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February 18, 2014
For Immediate Release

Liz Flowers
Senate Democratic Caucus

Sen. Jason Carter Rolls Out Education Reform Initiatives

We have to do more now to improve educational outcomes 

Atlanta, Ga. - February 18, 2014 - Sen. Jason Carter (D-42) today introduced several policy initiatives designed to improve Georgia's education system, recruit and retain highly-qualified teachers, and create an educated workforce for the future. 

"It is clear that the single biggest failure of Georgia's current leadership - and the biggest drain on our state's economy - is the dismantling of our education system. Like the old song says, the governor is trading in tomorrow for today, and the results for our education system have been devastating," said Carter.


Since 2009, Georgia's public schools have lost nearly 9,000 classroom teachers while the number of students has gone up. As a result, 95 percent of school districts have had to increase class sizes. Nearly three-quarters of Georgia's school districts have stopped teaching students the full 180 days per year.


"The most important thing that we can do to improve educational outcomes is to truly support our teacher workforce - that means mechanisms to recruit and retain teachers and to support them to become excellent teachers for the life of their career. A lack of leadership on issues that matter to teachers is holding our entire educational system back," Carter said.


Carter proposed the following initiatives to support Georgia's teachers:


  • Restore Funding for National Board Certification for certified teachers
  • 'Unfreeze' Incentives for Highly Qualified and Experienced Pre-K teachers
  • Restore HOPE Scholarship Programs designed to train and recruit our teacher workforce.


Carter said restoring national board certification would impact more than 2,000 teachers who have gone through the rigorous requirements to hold a certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.


These teachers were promised a bonus for the life of their certificate. In 2009, the state retreated on that promise. Nearly three-fourths of all states offer some sort of incentive for teachers who are nationally certified. During the last year this program was fully funded (FY 2009), funding the program cost approximately $13 million.


Carter also proposed fully funding incentives for new highly qualified and experienced Pre-K teachers and 'unfreezing' the incentives for existing highly qualified and experienced Pre-K teachers.


In 2011, as a part of the Governor's sweeping changes to lottery funded programs, public school pre-k teachers had incentives for training and experience frozen indefinitely. It was discontinued for new hires.


"The first step to ensuring we have a highly skilled workforce to compete in the global economy is improving early education. The foundation for a child's success in school is established in the child's first five years," he said.


"The best return on investment for state education dollars is a high-quality Pre-K program. That investment has to begin with supporting our best Pre-K teachers."


Carter is also proposing legislation to reinstate other HOPE programs that the Governor eliminated in 2011.


The "PROMISE Teacher Scholarship Program" would provide forgivable loans to undergraduates seeking a bachelor's degree in education in approved teacher education programs in exchange for a commitment to teach in Georgia public schools. The HOPE Teacher Scholarship Program would offer forgivable loans for students seeking advanced education degrees in critical shortage fields of study.


The Promise II Teacher Scholarship Program, which was defunded in 2007, would provide forgivable loans for paraprofessionals and instructional aides who want to return to college to pursue teaching.


These programs could be financed by the excess lottery proceeds collected beyond the required shortfall reserve of 50 percent of the previous year's net proceeds. In FY 2013, the Georgia Lottery collected $283,843,132.57 above the required shortfall reserve of 50 percent of the previous year's net proceeds.


Carter also proposed Lottery Corporation Reform that would ratchet up the deposit to the Lottery for Education fund over time, and create a "circuit breaker," so that if circumstance requires the state to adjust the deposits, it would be able to do so.


Under current Georgia law, the Lottery Corporation is required to deposit as nearly as practical to 35 per cent of its proceeds into the Lottery for Education Fund. In FY 2013, the Lottery Corporation deposited 25.5 per cent of its proceeds into the Lottery for Education Fund.


"Georgia voters tolerated a lottery because of the promise of HOPE and now that has become a shell game too," Carter said. "The Lottery Corporation can and should be contributing more money to the Lottery for Education Fund to ensure that our state has the ability to fund the programs we need to improve educational outcomes, to provide access to higher education, and to support our teacher workforce."