This year’s election for GA State School Superintendent is not getting the same microphone as the races for Governor and US Senator – nor should it.
However, for those of us who follow national, state and local education policy, this election is representative of the national conflict around reforming our public education system. We can debate the pros and cons of whether this position should be an elected one or a position appointed by the governor another time. As much as it creates unnecessary redundancies, bureaucracy and instability in our education system, Georgia has created this monstrosity by virtue of its outdated Constitution for which an amendment would be necessary to fix this dysfunction. And we know from the Charter School Amendment two years ago that it would be a painful and destabilizing process for the state.
So lets return to the question at hand. There were so many candidates in both parties running for this position, that Georgia is not faced with a runoff in each party on July 22nd to see who will run in the general election. Turnout will likely be terrifyingly low and it will be these few voters who will determine which candidates secure their party’s nominations.
The election is pitting the Tea Party against the Common Core, and pitting an DFER against a status quo candidate supported by the nation’s most powerful unions: the NEA and AFT. These organizations are now undermining President Obama’s efforts to reform public education in this country.
The anti-Common Core faction is very strong in Georgia. They almost rammed through a bill in the General Assembly that would have rolled back education reform efforts and set this state’s education system back at least a decade. What’s good for America is obviously not what’s good for Georgia – hence the strong forces against any national efforts that folks will presume without evidence will tread on state’s rights. Georgia has already moved forward with major education reforms and while change is never easy, it is way too soon to claim that they are not working or will not work. Miracles don’t happen overnight.
So what will Georgia do? Will Georgia vote for more influence from teacher’s unions? Will they vote to unravel the Common Core and wreck more havoc in a system that is in the midst of major policy transitions and where educators are getting comfortable with such changes? Will Georgia’s voters vote for a candidate who will work across party lines to continue to reforms that Georgia signed up to enact based on its $400 million Race to the Top grant award?
This is the moment of truth for Georgia. I hope they let the current reforms take root and not put our parents, teachers and children through more policy changes. Only two candidates fit that bill: Mike Buck and Alisha Morgan. If those two win the runoffs, then Georgia should win regardless who you like amongst the two. I know who I’m voting for – do you?