Spencer

The column is an analysis of the author’s interpretation of education policies submitted by the Rural Development Council. The author is a former educator and former state education official.  The views and interpretations are of the author’s and not those of AllOnGeorgia. 


As the Georgia legislature reconvenes on Monday, the Rural Development Council, made up of Georgia legislators, are expected to present recommendations to make rural Georgia economically competitive. The Council spent most of last year developing these recommendations from statewide stakeholders and looks to swiftly write legislation this year to complete a plan for rural Georgia.

The Rural Development Council is recommending a cradle-to-career education strategy which models the sought-after German education apprenticeships, according to the recommendation’s appendix (pg 27). Over the years, Georgia has sent many officials to Germany to seek inspiration on how to create a better education model, but one should question the long-term design of the German model in the United States. The model solves the immediate plan of a skills gap; however, researchers warn that younger students need to have enough general academic skills to continue to build upon for long-term employment.

Below are the Council’s recommendations for education:

  • Provide additional grant funding for rural, lowest socio-economic counties for Birth to 5 literacy/numeracy education and training.
  • Provide competitive grant funding for rural schools under the Chief Turnaround Officer’s purview to implement character education curriculum and programming. Schools with students participating in character education have an environment more conducive to learning, as evidenced with better attendance (teachers and students), fewer disciplinary issues and in turn, higher achievement. Teachers are more satisfied because they do not have to devote as much time on classroom management (disruptive behavior), which is also the primary reason why teachers leave the profession in the first three years.
  • Increase part-time to full-time and add new positions/coordinators for Career, Technical and Agricultural Education/work-based learning based on need.
  • Transfer the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education program to the Technical College System of Georgia.
  • Request the Board of Regents conduct a market analysis of masters and professional level degree programs needed in South Georgia locations for accessible programming recommendations

One of the recommendations is to use the newly created Chief Turnaround Officer, whose primary job is to turnaround failing schools, to oversee character education grants for rural schools. Currently, the program is managed by the state education department’s curriculum division. The Chief Turnaround Officer’s position was created last legislative session after voters rejected a referendum in November of 2016 forbidding the state to take over failing schools from local school districts.  The School Improvement Division within the Georgia Department of Education (GADOE) performs a similar duplicity of services which is under the direction of the elected state school superintendent, Richard Woods.

Also, the Council made the recommendation to move the Career Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) Division within the GADOE under the direction of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). Such a move raises concerns about who will manage funds to the local school districts trying to implement dual enrollment policies for the state’s high schools.

When asked about these recommendations to the Chairman of the Rural Development Council, Rep. Terry England (R- Auburn), he stated that discussions and questions related to the Council’s work were “premature” until legislation has been written despite the fact the Council took most of the year to create those recommendations with taxpayer dollars.

The GADOE’s Communication Spokesperson, Meghan Frick, was also asked the same questions, and she defers such a question to the Rural Development Council members. Frick was asked if the Department was consulted on the recommendations and they were not.

CTAE, formally known as vocational education, appears to be in the sights of the politicians as they plan to use this recommendation to utilize funding sources and dilute GADOE’s influence on vocational training.

The GADOE was asked how federal dollars would be affected if the CTAE division were moved underneath the TCSG. GADOE stated that they oppose this move, but do support most of Council’s recommendations.

“We oppose the recommendation to transfer CTAE to the Technical College System of Georgia. Georgia’s CTAE program is successful (for example, the graduation rate for Career Pathway completers is 96 percent – higher than the statewide average by 15.4 percentage points) and has responded directly and nimbly to workforce needs in our state. It’s a program that exists for the benefit of K-12 students – who will go on to multiple paths after high school including TCSG, USG, directly into a career, or into the military – and we believe it belongs under the purview of the state agency that serves those students.”  Meghan Frick, GADOE Spokesperson

The move to place CTAE underneath the TCSG is not a new conversation. In 2015, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, a current candidate for Georgia Governor, wanted to file legislation to make such a move happen, but there was not enough buy-in from then newly elected State School Superintendent Richard Woods. Cagle’s education platform includes a pure version of the German apprenticeship model which he wants to see statewide, but the infrastructure in rural Georgia will have trouble supporting such an idea.

However, moving the CTAE Division under TCSG would not upset who manages the funding and how it is dispersed from the federal government’s Carl D. Perkins grants. Perkins grants are a principal source of federal funding to states from the improvement of secondary and postsecondary career and technical education programs all over the nation.

Perkins Grant Official at the U.S. Department of Education, Len Lintner, who has been overseeing the allocations of Perkins dollars since 1978, was asked how funds would be affected if CTAE was moved under the state’s technical college system.

“When it comes to distribution of funds, there is a separate formula for school districts and for post-secondary institutions. Regardless who the eligible agency is, you still have the allocation process separated from secondary and post-secondary.”

According to Lintner, there is flexibility for states to allow who controls the allocation under Perkins Act. “Most of the duties of the post-secondary eligible agency delegates its authority to the day-to-day operations of CTAE in the state, so, for Georgia, it is done at the post-secondary level, and they make funds available to the secondary side of CTAE.”  

Lintner further added that a state’s K-12 funding formula contribution would not be affected if the state moved the CTAE Division under Georgia’s technical college system. Furthermore, high school teachers, who may be partially or fully funded by Perkins grants, would still be under the direction of local school districts and not TCSG. However, the technical college system could direct particular credentialing requirements for those high school teachers to teach post-secondary courses.

Summary of recommendations, click here.

Full recommendations, click here.

 

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Jeremy Spencer is currently the market and content manager for All on Georgia-Camden  and Glynn Counties. Jeremy’s focus will be local news, statewide education issues, and political commentary for the All on Georgia News Network. Jeremy has served as a education policy analyst for local legislators and state education leaders as well as a campaign strategist for local and statewide political campaigns.

Jeremy grew up in rural Southern Georgia and he has served as a healthcare provider, high school science teacher, and a state education official.  Jeremy holds degrees in science and education from the University of Georgia, Piedmont College, and Valdosta State University. He and his wife have lived in Camden County for 16 years and they have two teenage children. Jeremy and his family attend Christ Church Camden in Kingsland, GA.

camden@allongeorgia.com

 

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