When I was growing up, my parents instilled in me the importance of a good education. They both graduated from high school, but did not attend college.
My parents have always been extremely hard workers, and they always wanted the best for me and my brother.
From them I learned firsthand the biblical principle that teaching a man to fish is much better than just giving him a fish.
The importance of an education is something I try to pass on to my own children each day.
I have witnessed firsthand many times how an education can change someone's life forever.
In my career I have often been placed in positions to work with individuals who have not always had the same opportunities to finish high school and to receive a secondary education that I had.
Many did not have parents who encouraged them or who placed a high value on education.
During my time serving as the chief deputy with Dawson County Sheriff's Office, we started the inmate GED program.
Instructors would come to the detention facility and teach inmates who wanted to get a GED. When they were ready, the inmates were tested and many earned a GED while incarcerated.
The Dawson County program continues to operate, and I know that the Lumpkin County Sheriff's Office has been offering the same program for many years.
During my time serving on the State Board of Corrections, we routinely surveyed inmates.
One question that was asked was: "What is the number one thing you want when you get out?"
The overwhelming response each time was always the same. They wanted a job.
The inmates knew that with a job they could get everything else they needed or desired.
It is difficult for a person that is a convicted felon, with little or no education, to get a job.
The number one thing that has proven to lower recidivism is a technical education.
Teaching a person a skill and a trade allows them to find a job and to earn a good living.
In the past there has not been enough importance placed on this within our state prison system. This is changing in Georgia.
The Governor recently hired one of the state's best school superintendents, Buster Evans, from the Forsyth County School System to work for the Department of Corrections.
Buster is leading the effort to revolutionize education within the prison system.
Inmates will have the ability to earn a GED and then to go on to earn a technical education. This will give them every advantage they need upon release to go to work instead of turning back to a life of crime.
I am confident we will see the fruit of this labor paying dividends very soon.
I have also had the honor to serve as chair of the Lanier Technical College Foundation Board and to witness the wonderful work that is done within our technical school system.
I also have been involved with the Dawson County Adult Literacy group for many years and currently sit on the board of the Lumpkin County Literacy Coalition.
These groups are doing tremendous work in our communities to ensure that every citizen has the opportunity to earn their GED.
We know that when someone gets a GED that, not only does their potential yearly earnings go up, but so does their self-esteem.
They are also much more likely to push their children to complete high school and to go on to attend a technical college or a four year university.
I would encourage you to get involved with these organizations and to support their work. If you or someone you know would like to work toward a GED, they are always happy to help you.
Through my work at the Lumpkin County Literacy Coalition Board I met an outstanding Lumpkin County citizen, John Gerheim.
Gerheim serves as a fellow board member and also taught many hours of GED classes to Lumpkin County citizens.
Almost a year ago he discussed with me the idea of getting employers more involved in helping their employees get a GED.
As you can imagine, many of the individuals that do not have a high school diploma work fulltime jobs and are raising a family. That leaves little time to go and take classes to prepare for the GED test. Through my conversations with Gerheim, and through his diligent hard-work and the work of others, I plan to introduce the GED Tax Credit Act later this month.
There is currently a tax credit in Georgia that allows for a $150 credit for an employer that starts a GED program in their business.
The program is very complicated and absolutely no employer in our state uses it. We have taken this program and recreated it into the legislation that I will introduce.
If the new legislation passes, it will allow for a much smoother process. If the employer will pay the cost for the employee to take the GED test and they pass the test, the employer will receive a $400 tax credit.
It is extremely difficult to take and pass the GED test without attending numerous hours of classes. It is also difficult for these people to work and to find time to attend class.
The second tier of the new legislation will allow for a $1,200 tax credit to encourage employers to help with this.
If the employer allows an employee to attend GED classes while paying their hourly wage for a minimum of 40 hours and then pays for them to take the test, they would receive the $1,200 tax credit when the employee passes.
The business community is excited about this proposal and plans to take advantage of it.
As with the current credit, the state's liability is limited to $2 million a year.
Employers will be able to pre-register to ensure the money is still available for the current tax year prior to agreeing to participate.
It is my desire that this program will give our citizens the ability to earn a GED and then to go on to attend a technical school or a four year university.
This will serve to teach someone to fish; so that they can support themselves and their families.
If you are interested in learning more about this proposal, feel free to contact me.
I will be holding the first informational breakfast of the year at 9 a.m. Saturday at Ryan's in Dawson County. I look forward to seeing you there.
I am honored to serve as your Representative at the State Capitol, and I look forward to working with each of you to make our state a better place to live, to work and to raise our children.
Rep. Kevin Tanner can be reached on his cell phone at (678) 776-5059, at the Capitol at (404) 656-0152 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.