2018 Georgia Candidates' views on - Public Education - Coalition of Georgia Education Organizations - Walker County ...

2018 Georgia Candidates' views on - Public Education - Coalition of Georgia Education Organizations - Walker County ...
Coalition of

                2018 Georgia Candidates’
                				views on
                		Public Education

                       Page 1
2018 Georgia Candidates' views on - Public Education - Coalition of Georgia Education Organizations - Walker County ...
Coalition Organizations

            Communities in
                                   2018 Georgia Candidates’
            Schools of Georgia
                                      Views on Public Education
            Georgia Association
            for Career &           Casting your vote is a privilege that you take seriously. Before
            Technical Education    you place your mark beside the candidates of your choice,
                                   you want to know how your prospective elected officials view
                                   certain issues that are important to you.
            Association of
            Educational Leaders    As members of a coalition of organizations devoted to
                                   strengthening the institution of public education, you will be
                                   able to read how these candidates view important education-
            Georgia Budget &
            Policy Institute       al issues so you can make an informed decision when you
                                   go to the polls to vote. This coalition is a powerful voice for
                                   public education in Georgia. Represented are elected officials
            Georgia Parent         (school board members), school superintendents; school ad-
            Teacher Association
                                   ministrators; members of the PTA; teachers; and members of
                                   other statewide organizations with a vested interest in public
            Georgia School         education.
            Boards Association

                                   We invited the candidates for governor, lieutenant governor,
                                   and superintendent of schools to answer the same five educa-
            Georgia School
            Superintendents        tion-related questions. These questions were designed to give
            Association            insight into the candidates’ vision, philosophy on governance,
                                   and views on specific education issues.
            Georgia Leadership
            Institute for          All candidates were given a 300-word limit per question to
            School Improvement     complete their response. Their verbatim responses are provid-
                                   ed. The answers were not edited in any way. Biographies
                                   are derived from areas of the candidates’ websites.
            Association of

                                   Please remember to vote on
            Georgia Educators

            Voices for Georgia’s
            Children               Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

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2018 Georgia Candidates' views on - Public Education - Coalition of Georgia Education Organizations - Walker County ...
About the Candidates: Governor Biographies from candidate’s website*

 Stacey Abrams, Democrat Candidate (D)*                                 Brian Kemp, Republican Candidate (R)*
Stacey Abrams and her five siblings grew up in Gulf-                 Over thirty years ago, Brian Kemp built his first business
port, Mississippi with three tenets: go to school, go to             with a pick-up truck and a shovel.
church, and take care of each other. Despite struggling
to make ends meet for their family, her parents made                 In the Senate, he fought to slash the taxes, mandates,
service a way of life for their children – if someone was            and regulations that make it difficult for small business-
less fortunate, it was their job to serve that person.               es to grow and prosper.
Stacey attended DeKalb County Schools, and she                       As Secretary of State, Kemp stopped radical groups
graduated from Avondale High School. Stacey received
                                                                     from undermining Georgia’s elections, streamlined gov-
degrees from Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public
                                                                     ernment, saved millions, and delivered better outcomes
Affairs at the University of Texas, and Yale Law School.
                                                                     for business owners, voters, and taxpayers.
She put her education to work to better the lives of
Georgians through the government, nonprofit, and                     As governor, Brian Kemp will invest in public education
business sectors.                                                    and protect our families from crime and gangs. Kemp
                                                                     will work to lower taxes and healthcare costs. He will
In 2010, Stacey became the first woman to lead either                ensure that all communities have high paying jobs –
party in the Georgia General Assembly and the first Afri-            regardless of zip code.
can American to lead in the House of Representatives.
                                                                     Brian Kemp will do the right thing – even if he has to
As House Minority Leader, she has worked strategi-                   stand up to his own party. He will put hardworking
cally to recruit, train, elect, and defend Democrats to              Georgians first – ahead of the special interests.
prevent a Republican supermajority in the House, and
has worked across the aisle on behalf of all Georgians.              A devoted family man, Brian is married to Marty.
During her tenure, she has stopped legislation to raise              They are the proud parents of three teenage daugh-
taxes on the poor and middle class and to roll back re-              ters – Jarrett, Lucy and Amy Porter. The Kemps live in
productive healthcare. She has brokered compromises                  Athens and are active members of Emmanuel Episcopal
that led to progress on transportation, infrastructure,              Church.
and education.

                                                            Page 3
2018 Georgia Candidates' views on - Public Education - Coalition of Georgia Education Organizations - Walker County ...
Candidates for Governor
Question 1 – If elected, what is your vision for public education in Georgia over the next four years?

                      My vision for public education in Georgia is one that invests in our children from cradle to career. The cornerstone
                      of my plan addresses quality public schools–our most fundamental obligation. Public schools moved my parents
                      out of poverty and, despite their continued economic challenges, allowed them to achieve progress and provide
                      opportunity for their children. Simply, public education saved my family’s life.

                   Too often, though, a family’s income or zip code determines if their child has a strong beginning or receives an ed-
                   ucation to power a lifetime of opportunity. Even now, too many children cannot access the education they require
 Stacey Abrams (D) from their local schools, especially if they have special needs. In Georgia, years of austerity cuts have left countless
                   students without a pathway to quality schooling that prepares them for the future.

                      I will focus on full funding and access to public schools, increase the focus on outcomes for students, empow-
                      er parents and educators, and ensure safe school environments. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle have
                      abdicated their responsibility to our students by voting to undermine public education again and again, siphoning
                      off funds from our schools and opening the door to interests that put profit over our children’s success. Georgia
                      must reverse the impact of these cuts by investing in the needs of the whole child from cradle to career – and our
                      investment must extend beyond the walls of a classroom to meet the needs of the whole child. We must guarantee
                      an excellent education as the foundation for mobility and success.

                      I envision a public education system that puts our students ahead of the status quo. Where students, regardless of
                      zip code, have access to great educational opportunities, teachers, and safe schools.

                      As governor, I will push for early childhood education and tackle childhood literacy. We will empower parents and
                      local school boards, and properly compensate our educators for their service.

                      I am encouraged by the progress that the College & Career Academy networks have made statewide – and I want
                      to expand upon this by encouraging the creation of career pathways in cyber, technology, agriculture, etc.
   Brian Kemp (R)
                      I want the learning in the classroom to prepare Georgia students for a bright, promising, and prosperous future.

                      You can learn more about my full platform and views on education at www.KempForGovernor.com

Question 2 – Do you plan to continue the QBE funding formula as is or would you attempt to revise the formula to meet
today’s standards and adjust for future inflation?

                        Quality schools depend on attracting and retaining quality educators—ones who are paid competitively with
                        other professions. However, research clearly shows even the most proficient educator cannot solve for the
                        broader complications of poverty in our schools. Therefore, in addition to fully funding QBE, we must adopt
                        a more comprehensive education funding formula that directly addresses the correlation between poverty
                        and educational outcomes; supports educators as they seek to best serve our students; and invests in access
                        to the technology that is an essential part of learning in the 21st century but remains out of reach for too
                        many of our kids.
 Stacey Abrams (D)
                        Some districts are able to supplement funding from external sources, but many communities do not have
                        access to these resources. We must fully recognize our state commitment to funding public schools so that
                        zip codes do not determine educational outcomes. No matter the Georgia school district, we must value it,
                        invest in it, and ensure the best quality outcomes for students.

                        The QBE funding formula needs to be updated to strengthen local schools and put students first. QBE is an
                        antiquated concept that does not allow local systems to make decisions that are best for their faculty and
                        student population. I am committed to seeking recommendations on updating the formula for the betterment
                        of all systems in Georgia.

    Brian Kemp (R)

                                                                 Page 4
2018 Georgia Candidates' views on - Public Education - Coalition of Georgia Education Organizations - Walker County ...
Candidates for Governor
Question 3– Every year, legislation is introduced around vouchers and school choice. This has been a point of contention
for many reasons for the education community, do you plan to support vouchers and alternate school choice options? What
accountability should there be for taxpayers?

                     I fought vouchers as a state legislator and will continue to fight vouchers as governor. I have worked with
                     educators to block proposed constitutional amendments to permit vouchers. Our focus must be on providing
                     high-quality, public education to students across the state. Vouchers degrade the resources for our students
                     and lack accountability.

 Stacey Abrams (D)

                     As I have stated on the campaign trail and throughout my time in public office, I am a proponent of school
                     choice and allowing parents – not the government - to make the best educational decisions for their child. The
                     student scholarship organizations and charter schools all compliment the public education infrastructure in
                     Georgia to best serve students in our state.

                     I firmly believe that every state dollar spent should have a return on investment for hardworking Georgia taxpay-
                     ers. Recently, accountability measures were strengthened through the legislative process for the SSO programs
   Brian Kemp (R)    – and the State Commission on Charter Schools works diligently to ensure those programs meet or exceed
                     requirements outlined in state law. If elected Governor, I plan to hold every program, personnel and service to
                     the highest standards of accountability.

Question 4– Equity and poverty, especially surrounding low performing schools, is a dominant issue in many schools urban
and rural. How would you leverage your position to collaborate with other state agencies to address the whole child?

                     Every child deserves an excellent, comprehensive education, regardless of their beginning. To ensure
                     achievement and preparedness, I would leverage my position to collaborate with agencies across the gov-
                     ernment to expand and deepen wraparound supports that facilitate learning for children, including access
                     to public benefits, mental health supports, ESL assistance for children and parents, and health services.

                     By engaging the whole life of the child through school and community resources, we can make our schools
                     stronger and our communities more vibrant. Promising programs abound in Georgia and we must ensure
 Stacey Abrams (D)   those opportunities are spread across the state.

                     There needs to be better collaboration amongst education stakeholders in Georgia. The Department of
                     Early Childcare and Learning, the Department of Education, and the Governor’s Office of Student Achieve-
                     ment all have differing missions, but should have the same underlying goal of systematically improving
                     Georgia’s education system. These entities should seek to partner together – and under my leadership, we
                     will seek opportunities to collaborate with local systems and community partners to address low perform-
                     ing schools with an “all of the above” approach.
   Brian Kemp (R)

                                                          Questions & Answers for Gubernatorial Candidates continued p

                                                              Page 5
2018 Georgia Candidates' views on - Public Education - Coalition of Georgia Education Organizations - Walker County ...
Candidates for Governor
Question 5 – What is the state government’s role for school safety in public education in Georgia?

                      Securing public schools requires a holistic approach that examines both external and internal threats, and
                      the state government has a large role to play in that approach. I am the only gubernatorial candidate who
                      has consistently opposed laws to weaken gun safety in our state. I have released my gun safety priorities to
                      keep guns out of the wrong hands. The safety of the learning environment must be our highest priority, as
                      the ability to learn and educate are wholly impacted by the security of our schools.

                      I will support Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) initiatives, the Georgia Education Climate
 Stacey Abrams (D)    Coalition, mental health funding, school counselors, social workers, and school psychologists. Georgia
                      schools using PBIS approaches and trainings have seen striking benefits; we must implement these statewide.
                      We must continue to support our school resource officers. As governor, I will examine funding mechanisms
                      for making resource officers and training available across the state. I will also create a School Safety and
                      Security Capital Task Force to ensure that resources for safety and security are directed where local sources
                      are unable to meet those needs.

                      Finally, we must break the school-to-prison pipeline. In some areas, our state has gone too far in criminaliz-
                      ing behavior— student discipline issues must be addressed, but with mindfulness to students’ ability to hold
                      hope for future success. I will focus on providing early interventions, intensive supports when needed, and a
                      path back to school. We must effectively dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline once and for all.

                      School safety is a topic on the forefront of every parent’s mind when they send their kids to school every
                      morning – and it is certainly a thought Marty and I have as parents of three teenage daughters.
                      Safety of students, teachers, and faculty should be our highest priority as we look for innovative and cost-
                      effective ways to secure our schools. I am encouraged by the work that the legislature is currently under-
                      taking through both the House and Senate Study Committees on School Security, and look forward to
                      reviewing their recommendations upon completion of their proceedings in December.
   Brian Kemp (R)
                      As for the role of state government, I am a firm believer in local control and trust that local superintendents
                      and boards of education know what’s best for their students and their communities. State government
                      should provide funding – similar to what Governor Deal included in this year’s budget – but local systems
                      should ultimately make decisions on the best ways to secure their schools.

           Candidates for Governor – For More Info Visit:

                                       ONLINE:                                                                 ONLINE:
                                       staceyabrams.com                                                        www.kempforgover-
                                       @staceyabrams                                                           Twitter:

                                                               Page 6
2018 Georgia Candidates' views on - Public Education - Coalition of Georgia Education Organizations - Walker County ...
About the Candidates: Lieutenant Governor
						                                                  Biographies from candidate’s website*

Sarah Riggs Amico, Democrat Candidate (D)*                                   Geoff Duncan, Republican Candidate (R)*
Sarah Riggs Amico grew up in a small rural town. From an                  Representative Geoff Duncan was first elected to the Georgia
early age, her family taught her the values that make our                 House of Representatives in 2012 for the newly formed 26th
country great: family, faith, education, hard work, serving               District. Geoff and his wife Brooke have been married for 19
others, and being a good neighbor. Her family members are                 years and have three boys, Parker 15, Bayler 11 and Ryder 6.
Republicans and Democrats, veterans and nurses, pastors                   Their family resides in Forsyth County and attends Browns
and factory workers, teachers and business owners. Political              Bridge Community Church, which is an affiliate of North
discussions during the holidays are lively – and respectful.              Point Community Church.
The know that whatever political differences they may have,               Both Geoff and his wife Brooke graduated from Chatta-
they are first and foremost Americans.                                    hoochee High School in Alpharetta where they first met
Amico went to public schools. The education she received,                 and both later attended Georgia Tech together. Geoff was
thanks to the teachers and staff who nurtured her hopes                   a scholarship pitcher on the baseball team at Georgia Tech.
and dreams for the future, afforded her the opportunity to                After his junior season he was drafted by the Florida Marlins
attend Washington & Lee University and earn her MBA from                  Organization and opted to leave school early to pursue his
the Harvard Business School. Today, she chooses to send her               lifelong dream of being a professional baseball player.
kids to public school in Cobb County because she believes                 After retiring from baseball in 2001 Geoff and his wife
in Georgia’s education system and believes that all our kids              Brooke started a small marketing company out their For-
should have the opportunity to reach their God-given poten-               syth County home with a focus on merging old-fashioned
tial.                                                                     customer service with modern day technology. This unique
She learned her values from her family and her faith, and has             combination afforded them the opportunity to work with
done her best to apply them in her career. In the midst of the            several Fortune 500 companies across the country and their
2008 financial crisis, her family bought a struggling carhaul             company quickly grew with sales reps in several states.
company near bankruptcy. Through the financial crisis – and               Geoff currently remains active as an entrepreneur with a fo-
the bankruptcies of two of the major customers – it grew                  cus in the venture capital space. Most recently, Geoff served
from 120 employees in 2008 to over 3,000 employees now.                   as CEO of Wellview Health, a health tech startup company
As the Executive Chairperson of Jack Cooper, Amico has                    based in Nashville, TN.
learned that long-term growth and competitiveness come                    Since being elected to the Georgia House of Representatives
from investing in people. In addition to paying for employ-               in 2012, Rep. Duncan has authored several very important
ees’ health care, she introduced initiatives to hire veterans,            pieces of legislation such as HB749-The Cargo Theft Act,
establish an annual Volunteer Day program, and provide                    HB152-Michael’s Law and most recently SB258 which is
paid parental leave, because she understands the dignity of               bringing over $250 million to Georgia’s rural hospitals. Rep.
work and what a good paying job, with great benefits, means               Duncan serves on many Georgia House Committees.
to families.

                                                                 Page 7
2018 Georgia Candidates' views on - Public Education - Coalition of Georgia Education Organizations - Walker County ...
Candidates for Lt. Governor
Question 1 – If elected, what is your vision for public education in Georgia over the next four years?

                      Until this year, the state of Georgia was very near the bottom in per pupil spending in the US. 38th place and
                      spending $1,800 less than average is not going to lead to the best outcome for the next generation. We must
                      do better. Governor Deal took a good first step this year, but we need to increase funding to public education
                      to deliver the kind of education that will grow our economy, attract and grow more businesses, and lead to a
                      higher quality of life for all Georgians. In the next four years we must increase school funding in Georgia.

                      Equity continues to be a big problem facing our schools. The fact that two kids from different school districts
 Sarah Riggs Amico can receive disparate qualities of education is unacceptable. While funding is most certainly an issue, this is
        (D)        not wholly a funding issue. Social and cultural forces isolate certain schools while bolstering others. We must
                      push against all forms of unequal treatment and provide every child an equal opportunity to succeed. In the
                      next four years, we should close achievement gaps across our education system.

                      More innovation is needed in education. Later start times, more technical and vocational training, the unique
                      needs of rural schools, and early childhood education are all areas we need to focus on. We should be look-
                      ing to validate and implement innovative reforms in the next four years.

                      I believe that public education in Georgia is better than it is portrayed, but needs to continue to improve. We
                      need to push locally centered reforms that give teachers and building leaders the flexibility to innovate and fig-
                      ure out how to engage their kids to learn 21st century skills. We need to move beyond end of year or “autopsy”
                      testing and into more personalized learning and testing plans. We should modernize the funding formula (see
                      later answer), we should encourage programs that engage parents and the community to participate in strong
                      partnerships with schools. And we should absolutely avoid legislation that increases the instructional burdens
                      we have continually placed on our teachers. We also need to work with our university system to find ways to
  Geoff Duncan (R)    encourage more students to enter teaching as we are facing a shortage of young teachers.

Question 2 – Do you plan to continue the QBE funding formula as is or would you attempt to revise the formula to meet
today’s standards and adjust for future inflation?

                      Governor Deal and the Georgia state legislature was able to fund our school system fully for the first time
                      since 2003. However, this funding level is based on a 33 year old formula that is in need of obvious updating.
                      At the very least, state funding must keep pace with inflation, but we also should be looking broader to pre-
                      pare the next generation for college or career. Specifically, we must be funding schools in proportion to need,
                      cover more transportation costs, and ensure equitable funding across zip codes. School Boards can play an
                      important role in this process providing the on the ground expertise and advocacy for reforms to be included
 Sarah Riggs Amico    in an updated QBE.

                      I think the Governor’s Education Reform Commission in 2015 was on the right track with its funding chang-
                      es. The QBE formula dates from the 80s and its “school period” focused formula is out of date. A student
                      based formula with clearer weights for poverty, gifted, and other characteristics is preferable. I am open to
                      revisiting the formula along those lines. I do believe it is important for the formula to give some teacher com-
                      pensation flexibility to local boards, while maintaining the implicit promises of the current model to existing
                      staff where practical. For the long term benefit of students a very rigid T&E model that treats all teacher types
                      the same is not ideal. I believe that education funding should be at the top of the state budget priority list,
 Geoff Duncan (R)     and that would include inflation adjustments when funds are available.

                                                                Page 8
2018 Georgia Candidates' views on - Public Education - Coalition of Georgia Education Organizations - Walker County ...
Candidates for Lt. Governor
Question 3– Every year, legislation is introduced around vouchers and school choice. This has been a point of contention
for many reasons for the education community, do you plan to support vouchers and alternate school choice options? What
accountability should there be for taxpayers?

                      School choice done poorly can damage our public school system. Done well it offers much needed innovation
                      and improvements. Removing valuable funding from public schools is wrong, and can leave public schools
                      with fixed costs that are too high to bear while providing a full quality education. Additionally, a lack of
                      effective quality controls on charters can allow vouchers to go to lower quality schools that fail our children.
                      Furthermore, public funding of non-inclusive schools introduces discrimination and can leave our traditional
                      schools underfunded with only the most at-risk student populations. Effective standards must prevent school
                      choice from driving down the quality of our traditional public schools.
  Sarah Riggs Amico
         (D)          Charter schools work best when providing an environment for school innovation and experimentation. They
                      are not a blanket solution for an entire school system that must contend with resource constraints and serve
                      all students. Instead of aiming for a charter dominated model, charters should inform how we replicate pro-
                      grammatic lessons learned from charters to the broader school system.

                      All three of my boys attend public schools, my sister is a public school assistant principal, and I am a proud
                      graduate of Georgia public schools. I know that well over 90% of our kids attend public schools, and that
                      should always be a top priority for legislative and budget focus. However, I do support school choice programs
                      as I feel that there are individual situations where other options are better for some kids, and doing right by
                      the kids is the mission of education. Accountability for children is at its core the responsibility of the parent or
                      guardian, but we should have some state level accountability for money spent on education, including that in
                      school choice programs.
  Geoff Duncan (R)
                      I think it is important to say that I do not believe that there is only a stark black and white choice between
                      “public schools” and “school choice”. I believe they can exist together, and because of the importance and
                      history of the traditional public schools I will give that the lions share of my efforts.

Question 4– Equity and poverty, especially surrounding low performing schools, is a dominant issue in many schools urban
and rural. How would you leverage your position to collaborate with other state agencies to address the whole child?

                      As Lt. Governor I will be able to direct legislation through the Georgia senate as well as use my position
                      to elevate issues and concerns. But aside from these formal duties, I would like to function as a node for
                      ideas and efforts at promoting equity in our school system. Whether that is improvements to the QBE,
                      specific investments in schools, or ways to deliver equal opportunity to good schools and good jobs
                      across our system, I want to be able to help coordinate a total response to the real equity concerns in
                      Georgia’s schools.
 Sarah Riggs Amico

                      A central part of my platform for Georgia is that the 4 Cs - Community, Churches, Corporations, and Citi-
                      zens - can come together to solve many of our problems. So we have to be careful by trying to solve equity
                      and poverty problems by centrally driven or purely money driven programs from the state. I will use my
                      leadership position to try to assemble these kinds of coalitions to rally around these at risk kids to help,
                      with some help from the state. From an agency perspective, I would use my business executive background
                      to work with the Governor’s office to help ensure services are not duplicated and that unhelpful bureau-
                      cratic walls are taken down.
  Geoff Duncan (R)

                                                                  Questions & Answers Lt. Governor Candidates continued p

                                                               Page 9
2018 Georgia Candidates' views on - Public Education - Coalition of Georgia Education Organizations - Walker County ...
Candidates for Lt. Governor
Question 5 – What is the state government’s role for school safety in public education in Georgia?

                     Something has to be done when our kids are being gunned down in our schools. Common sense and common
                     ground solutions aren’t as difficult as people think. In Florida, Republicans and Democrats together passed a
                     law banning bump stocks, adding a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases, and increasing the age to
                     buy assault rifles to 21. Our children, and all Georgians, deserve at least these same protections.

                     Solutions from the other side of the aisle are misguided. Arming teachers just isn’t going to work. In Parkland
                     there were multiple armed and trained officers who failed to stop the shooter. More guns in the classroom will
Sarah Riggs Amico    just lead to more mistakes and greater danger for students. Teachers should teach. We should look at common
       (D)           sense gun laws, target hardening our schools, and improving our mental health response capacity.

                     The state should take a high level policy and standards role in safety, but leave details to local boards. I sup-
                     ported this years round of budget money to help jumpstart improvements. But like most things, safety may
                     look very different in a 200 person rural school than a 3000 person Gwinnett school. So the state needs to
                     make sure not to overstep its role with one size fits all mandates.

 Geoff Duncan (R)

      Candidates for Lt. Governor – For More Info Visit:

                                       ONLINE:                                                                  ONLINE:
                                       sarahforgeorgia.com                                                      teamduncan.org

                                       Twitter:                                                                 Twitter:
                                       @SarahRiggsAmico                                                         @GeoffDuncanGA

                                                              Page 10
About the Candidates: State School Superintendent
									 Biographies from candidate’s website*

Otha Thornton, Democrat Candidate (D)*                                 Richard Woods, Republican Candidate (R)*
Otha Thornton is a son of Georgia natives; his family history          Richard Woods grew up in a military family and graduated
stretches back eight generations. He grew up in Elberton,              from Fitzgerald High School in South Georgia. Richard went
Georgia, a community with deep roots and rural traditions              on to receive a Bachelor’s Degree from Kennesaw State Uni-
which taught Otha the values and hard work which define                versity and a Master’s Degree from Valdosta State University.
his leadership. ​                                                      Richard has over 26 years of pre-k through 12th grade expe-
Otha earned degrees from Morehouse College and Michi-                  rience in public education. He was a high school teacher for
gan Technological University. After college, he enlisted and           14 years, serving as department chair and teacher mentor.
served for more than two decades in the United States Army,            During his tenure, he was also selected as Teacher of the
and retired from active duty as a Lieutenant Colonel. During           Year and served in various administrative roles.
his military career, Otha served as Presidential Communica-            Richard also brings a business background to the superin-
tions Officer and J1 Director with the White House Commu-              tendent’s position, having been a lead purchasing agent for
nications Agency under both Republican and Democratic                  a national/multi-national laser company and a former small
administrations. He earned a Bronze Star Medal for excep-              business owner.
tional performance in combat operations during Operation
Iraqi Freedom 2009-2010.                                               For his work in reducing high-stakes testing, promoting lit-
                                                                       eracy, increasing access to the arts, and his focus on putting
Otha has worked with teachers, principals, educators,                  the heart back into teaching, Richard was recognized twice
education advocates and state/district level superintendents           as one of Georgia Trend’s 100 Most Influential Georgians
across the United States to help improve the lives of children         (2017 & 2018). For his work promoting and increasing fine
and their families. He has worked with the White House, the            arts opportunities for students, Woods received a National
United States Department of Education, the United States               Arts Education Association award. He was also recognized
Congress, Senate and Georgia’s Assembly as an education                as a ‘Who’s Who’ for his educational leadership by the At-
advocate and has been a leader in shaping State, National,             lanta Business Chronicle.
and International education policies and practices. Otha was
the first African American male President of the National              He and his wife Lisha, a retired 30-year educator, are long-
Parent Teacher Association.                                            time residents of Tifton and have been married for over 26
He has won numerous awards and recognitions from orga-
nizations that include: National 4-H, Morehouse College,               As a man of faith, Richard has a record of serving youth and
Michigan Technological University, the National Eagle Scout            his community.
Association, and State PTAs across the country.

                                                                 Page 11
Candidates for State School Superintendent
Question 1 – If elected, what is your vision for public education in Georgia over the next four years?

                       To create a world class K-12 school system in Georgia that encourages and produces character, critical think-
                       ing skills, creativity, and compassion in our students’ educational experience. To reinvigorate arts, science,
                       and vocational training in our schools. To ensure that our school districts are properly funded and resourced
                       to provide a great education for every child whether they are in rural, urban, or suburban Georgia.

                       My vision has three major pillars: wrap-around services, school safety, and funding. I will execute by collabo-
                       ratively working with all stakeholders in getting our QBE formula updated so we can provide necessary wrap
 Otha Thornton (D)     around services in our schools. These services will be critical in identifying social, mental, and medical needs
                       which will set our children and school districts up for success and mitigate some of our discipline and safety
                       challenges. Secondly, providing leadership, guidance, and resources on addressing school safety. I will work
                       closely with Superintendents and stakeholders in finding tailored resources. Finally, I will address and advo-
                       cate for right funding, not adequate funding. I will ensure that Title 1 funds are being used correctly by our
                       state and collaborate with businesses in Georgia and those businesses seeking a home in Georgia to invest
                       into our public schools.

                        I was a key leader/liaison with the Anne Arundel School District and Fort Meade over a decade ago on a
                       “Creating High Performing High Schools” Task Force Committee. The vision of the school leaders, communi-
                       ty, and this committee created one of the top school districts in America and after over a decade of operation
                       and sustainment, today it is a great workforce development and academic model to emulate. The end state
                       of my vision is that every child who graduates from a Georgia high school has an education that gives them
                       viable life options and a promising future.

                       With increased outcomes -- rising graduation rates, ACT, SAT, AP, and reading scores – coupled with
                       expanded opportunities for students – arts, STEM, STEAM, career technical education, ag, and computer
                       science -- Georgia is on the move and heading in the right direction. These outcomes are a testament to the
                       hard work of our teachers and students.

                       Since taking office, I have worked to transform us into a truly service and support-centered agency, fostering
                       collaboration, pursuing alignment, and ensuring cohesiveness. We believe our schools and students can
 Richard Woods (R)
                       We’ve focused on the fundamentals in the early grades by laying strong instructional supports. In the later
                       grades, we are positioning pathways around the passions and interests of our students, leading to thou-
                       sands of students completing career pathways, participating in dual enrollment, and earning AP/IB credit.

                       Instead of narrowing our curriculum, I have ensured support, professional learning, and opportunity
                       have expanded across all disciplines from social studies, science, world language, to fine arts, career tech,
                       computer science, and P.E. A renaissance of opportunity is taking place in our schools as options that were
                       scaled back or eliminated altogether during the No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top years are coming

                       If afforded a second term, I will continue to fight for a more balanced education system that meets the
                       needs of the whole child by strengthening support across disciplines, protecting education funding, work-
                       ing with the General Assembly to adopt a 21st century education formula, raising teacher pay, increasing
                       student outcomes, and expanding opportunities.

                       Throughout my tenure, I have worked with students, parents, educators, community members, and educa-
                       tion groups to lay out a positive vision for education in our state. A vision molded by Georgians, not rooted
                       in the requirements of NCLB or RT3. We are finally charting our own course in education.

               Candidates for State School Superintendent – For More Info Visit:
                                        ONLINE:                                          ONLINE:
                                        sarahforgeorgia.com                              www.woodsforsuper.com
                                        Twitter:                                         Twitter:
                                        @OthaThornton                                    @woodsforsuper

                                                              Page 12
Candidates for State School Superintendent
Question 2 – Do you plan to continue the QBE funding formula as is or would you attempt to revise the formula to meet
today’s standards and adjust for future inflation?

                      No. I plan on advocating alongside the education coalition, the State Assembly, and the Governor in updating
                      the formula to 2019 and beyond. We cannot continue to operate on a 1985 funding model.

 Otha Thornton (D)

                     While funding has been added with the intent for it to go towards teacher raises, our state must make a
                     stronger and more sustained commitment to raising pay of educators, increasing base pay, and expanding
                     step increases. Georgia survived the Great Recession and our state economy is thriving. Teachers who stayed in
                     the profession were committed to our kids during our economy’s darkest hour. Now it is our turn to show our
                     commitment to them.

                     We must not allow TRS – a bedrock of our profession – to be eroded. We must work to ensure that raises and
 Richard Woods (R) additional funding aren’t wiped out by increased contributions that could increase the burden on our local

                     We must acknowledge that we are working with a funding formula that was based on the cost of a 1985 educa-
                     tion. Our kids deserve a 21st century education with a formula that reflects that. The money we get now should
                     be the foundation of this formula – not used as a means to cap funding. Not only do I think we need a formula
                     that is in line with inflation but also one that is in line with the growing expectations of our education system.
                     We have a constitutional and moral obligation to get this done.

                     During the development of the state’s ESSA plan, I brought together parents, educators, students, business
                     leaders, and policymakers to have an open and transparent dialogue about the future of education in Georgia.
                     In the end, we put together a strong plan that recognizes and respects the input of thousands of Georgians. I
                     would push for a similar process to update our QBE funding formula. The drivers must be: What do we expect
                     from our education system? How much will it cost and what will our priorities be? What’s best for our kids?

Question 3– Every year, legislation is introduced around vouchers and school choice. This has been a point of contention
for many reasons for the education community, do you plan to support vouchers and alternate school choice options? What
accountability should there be for taxpayers?

                      I do not support any voucher or school choice option that takes money away from public schools and taxpay-
                      ers. I will actively oppose any legislation that attempts to siphon off public dollars to pay for private schools.
                      One specific program that I have advocated against is the Student Scholarship Organization program. The
                      state of Georgia will spend 100 million dollars during this 2018-2019 school year to fund private schools,
                      while we have public schools struggling to maintain and these private schools being exempted from the same
                      standards and reporting requirements as our 2300 public schools. This is the law in Georgia and I have spoken
                      with our gubernatorial nominee and current legislators about repealing the law and policy around the Student
 Otha Thornton (D)    Scholarship Organizations. Georgia has to live up to one of our core state and national constitutional values
                      of all persons being created equal. My philosophy is that, Education is a public good, so we should maximize
                      our investment in public schools to ensure that we educate our children around the character, critical thinking,
                      creativity, and compassion. These four areas are critical in producing good and productive citizenry to make
                      our state and nation a better place.

                                                                         Questions & Answers State School Supt. continued p

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Candidates for State School Superintendent
Question 3 (Continued from page 13) Vouchers and School Choice

                      I believe our state has a constitutional and moral obligation to support public education. As Georgia’s School
                      Superintendent, it is my primary role to advocate for and lift up our public education system – fighting for
                      our nearly 1.8 million public school students and 120,000 teachers. I am a product of public education and
                      believe in the power of public education. I have dedicated over 25 years to public education as a classroom
                      teacher, school-level leader, and state school superintendent.

                   During my tenure, I have focused on promoting the great things that are occurring in our schools and class-
                   rooms. In Georgia, we have some of the highest expectations in the nation and have students with greater
 Richard Woods (R)
                   challenges and from more displaced families than ever before. Despite these realities, numerous indicators are
                   showing that our education system is succeeding. I have used my role and the agency’s influence to promote
                   that positive message. I have seen it taking hold with our policymakers and community leaders. Together,
                   we’ve worked to finally see austerity cuts rolled back, nominal raises, and stabilized healthcare premiums.
                   More must be done, but we have secured a stronger footing which will help us advocate more aggressively for
                   increased support for public education.

                      Public funds should come with public accountability. There must not be a double standard when taxpayer
                      dollars are involved.

                      I believe and respect a parent’s choice and autonomy when it comes to their child’s education. However, I
                      believe our first priority should be to fully fund an updated K-12 education funding formula before consid-
                      ering diverting funds elsewhere. Additional state revenue must continue to be prioritized to support public
                      education in our state.

Question 4– Equity and poverty, especially surrounding low performing schools, is a dominant issue in many schools urban
and rural. How would you leverage your position to collaborate with other state agencies to address the whole child?

                      I will reach out to every state level Agency Leader and establishing regular communications with them to
                      explore options in addressing equity and poverty. As the 53rd National PTA President and Chairman of the
                      Board, White House Communications Agency Personnel Director, and the Chief of Personnel Operations
                      in combat for all military forces in the country, we utilized the critical path management approach. This
                      approach ensured that every stakeholder was heard and integrated into the decision making process.

                      On poverty and equity, one of my favorite quotes is, “There is nothing more unequal than the treatment of
 Otha Thornton (D)    unequals”. As leaders, we have to be intentional on leveraging our positions in addressing the equity and
                      poverty issue by understanding our state and national history and the structural and systematic policies
                      and laws that are in place that create inequity. I have already began developing relationships with our key
                      nominees. Two particular ones are the Labor and Agriculture Commissioners to explore how we can lever-
                      age resources to rural and urban communities in Georgia. With the Labor Commissioner, we are discussing
                      workforce development between the Labor and Education Departments. With the Agriculture Commission-
                      er, we are discussing how we can leverage the agribusiness industry better bringing resources and training
                      into our rural communities being that agriculture is the largest economic generator in Georgia I am willing
                      to work across party lines for the best outcomes. As I talk to citizens around Georgia, I tell them that our
                      1.8 million children in public schools in Georgia do not have a democratic or republican tag behind their
                      name. I would leverage position by proactively collaborating with the executive and legislative branches,
                      and all stakeholders in updating the QBE formula that would take into account current education costs,
                      school districts’ economic tax bases, and needs assessments.

                      Having lived and taught in southwest Georgia, I understand firsthand the impact poverty has on our schools
                      and the barriers it has for students. We must not overlook that poverty in Georgia is very different from one
                      region to another; rural poverty has different needs and challenges than urban poverty – we cannot use a one-
                      size-fits-all approach.

                      We need a 21st century education funding formula that recognizes these truths. We must address rising trans-
                      portation costs, particularly for our rural districts.
 Richard Woods (R)
                                                                                                                  continued s

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I have spearheaded efforts to provide flexiblity to districts to leverage federal funds more effectively and allow
                      them to spend funds addressing non-academic needs, such as funding counselors, mental health services,
                      social workers, and parent and community engagement coordinators. I have worked to provide over $1
                      million to fund wraparound coordinator positions across the state to work with schools to establish student
                      success (wraparound) centers. I have also secured millions to expand mental health services and school
                      climate support.

 Richard Woods (R) Beyond coordinating with sister education agencies, I have worked with other state agencies to leverage their
                      resources to support our communities. Working with Department of Community Health, we will be dou-
                      bling our funding for school nurses statewide and we are working with the Georgia Public Library System to
                      provide library cards to every child in Georgia.

                      At the state level, we’ve adopted a common framework for improvement with the Whole Child at its center
                      because I believe that should be the focus of our work. Our school improvement approach is All Districts, All
                      Schools, All Students – All Hands on Deck! I am seeing the transformation of our agency into one that ex-
                      pands opportunities for all students, provides tiered and tailored supports to schools, engages communities
                      in a meaningful way, and empowers districts to truly meet the needs of each and every child.

Question 5 – What is the state government’s role for school safety in public education in Georgia?

                      I would start by requesting a needs assessment from each Superintendent and their School Boards, prioritize
                      the needs, and begin advocating for them with all government and corporate stakeholders. The state govern-
                      ment’s role is to set the conditions and to provide resources and leadership to all of its school districts. One
                      size does not fit all in every school district and their communities, so my role would be to seek all state and
                      federal resources available to assist each district according to their needs.

 Otha Thornton (D)

                     Each day we are entrusted with the safety of nearly 1.8 million students and hundreds of thousands of staff
                     members. School safety is our major responsibility.

                     I worked closely with the General Assembly to get millions of dollars in school safety grants to provide facility
                     upgrades, train school personnel, and enhance mental health services.

                     I supported legislation to expand mandatory safety drills to include active shooter and intruder drills. I also
Richard Woods (R)    supported the creation of a School Safety Study Committee in order to establish a comprehensive approach
                     to safety and security for our schools.

                     Under my direction, the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) is ensuring that emergency management
                     and law enforcement agencies are working closely with their local school districts. We have partnered with
                     the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) to conduct a thorough review of the safety plans of
                     every school in our state. GaDOE has made school safety a key component of its facilities review and approv-
                     al process at the state level. High-quality training is being developed and implemented for districts, leaders,
                     educators, and support staff.

                     GaDOE is working with districts to improve the climate of their schools and to ensure that students feel em-
                     powered to communicate concerns and threats to school officials.

                     Each district and each school is unique – a one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer. I am committed to
                     raising awareness about this issue, providing a wide-range of solutions and options that ensures a compre-
                     hensive approach to this issue. We must empower and equip local communities, school boards, and leaders
                     to assess and develop plans -- with our role being to provide them resources and support to execute those
                     plans effectively.

                     School safety and security must continue to be key components of our efforts to support schools and provide
                     a safe learning environment for our kids.

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