Tonight’s returns suggest a GOP sweep in Georgia, which means either more of the same for education or even less. Nathan Deal is in the lead for governor and John Barge is well ahead for the state school chief job.
We already have a Republican governor and a Republican school superintendent so we should not see any dramatic shift in how our schools or the Department of Education operate.
But Deal is not as interested or as versed in education as Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Deal’s comments on education have been platitudes rather than policies — restoring “the joy of teaching and the magic of learning” — so we are in the dark about what he will do with education, if anything.
One policy that Deal did articulate — letting elementary and middle school students take the CRCT whenever they are ready during the year and then moving them ahead — lacked specifics. In fact, when Deal announced the plan at the Capitol, a GOP lawmaker/educator on hand whispered to me later that he had no idea how such a concept would work and whether schools should advance third graders to the fourth grade midyear simply because they did well on the CRCT.
And John Barge is not the same sort of Republican as Kathy Cox, who was on good terms with the federal Department of Education and who was increasingly frustrated with the Georgia Legislature’s cuts to education funding.
Neither Deal nor Barge has promised more money, so I suspect hard times will continue for schools that cannot rally local funding.
Barge was initially opposed to even accepting a Race to the Top grant, the federal scrum that rewarded states for the most ambitious reform plans. His attitude softened after we won a $400 million grant, but he still asserts that education is a state responsibility, not a federal one.
That sets the stage for some tensions as Georgia and the rest of the nation move to national standards and national tests.
So, as we discussed earlier, we are on our way to interesting times.