Georgia School Board Association Summer Conference
Doubtless many of you enjoy your jobs and see a sense of
purpose in them, as I do with mine. And much like my own, you
get your greatest publicity in your communities when something is
perceived as having gone wrong. In those moments, you have
concerned parents and invasive news outlets on your doorsteps
wanting to know every detail.

Unfortunately the past several years were difficult on all of us, and
our local school boards were not exempt. During the Great
Recession state revenues dropped 19%, leaving each of us with
fewer dollars to distribute. Yet despite difficulties, we have
continued to spend around half of our state budget on education
each year. To this purpose, we picked the low-hanging fruit early,
increased efficiencies, consolidated agencies and made difficult
cuts, all while doing our absolute best to hold the line on K-12
education spending.

But there’s good news. Forty-Four out of the past 47 months
have experienced year-over-year revenue growth, which over
time has allowed us to devote more funds to the essential
functions of state government, with education foremost among

them. In fact, this trend let us increase k-12 funding this year by
over half a billion dollars—the largest such increase in 7 years!

When we announced the additional funding, we noted that it
should as much as possible be used on eliminating furlough days,
restoring instructional days and increasing teacher salaries. Well,
I have a document that tells me exactly what each district has
done with their allotments, and I want to commend the many here
who have used this opportunity to get students and teachers back
into the classroom where they belong, earning a salary that they

I hope that you have had parents and media knocking on your
doors thanking you for that!

Now, as we see revenue coming back, I want to encourage you to
resist falling back into old patterns and to be willing to embrace
the innovations that will carry Georgia classrooms into the 21



In partnership with the Georgia Department of Education, the
Governor’s Office of Student Achievement and the Governor’s
Office of Planning and Budget, we have allotted up to $39M in
grant money for our “Connections for Classrooms” initiative. We
hope through this process to make high speed internet and digital
learning available to every public school classroom in the state.
Faster internet will require appropriate infrastructure to receive,
and I encourage all of you to apply by the August deadline. With
the capabilities of today’s technology, certainly we must bring our
students up to speed!

To those of you here, I would like to commend you for getting in
touch with my administration at the start of my first term and
presenting us with a well thought-out Vision document. Many of
the items that matter to you matter to us, and I think you will be
pleased to hear about some of other things we have done over
the past few years.

We’ve put a focus on early learning, restoring our nationally
recognized pre-K program to a full calendar year and taking steps
to get children reading on grade level by the end of third grade.
We’re utilizing new technologies and learning techniques, such as

video recordings that make some of our state’s best teachers
available to classrooms around the state. And we’re keeping our
standards rigorous while making improvements, including a new
evaluation system for teachers that measures progress more
appropriately. My administration appreciates your input as we
continue to strengthen education, our workforce and our

I mentioned during my State of the State address this year that 7
out of every 10 Department of Corrections inmates do not even
hold a high school diploma or GED. Well, earlier this year we
announced that Forsyth County school superintendent Buster
Evans will lead up an effort to raise the education levels of our
inmates prior to release. In this way, they can better attain
marketable skills that lead to jobs and productive living as they
reenter society.

It’s important, however, that we prevent this issue rather than
react to it. This means raising high school graduation rates. We
looked at our counties that are sending the most youth into our
juvenile justice system. When we accounted for outliers, we
noticed that counties with higher dropout rates also have higher

admission rates for youth detention centers. And the 7 out of 10
stat that I referenced earlier implies we have 38,000 Georgians
who walked out of our school doors and into our prisons. That
must stop. Our young people don’t need a prison education; they
need an education to stay out of prison!

To that point, I would like to highlight that last year nearly 700
young Georgians stayed out of detention centers and on track
thanks to our school-based probation officers. They provide more
frequent contact and keep better tabs on the performance of
those under their supervision than would be possible under
normal circumstances. Their interactions certainly involve formal
meetings but also daily informal contact, which can be equally as
important in setting a young person on the right path. It is my
hope that these resource officers will be used more widely in the

We know that your actions as boards can shift the foundation of
student learning—for good, or for bad. Governance matters.
Schools, teachers and students need support to not only get
students across the finish line, but to avoid costly remediation
later. Therefore, work together effectively in spite of differences

for the growth and opportunity of all of our state’s young learners.
And then, regardless of whether your positive outcomes are
recognized publicly by others, you will have thousands of silent
thank yous from degree-wielding students and their parents …
and one loud one from me.

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