When she had the chance to talk face-to-face with some of Georgia’s lawmakers about public education Tuesday, Ghazala Turabi came right out and said it.
“We need money,” said the mother of six, the oldest a recent graduate of Westside High School.
Schools are underfunded for the basics. Teachers are being furloughed. And without money for the fun stuff like traveling to mathematics competitions, students are getting discouraged.
And that’s not the half of it.
In a town hall style meeting with about 12 Georgia House and Senate education committee members, teachers, parents and community members pointed to changes they want in public education. Audience members took turns giving their view on Common Core State Standards, the effects of funding cuts, early childhood learning and other issues.
The legislators mostly listened and promised to take the feedback to Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle before the upcoming legislative session. It was the eighth and final town hall meeting held across the state where legislators got input from the public on education issues.
The group also met with about six local superintendents and the school board members of area districts before the town hall meeting.
Rebecca Brantley, an elementary school teacher at Solid Rock Academy in metro Atlanta, drove three hours to let the legislators know how Common Core is creating a “mediocre standard” for students.
She said the standards do not give teachers the flexibility to help gifted students achieve more and struggling students stay on track. She said the rigor in each grade level is not age appropriate and doesn’t promote long-term learning. The pressure of having to teach it pushed her into private education last year.
“Those students that do well on the test, once they get their treat bag and a pat on the back from the principal, they don’t remember the difference between an adjective and an adverb,” she said.
Dan Funsch, president of the Georgia Council of Teachers in Mathematics, said the many changes in curriculum over the years has hurt teachers and they now need time to adjust to these new standards.
“Our teachers are looking for stability,” he said. “I’m appealing we just stay the course.”
Monique Braswell, former president of Richmond County Council of PTAs, urged the lawmakers to trash the upcoming HB 123 formerly known as the Parent Trigger Law. The law, proposed by Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, allows for a majority of parents to petition to convert a school into a charter school or remove the administration.
Braswell said that power could be misconstrued to allow parents to fire principals on personal vendettas or grudges, leaving students to suffer.
“I believe that bill is very sneaky, I believe it’s unfair, and if the parents don’t understand exactly what it is, it’s going to do a lot of harm.”
Drummond Kurtz, a retired manufacturing manager from Martinez, said in his seven years as a paraprofessional, he saw disciplinary problems in classrooms push students behind and teachers unable to do their jobs.
“I did not overall like what I saw,” he said.
Wayne Frazier, principal of the Tubman Education Center Alternative Program, urged lawmakers to put the best interests of children first. He said poverty puts students at a disadvantage, but school districts can solve many of the classroom problems if they put aside personal agendas and the nepotism in school administration.
Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta, said the issues facing education are complex, but the public has to stay involved to make changes. He said lawmakers will now discuss these ideas, but the public must follow through, too.
“It can’t just be propaganda,” he said.