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Cagle: Education is No. 1 priority

Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, speaking at a meeting of Emerge Albany, said Friday Georgia must abandon its one-size-fits-all educational system in favor of more specialized systems in order to compete in the 21st-century worldwide economy.

Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, speaking at a meeting of Emerge Albany, said Friday Georgia must abandon its one-size-fits-all educational system in favor of more specialized systems in order to compete in the 21st-century worldwide economy.

ALBANY — Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle told attendees at an Emerge Albany luncheon Friday that the beauty of operating during hard times is that Georgia has become more efficient and effective.

Speaking at the young professional organization’s Second Friday Luncheon, Cagle went on to illustrate how 21st-century education is essential to Georgia’s effectiveness in the changing world economy.

The lieutenant governor said that in order to compete in a changing worldwide economy, Georgia must abandon the one-size-fits-all educational system. He cited a recent survey of top corporations, in which 50 percent responded that jobs existed but could not be filled because of a shortage of qualified workers.

Cagle told the audience Singapore had been faced with the problem of building its economy without the benefit of any real natural resources.

To meet that challenge, the Asian city-state focused on its educational system, customizing it to meet the needs of the work force.

As a result, Singapore achieved a positive transformation of its economy, Cagle said.

Cagle also mentioned the vision of former Gov. Zell Miller and his role in transforming the port in Savannah to what Cagle said is now the second-largest port on the Eastern Seaboard. According to Cagle, Miller’s concept was to bring big-box retailers to the city so that ships would have no choice but to come to the port.

“The economy is changing before our eyes,” Cagle said. “For the first time, Amazon.com has overtaken Home Depot as the No. 1 seller of gas grills. Now who orders a gas grill online? Obviously a lot of people. Are we going to embrace what the new worldwide economy is going to look like, and if we embrace it, how do we manage it?”

Cagle said one man in Athens had a small operation selling grill accessories for about $200,000 each year. After he associated his business with Amazon.com, his sales rose to more that $3 million is a short period.

“If you can do it in Athens, you can do it in Albany,” Cagle said. “My challenge to you is ‘Do we have the intellectual capital to compete in a worldwide marketplace?’ We can’t compete in a 21st-century economy on a 1960s model of education. Education should be our No. 1 priority.”

Cagle offered two distinct initiatives to customize education and create individualized opportunities for students, including charter schools, which he said were free of all state mandates and create the educational model that meets the needs of their communities and individual students.

Cagle said there are 16 charter schools now operating at remarkable levels in Georgia.

Cagle also endorsed college and career academies, which blend traditional high schools with technical schools and universities.

“Government does not create jobs,” Cagle said. “It’s the private sector that creates them. That’s where we all have the onus of creating that investment package.”