Valarie Wilson: If we expect students to do more, can’t settle for shorter calendar, crowded classes

Democratic candidate for state school superintendent Valarie Wilson

Democratic candidate for state school superintendent Valarie Wilson

Georgia is one of only 13 states that still elects its state school superintendent, and that important decision will fall to voters on Tuesday.

The volatility of the races for Georgia governor and U.S. Senate has overshadowed the superintendent contest,, so we asked Republican Richard Woods and Democrat Valarie Wilson to share their visions for the state’s public schools. In their responses, we also asked them to address two general areas:

1. How can what you do as state school superintendent affect a fourth grader in Hancock County or a high school freshman in Ringgold?

2. At the end of your four years in office, what improvements can Georgians expect to see in their schools?

Here is Wilson’s response. I have also posted Richard Woods’ response. I am going to rotate them throughout the day to the top spot on the blog as readers tend to go to the latest entry.

By Valarie Wilson

“You’ll hear many voices telling you what to do, but the ones you need to listen to are often the littlest.” That was the advice that was given to me when I was first sworn in as a member of the Board of Education for the City Schools of Decatur, and those voices of the children have guided everything I’ve done since – especially this campaign to be Georgia’s next State School Superintendent. I’ve been laser-focused on doing what’s right for our children, from serving for 12 years on my local school board, seven as chair, to joining the Georgia School Boards Association, where I was elected to serve as president.

For 20 years, I’ve worked alongside educators from both sides of the aisle to build stronger education policy and advocate for public education in Georgia. I was pleased to earn the endorsement of our current Republican State School Superintendent John Barge, which speaks to our shared commitment to uphold Georgia’s Constitution and its promise to provide a quality public education to all children.

When I’m State School Superintendent, fourth-graders in Catoosa County and high school freshmen in Hancock County, as well as students across the state will benefit from my commitment to fully fund their educations. More than 50 percent of students in both districts are economically disadvantaged. Both districts rely on federal dollars to provide wraparound services for students with special needs as well as students who qualify for free and reduced-priced meals. If we expect our students to do more, we can’t settle for shortened school years and bulging classes.

We must give each and every one of Georgia’s public education systems the same opportunity to thrive. With the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s recent findings that we shortchange our students by $439 per child, we must draw the line. Frighteningly, my opponent proposes cutting ties with our federal government and, in turn, shortchanging all of our districts, including Catoosa or Hancock, by an additional $2 billion in just one year.

In my four years as state school superintendent, Georgians will see a substantial change to the testing format. While it’s absolutely critical that we have assessments in place to ensure that our children are growing and our teachers are effective, the current structure prohibits teachers from truly delving into subject matter. I pledge to bring everyone to the table – educators, parents, students and community members – to ensure that we meet each child’s unique needs while easing the burden on our overstretched and understaffed public schools.

Georgians also can expect to see me collaborate with all of our legislators – not just one party – to restore funding so our districts can reinstate full 180-day school years as well as provide educators more support so that they, in turn, can support our children. Rather than saddling our districts with economic burdens, forcing them to make difficult decisions like furloughs, shortened school years and larger class sizes, I’ll work with elected officials from all parties for the greater good of our children and their educators. We’ve reached that point where we must remove “do more with less” from our vocabularies. With the ongoing implementation of Common Core, we absolutely must provide the professional development our educators need to truly delve into the content matter and provide high-quality instruction to our children.

All of my adult life, I’ve worked to build a better community, whether that was with Fulton County Human Services, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, the City Schools of Decatur board of education or the Georgia School Boards Association. I have the experience of managing budgets, allocating resources and collaborating with people from all walks of life so we can truly build a stronger education system for all of Georgia’s 1.7 million schoolchildren. Those little voices are calling, and it’s time for us to answer.

Reader Comments 0

33 comments
bu2
bu2

I'm pretty certain this posted before Woods.  But now it is later.  Is AJC tying to give Wilson more visibility?

newsphile
newsphile

Barge led GA's schools to any improvements we've made, in spite of Deal's obstructiveness every step of the way.  Deal refused to work with Barge, even taking a part of the DOE's responsibilities and placing them under his thumb. Isn't this what he's accused Obama of dong?  Deal takes care of his cronies and refuses to let any opposing idea be explored.  If we want GA to get ahead, we have to work together, no matter the party.  No one is right all the time, and no one is wrong all the time.  We need to grow up.    

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

"Those little voices are calling, and it's time for us to answer."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Beautiful closing statement, Valarie Wilson, and exceptional understanding of how to serve all of Georgia's students equally well, across this state.  You have my vote.  I only hope that all of Georgia's minority voters will get out the vote on Tuesday for you, for Michelle Nunn and for Jason Carter.  I am in the Savannah area for a vacation, and I have been thoroughly disappointed with the "Savannah Morning News," which has endorsed both Nathan Deal and David Perdue.  When a newspaper begins to sound like a propaganda vehicle for the rightwing through its editorial endorsements, I do not know how to get the message out to Georgians of all genders and races, in order to move this state forward through voting for Democratic candidates - other than by placing my thoughts on public blogs.

Minorities, you MUST get out your communities' voters in record numbers to vote for Wilson, Nunn, and Carter on Tuesday to move our state forward.

keithbusting
keithbusting

@MaryElizabethSings 


I live in Savannah and this rag which passes itself off as a newspaper have been making endorsements like what you've read for years. Minorities did not put this state in the condition it is in yet minorities are the ones whose votes are sought for some kind of political rescue. Don't the non-minorities have a vested interest in their state anymore?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@keithbusting 


Since the Editorial Board of the Savannah Morning News would not present a balanced editorial, I decided to put posters on each of my four side windows of my car, which read "Vote for Michelle Nunn."  I drove my car very slowly (20 miles an hour) up and down very poor black sections of Savannah 39th Street, 38th Street, etc., while playing Christian music, loudly, on my radio, which could be heard from my opened sundeck.  I pointed to my signs as I passed black citizens.  I wanted them to know that someone of my white race cared about them and wanted their votes for Michelle Nunn.  Shame on the Editorial Board of the Savannah Morning News, which consists only of the Publisher and his Editorial Page Editor.  In other words, the publisher has a newspaper which he obviously, to me, wishes to use to elect the business types of Republicans with money, whom he supports.  I don't call that journalism.  I call his newspaper a vehicle to promote the Republican Party. 

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryElizabethSings


"  I drove my car very slowly (20 miles an hour) up and down very poor black sections of Savannah 39th Street, 38th Street, etc., while playing Christian music, loudly, on my radio, which could be heard from my opened sundeck.  I pointed to my signs as I passed black citizens.  I wanted them to know that someone of my white race cared about them and wanted their votes for Michelle Nunn."


So you patronized and treated these neighborhood residents like slow children to get them to vote for a rich white woman?


I'm sure that they were just being polite when they didn't flip you off.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Astropig


Astropig, you are projecting your own thoughts onto me again. My thoughts were, as usual, nothing as you state them to be.  I truly feel sorry for your cynicism.  What a sad way to go through life.

Astropig
Astropig

Barge endorsed her and she dropped,like, 3 points in two days. Any chance we could get him to endorse her again?

class80olddog
class80olddog

You know, it is pretty easy to get students to go 180 days - just don't give any variances allowing schools to have less than the mandatory State 180-day schedule.  Then leave it to the counties to decide how to finance it.  Same with class sizes - set a State maximum class size and tell the counties they have to comply - that is how the Feds treat the States.

Looking4truth
Looking4truth

@Astropig @Dismuke @class80olddog No - the parents, teachers and administrators have done more with less.  I didn't see him take furlough days or have his workload increase by 25-50%.  Any increase in the graduation rate is the result of the people in the trenches - not the politicians. 

Dismuke
Dismuke

@class80olddog We had class size standards, but Nathan Deal tossed them out the window.  

Astropig
Astropig

@Looking4truth 

"  No - the parents, teachers and administrators have done more with less."

Proving that it can be done,contrary to the educrat cartel assertions to the contrary. Thank you.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

Wilson lost my vote the minute she lined up behind the unions.  She is no friend of education reform or public school choice. It's clear that Georgia needs to continue its current reform path.   Wilson will dismantle it.  What good is a Democrat as Superintendent if a Republican wins the state house?  

Astropig
Astropig

There must be another Catoosa County in Georgia. Only 14% of residents live below the poverty line (33 % below the state average)The unemployment rate has consistently been a lot lower than surrounding counties (5.6% lst time I checked)  and according to UGA (http://georgiastats.uga.edu/counties/047.pdf) right at 50% of kids are "economically disadvantaged", not "more than".In fact, most of those kids are concentrated in a couple of schools close to Tennessee.Compared to the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Tennessee schools just across the state line, Catoosa County schools are seen as much better and we periodically have scandals when people notice Tennessee license tags on cars dropping off students.She must mean that OTHER Catoosa County.


I guess AstroDad was right- Figures don't lie but liars figure.

redweather
redweather

This reads more like a "Wish List" than a response.

dontstereotypemeyo
dontstereotypemeyo

@redweather


Not really. She is just using the funding cuts issue during the great recession as a device to mask her actual ideology and agenda.

Skeetercat
Skeetercat

She appears to take the common sense approach to important issues facing education.  She has my vote.

dontstereotypemeyo
dontstereotypemeyo

@Skeetercat


Oh please. Georgia was lagging during education when Joe Frank Harris, Zell Miller and Roy Barnes were spending every penny on it they could find, and long before the testing regime (made necessary because of social promotion and other failed education reforms implemented in PLACES LIKE ATLANTA) was put in. The most important issue facing education is that a large portion of the population ranges from being apathetic to hostile to it. The second most important issue is the "one-size-fits-all"; the lack of a range of types of schools that serve students according to their interest and ability (or lack thereof).

class80olddog
class80olddog

So her platform is "mo' money, mo' money, mo' money".

FredinDeKalb
FredinDeKalb

@dontstereotypemeyo 


Well said!!!  class80olddog reminisces about classroom’s from the fifties and sixties as a time we should go back to.It did not provide opportunities for many citizens in this country

dontstereotypemeyo
dontstereotypemeyo

@FredinDeKalb 

Actually ... if we could combine the far more equal opportunities available today with the much better family/cultural climate of the 1950s that would be outstanding. But now people who were locked out of opportunities by the system in the 1950s exclude themselves today with drugs, crime, defiant/disruptive/rebellious behavior and single parenthood. I merely said that those problems have to be dealt with (primarily with far more reform/military academy type schools and vocational training), not that they weren't problems and that we wouldn't be better off without them. I guess you can say that I pretty much agree with what Bill Cosby had to say about the topic a few years back.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@FredinDeKalb  And now we provide services in schools that should be provided in hospitals and nursing homes.  Teaching a child who has to be suctioned every 5 minutes?  Can you say full time nurse (paid for by school system)?  That is where the money is going (can you also say Federal unfunded mandate).

class80olddog
class80olddog

@FredinDeKalb @class80olddog  I agree that smaller class sizes would help (after you deal with discipline, attendance, and social promotion), but that can be achieved if you cut all the "incidental" spending.  Administration?  You get Federal Grants totaling $200,000 but in order to do that you have to employ three people at $60,000 per year.  Smart economics!

class80olddog
class80olddog

@FredinDeKalb @class80olddog  You wouldn't hear crickets from me.  Give me a list of the Administrators in DeKalb County and how much they make and how many there are per number of students and I will tell you right fast who to cut.  Of course, they would never get cut because they are the "sister-in-law of the superintendent" or some such.

FredinDeKalb
FredinDeKalb

@class80olddog 


One remedy for improving student outcomes is to reduce class sizes, which implies hiring more teachers.Labor is the largest expenditure in education and more money is needed in that area.You may reduce that cost by hiring more paraprofessionals, especially in lower grades, since they aren’t paid as much.


Many talk about reducing the size of the central office however when asked the specific jobs and tasks that aren’t needed, we hear crickets.You can remove that person but who does the job they performed?


dontstereotypemeyo
dontstereotypemeyo

@class80olddog 

Fair enough. But at some point conservatives need to agree on what constitutes adequate funding levels for education. Conservatives have gone down this rabbit hole where any and every reduction in education spending is considered to be a "good thing" because of antipathy towards the teacher's unions, education theorists, politically correct curriculums and urban politicians. It causes such ridiculousness as actually seeing teachers' getting laid off (for reasons other than performance), cutting instructional days, and teachers' not getting pay raises as ideological victories somehow when at best it is actually cutting off your nose to spite your face. For example, construing good teachers leave the classroom for the private sector because they are fed up with having 30 students per class and making less than they were 5 years ago because their tiny raises are lower than the cost of living increases and inflation as some sort of victory for conservatism or indictment against "government schools" is an extremely flawed perspective. Also, the education reforms necessary to adapt to the changing economy and keep us competitive with other states COSTS MONEY. The one room rural schoolhouse isn't coming back. Neither is the 1950s classroom that trained a mostly homogeneous culture for low-skilled factory and agricultural jobs. Also, pointing fingers at the social/cultural problems and screaming: "We need better values and personal responsibility and the biased liberals need to admit it!" just isn't enough. At some point they have to be dealt with too. For example, you want to deal with chronically undisciplined kids as well as kids who do not value difficult academic work? More reform type schools for the former and vocational training for the latter - lots more actually - is needed BUT THAT COSTS MONEY.


Tax and spend liberalism and turning our schools into glorified welfare agencies is one thing. But spending as little as possible on public education to punish "those people" who choose to become government workers (public school teachers) or live in urban areas will not accomplish whatever end result conservatives desire - assuming that conservatives even have goals or aims for public education ... if they do they have not been articulated - either.

FredinDeKalb
FredinDeKalb

@class80olddog


You have been listening to the folks at DSW too long.Remember many of their allegations started because they did not like the decisions Board members made to address budget shortfalls due to the Great Recession.They now know every other school district made similar decisions.


The folks at DSW have a hard time backing up their allegations.You would probably be surprised if you compared the percentage of relatives in the DeKalb central offices versus others in the state.This is the South and relatives has been working at school districts around the state since there have been school districts.There are laws on the books that address whether they can report to one another.


FredinDeKalb
FredinDeKalb

@class80olddog 


I just thought, you can look at their organization chart and tell us which positions you would cut.  That would be interesting.