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Citizens tell legislators how to change education system

Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013 9:41 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 12:58 AM
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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.

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avidreader 12/04/13 - 06:57 am
"We Need Money"!

What a surprise! Since 2008, the powers-that-be have taken so much from the teachers, yet they continue to push and push for better results. Math classes practically dominate our computer labs. The Common Core math curriculum is a big mess -- just look at the data; it's easy to find. Many of my fun, but academically stimulating assignments have had to be omitted from my curriculum simply because I cannot reserve lab space.

And I hate to even think about furloughs. Every teacher that I speak with agrees that the chance of ever getting these days back is slim to none. Furloughs wouldn't be so bad if prices in the retail sector were stable. Insurance, food, clothing, and all other mainstay items are out of this world concerning costs. In 2008, my wife and I always had money to put away for savings, but not now. We are double-whammied with furloughs -- we're both teachers.

I appreciate that our BOE is concerned with money; they have to be. But it's tough on teachers with families, especially those who have children in college (or daycare, or anywhere). Something's got to change. I am a professional educator, not a fresh face, direct from college, wanting to kill a couple of years before moving on.

However, I will continue to give my students all the energy I can muster. But our leaders need to quit pushing us to the brink. Our job is tough enough without the constant barrage of "innovative" techniques -- which are usually just old techniques repackaged and designed to torture us. The paperwork and parental surrogacy issues are dominating so much of our valuable time.


Truth Matters
Truth Matters 12/04/13 - 07:40 am
"I am a professional

"I am a professional educator, not a fresh face, direct from college.."

Hats off to you and your spouse, Avidreader.
I question if legislators and many of the public fully understand the effect of frequent teacher turn-over on student progress. As an observer of educators, I would say that it takes a minimum of 3 years for the average teacher to really get a hang of the job. We lose potentially excellent teachers every year because of furloughs and other work conditions that are totally beyond their control. Yes, many can go through the motion, but that is not the same as teaching with a passion that sparks students to have a desire to learn. New teachers need successful and seasoned teachers as mentors from whom they can learn.

The Pre-K program was thrown into chaos when the governor reduced the number of days and subsequently their pay. Veteran Pre-k teachers went to other grade levels where the pay is better. Who can blame them?

Wish I could have attended the meeting.

bright idea
bright idea 12/04/13 - 11:18 am
I applaud

I applaud those that showed up to voice their concerns and the politicians who were there but everyone must realize it was just a dog and pony show. Georgia is controlled by metro Atlanta and private education is taking over there. Privates would take over rural Georgia too if the money were available to support it. That's why charter school laws and tax credits are in vogue. There's not much hope to improve public education and those in charge of it are the ones to blame. Instead of committing to discipline and order they whine about money.

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