I am committed to improving education and I am qualified to address the issues. My wife is a public school teacher, and my two boys will attend our community's public schools. Both in the Peace Corps, and in this community, I have spent years working to reform education. I know that a quality education is the biggest determinant of our children's future success--as well as our state's.
We can't afford to play politics with our children's education. While there are many success stories in our public schools, according to most measures, Georgia's schools have failed at providing adequate resources for our students to succeed. The recession isn't completely at fault for reductions in Georgia's education funding. In fact, our current state leadership has simply refused to give education the priority that it requires. Education funding relies on the State budget and local property taxes. According to the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, Georgia's state funding for K-12 education has been cut by $2.8 billion since 2003.
The current leadership does not realize that education funding is a unique investment in our state's economic health. Treating education investment like other government spending just doesn't make sense -- as a community we reap far more than we sow when we invest in education. And when we refuse to invest, the consequences are amplified.
As a State Senator I will always advocate for investing in the education of all of our community's children.
First, we have to focus on early childhood education. In 2010, our state's current leadership will cut 20% of the funding for early care and learning. But investment in early learning does more than any other investment to close achievement gaps, and help ensure that all children get the education they deserve. Because early learning benefits both students who are likely to succeed and those who may otherwise fall behind, studies have shown that investment in early childhood education produces returns to the government of 10 dollars for every dollar spent. This investment provides hope and education for all children, improves the quality of life for everyone, and helps attract new jobs and businesses looking for a long-term home.
Second, we must value and support our teachers. Virtually every study shows that nothing is more important to good educational outcomes than good teachers. This community knows firsthand that great teachers are needed to cultivate success in future generations. Educators who work hard in the classroom should be encouraged and supported by our legislature, and our teachers should be given all of the support and resources that they need to learn best practices, to improve and to become the best teachers that they can be. And we must do all that we can to train and recruit high-quality teachers and incentivize them to work in tough environments.
Lastly, we have to spend funds where they do the most good -- in the classroom. Although funding alone won't fix Georgia's education system, the lack of adequate resources hinders administrators and teachers from managing class sizes, offering high quality early childhood education, ensuring proper facilities and employing advanced instructional techniques. Without these priorities, the school funding system does not provide for our children in the way that it should.