Gov. Roy E. Barnes
Lieutenant Governor Taylor, Speaker Murphy, Members of the
This has been billed as an education address, but I'm here this
morning to talk about something more important: Georgia's future.
It's our responsibility to make sure the prosperity we enjoy
today is passed
along to the next generation.
Georgia's prosperity and the improvement of education are inextricably
The most important thing we can do for our economy is to start
schools right now.
Because tomorrow won't wait.
As Georgia's leaders, the question that confronts us is whether
improve education -- or whether we will shrink from our responsibility
fail our children.
If we stand still, we go backwards.
One thing we should always remember is that we live in a competitive
Our children compete not just with other children in Mableton
they compete with children from Tennessee to Tokyo.
So this is not simply about education, this is about whether
continues to prosper or whether we fall behind.
The currency of the new economy that is emerging in Georgia and
the world is not dollars and cents. It's knowledge and information.
prosper we must create more of it.
Where do we stand in education?
How do we measure up against states in the southeast?
How do we measure up against other fast-growing states?
How do we measure up against the rest of the nation?
The answer isn't pretty.
Georgia ranks second from the bottom nationally in SAT scores.
In fact, no matter what yardstick you look at - SAT scores, 8th
proficiency, the Armed Forces Qualification Test, high school
rates - we are failing to give our children the education they
We have students graduating from high school who can't fill out
application for employment.
And when you look at the high school graduation test and see
that it only
tests for 8th or 9th grade skills - and that 32 percent still
fail - you
can't help but know that something is wrong.
Of every ten children who began school this fall, only six will
be there at
Of those six, only three will go on to college.
And of those three, only one will graduate.
Do you believe Georgia can be internationally competitive when
only one out
of ten of our children graduates from college?
Of course not!
Year after year, the education bureaucracy says: don't mind the
scores, things aren't really so bad - in fact, we're doing a
You know, it's cute when you see an eight-year-old look sheepishly
up at the
teacher and say "the dog ate my homework."
It's not cute when it comes from the people responsible for educating
It's time to stop making excuses and start doing something about
I have a message for those who say that the education system
have, the bureaucracy we have, and the progress we have made
You are wrong.
And I simply can't allow it any more.
Our economy has grown because, for the last 30 years, we have
million new people every decade. And these people have generally
better educated and more skilled than our own sons and daughters.
We cannot continue along this path forever.
We know we can't keep importing that many people into Georgia
and we can't keep leaving generations of Georgians behind - replaced
better educated and better trained workers from somewhere else.
Georgians demand better than that.
Our children deserve better than that.
And our job - starting right here and right now - is to deliver
I want to tell you the story of two states: Georgia and North
Both are growth states. They have almost identical populations,
and demographic make up.
At the beginning of this decade, North Carolina was far behind
Georgia in education. While 47 percent of Georgia 8th graders
tested at the
basic level of mathematics in 1990, only 38 percent of North
graders were at that level.
By 1996, the number of Georgia 8th graders with a basic understanding
math had barely moved: from 47 to 51 percent. But North Carolina
from 38 to 56 percent.
And in the last ten years, while Georgia's SAT scores rose only
North Carolina gained 43 points.
Why is North Carolina improving at least three times as fast
Two reasons: responsibility and accountability.
Earlier this week, I spoke with you about the responsibility
accountability of us all.
I challenged you to give school boards, administrators, and teachers
tools they need to do their jobs. That is our responsibility.
Now is the time to also give local administrators and school
tools they need to make sure only the best and brightest teach
In the bill I will send you tomorrow, I will ask you to abolish
all new teachers.
Tenure guarantees employment regardless of performance, and in
not one of us is guaranteed a job unless we perform.
I know this will be controversial because it is bold. It says
to the world
that no group, no special interest will stand in the way of the
of education in Georgia.
Don't back away from this responsibility. Take it up and allow
encourage great teaching and reward it financially.
And those with the responsibility to teach our children must
accountable if they fail.
Accountability is a joint responsibility. It is the responsibility
educators, parents, students - and, yes, legislators and governors.
Accountability has moved North Carolina ahead.
And accountability is the only way to ensure that we improve.
The bill I will send you requires us to set high standards and
our progress toward those goals.
Yes, this means tests.
There are those who say that tests do not accurately reflect
ability or achievement. There are those who say that tests are
that it is unfair to use paper test performance for rewarding
to decide if students have adequately learned the subject taught.
I am here to tell you that there is a test coming -- a test called
And if we don't find out early whether or not these skills are
- and learned - it will be too late to do anything about it.
If we want an accountability system that will work, it must be
fair and independent.
It must assure that all students -- regardless of their race,
color or creed
or economic status -- can and should learn. And it should fully
the subjects that are being taught with the tests of the skills
need to learn.
Just as important, it must be independent of all the education
I have advocated, and I will recommend to you in the bill that
I will submit
to you, that the curriculum and the tests on the curriculum be
the Department of Education. Additionally, the interventions
for low performing schools should be performed by the Department
But just as our system is made up of checks and balances, we
must have an
independent Office of Education Accountability to provide a check
bureaucracies of all of the educational institutions that must
Education accountability is not simply about our K-12 schools.
It's about technical schools and the University System, pre-kindergarten
the Professional Standards Commission.
For there to be a check on all of the institutions of education,
independent office of accountability is essential. Otherwise,
educational bureaucracies will swallow it up and co-opt the keystone
improvement of education in Georgia.
You cannot be for education reform and be opposed to the creation
independent check on the education bureaucracies.
Your choice is simple: you can stand with the bureaucrats who
everything is just fine and what we've got is good enough.
Or you can stand with us.
This accountability system will reward great teaching and
improvement, and will identify schools that need additional assistance
possibly, intervention. I spoke with you earlier this week in
address about the most important of these interventions: for
performing below grade level in kindergarten through 3rd grade,
that I will send to you tomorrow will cut the student-teacher
ratio by more
than one-half. For students in kindergarten through 3rd grade
who need it
the most, there will be no more than 11 students for every teacher.
Counselors in every school and more social workers, psychologists,
school nurses will free up our teachers to teach our children,
those who bring to school the problems of home and a complex
But, accountability means teachers too.
Great teaching will be rewarded.
And improvement of achievement of a school above that which is
any year will be rewarded by accountability bonuses on a school
In those hard-to-fill areas such as math and science and locations
rural Georgia, teachers will no longer be paid the same salary.
bonuses will be given to attract the best and the brightest wherever
them and to teach the subjects we need them for.
National Board Certified Teachers will receive not only reimbursement
the cost to become National Board Certified, but an additional
over and above their state salaries.
The accountability system that I recommend to you rewards great
while at the same time providing us information to improve those
where assistance is needed.
The primary thought we must keep in mind is that every child
every child can succeed, and, if you have the courage to enact
legislation I will forward to you, every child in the State of
have the God-given right to fully embrace a bright and prosperous
And I emphasize every child -- with no one being left behind.
We must find the courage to require more. We must find the political
to hold our students and educators accountable. And we must use
resource available to encourage and support our teachers, to
parents, and to inspire our children to achieve.
This is not a condemnation of teaching or teachers or administrators
not meant to be punitive in any way.
This is a way - in fact, the only way - to reward great teaching
encourage and attract great teachers.
We recognize that this is a shared responsibility among parents,
students, and yes, even the Governor and General Assembly. We
all have a
responsibility, and we all must exercise and shoulder that responsibility.
In order to encourage more parental and business involvement
local schools and decentralize the control of our schools, I
that each local school form a school council chaired by the principal
containing two teachers, two parents, and two members of the
This school council will oversee the local, site-based management
control that is necessary to make our neighborhood schools better.
much talk about the bureaucracy that exists from the state to
boards, and I will do everything I can to decrease that bureaucracy.
But there is even greater bureaucracy from the local school board
the local school.
And this too must be reduced.
Without community and parental involvement, our schools will
And the creation of school councils with real power to make their
work is the way to do that.
Technology is as important today in our schools as a blue back
50 years ago.
I am alarmed by some of the things that I hear today about technology
Some folks think technology has no place in education. Well,
let me tell
you: it's the people who think that way who have no place in
Technology will remake the way we deliver education. We must
who understand technology, and students who master technology.
good-paying job will be available to any of our students in the
unless they have a basic knowledge of technology. And for students
a basic knowledge of technology, teachers must have a knowledge
technology so that they can teach it to their students.
Earlier this week, I asked you to provide technology specialists
The bill that I will send to you tomorrow will require that all
have a basic tested competency in technology before they are
Equally important, we must find ways to make our education system
seamless. A student belongs to no particular institution of education
should be able to move freely from one educational institution
I want to see movement back and forth between our high schools
schools and between our technical schools and our university
system, so that
we can provide the kind of technical training and basic skills
the business community badly needs to be profitable.
Finally, students should not be forced to attend a school that
failing them. They should have a choice.
In schools identified as underperforming three years in a row,
students and their parents should be able to choose another school
district, and the school district should pay to transport the
that new school.
I prefaced my remarks this morning by telling you that I wanted
to talk with
you about the future of Georgia.
Twenty-five years from now, the Atlanta metropolitan area should
all of north Georgia and begin to encroach on Macon, Columbus,
Chattanooga. By the year 2025, there will probably be more than
million people living in our state, and the total school enrollment
public schools will climb from 1.4 million to well over 2 million
Georgia's population as well as her schools will be more diverse
Those numbers tell us is that the challenges facing our public
only going to increase in scope and complexity.
But I also want to tell you that 25 years from now there will
be a Governor
standing in this very place, and he or she, Democrat or Republican,
recount the progress of Georgia in the last quarter century.
I do not want that Governor speaking to that General Assembly
to be able to
say that at the turn of this century, we had greatness and improvement
education within our grasp, but we blew it because we did not
courage to improve public education. That is the challenge that
Are these proposals bold and maybe even controversial?
Will there be special interest groups that will oppose some or
all of these
But now is the time for bold action.
The actions I ask of you require courage.
Can these proposals lead to your political defeat or mine?
But there are times to come to the General Assembly and enjoy
and, yes, even the fun.
But there are other times when we stand at a crossroads in history.
This is one of those times.
Be not timid or shrink from this challenge - take it up, treasure
it, and do
something that means something.
Smith Pass is a member of the Coweta County Board of Education.
also been serving this year on the Governor's Education Reform
I don't know if she is a Democrat or a Republican, I never asked
her, and I
really don't care.
This week she sent me an e-mail that encouraged me to take bold
also sent me this short poem:
"There was a very cautious man
Who never laughed or played,
He never risked, he never tried,
He never sang or prayed.
And when one day he passed away
His insurance was denied.
For since he never really lived,
They claimed he never died."
The future of Georgia's children is in your hands.
There are no Republican children.
There are no Democratic children.
Only Georgia's children.
Rise to this occasion, and generations of children yet unborn
be in your debt.
Thank you and God bless you.