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Deal would give significant flexibility for local schools

POSTED: September 15, 2010 4:00 a.m.

As chairman of the House Science & Technology Committee, I was encouraged and enthusiastic with gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal’s educational platform. He considers job creation to be the state’s top priority and knows that jobs are “reliant on a top-notch education system that focuses on math, science and technology.”

  

“We are talking specifics about the needs of the modern day, and it relates to what in the education community is called STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Deal.

  

He also proposed developing more charter schools and career academies.

During my time in the General Assembly I have learned that parents want more choice and teachers want more flexibility. More than 700 teachers responded to Deal in an online survey. Over 70 percent said that too much classroom time was being spent preparing for and taking standardized tests. 

  

“I have listened to Georgians and believe this plan has the right elements to bring needed changes to public education in Georgia,” Deal said. “We must provide significant flexibility to local school systems that are accountable for student outcomes.”  

  

One of the unique approaches in Deal’s plan would allow students to progress to higher levels without having to complete unnecessary hours. Online assessments will be made available to teachers, allowing students to advance to more rigorous coursework when they are ready.

  

He said: “We will no longer tie the hands of students and teachers by imposing arbitrary ‘seat time’ requirements.” 

  

This methodology may work well for students who spend their whole K-12 in Georgia, but military dependents may have difficulty when transferring out of state. When my family lived in Hawaii, they had a similar plan for letting K-5 students advance at their own pace.

  

Our daughter ended the year having completed second grade English and fourth grade math, with the other subjects spread between the two.

  

This created problems when we moved to Omaha, Neb., and that traditional school system didn’t know where to place her. She ended up having difficulty with English and being totally bored with math.

  

SB 10 (passed in 2007) currently allows high school students to take AP courses online.

  

In 2009 (HB 149) “move on when ready” was passed for high school students to enter college when they have passed the required courses. Since then I have talked with several students who finished high school in three years and are now enjoying being freshmen college students.

  

Deal’s plan also addressed the economic concerns of HOPE, which I have written about several times this summer, and the financial future of the Teachers Retirement System.

  

“We have seen what the HOPE program has meant at both ends of the education spectrum, in pre-kindergarten and in college education,” Deal said. “It will be a priority of my administration to protect these core purposes of HOPE.”

  

Deal pledged to protect the retirement funds of career educators.

  

“We must be good stewards of the funds for teacher retirement,” he said. “We have seen what has happened when pension funds are invested in high-risk ventures, and I want to make certain that teachers can rest assured that their retirement fund will be there when needed.”

  

For some of you, my comments may seem too enthusiastic about the Deal plan, but the plan involves three of the four House committees on which I serve: Chairman, Science & Technology; Higher Education, which oversees the HOPE Scholarship; and the Appropriations Committee (Pre-K through 12).

  

I see “both ends” of the lottery money dedicated to the HOPE programs. It is always my desire that improvements in education continue regardless of who is governor.

  

As we get closer to the general election in November, I want to remind the citizens of Dawson County that you will be voting on three referendums which pertain to homestead exemptions for disabled and senior citizens.

  

Two referendums will, if you elect, remove Social Security payments from the income restrictions for school and county ad valorum taxes. Georgia does not count them and they were not intended to be in the original proposal which passed in 2008.

  

The third referendum will remove income restrictions for school taxes for all homeowners 70 and over. It will also increase the school tax exemption from $60,000 to $120,000 of assessed value.  

  

Keep in touch.

  

Remember, the secret of good government is a well-informed electorate.

   

Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee St., Dahlonega, GA 30533; phone (706) 864-6589, e-mail hamerson@windstream.net. Or contact Gerald Lewy, communications director, at (706) 344-7788.

 

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