Poverty, equity and fairness, the early learning workforce, student health and the special challenges of Georgia’s rural schools are among the top 10 issues in education this year, according to the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.
The respected nonpartisan group annually publishes a list of “Top Ten Issues” to watch in Georgia education.
The group this year also listed increasing Georgia’s high school graduation rate, charting education reform to see what actually works, closing Georgia’s “talent gap,” improving literacy and the state’s new plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act are also among the issues people should learn about, according to the partnership’s annual report on education issues, released this month.
Progress in resolving some of those issues is likely to be uneven at best this year, judging from legislation that’s been introduced this year.
Advocacy groups have praised a possible boost for mental health spending on young people in Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed budget.
But the budget, which must be approved by the Georgia Legislature, does not include pay raises for Georgia teachers and other state workers. And continued funding for the federal programs that ensure medical care for many Georgia children — PeachCare — is in doubt.
The issue of teacher leadership “is still a relatively new area for Georgia,” according to the Partnership’s policy and research director Dana Rickman.
Deal and the Legislature did put some extra money into state early childhood education last year, but big shortcomings still remain, including a dearth of quality-rated programs and low pay, according to the report.
In 2015, “Georgia Pre-K lead teachers made, on average, $16 per hour. This compares to $9 per hour for classroom lead teachers in other learning centers,” according to the report.
The state also needs to address equity and fairness issues; not all children have equal access to quality education and quality teachers, according to the report.
The state’s Department of Education’s official action plan includes steps to improve educational equity, but success depends on responses at the community level, according to the Partnership report.
“Teachers and school leaders need resources and support to help overcome the harmful impacts of poverty and adverse neighborhood factors. It is rare that a school can outperform its community,” according to the report.
Elected officials have instituted some programs in recent years to boost the number of Georgians getting college or technical degrees, but the state needs to take that effort to a higher level, according to the Partnership report.
Georgia has the third-largest rural school population in the nation, Rickman noted as she explained the issues facing rural schools.
Access to health care is one of the most urgent issues facing rural schools, especially when poverty is also an issue, Rickman said.
Georgia’s infant mortality rate is among the highest in the nation, the report notes.
The full “Top Ten Issues To Watch in 2018” report is at the Georgia Partnership’s website, www.gpee.org.