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State democrats hold town hall meeting on education

From left, State Sen. Jason Carter, D-Decatur, Sen. Gail Davenport, D-Jonesboro, Rep. Winfred Dukes, 
D-Albany, Sen. Freddie Powell-Sims, D-Dawson, and Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale, host an educational town hall meeting Saturday at Alice Coachman Elementary School to discuss issues facing education in the state.

From left, State Sen. Jason Carter, D-Decatur, Sen. Gail Davenport, D-Jonesboro, Rep. Winfred Dukes, D-Albany, Sen. Freddie Powell-Sims, D-Dawson, and Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale, host an educational town hall meeting Saturday at Alice Coachman Elementary School to discuss issues facing education in the state.

ALBANY, Ga. -- As part of a senate Democratic initiative to promote better educational solutions in Georgia, four state senators and a representative held a public hearing Saturday at Alice Coachman Elementary school.

The State Senate Special Task Force on Education included Sens. Freddie Powell-Sims, D-Dawson; Jason Carter, D-Decatur; Gail Davenport, D-Jonesboro; Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale; and Rep. Winfred Dukes, D-Albany, and discussed issues concerning the state's education issues with emphasis on Southwest Georgia.

"We are here to carry your concerns back to Atlanta," Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, told the gathering. "I come from eight generations of south Georgians' and I have concerns about education in what Sen. Sims calls rural Georgia."

Not surprisingly, much of the 90-minute discussion centered on K-12 school funding woes.

"We want to focus on rural Georgia," Sims said. "I know Albany is not rural but the funding issues that affect Baker, Calhoun and Quitman counties also affect Albany. It is incumbent upon us to help each other out. We want to work just as hard for the Rs as we do for the Ds."

The panel pointed to 10 straight years of cuts in QBE (Quality Basic Education) funding they say have hobbled K-through-12 education in south Georgia. Shrinking QBE funding, money the state provides districts each year for education, began with austerity cuts in 2002-03 and have dwindled each fiscal year since until this past legislative session.

"We've introduced legislation to fully restore QBE funding," Seay said. "We don't think it will go anywhere, but we'll just have to do the best with what we've got."

Audience member asked the panel about the effects that sequestration would have on area schools.

"The dysfunction in Washington is baffling to me," Carter answered. "We have serious budget issues in this state. We have people calling for smaller government, and that's fine, but it must also be effective government. We have shifted the financial burden for education to the districts and that's not right.

"The problem with the current leadership (in Atlanta) is funding with accountability."

Johnnie Hammond of Albany then brought up the possible closure of two schools (Sylvester Rd. Elementary and Dougherty Middle) on Albany's eastside.

"I don't know if you can help us with this problem, but I thought I would ask anyway, she said."

"The reality is that Dougherty County has been losing population each year," Powell-Sims said. "Nobody wants schools closing in their area, but it's probably going to happen.

Second Mt. Zion Pastor Theodus Drake Jr. then spoke up.

"I am all for funding education," Drake said. "but as a taxpayer I don't want to be paying for empty classrooms. My affection for our schools is strong, but my affection for my wallet is stronger.

"We really don't have a choice (to close two schools). The sooner the better."

Powell-Sims then suggested Hammond express her concerns to the Dougherty County School Board.

"Schools are big business, always follow the money," Powell-Sims said. "Ask yourself are my tax dollars being spent wisely. It all starts at the local level."

Carter says much of the blame of the current financial problems lies with policy makers in Atlanta.

"No one at the state level is pushing for educational policy changes," Carter said. "The first thing they'll tell you is that 'there is no money.' Well, that's just an excuse."

Dukes agreed.

"They have demonized public education," Dukes said. "Yet we are seeing gains in education despite it being under attack."

"We are there (Atlanta) to fight for the people," said Davenport.

Comments

FryarTuk 1 year, 1 month ago

"We want to focus on rural Georgia," Sims said. "I know Albany is not rural . . ." Brother, If Albany ain't rural then grits aint groceries.

Okay, Freddie, I see ya' in them soft leather cowgirl boots. Now where'd ya park that full length mink coat? What? Ya' left it in Atlanta?

Carter: "The first think(sic) they'll tell you is that 'there is no money.' Well, that's just an excuse." Works for me. Seems to work for most everybody who is fiscally responsible except you and Ivy Hines. I don't hear much out of this group about how local school boards spend money witlessly and families don't throw in with the hard working teachers.

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Trustbuster 1 year, 1 month ago

The concern I have as taxpayer and a parent is the waste in bureaucracy. I wrote about this issue to Herald years ago before all the budget shortfalls started. Now with the sequestration more cuts will be coming. When you have time look at how many school board positions are funded locally and by the state.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 1 month ago

" . . . look at how many school board positions are funded locally and by the state." And with the teachers desperate for resources in their rooms holding up to 35 students. Resources need to be re-directed to the point of teaching-learning.

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bennydawg 1 year, 1 month ago

What a joke this is. Why do dems think that pouring money at things is an automatic fix??

I think if Georgia would just bring approporiate discipline back into the schools (remember how awful a feeling it was to think the principal was going to paddle you) and implement a rule that if you drop out of school you must work for the state for free until you are 18 or go into the military to dig ditches until you are 18. I know that will never happen, but it makes alot more sense than having them go to jail which usually happens. Have those that are too cool for school learn a job skill....turns them into asset rather than a liability.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 1 month ago

Randolph Co. said it all. You get a bonus if the kids do not learn by all the money rolling into the schools from Title I. If you pass CRCT you get a pizza and no money. Teachers never get a dime to use in the classrooms. Why would anyone fresh out of college ever want to be a teacher is beyond me. Too much money in the private sector.

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Cartman 1 year, 1 month ago

So what was the point? Democrats who constitute a minority in the Georgia legislature band together to note that funding is tight for schools?

A clueless person said, "The first thing they'll tell you is that 'there is no money.' Well, that's just an excuse."

"They have demonized public education," an idiot said. "Yet we are seeing gains in education despite it being under attack."

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FryarTuk 1 year, 1 month ago

The only local legislative person who speaks reason to purpose is Rep. Carol Fullerton and she wasn't even invited. Carter should have his but kicked for letting that happen. The Fullertons busted their humps for his grandfather. Dukes or Freddie Whatshername couldn't put food on their tables if it wasn't for public money. They damned sure don't know how to do anything for this community to make it prosperous. And as for education in Dougherty County they have been part of the problem.

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