After thanking the proper state school officials, the first message that Gov. Sonny Perdue sent regarding Georgia’s winning of $400 million in federal education money could well have been directed at Nathan Deal, the Republican nominee for governor.
“I want to say one again, for many who have feared that this is federal intrusion, the feds gave us no rules. They said, you put together a plan that you can implement,” Perdue said Tuesday afternoon at a celebratory press conference.
During the runoff, the Deal campaign fumbled when asked its position on Perdue’s pursuit of “Race to the Top” money – first dismissing it, because of the alleged strings attached. Deal quickly reversed his position.
John Barge, the Republican nominee for school superintendent, has specifically questioned the wisdom of pursuing Race to the Top money. It was one of the reasons that the governor backed an unsuccessful attempt Bryant to run for a full term as an independent candidate.
But this afternoon, Barge quickly issued a statement saying that, if elected in November, he would not give the money back. Said Barge:
As I have said in the past, if elected, I will faithfully administer the programs and policies set by the governor and the General Assembly and look forward to doing so if I am chosen to be our next school superintendent.
The link between the testing scandal in the Atlanta city school system, now the subject of a state investigation, and the new federal funding was an obvious question for reporters.
How concerned are you that more pressure to do well on standardized tests might tempt teachers to cheat? the governor was asked.
“That’s why I’ve been so vigorously pursuing integrity in our testing system, because I do believe that going into the future, you’ll have more and more emphasis on this, and more and more people rewarded on that basis. That is the way life works.
“I don’t think we’re satisfied in this state to sit back and have a level that dumbs down to mediocrity what we expect of our children. Georgia’s future rests on not just being average…but in excelling and exceeding.
And this money will give us the opportunity to prove that’s possible.”
The governor was then asked if he had any concerns about giving some of the $400 million to the Atlanta school system. Said the governor:
Perdue was also questioned about how long he thought the state investigation of the Atlanta school system, which he himself ordered, might take – or how much it might cost.
Said the governor:
“We don’t know the breadth at this time. We can’t predict that. I’m not willing to put an end time to this. Obviously, Bob Wilson and Mike Bowers know that it is timely, and that we want it completed as quickly as possible – so that all those teachers out there who may feel impugned by situations like this can absolutely be cleared as quickly as possible.
“As far as cost, we don’t know exactly how much it will cost. But I’ll be honest with you, how much does it cost if we don’t look. That the way I look at it.