ATLANTA, Ga. - Two years ago a list of 58 recommendations landed on Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk outlining the path to improve public schools across the state – both academically and financially.
Two years later, only a few of the 58 recommendations have been enacted, with the fate of the rest likely relegated to the circular file of politics.
These were not “pie in the sky” thoughts pulled together from think tanks and observers. The plan was the result of a yearlong effort by the Education Reform Commission consisting of leaders from education, business and government across the state; and appointed by Deal.
While the main focus was revamping the antiquated and inefficient school funding formula, known as Quality Based Education, other recommendations focused on teacher retention and compensation, early childhood education, Move on When Ready and expanding education options/school choice.
During an appearance on an education roundtable last week, state Sen. Fran Millar, said many of the recommendations were tied to Deal’s ill-fated efforts to create an Opportunity School District consisting of the state’s lowest performing school districts. The issue was voted down by voters in November 2016 in a statewide election.
“Quite frankly when the Opportunity School District went down on a 60-40 vote it took a lot of air out of the room as far as school reforms,” Millar said during a Jan. 5 event hosted by the Georgia Partnership for Education Excellence.
Millar serves as chairman of the Higher Education Committee and represents part of DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.
He did point to the increase in salaries for pre-kindergarten teachers as a “very positive” move, and one which the Education Reform Task Force recommended.
Millar said he still hopes the Legislature will take on the issue of fully funding the QBE, and commit to giving school systems what they earn under the state’s funding formula. The fact the QBE has not been fully funded in 30 years makes that prospect dim.
“We have to be realistic and there’s not been the political will,” said Millar. “But when you get to the point where you’ve ticked off everyone in the room and go into crisis mode [it may happen].”