Now that the recount on the GOP side of the election for State School Superintendent has been completed, it is clear that Georgia’s recent ed reforms are at risk. Richard Woods, the GOP nominee, brings a base of Tea Party conservatives and an anti-common core, local at all costs platform. The Dems chose teacher’s union darling Valarie Wilson, who, while supporting the common core, has demonstrated a blatant disregard for public school choice and charter schools. Both parties are seeing their education policies driven by a strong extremist base of support. What does all of this mean?
The state has spent many millions of dollars implementing a system of reforms largely driven by its $400M+ Race to the Top grant award. While it enacted a Common Core platform, it has recently seen its support of Common Core assessments shift to a vendor that is not part of the state consortium known as PARCC. Instead, it is developing its own assessments and while saving roughly $25 million in the process, they have given the business to one of the major textbook monopolies, McGraw Hill. In addition, the state has invested heavily in new teacher evaluations, new performance metrics, and a system to provide an alternate charter approval process should the local school districts not demonstrate a willingness to collaborate with new charter school options.
In a state that is still largely Republican, it is highly unlikely that Valarie Wilson will win the election; however, a Woods victory will take Georgia further away from a common framework that allows academic performance to be measured across states, and will also continue to wreck havoc with traditional public schools who already feel they are being short-changed in the wallet. Wilson, on the other hand, would likely shift democrats towards an anti-reform stance that aligns with the current platforms of the AFT and NEA. Charter schools will see their resources put at risk in a Wilson administration.
But here’s the rub. In Georgia, the State Superintendent is not a position of power. Why? Because the governor controls the budget. If Deal wins re-election, perhaps he can keep Woods’ agenda in check, as he’ll be a lame duck governor. A Carter administration would make for an interesting duel should the GOP win the top education post.
At the end of the day, Georgia’s citizens have made one thing perfectly clear. They don’t want the current reform process to continue, and instead, they want to cause more pain and stress in an already dysfunctional system. Teachers have been put through the ringer – they just want to stay on the current path. More change will not be welcomed.
Ed reform in Georgia is certainly at risk. How much we won’t know until the November election when some of the uncertainties will be resolved.