is that code for vouchers?

We need to support our public schools, not give up on them. Vouchers is giving up on local public education. Vouchers will lead to unequal educational opportunities, not better educational opportunities for all children. Capitalism is not a model for public education, it is a model for making money no matter what. Frankly, I don’t want to be taxed so somemone else can decide to give my tax dollars to a private interprise.

I do worry that Handel did not get a college degree. While I think she has the brains for it, did she just not have the drive or the intestinal fortitude to do the work?


July 26th, 2010
2:12 pm

Since I know ole Roy to be a lier and a trickster…Deal or Handal..probably Handal will get my vote!


July 26th, 2010
2:16 pm

ATF, well at least she does not have a dummy degree from an online, minimally accredited college like “University of Sarasota” as in the previous blog.

Ms. Downey, you can suggest it to him if you wish. Have them make the checks payable to me, however. LOL

Disgusted, same for my Spanish-surnamed friend, I believe.

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July 26th, 2010
2:26 pm

This is sort of off topic, but I am interested in finding out what exactly Roy Barnes did to upset teachers so much before the he lost the election in 2002. I wasn’t teaching at the time (only a year out of college in the business world), so didn’t pay too much attention to it.

I’ve asked some people at school, but most (the ones I hang out with at least) are my age or younger and don’t really know the details either. Isn’t his daughter a teacher? Seems that he would have teacher’s best interest at heart, but again, I wasn’t around. Now I read all these comments, and still haven’t figured out the reason so many teachers despise him.

Oh Well

July 26th, 2010
2:33 pm

“Using transparency and cost savings to focus educational dollars on classroom education”
– yeah right…and now that I think of it…what exactly does this mean? cost save? what is being cut? because at this point, there’s nothing left to cut other than (gasp) athletics!

“Creating a 21st Century workforce”
ironic…that would mean actually having well-rounded students. but alas…you can’t have that when all they are being taught is information that will be on a “test”. Arts/languages and other subjects deemed “not essential” besides beloved sports have been cut…!

“Creating a new funding model for education in Georgia”
really?! and what is that exactly?!

so – no matter what, from my what I see – Handel is nothing more than Sonny redux…

Color me confused

July 26th, 2010
2:34 pm

I think he used language that teachers found insensitive, including wanting to end tenure.

As a parent, I long for smaller class sizes that Barnes started and Purdue eliminated. I realize we have a revenue problem, but something has to give.

I am not at all convinced that Deal or Handel will help fix this problem.


July 26th, 2010
2:51 pm


July 26th, 2010
1:45 pm

Sure…thats BS and you know it.

Mikey D

July 26th, 2010
3:16 pm

I’m afraid that a Handel administration will simply turn into a third perdue term. I’m not sure that we can survive 4 more years of sonny’s education “policy”.

Teaching in FL is worse

July 26th, 2010
3:29 pm

The less students we churn out of our schools with little or no critical thinking, the more candidates like Handel will make sense to the general populace.

Any diploma on her wall?

July 26th, 2010
4:01 pm

No college degree, we know. Has anyone seen a high school diploma? Did she really even graduate from high school (a real diploma, not a GED one)?


July 26th, 2010
4:09 pm

At some point in the run-off, her lack of college degree will become an issue. I know college degree will not help against stupidity – see a famous woman from Alaska who endorses this candidate – but it still means something to a lot of people.

Janet S, Atlanta

July 26th, 2010
4:27 pm

I wrote an article on my blog, The Hinterland Gazette, about Karen Handel’s lack of solid education credentials. Not everyone who makes it to the top professionally has a degree, but I believe if you are going to be in a position to effect change in the school district, then you should possess at least a Bachelors degree. It seems that she placed such little importance on education in her own life, that I find her far from credible in addressing the needs of our schools.


July 26th, 2010
4:29 pm

Barnes used teachers during his campaign. That time around he used teachers by blaming them for everything wrong with education. The term “bad teachers” was in almost every sentence of every speech he gave. His educational reform plan was based on replacing all of the teachers because all of them are bad. He also used tax dollars to buy every school a satellite dish (very cutting edge at the time), but neglected to connect them to anything. So every school had an unusable satellite dish out front. But that did not stop him from bragging about them to the press.
This time around he is still using teachers. He is just kissing our back sides for votes. But don’t be fooled. He will turn on us the minute it is politically advantageous!

Chuck Yarbrough

July 26th, 2010
4:33 pm

Handel would be a disaster for education in Georgia. If she wins the republican primary run-off I will sit the election out. I can’t/won’t vote for Barnes and I really can’t support one of those Libertarian kooks. There just isn’t anywhere else to go. She has no plan for education because she doesn’t know anything about it. I’m hopeful that Deal will have enough sense to stand aside and let the educators fix education. After 12 years of politicians screwing it up we deserve a chance to fix it… with better POLICIES, not necessarily more money.

Chuck Yarbrough

July 26th, 2010
4:40 pm

ATF, “vouchers” is not a funding formula. Vouchers are a different way of SPENDING the money.

Chuck Yarbrough

July 26th, 2010
4:43 pm

GOB, he also ended tenure, and cost of living raises after promising them.

bootney farnsworth

July 26th, 2010
5:14 pm

gee, a GOP canidate Maureen has a problem with.

next thing, the blog will discover the sun rises
in the east every day.


July 26th, 2010
5:30 pm

Handel’s education plan seems to be a play on words, but not really mean anything. She may be a nice lady, but education is not a priority with her. If it were, she would have a college degree. I agree that everyone doesn’t need one, but if education is important to a person, he/she will get a degree against all odds.

bootney farnsworth

July 26th, 2010
5:33 pm

besides Zell Miller, who was the last gov in 100 years who really
gave a damn about education?

Any diploma on her wall?

July 26th, 2010
6:20 pm

Still waiting for that high school diploma. Anyone seen it?


July 26th, 2010
6:50 pm

“Does she have a big picture vision for education or is she just looking for run-off votes?” If you have to ask….


July 26th, 2010
7:57 pm

@Teaching in FL is worse- agreed. The longer we churn out little rats who run the maze of bubble tests, the more candidates like Handel will appeal to the voter lacking higher reasoning skills. You can grow into an adult without reaching more complex levels of cognitive development. If her answers in the AJC article (wherein candidates were asked to respond to a set of questions) indicate anything, she has not educated herself in English language use outside the formal educational system. The article came out before Palin endorsed her and as I read her responses, I mused that she “spoke” like Palin.

@ Color Me Confused- As a parent, I also long for the days of smaller class sizes.
Has anyone heard/read about where we stand in Fulton relative to max class sizes by grade level in elementary? I am concerned we are going to get back to school and they will still be tweaking the numbers (based on the waiver given by state), causing us to lose teachers/classes after they have been established.
Anyone in Fulton hearing about where class size stands? I lost track of this issue amidst other budget chaos in the Spring.

Handel Is Dumber Than A Box Of Rocks

July 26th, 2010
8:47 pm

Elect this idiot and you have four more years of Perdue unless she decides a higher office looks appealing and she’ll run like hell away from here. And if she thinks Palin’s endorsement is helping her, think again cause Palin is nothing more than a high school bouncy around giggling wanna be. I sure hope the people of Georgia aren’t dumb enough to elect her.

Middle School Mom

July 26th, 2010
8:59 pm

I voted for Karen because of her goal to cut at the county level as opposed to the teacher force. So many non-essential jobs at the administrative level and county offices…leave the teachers in their classrooms to teach…stop laying off teachers!

handel for gov.

July 26th, 2010
9:03 pm

i would vote for satan or bin laden before giving roy a vote for anything. handel seems sincere enough about wanting to address the major problem group – middle school students – with some program that addresses students who are “at risk” of either not graduating or WORSE not going to college after h.s. (perish the thought!). bill gates doesn’t have a degree, either, so i’m not so sure i am mildly concerned about her lack of institutional pedigree.


July 26th, 2010
9:09 pm

Fact: The winner of this runoff between Handel and Deal will be the next Governor of Georgia.

I am a conservative and thought Sonny was a bad governor but believe Handel would make Sonny look like a saint. If you voted in the Republican Primary or did not vote at all then you are eligible to vote in the run off. If I was a teacher I would make sure I called, wrote or begged all of my family and friend to go out and vote for Deal in the run off. If you do not then you deserve what would be coming in your future.

teacher teacher

July 26th, 2010
9:11 pm

ummmm . .pass. A lot of rhetoric without deep explanation of HOW she will accomplish these goals. In addition, I don’t want a candidate whose primary endorser can’t tell the difference between “repute” and “refudiate”. I would rather have a turncoat than a 3rd-term Sonny wannabe.


July 26th, 2010
9:16 pm

no, i’m not really sure about handels views on education or any other subject. she seems to be like a butterfly in the wind. we need a governor that finishes the job. nathan deal spent 12 years in the georgia legislature and 18 years in congress. as secretary of the health reform committee he fought mrs. pelosi and president obahma for over two years. mr deal stayed in washington until he cast his no vote and then resigned. he really should have resigned several weeks prior to that vote to be in georgia and run his campaign for governor, but he felt obligated to the voters that elected him to congress for 18 years. this is the candidate sarah palin should have endorsed. the only one, according to rassmusen, that can beat roy barnes in november. hey georgia…we’ve only got one shot to get in right in november…so take good aim.

Nothing We Can Do

July 26th, 2010
9:43 pm

Vouchers are a complete joke and unworkable in most if not all of Georgia where there is no public transportation system.


July 26th, 2010
11:14 pm

Clearly Deal is the better choice. What messages would we be sending our children if we voted for someone who has not obtained a college degree? I value education, and I think that education is the most significant factor that determines success. How can Handel discuss topics on education when she clearly couldnt even qualify to be a paraprofessional? The rest of the U.S. will be laughing at us, if this woman is elected.

Ros Dalton

July 26th, 2010
11:29 pm

@GoodforKids Per this article:


I believe Fulton is sticking with the state max class size limits. As far as I’m aware there were no plans for to apply for waivers for Fulton schools anyway, so when the waivers became default it didn’t change any plans here.

Old School/Catholic School

July 26th, 2010
11:49 pm

I’m betting than Karen 1) longs for the old days, when the STUDENTS were the ones doing the cheating, and 2) knows that the real and basic problem with education is the PARENTS.


July 27th, 2010
12:12 am

Thanks, Ros Dalton for link. if article is still correct, Fulton is looking good on class size.
I try to keep up and thought state had cleared the path for higher numbers in the Spring. I had a teacher friend (I am just a parent) tell me last week that Fulton had received approval of waiver request from state and it could affect our class sizes as we begin year. Her specifics seem to be wrong but I think her concern is that Fulton is currently considering implementing higher numbers accorded by state. Hmm. If anyone else has heard anything…

Wounded Warrior

July 27th, 2010
1:25 am

Handeless appears to me to be a liberal woman desparate for any votes. She quit high school, and ‘attended college’. She couldn’t be truthful about that. She panders to whatever to group she is near. How could she be the CEO of any company, w/o any college degree, or leadership experience. She takes cheap shots and hope that they stick. The Army doesn’t allow dropouts to be e-1, but she would be in charge of the National Guard??? I think she would be worse than Sonny is now.

Wounded Warrior

July 27th, 2010
1:30 am

Handeless is 48. In 30 years, she couldn’t get a GED or college degree? She didn’t even raise a family…so what was the hold up? I got my associates when my girls were babies…now working on my bachelor’s.

Wounded Warrior

July 27th, 2010
1:31 am

Handel comes across to me as greedy as Linda Sherynko was.

Vote No on Karen "Scandal" Handel

July 27th, 2010
2:50 am

Karen Handel isn’t smart enough to complete ONE semester in a Maryland community college, and now, she wants to be our governor???

I hope and pray everyone will get out and vote on August 10th for Nathan Deal. Nathan cares about education; that’s why he got one.

Vote No on Karen "Scandal" Handel

July 27th, 2010
2:53 am

Karen Handel is a dropout from Maryland who can’t/won’t even prove she graduated from high school. Her resume has more lies and exaggerations on it than George O’Leary’s.

Let’s keep Scandal Handel out of the Governor’s Mansion for the sake of our children.


July 27th, 2010
3:20 am

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]


July 27th, 2010
6:19 am

Jeff, and Vote No on Karen, just what is it about a college degree or even a law degree that you think has helped out with the US Congress or Senate or even the President? I am fine with someone not having a degree and running things in an everyday person’s perspective. It didn’t seem to hurt Bill Gates and many other successful people that never got a degree. They have to work harder and think more to get ahead!

Teaching Family

July 27th, 2010
6:36 am

@ Good for Kids… My understanding is that Fulton based the number of teachers deemed needed for 2010-2011 on max state class size numbers. That is currently in effect. However…as new students begin to enroll in August, waivers will be granted to exceed class size, rather than opening new classrooms.

Regarding Handel…It’s hard to believe, we’ve narrrowed our choices down to Barnes, Deal or Handel. It would be easier to take a chance on Handel if she had a college degree. I do like her recognition that Georgia needs a technical degree path b/c not everyone has the personality or drive for an education focus on liberal arts. We know where Barnes stands. I think his educational decisions in the early 2000’s were made to support education long-term. However, how do you trust someone that caters to teachers with one speech to get votes, and acts in a different manner?

Where does Deal stand with education? I’ve read his outline. It’s vague and standard republican mantra that says very little (but implies a lot). I’d like to hear what education means to him and his family.

Any diploma on her wall?

July 27th, 2010
6:48 am

Handel should publish her high school diploma, if she actually has one. I won’t believe she has one until I see it in print.


July 27th, 2010
7:07 am

How about her birth certificate? ; ) While I think Deal is the better choice; we don’t really know the reasons that she quit school (at least I don’t). I know I quite college after the first year to get married, because that was more important to me at the time. Of course, I did go back to school when I was in my early 30s with three kids under the age of 7 and graduated magna cum laud from UGA, so it can be done.