Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Cox: HOPE for the Future

Georgia Democrats, not Mark Taylor alone, gave Georgians the HOPE scholarship and Pre-K, both popular and important past initiatives. After seeing Taylor's commercial today, one could mistakenly conclude that Taylor was single-handedly responsible for this legislation. Of course, that's not accurate, and the Cox campaign has already said as much. For Perdue's part, despite his lack of initial support for HOPE, he wanted to co-opt it this cycle by putting a bogus amendment on the ballot. Either way, this election is not about the history of public education in Georgia: it's about the future.

Nationally, and in Georgia, we face an education crisis. When four in ten of our 9th graders disappear before their senior year, we have to stop patting ourselves on the back for what we once did, and start talking about the next big idea, the bold reform that will change the face of education in our state.

Cathy Cox has said that improving our public schools is a top priority. Instead of relying on cute phrases birthed by political think-tanks, Cox has said that we should turn to the experts, including our classroom teachers, and rely on scientific research to direct education reform in our state. It would be refreshing to adopt a "best practice" approach to education reform. That sounds like HOPE for Georgia's future.

Ironically, the experts agree that to address our startling dropout rate, we have to start with that baby crawling around in Taylor's commercial. Cathy, Mark, Sonny: If you're listening, the next big thing is making a bold commitment that government will do all it can to be sure that our children reach the schoolhouse door ready to learn. If a child is retained once in elementary school, their chance of dropping out increases by 50%. If they are retained twice, they are unlikely to ever graduate. By third grade, if a child is not academically successful, they tend to identify with a negative peer group, and behavior problems often follow.

A commitment to school readiness is not an "Easy Button." Real reform is seldom easy or non-controversial. This is tough, real, meaningful reform that will require creative partnerships with nonprofit, faith-based and neighborhood-based organizations. It means doing things like making sure that our children's basic needs for healthcare and nutrition are met so that they can meet developmental milestones. This means making sure that special needs are screened and addressed early so that the child reaches 4K with the language skills that open the door to reading and social skills that help them behave so that they, and the others in the class, can learn.

This kind of reform is the HOPE for the future, and this is what I want to hear candidates talking about.


Tim said...

her speech on education, and early-childhood education, at the Young Dems convention April 1st was brilliant and inspiring.

Button Gwinnett said...

You said it best when you said that we should be more concerned about our future than our past. HOPE and education in general are not issues invented by Mark Taylor. He'd better turn his attention to keeping HOPE safe from Republican hands and turning our education system (both public schools and higher education) around.

Cox's approach to solving long standing problems with public schools is smart. She wants an inclusive conversation involving experts from more successful states as well as our schools' greatest resource, it's teachers.

Also, Cox is correct when she talks about the need for more options for working adults continuing their education. This is not only affecting individuals and families currently working. But it's a big part of the reason why Georgia isn't attracting more industries.

Taylor's not speaking to these issues and he needs to wake up - and fast. He can Al Gore the HOPE issue all he wants. But his lack of vision on real educational issues isn't good for Georgia.