Your morning jolt: Democrats condemn end of limits on class size, Republicans split

The state Board of Education on Monday voted to gut its limits on class sizes over the next year in response to a deepening school budget crisis that has already forced thousands of teacher layoffs and shorter school years across the state.

The move prompted criticism among a majority of candidates for governor, especially Democrats in hot competition for the public school constituency.

But Republicans were decidedly split in their reactions — Karen Handel and John Oxendine called it was a bad idea, Nathan Deal described himself as “disappointed,” Jeff Chapman declared it “the best thing,” and Eric Johnson said “vouchers.”

We asked the major candidates to send us a paragraph or so of commentary on the topic. In alphabetical order:


Attorney General Thurbert Baker:


“For a decade, our leaders have been on a spending spree with a credit card. Now the bill has come due, but instead of cutting government waste to pay for their spending, the politicians are cutting education, just like they always do. Education is the last place they should cut, not the first. Georgia’s kids deserve better.”

Former Gov. Roy Barnes:


“Georgia’s current state leadership traded our children, their teachers and our schools for corporate tax giveaways. They should be ashamed. Furloughing teachers and allowing the drastic increases in class sizes while providing funding for special interest tax breaks and fishing initiatives is not just a failure in leadership, it is a failure in the basic responsibility of state government.”

House Democratic Leader DuBose Porter:

“I am absolutely opposed to the state school board lifting all limits on class sizes. I voted against the legislation that allowed this to happen. We’ve proved smaller class sizes improve student achievement at Saxon Heights Elementary School in Dublin, Georgia, in the mid-1990s when I chaired the House Education Committee.

“Instead of blaming teachers for low scores, we gave them needed tools — including smaller class sizes, support technology, and 100 percent parental involvement. Giving teachers these needed tools allowed Saxon Heights to transform from having some of the state’s lowest reading scores to achieving some of the highest in one year.”

Former National Guard commander David Poythress:


The state Board of Education’s decision to lift class size restrictions is the latest in a string of bad decisions and wrong priorities by our state’s leaders. The Georgia Constitution mandates universal public education and our state’s economic vitality depends on a workforce prepared to compete in the global marketplace….

“The last place we should make through-the-bone cuts is in education. If we don’t invest on our children now, we will be building more prisons later.”


State senator Jeff Chapman of Brunswick:


“The best thing that could ever happen to Georgia’s K-12 education is to have less interference from federal and state government and more local control. Classroom size mandates from the [state] Department of Education are just another example of big government interference… interference that, if not checked, can be corrected at the ballot box.

“I truly believe and studies have proven that if parents become more involved in their children’s education and insist that discipline be returned to the classroom Georgia education would be much better off.”

Former congressman Nathan Deal:


“While I am disappointed that the state school board removed the maximum class size requirement for the next school year, I am reassured that local boards of education will make the final decisions on how best to serve the students in their local communities during these tough times.

“There are no easy answers, but local control allows for flexibility while holding local school boards accountable for student progress. As governor, I will aggressively support school districts’ efforts to determine what skills are needed to produce college, work and life-ready students.

Former secretary of state Karen Handel:


“This is a terrible idea and will simply serve as a route to firing even more classroom educators. We cannot balance the budget this way — we need to make significant, permanent cuts but exempt classroom teachers and public safety personnel. I announced a plan to do just that.

“There is room to cut administrators and others who work outside of classrooms, but not front line teachers. That would have a significant, long-term detrimental effect on education.”

Former state senator Eric Johnson of Savannah:

“[Monday's] decision simply begs for total reform of education funding in Georgia. Everyone, even the school board member that votes to remove class size limitations, wants to achieve lower class sizes. Furthermore, I believe there is enough money in our system to avoid teacher furloughs and class size increases while providing a quality public education.

“The problem is that a lack of competition in the education market place has led to inefficiency and bloated bureaucracy. If the money is allowed to follow the child to the school of their parent’s choice, taxpayers, teachers and children will benefit.”

State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine:


“If Georgia is going to be the best state in the nation to raise a family and start a business, we must ensure that we put our children first by providing them the best possible education. Fully funding our classroom teachers and giving them the tools they need must be the top priorities in our public schools.

“I am adamantly opposed to teacher furloughs, cuts, or taking away incentives for our top performing teachers. As Governor, I know that tough decisions will have to be made, but any cuts in education need to impact bureaucrats, administrators, and then support staff – not teachers, who have the greatest influence on our children.”

Rasmussen Reports is out with a pair of monthly Georgia polls. In the governor’s race:

Democrat Roy Barnes trails three of his top four Republican opponents for the governorship of Georgia again this month. Barnes’ rival for the Democratic nomination, Thurbert Baker, runs a distant second to all the GOP hopefuls.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Georgia finds Congressman Nathan Deal still running slightly stronger than the other Republicans. Deal earns 47% support to Barnes’ 40%, virtually identical to his 46% to 39% lead a month ago. Against Baker, Deal posts a 47% to 30% lead.

State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel edge Barnes by nearly identical margins – 43% to 39% and 42% to 39% respectively.

And in the U.S. Senate race:

Incumbent Republican Johnny Isakson is now posting nearly a two-to-one lead over Democratic challenger Michael Thurmond in Georgia’s race for the U.S. Senate.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Georgia shows Isakson with 57% of the vote while Thurmond earns 30% support. Six percent (6%) prefer some other candidate, and eight percent (8%) are still undecided.

A month ago, after Thurmond first entered the race, Isakson held a 51% to 35% lead.

Reuters reports that Richard Shelby of Alabama and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia will serve on a Senate conference committee tasked with finalizing a sweeping rewrite of financial regulations in Congress.

Shelby is the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee and Chambliss holds a parallel position on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Both lawmakers voted against the overhaul last week.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

57 comments Add your comment

Mr. Grumpy

May 25th, 2010
10:09 am

Well, what do expect you’ll get from a Rasmussen Poll, “Dems leading Repubs” ? Get serious! Has anyone ever seen a Rasmussen Poll that didn’t favor Republicans?

Monroe Burbank

May 25th, 2010
10:09 am

Roy Barnes states “Georgia’s current state leadership has traded our children, their teachers and our schools for corporate tax giveaways.” Amen, Roy.

The ideologically-blinded conservatives who have consistently voted in these politicians over the past 8 years are responsible for the train wreck our state has become. Looks like the chickens are finally coming home to roost. Deal with it.

Don Juan

May 25th, 2010
10:13 am

““The best thing that could ever happen to Georgia’s K-12 education is to have less interference from federal and state government and more local control. Classroom size mandates from the [state] Department of Education are just another example of big government interference… interference that, if not checked, can be corrected at the ballot box.”

Huh? So increasing class sizes to astronomical sizes is a good thing, as long as the locals do it?


May 25th, 2010
10:20 am

I cannnot see how any parent or teacher can possibly vote Reoublican in the next election. In nearly 8 years in office, Perdue and his cronies have devastated public education.


May 25th, 2010
10:21 am

Yea…Roy Barnes knows it all, doesn’t he? His only accomplishment was to change the state flag, trying to satify everyone, and even screwed it up. His opinion is not even worth the ink on the laser printer to read it from.


May 25th, 2010
10:26 am

“The last place we should make through-the-bone cuts is in education. If we don’t invest on our children now, we will be building more prisons later.” – David Poythress

There’s the guy that gets it.


May 25th, 2010
10:33 am

Cutting the budget to balance it is not just a matter of prioritizing. The state already spends the vast majority of what it collects on its priorities. The governor’s proposed FY 2011 budget expends 96 percent on the following:
Education (K-12, Board of Regents, Technical College System, etc.)
Health (Department of Community Health and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities)
Public safety agencies, including corrections
Department of Human Services
Department of Transportation Debt service (a legal obligation)
All other state agencies comprise only four percent of the budget; we spend only $691 million on 21 agencies. Most have already been cut twenty percent or more since the pre-recession FY 2009 budget. What will happen if they are cut another 5, 10, or even 20 percent more?
Georgia has one of the lowest State budgets per capital. Georgia has a revenue problems. One solution would be to allow casinos and horse racing these are volunteer taxes and would create jobs in the State. Wake up Georgia.


May 25th, 2010
10:43 am

Ain’t small government great!

Puzzling, however, that the Christian GOP is so willing to dump on our kids…WWJD??????????????????????????

John K

May 25th, 2010
10:58 am

I have no idea how any parent could vote for a GOP candidate after what they’ve done to education in the last few years.


May 25th, 2010
11:03 am

1 thing about Saxby, he’ll do what the Lobbyist pay him to do. You the man Saxby.


May 25th, 2010
11:08 am

The irony here is many of the above names are the same ones at the helm during the spending sprees they criticize. I notice all of them are quick to criticize but few have offered anything substantive. And the ones that have could have done so years ago instead of waiting until now. Monday morning quarterbacking shows POOR leadership. Cute soundbites appealing to emotions don’t solve problems either. But judging by a few posts above, clearly a focus group tested soundbite is what people vote on.


May 25th, 2010
11:09 am

Bigger class sizes? So what? In college, there are freshman classes at state schools that are well over 500. Quit spoiling your kids into thinking that you/the state will cure all that is wrong by having smaller class sizes. My family has made alot of cuts to weather this storm. Teachers & schools should be able to do the same.

Obama will cure this by making a $23 billion bail-out to “save our teachers”


May 25th, 2010
11:11 am

Can I ask all the people that want to cut taxes in this state tell me where to cut in this state. Politicians are lying to you there is no where else to cut that will not impact Education or Public Safety. Period. Take your choice. This is not the Federal Government with the blotted budgets. We have the lowest gas taxes, cigarette taxes and Beer and Wine excise taxes. Tell me who runs this place the lobbyists.


May 25th, 2010
11:14 am

MiltonMan, you are obviously not a parent of school age children.


May 25th, 2010
11:16 am

Sad day when Washington cares more for our kids than Georgians do.

Sad, sad day.


May 25th, 2010
11:22 am

clem, you are obviously clueless. I have one child who went through the public schools & alot of one-one from me to comprehend math – math teachers in high school were a joke. This child is currently in dental school at the MCG in Augusta. Another child in private school with a 4.1 GPA; all honors courses; works at Publix will be majoring in pre-dental. Another son who is in public school and will more than likely get a scholarship offer from a service academy. The youngest will be entering high school next year – never as made any grade other than an A.

I have spent alot of time with each child teaching them math/science (I’m an engineer) and was a better teacher in the subjects than most, if not all, of the teachers in the public schools.

Care to discuss further?

Not Going To Use My Usual Name

May 25th, 2010
11:32 am

For the love of heaven, this is not brain surgery. Taxes have to be raised. Cuts to essential services like education have to stop. Pair this with the prison situation in Georgia (1 in 70 in prison right now, according to the AJC, one of the highest per capita rates in the nation and many for nonviolent crimes), and you have a very clear picture of Republican priorities.
1) Don’t take my money.
2) I don’t care about anybody but me, and I can teach MY kids just fine. Cut education, I don’t care.
3) Anyone who looks at me funny, takes a drug, or breaks any kind of law should be thrown in jail.

Seems like that’s the administration the state voted for and that’s the administration the state got.

Not Going To Use My Usual Name

May 25th, 2010
11:37 am

Perfect, MiltonMan proved my point.


May 25th, 2010
11:37 am

Yeah, milton man. Tell him. And if a child doesn’t have the parents with the resources or desire to do what you did. Too bad. Should have been born to better parents. These 5 year olds need to learn to pull themselves up by there own bootstraps.


May 25th, 2010
11:43 am

Staffers on the loose!


May 25th, 2010
11:47 am

If you want to give local communities the ability to run their own school than why does the state tie the hands of local school boards so they can’t raise local taxes to pay for them as they see fit. Schools districts all around metro Atlanta (even in the solid conservative Republican counties) are cash strapped and are restricted in raising local taxes to pay for local schools.


May 25th, 2010
11:48 am

Sonny Perdue should be ashamed to show his bald head with what he has done to this State. The only people who benefited from him being Governor is the people from Perry and his banker. The Kids have suffered, Teachers have suffered, Marta has suffered, The roads have suffered only the wealth retirees is all Sonny thinks about could that be because he is soon to be among the wealth retirees.

not on my watch

May 25th, 2010
11:51 am

Let the pandering to teachers begin. The people running for governor know who will butter their bread. Unfortunately, they speak with forked tongues.

Like RED said earlier, most of these people helped us get where we are now.

MiltonMan: I’ve known plenty of engineers who couldn’t tie their own shoes, let alone teach in a classroom. How lucky your children are that you are the exception. DO NOT assume everyone lives the charmed life your children do.


May 25th, 2010
11:54 am

Roy’s commerical say no More Teacher furloughs (Cost Money)


May 25th, 2010
11:55 am

Roy’s commerical says Teacher raises (Cost Money)


May 25th, 2010
11:56 am

Roy’s commerical says he will give you back your Property tax break this cost over $500 million. (Cost Money) Get the idea.

The Cynical White Boy

May 25th, 2010
11:57 am

Dang, I can’t decide which is funnier – the pic of Thurbert “Rug” Baker, or the quote by King Roy the BRAND NEW FRIEND of teachers.


May 25th, 2010
12:01 pm

We have about 14 people running for Governor and there is not a bright bulb in this pack. Can we have a do over on this election cycle.

Avery Bundren

May 25th, 2010
12:01 pm

Why all the furor about class size? On any given day in Georgia classrooms there will be a few legitimate absences among the students. In addition, there will be another three or four who are “laying out.” Add these numbers to the ones who are in jail or in court and you probably have an average class size of twenty students or so, a manageable number it seems to me.


May 25th, 2010
12:02 pm

I like that this has evolved into a discussion about the problems of Georgia Schools . Now, lets all put our collective heads together and start making positive suggestions on how to make OUR schools better places to learn. THen we must remember, no one can learn anyone anything. It is up to the learner to learn we can only provide the opportunity. I’ll start. How many of US can give one hour per week to volunteer at a local school? I can listen to a first grader read. Many of you possess better abilities, but we all can do something even if it is only to listen to a first grader read.

No Longer Republican

May 25th, 2010
12:04 pm

I agree with Patricia…this man understands and is the only one who is not a career politician. We need change in Georgia NOW!!!


May 25th, 2010
12:05 pm

Monroe Burbank – Please. Give us a break. What has happened with GA’s economy is part of what has happened in the country and in every state, whether it have Dems or Reps in office. There is enough blame to go around to the present Dem Congress, the previous Rep Congress, the present Dem Pres, the previous Rep Pres and every elected official at every level of either party.

Your trying to turn this into an us vs. them blame game shows that you have no original ideas to bring forward. The world is full of people who try to take advantage of a situation and those who try to work to change things. Your ilk thinks there is advantage to pointing fingers and assessing blame. There isn’t. Most people are as sick of Barnes and the Dems as they are of the Reps. Most people are tired of the playground antics of our “leaders” and don’t really care which party is in office. Most of us care about solutions and abilities.

Your buddy Roy has already proven he is an incompetent micro-manager who doesn’t want to listen and has ideas that are as modern as the typewriter: a manual typewriter. He has already been rejected and the voters are tired of his pandering.

BTW, why no lottery protector ads this time? Wasn’t that Roy’s big issue eight years ago? There seemed to be endless commercials with Roy telling us if we didn’t vote for him the lottery was toast. He had nothing else to run on so he tried to make up that issue, remember? Didn’t he tell us Sonny was going to get rid of the lottery? Funny, I just purchased a PowerBall ticket today. Could Barnes have been making stuff up eight years ago to pander to the voters? No, not the man who promises us now that he will take care of the foreclosure problem by mandating something that already happens anyway. Roy couldn’t have been pandering.

not on my watch

May 25th, 2010
12:08 pm

All I want is for someone to FINALLY give me my 40 acres and a mule!!!!


May 25th, 2010
12:09 pm

I appreciate what everyone is saying except Roy Barnes. After he took tenure away from teachers, I lost all respect for him.


May 25th, 2010
12:15 pm

Not on My Watch. You couldn’t afford the property tax on Forty acres and the EPA would cite you for the mess the mule made. The closest you will come will be a JackA?? and we have 14 running for Governor take your pick.

Bama Bill

May 25th, 2010
12:19 pm

Strange ? Per the reports none of the large metro school districts wanted/needed the classroom size relief and do not plan on using the freedom – then why did the State School Board take such an unneeded action ? Fishy at best ! Kox is not as smart as a first grader but this is really strange.

GA Voter

May 25th, 2010
12:19 pm

Here is what needs to happen. The state needs to let the local counties/BOEs to make their own decisions. Get out of the way basically. Another thing is the school districts need to learn that teaching the child is more important that giving the BOE and Superintendent 3 secretaries. Start cutting the fat at the central offices. Many of these jobs can be combined and 5 board members, asst. Sup. and Superintendent can survive on 1 secretary – my executive team of 6 people does it and does it well. Also, do schools really need 4 assistant principals? I seem to think 1 principal and 2 assistants can do just fine. Teachers need to focus on teaching and need to be in the classroom. And there is nothing wrong with larger class sizes as long as it is at the middle and high school level. These students are going to go off to college and see class sizes of several hundred and there is nothing wrong with getting them prepared. Plus the older students should be easier for one teacher to handle. However, small class sizes do need to be continued at the Pre-K, Kind., 1st, 2nd, and maybe even the 3rd grade level. After that increased sizes shouldn’t matter.

One thing that needs to be said but no one has the cajones to say it: start closing schools. That needs to happen period. Over the last two decades we have gotten use to the bigger, better school thought and for that reason a lot of these school districts have gotten too big and have too many schools. When I hear parents cry, scream, and moan about a school that only has 137 students close down so they can merge with a nearby school of the same size and still be smaller than other schools in the district; then I know too many schools are the problem. Sure, some districts need larger schools, but here is an idea on how to fix that – increase the campus size. You can increase a school and come out better than building and entire new school with a new staff. It is high time everything as far as education goes is on the table and frankly some things need to be discussed and hard decisions made. Education is important – but let’s be realistic in developing a stable – working pattern.


May 25th, 2010
12:23 pm

I work in eduction and I think that one of the fundamental problems with our education system is that students and parents take it for granted. If students had to continuously earn the right to stay in school like they do in other countries, and were faced with the threat of losing it, they would have more incentive to succeed. Students are driven by rewards and the promise of rewards, and right now, the only real reward for working hard in school is getting into a good college and a better paying job. To children, however, these rewards are often to distant and nebulous to influence their thinking day to day.

street smart

May 25th, 2010
12:27 pm

BONE Sonny changed the state flag not Barnes. Barnes said he would during his re election campaign but never got the chance because he was defeated by Sonny. Sonny Perdue said that would never happen if he were to be elected as governor but he did change the flag within 2 months after being sworn in, The first of many lies. Check your facts first!

Avery Bundren

May 25th, 2010
12:29 pm

Bill, how about learning the difference between “to” and “too.”


May 25th, 2010
12:34 pm

Clueless about government education? ..Read anything by John Taylor Gatto.


May 25th, 2010
12:36 pm

Watching these “Republicans” legislate is like watching a retarded kid stick a fork into a electrical socket. These guys are so dumb. Now we are going to be stuck with Roy Barnes again? Egad!


May 25th, 2010
12:56 pm

I work with the public and I’m afraid that no amount of funding will produce students willing to learn, behave in a learning environment and have parent(s)that are willing to enforce the education-as-a-priority home environment. If the above method is followed, the size of the classroom will not prohibit the student from excelling.


May 25th, 2010
1:21 pm

All of you govermment employees get used to it. After Nov. you are going to get what you have had coming for a long time.

A dad

May 25th, 2010
1:22 pm

Yup, let’s gut the already dismal public education system in Georgia, which was something like 48th in the nation, but keep funding Sonny’s 30 million “GoFish Georgia” stupidity, and of course, pass vital legislation like the “Keep Road Kill” bill. Georgia’s legislators are a joke.


May 25th, 2010
1:27 pm

Here’s the letter I wrote to my district’s representative:

I am writing to express my disappointment at the board’s decision to lift limits on classroom size. Smaller classes might not have a significant impact on standardized test scores, but they play an important role in classroom management issues, and in keeping a teacher’s non-instructional workload at a reasonable level, thus giving them more time to focus on teaching. Layoffs and pay freezes have already had a negative impact on teacher morale, and I fear that we will lose many effective teachers if working conditions continue to deteriorate. Considering Georgia’s low national standing in education, it is my hope that the state board will, in the future, advocate high standards, rather than merely passing the responsibility and potential blame to the local districts. What is the proper function of a state board of education if not to set and enforce standards for the benefit of our students and communities? I do not know how you personally voted on this issue, so I am asking in general, please take a stand for our students, rather than stepping back and taking no stand at all.
Thank you very much for the important job that you do, and for taking the time to read my letter.


May 25th, 2010
1:39 pm

I’m going to assume that the folks that are venting on this blog are old enough to remember the 60+ years (about the time I was in Junior High) that the Democrats ran this state. I guess you all think that the problems began with the advent of the Republican rule in the state.
No so, Lone Rangers, it began with the profligate spending and other shenanigans of the DEMOCRATS WHO RAN THIS STATE!! One of the more egregious examples is that of the voting to ban state-wide banking, thereby keeping “them damn AT-lanna banks from takin’ over the banking industry in Jawga!” God what a band of idiots and fools they were then, and, truth be known, still are. Instead of Atlanta being the rightful banking center of the south and southeast, Charlotte now wears the crown.
There are so many more gaffes that they pulled that it would take a tome the size of the Obama StealthCare bill to print them all.

J Throckmorton Malcontent

May 25th, 2010
1:44 pm

Who cares about kids? They’re always hanging around the playgrounds, reeking of popcorn and lollipops.


May 25th, 2010
1:47 pm

MiltonMan: You are probably the dumbest smart person on here. Or, rather you are the smartest dumb person. You can choose. Thanks for the laugh.


May 25th, 2010
2:18 pm

so much for positive suggestions. sigh….