Superintendent runoff pits Big Business against parents and teachers

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In the battle for the Republican nomination for state school superintendent, the last men standing offer starkly different visions for Georgia education.

Representing the education and corporate establishments is Mike Buck, current chief academic officer for the Georgia Department of Education. His opponent is Richard Woods, a former educator who vows to listen to parents and teachers more than to the other stakeholders in the education debate. Voters have a clear choice.

On one level, this race turns on public opinion concerning the Common Core national standards, which Georgia has implemented on Buck’s watch, and which he strongly defends (though carefully avoiding the actual words “Common Core”). He lists among his endorsements state Reps. Brooks Coleman and Randy Nix, two of the most enthusiastic Common Core proponents in the Georgia House of Representatives.

By contrast, Woods opposes Common Core as an ill-advised, unconstitutional nationalization and federalization of education. His more numerous endorsements include state Sen. William Ligon, the leader in the anti-Common Core fight in the Georgia legislature.

But on a deeper level, the race illustrates a fundamental disagreement over the purpose of education and over who, rightly, should be in charge.

BUCK’S WEBSITE provides the answer from his perspective. The website makes it clear that the purpose of education is to create a work force and improve the economy: “Education is the cornerstone of every prosperous society. ... To be competitive, Georgia must provide a well-educated and fully prepared work force to meet the needs of our changing economy.” Buck identifies the “stakeholders” he will work with on education issues: He “will continue to nurture the relationships between the education and business communities (and) work with our economic developers, elected officials and business communities, including the state and local Chambers of Commerce ... .”

Notice which obvious groups are excluded from all these people and organizations he plans to work with: parents and teachers. Although his website later suggests including them on an “advisory committee” (along with elected officials and business and industry leaders, of course), it is clear that parents and teachers will have to settle for the back of the bus rather than claim the driver’s seat. After all, what do they know about the work force needs of industry?

Buck’s view mirrors that of numerous business “leaders” who have proclaimed themselves entitled to control education because, after all, “the business community is by far the biggest consumer of the product created by our education system” (this is an actual quote from the president of the Business Council of Alabama). So children aren’t individuals to be educated, but “products” to be manufactured for the economic machine.

BY CONTRAST, Richard Woods places more emphasis on what parents want for their children, and on what teachers know their students can do, not what corporate executives want for their companies. His website declares: He “believes that Georgia parents, teachers, and communities should be involved in the standards adoption process and be given real opportunities to provide input and feedback.”

In other words, he opposes what happened with Common Core in Georgia – the quiet adoption and implementation of a radically new education system created by “experts” in Washington, with little notice to parents and teachers.

The irony of the Buck/Chamber of Commerce position on education is that it embraces an approach that manifestly doesn’t work. If businesses want literate, capable employees, they should be demanding an education system that returns to the type of traditional education common before the federal government pushed its way in 50 years ago. Instead, they have bought the progressive snake oil that doing even more of what clearly doesn’t work – which is exactly what Common Core does – will this time lead to success.

So by being willing to exchange true education for minimal job training, business leaders will get neither. Which of the two candidates understands this?

(The writer is a senior fellow of APP Education of the American Principles Project, a conservative advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.)

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geecheeriverman 07/13/14 - 06:01 am
Woods is best choice

I do not have children in the school system, however I do have 9 grandchildren who attend school in the Columbia County and the Richmond County School systems, so I do have a stake in who wins. The biggest problem in the school systems nationwide that I see, is the Teachers Unions. Charter schools would be a beginning in turning our education systems around.

seenitB4 07/13/14 - 06:41 am
Thanks for this article..

"created by “experts” in Washington, with little notice to parents and teachers."

These experts have mucked up a lot of things in our world. It is time to change their world.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 07/13/14 - 06:49 am

It is dangerous to base one's vote on the rhetoric on the candidate's websites. That is the evidence presented by Ms. Robbins. Website jargon can be twisted by columnists and commenters.

hoptoad 07/13/14 - 06:55 am
It appears that everytime the

It appears that everytime the government decides to get involved in something and change it, it always ends up for the worst.

Our text books have even been changed to distort history, kids were subjected to a "new" math that I believe was abandoned eventually, No Child Left Behind was a bust. Maybe we should go back to just the basics of the 1950s.

Our country used to produce highly educated citizens, sadly our educational system ratings have fallen way below the quality of many other countries and I fear it is going to fall to an even lower rating if we allow government to dictate what is going to be taught and how it's taught.

Unions need to be OUT of education.

deestafford 07/13/14 - 09:33 am
Thank you for this column...

Thank you for this column.

One of the problems I see is in elections for critical positions such as Secretary of Education we go into the voting booth not knowing much about the candidates.

I''m fairly well informed but when I went into the voting booth and looked at some of the positions I knew nothing about the candidates and what they stood for. This was especially true for the Secretary of Education.

If people are going to run for office they need to get their voices and positions out to the people. If they don't have the capabilities to do that they shouldn't run. I know money maybe an issue and this results in them speaking to various interest groups figuring if they can get them convinced they will spread the word.

It can be said that it's the voter's responsibility to be informed and to a certain extent that is true; however, the candidates have a responsibility to inform the voter.

As far as this race goes, anyone against the Common Core gets my vote.

ymnbde 07/13/14 - 10:13 am
Mike Buck was principal of Rome High School

and an elementary school here, and graduated from Evans High.
he did very well at every school he's been a principal, improving Rome quite dramatically
he was very active in meeting with parents, and knew almost every student by name
he enforced discipline and left Rome High in far better shape than he found it
this article is not truthful. It is blatantly distorted. The Augusta Chronicle should have charged a fee for this propaganda.

Fiat_Lux 07/13/14 - 04:51 pm
Ok, ymnbde, if it's so distorted,

then tell the class where Buck stands getting rid of Common Core for Georgia public schools. It looks like he likes Common Core, the stupidest, most intellectually regressive idea that has come along in years--but something we should have anticipated with Obummer and other assorted libtard jackasses running the federal government.

You peeps need to go read some dystopian literature from the 50s-70s and see if anything seems familiar. "Harrison Bargeron" and "Animal Farm" jump to mind immediately.

ymnbde 07/13/14 - 07:09 pm
fiat, i totally agree about the common core

i am actually a school choice proponent
i haven't seen where Mr Buck has actually said he supports common core, but i do know there have to be lots of politics involved
from his website
"I believe that Georgia students deserve an excellent education that prepares them to be productive members of our society. Parents have the right to choose public school, including charter schools; home school, or private school as the education option for their children. As your state school superintendent, my number one goal will be to provide our children the best public school education in America. I will focus on leading underperforming schools to become models of success. I ultimately want public education in our state to be a parent’s first choice."

bright idea
bright idea 07/14/14 - 06:03 pm
It doesn't matter

This is a figurehead job. The governor and general assembly firmly control education in Georgia because they control the money. And for the 100th time, there is no teachers union in Georgia, just 2 incredibly weak organizations. GAE would like to be a union and PAGE which has no bully pulpit.

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