On Tuesday, the same day Congressman Nathan Deal released his education plan and indicated he would open the door to school vouchers, the Georgia Republican Party released a number of inaccurate statements regarding former Governor Roy Barnes’ education record. The truth is that Governor Barnes has a lifetime record of strengthening public education and making college affordable.
Meanwhile, over the past eight years, Governor Sonny Perdue and the Republican-led legislature slashed Georgia’s public education budget by $4 billion causing teacher furloughs, larger classroom sizes and fewer school days.
“After debilitating public education in Georgia, the GOP should think twice before throwing books at glass schoolhouses,” said Jane Kidd, Democratic Party of Georgia Chair.
Teachers And Students Were Marginalized Under Republican Leadership
Georgia Began Furloughing Teachers Statewide In 2009 And 2010: In 2009 and 2010, Georgia began furloughing teachers statewide for the first time in 25 years. The only other state furloughing on a statewide basis at the start of the fiscal year was Hawaii. Teacher furloughs are usually decided at the local level, but Georgia simply withheld three day’s worth of funding for the salaries and benefits of 128,000 educators. School systems had no choice but to furlough. (Associated Press, September 1, 2009; Hawaii State Teachers Association, February 1, 2010)
Georgia State School Board Approved Teacher Furloughs: The Georgia Board of Education allowed for local school systems to furlough teachers with a blanket waiver, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in May 2010. The waiver decreased the required number of days teachers must work from 190 days to 180 days. It was only set for the 2010-2011 school year, but the Board of Education recognized furloughs as a viable cost cutting measure for school districts. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 13, 2010)
Barnes Criticized Tax Breaks To Special Interests That Hurt Education: In June 2010, Barnes criticized the current state leadership for giving away special interest tax breaks but funding those tax breaks by hurting schools and teachers. Barnes said that Georgia had gone through fiscal hard times in the past without furloughing teachers and shortening the school year. “But you cannot give the money away to special interests and then expect to have any money left to employ teachers. Somebody has to pay for the special interest tax breaks that are brought about and passed in this General Assembly and so far it’s been the school children,” Barnes said. (InsiderAdvantage Georgia, June 1, 2010)
North Georgia Districts Cut School Year To Pad Budget: According to a May 2010 article in the Dalton Daily Citizen, the school boards of Murray County and Whitfield County, as well as Dalton Public Schools have shortened the school calendar for the second year in a row to cut costs. These districts have cut the school year to 160 days, with a predicted $500,000 savings. Previously, all school districts across Georgia had a requirement of 180-day school year. The calendar shortening accompanied the teacher furloughs and salary cuts that have been implemented in these schools in order to save money. (The Dalton Daily Citizen, May 18, 2010)
Georgia Removed Class Size Limits: In May 2010, 11Alive News reported that the Georgia state school board voted to abolish the regulations limiting class size in local school districts in order to allow them to cut costs. The state board has removed its ability to cap class sizes, but, according to State School Superintendent Kathy Cox, they have put their trust in local school boards to “do the right thing.” 11Alive interviewed Jeff Hubbard, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, who said that long-term costs of this measure would far outweigh the savings, and students would lose individual attention from teachers, and discipline problems were likely to increase. (11Alive News Atlanta, May 24, 2010)
Legislature Passed Bill To Shorten School Year: In April 2009, the Georgia General Assembly passed HB 193, which, according to the Florida Times-Union in February 2009, allowed local school districts to shorten their school year or change the length of the school week. Georgia’s schools were removed from the strictures of the 180 eight-hour days previously required. (Georgia General Assembly; Florida Times-Union, February 24, 2009).
Barnes Has Always Recognized The Importance Of Education
Barnes Provided For The Expansion Of HOPE: As Governor, Barnes supported the expansion of the HOPE scholarship. Barnes signed HB 1187 in 2000, which extended HOPE to students at technical colleges. It expanded HOPE scholarships for teachers, and added Paraprofessional HOPE. The bill also increased HOPE for poor and middle class students by removing the Pell Grant offset, and added re-entry for senior year HOPE. Additionally, in 2001, Barnes signed HB 174, which appropriated more than $38 million for the HOPE Scholarship at private colleges. (Georgia General Assembly, HB 1187, April 25, 2000; Georgia General Assembly, HB 174, April 26, 2001)
1990: Barnes was campaigning on a full tuition scholarship plan: According to the Marietta Daily Journal in March 1990, then State Senator Roy Barnes proposed a “tuition guarantee” program which he asserted would “help students who couldn’t otherwise afford a college education.” Barnes’ plan promised to “cover tuition, textbooks and expenses at colleges and vocational schools, providing aid through direct grants, student loans, and work study programs. To be eligible for the program, Barnes said that students needed to “maintain acceptable grades and have no criminal record while in college.” (Marietta Daily Journal, March 6, 1990)
AJC: Barnes Proposed Providing “Free Years At A Georgia Public College” To Georgia’s Students: According to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in April 1990 detailed the education plan of Sen. Roy Barnes. The articled explained that Barnes proposed providing “four free years at a Georgia public college to children from families with less than $40,000 incomes and give annual $20,000 stipends to students who go into teaching.” Additional proposals included decreasing elementary school class sizes to a 15-1 student-teacher ratio. (Atlanta Journal and Constitution, April 15, 1990)
Barnes Stated That He Didn’t Furlough Teachers Following 9/11 And Teacher Furloughs Could Be Ended If Special Interest Tax Breaks Were Ended: In June 2010, Barnes pledged that he would not furlough teachers if he was Governor. Barnes said that during his tenure as Governor, the nation faced the 9/11 recession, but they did not furlough teachers because you have to make education the number one priority. Barnes said he knew where to find the money to end teacher furloughs. “You don’t give special interest tax breaks to everybody that’s got a lobbyist down there with a pair of tassel loafers. You say, ‘No, now is not the time to be giving special interest tax breaks,’” he said. (CBS Atlanta, June 2, 2010)
Teacher Pay Up 16% Under Barnes – Teacher Pay Highest In Southeast Under Barnes: In January 2004, the Macon Telegraph reported: “Last year no state employees got a raise — including teachers. Some considered that rank ingratitude on the part of Gov. Sonny Perdue, the beneficiary of their uprising against Barnes. (Over the previous four years, a series of raises had boosted Georgia teachers’ pay almost 16 percent to make it tops in the Southeast, 19th in the nation.)” (Macon Telegraph, January 6, 2004)
Barnes’ Education Reform Package Reduced Class Sizes: In the 2000 legislative session, Gov. Barnes pushed and won passage of HB 1187, the “A Plus Education Reform Act Of 2000”. Among its provisions were requirements to reduce class sizes over time. (Georgia Department of Education HB 1187 Summary; Act 685, HB 1187, Summary of General Statutes, 2000 Session)
Barnes Passed Reforms To Lower Class Sizes – Perdue Stalled Full Implementation: In 2006, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported: “The push for smaller classes in Georgia’s public schools began under previous Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat who called for lowering student-teacher ratios over four years. Perdue, in each of his first two years in office, delayed full implementation of Barnes’ plan, citing a downturn in the economy. Last year, he put it off another two years. This year, after reports that the state would have a budget surplus, Perdue proposed lowering class sizes by two to four students in elementary and middle grades — but not high schools — to the levels outlined in Barnes’ plan: 18 to 28 students, depending on the grade.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 9, 2006)
Instituted Sweeping Education Reform: True to his 1998 campaign promise, Barnes ushered in sweeping education reform. The centerpiece of the reform was the A Plus Education Act of 2000, which, among many changes, reduced class sizes, increased focus on math and science and reading, and created a new education standards agency and governing council. (Georgia State University Law Review, Volume 20, Number 1, Fall 2003; Atlanta Journal and Constitution, April 26, 2000)
Barnes Signed Law Regarding Teacher’s Injured On The Job: In 2001, Barnes signed HB 164 into law which provided that a teacher who was injured during the course of his/her duties and had to miss work due to the injuries would not be charged any sick time or have his or her compensation reduced. (HB 164, Act 169, Georgia General Assembly, 2001)
Barnes Enacted The “Improved Student Learning Environment And Discipline Act Of 1999”: In 1999, Barnes enacted the “Improved Student Learning Environment and Discipline Act of 1999.” The bill, HB 605, addressed character education and student codes of conduct and the authority of teachers and principals. The bill included the authority of teachers and principals to remove a student from class, implement an alternative placement and impose disciplinary actions for students who were disruptive. (HB 605, Act 302, Georgia General Assembly, 1999)
Barnes Signed Bill Into Law Prohibiting Bullying: In 1999, Barnes signed HB 84 into law, which prohibited bullying of a student by another student and required that elementary and secondary schools address methods to discourage bullying. Additionally school safety was addressed through prohibiting carrying razor blades. (HB 84, Act 282, Georgia General Assembly 1999)
A National Leader In Education: Barnes served as the Chair of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards for six years, the Chair of the Institute of Education Leadership, and was a member of the Teaching Commission. (Aspen Institute)
Barnes Took On Challenging Issues And Reformed Georgia’s Education System – Named “Georgian Of The Year”: In 2002, Barnes was chosen as Georgia Trend’s “Georgian of the Year” for the second time in three years for his willingness to take on challenging issues that would affect the state for generations. “The question is whether you give lip service to change or whether you’ll actually reform,” Barnes said. Discussing his education reform, he said, “I really thought that when folks talked about putting children above adults that when given that choice – they would do so.” Barnes’ education reforms included increasing state funding for smaller class sizes, and created school councils to increase business community involvement and strengthen local control over the schools. (Georgia Trend, January 1, 2002)