Educating Georgia's Children
Governor Perdue is raising the bar for education in Georgia. He seeks greater student achievement, improved SAT scores, lower dropout rates, and consistent improvement in the basic skills of reading, writing, and math. The Governor believes the best way to achieve these goals is to promote local decision-making, accountability, discipline in the classroom, and respect for educators.
Governor Perdue supports flexibility and accountability in education. Approved by the legislature the past two years, this legislation extends flexibility for local school systems. Flexibility is particularly important with schools having to meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. This legislation allows school systems to distribute financial and human resources to the students who need them most. Governor Perdue believes that local educators know the specific needs of their students far better than the state.
Governor Perdue's 2005 Georgia Learns education package creates a statewide Master Teacher Certification Program, the Georgia Virtual High School , and provides local school systems with an additional year of spending flexibility. His budget also includes a two-percent pay raise for teachers and fully funds enrollment growth in education (K-12, Board of Regents, and the Department of Technical and Adult Education).
The Governor's master teacher program will allow the Professional Standards Commission (PSC) to award a Master Teacher certification to teachers who demonstrate excellence in the classroom. Teachers who earn the master teacher certification will also be able to serve as an academic coach to further the development of other public school teachers.
The second piece of Governor Perdue's 2005 education package established the Georgia Virtual High School , an internet-based public high school housed in DOE that will give students in any region of the state access to Advanced-Placement (AP) courses, summer school courses, and other advanced science and math courses. DOE has more than 60 virtual high school courses, including more than ten AP courses. Students taking a course from the Georgia Virtual High School interface with a fully certified and highly qualified teacher via email and telephone.
In 2004, Governor Perdue signed into law his school discipline legislation. It makes it very clear to disruptive students that teachers are in charge of the classroom by expanding the number of discipline tools available to teachers and schools. Disruptive students who fail to respect their teachers and fellow students are held accountable. Students with ten or more unexcused absences in any semester are not permitted to have a driver's license or permit until they resume attending school. Students with ten or more days of suspension lose their license for one year and students who drop out of school are not be able to obtain a license until age 18.
Governor Perdue also signed into law in 2004 his legislation that reorganized the Office of School Readiness (OSR) into Bright from the Start, Georgia 's Department of Early Care of Learning. The new office helps ensure that every child enters kindergarten ready for success in school and infuses a stronger culture of education into our early child care system. It improves coordination among Georgia 's wide array of early childhood programs, including the pre-K program and Smart Start Georgia . This realignment eliminated duplication and bureaucracy and ensures more money goes directly to benefit early learning.
Next to the involvement of a parent in their child's education, attracting and retaining the best qualified teachers is one of the best ways to improve education. To help the state in this effort, Governor Perdue proposed a two-percent, across-the-board pay raise for teachers this year. This is the second consecutive year that Governor Perdue has achieved a pay raise for teachers. Last year, Governor Perdue proposed a two-percent, across-the-board pay raise for teachers and an additional three-percent pay raise for veteran teachers with the addition of a step in the salary schedule.
To improve SAT scores, Governor Perdue initiated a new statewide competition â€“ the Governor's Cup. The Governor's Cup challenge is based on high school athletic regions and classifications assigned by the Georgia High School Association. A Regional Champion trophy and a $1,000 grant are awarded to the forty high schools that have the largest numerical improvement in SAT scores in their region over the next academic year. Regional winners advance to the class competition.
Each of the five high schools that win their respective classes is awarded a Governor's Cup trophy and receives a $2,000 grant. In addition, the five class champions are featured on a television program that highlights the unique strategies used to improve their SAT scores. Students taking the test from the five class winning high schools also receive tickets to an Atlanta Braves baseball game.
Governor Perdue has worked hard to save the HOPE scholarship for future generations. A bipartisan HOPE commission studied reforms in the scholarship program. The efforts of the commission led to the reforms passed by the General Assembly in 2004. Eligibility for HOPE is now based on a true B average on a 3.0 scale and triggers will be initiated for books and fees to sustain the program if necessary.
Governor Perdue also launched the Georgia Graduation Coach Program which has put graduation coaches in each of Georgia's high schools and middle schools. These coaches work to ensure that all students have a path that will lead them towards a high school diploma.
Since Governor Perdue took office Georgia's high school graduation rate has risen nine percentage points from 63% to 72%. Governor Perdue has challenged all of Georgia's students and teachers to reach a statewide high school graduation rate of 80% by the time Governor Perdue leaves office.
Even during difficult budget times, education is still Georgia 's highest priority, with over 53% of the state budget designated for education. As Georgia continues to reform its budget process, Governor Perdue will continue to make education a spending priority for the simple reason that his vision for Georgia depends on quality education.