Georgia needs to create and maintain public policies that will allow our educational system to be more innovative and flexible while empowering teachers and parents. Local control is vital in our school systems because those closest to the student know their needs best. Reforming Georgia's education system is not only a critical investment in our students, but also our state's future workforce and long-term economic success.
There is no question that Georgia's current education system is in much need of reform. Our students deserve it and we will continue to push for it. We must embrace innovative ideas that are aimed at providing a successful platform for our students to thrive and graduate ready to compete in a 21st century market place.
Status quo can be stale and outdated, but thinking outside of the box offers innovative opportunities that best fit the needs of each student. Some students may be equipped to "Move when Ready" and begin college courses as a Junior or Senior in High School. Others simply need a smaller class size and more individual attention from a teacher, which can be accomplished when school systems are free from some mandates. Other students have skill sets that best fit a rigorous technical education, preparing them for a future workforce that demands more technical expertise. Still some students and parents embrace the choices that come with a charter school which provides greater flexibility.
At the end of the day, it is the needs of our students that should drive our public policy decisions, recognizing the vast array of talent and potential each student and school system bring to the table.
While we are constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget, our goal has been to prioritize our spending cuts and hold education unharmed during this economy. The good news is while our state has taken necessary cuts, we prioritized spending and K-12 education was largely protected from the larger cuts that most agency budgets experienced.
The good news is our economy will turn around and we must assure that our education system is ready to take full advantage of the benefits that will bring.
This session, real reform took place with the HOPE program. HOPE was at a crossroads due to the program's popularity outpacing lottery revenues. Program costs will surpass lottery revenues this year, dipping into the reserves $300 million. Without any changes, "checks" for future scholarships would have bounced. In other words, we had a choice: reform HOPE in order to make it available to thousands of future students or let the program go bankrupt. We are proud that Georgia families and students will still have the opportunity for a HOPE scholarship and that our state still offers one of the richest scholarship programs in the nation.