Sid Chapman, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, hopes to see significant improvements made to the state’s public education system during the upcoming legislative session.
Since August, Chapman has been touring the state, advocating for the legislative changes the GAE hopes to see the Georgia General Assembly make during the session this January.
Increased school funding, less state-mandated testing and continued emphasis on technical and vocational education are some of the GAE’s priorities this year, Chapman said Tuesday during a stop in Brunswick.
The state’s funding formula needs to be updated, he said, to allow money to be invested properly in public education.
“In the recession period, we had $9 billion in austerity cuts over a decade,” Chapman said. “We haven’t made those back up yet.”
Changes will soon come down the pipeline through the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, Chapman said. Those changes need to include a reduction in standardized testing, he said.
“What started off as an accountability thing turned into a nightmare,” he said. “No Child Left Behind turned into a nightmare. Thankfully that’s gone away, but the Every Student Succeeds Act reduces the amount of testing. We would like to see as little of that standardized kind of testing as possible.”
A teacher shortage has become a statewide and national problem, Chapman said, due not only to the overuse of testing but also because state and federal laws have increased teachers’ workloads excessively.
“It has really taken out a lot of the joy of teaching,” Chapman said.
Across the board, he said, strategic waivers are being used inappropriately by school districts to preserve money, to the detriment of students and teachers.
Strategic waivers allow school systems to request flexibility under certain state laws.
“They should not be approving waivers that are harmful to the students and to the educators,” he said.
The GAE serves as a voice for educators during the legislative session each year.
The state’s department of education and the legislators need more people advocating for the interests of public education, Chapman said. He intends to run for state superintendent during the primary election this May, to serve as that advocate.
Public schools are the bedrock of society, he said, and school systems need the support of communities and the state education department to succeed.
“We have a responsibility to the children, to families,” he said.
The General Assembly reconvenes Jan. 8.