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Invest Now for our Future Success
Posted by: Wade Fields Published: 3/9/10

State Superintendent of Schools

Georgia law requires the legislature to approve a balanced budget, which I
believe is very wise. In these difficult economic times, I do not envy the
task they have before them. But, just as we should not saddle the next
generation with our debt, we also should not take away the opportunity for
our kids to receive an education that prepares them for their 21st century

We are fortunate to have some of the best teachers and school leaders in
the nation (Georgia has had a National Principal of the Year for three
years in a row). They have been laser-focused on their mission of
improving student achievement, and I am proud to see so much progress
being made. But, I maintain that drastic and severe cuts hurt teachers and students
and negatively impact our progress. If there are further cuts to school
system funding then we can't expect things to be business as usual. While
I fully recognize the severity of our revenue shortfall, I am not in favor
of additional cuts to public K-12 education.

Recently, the House and Senate asked that we discuss budget options if
revenues were less than the Governor?s original FY11 budget submission.
When looking at such a bleak scenario, we told members of the General
Assembly that it is unrealistic to think that you can truly retain 180
days of quality instruction for students if all ten days of pre- and
post-planning for teachers are cut.

Expecting teachers to begin and end a school year on the same day students
do is like a restaurant manager asking staff members to show up at the
same time the first customer is to be served. That manager knows that if
dinner service starts at 5:00 you better be willing to pay your chef to
come in for preparation a few hours earlier. And when have you ever seen
the staff leave the restaurant at the same time as the last customer? That
restaurant would not be successful. Similarly, teachers need preparation
time to be successful.

Do I want to cut the number of instructional days for students?  Of course
not. But as a former classroom teacher, I know that we must provide
teachers time to prepare so they can give our students their very best.
Our kids deserve it! I appreciate the diligence of the legislators and the seriousness of their
exploration of all the issues and all the options. I am hopeful that the
legislature will prioritize this budget to fund one of our primary
constitutional obligations, educating Georgia's K-12 students.
Providing for our students now is an investment in our state's current and
future success.  If we want to continue making progress, then we must be
willing to invest in Georgia's greatest resource, our children.

Kathy Cox, a parent and a veteran classroom teacher, is Georgia's
Superintendent of Schools.