On Oct. 8, the University of North Georgia's Dahlonega Campus hosted one of several listening sessions being held around the state by the education committees from the Georgia House and Senate to hear feedback from the public about K-12 education.
The sessions are chaired by House Education Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman of Duluth and Senate Education Committee Chairman Lindsey Tippins of Marietta. Rep. Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville, a member of the House Education Committee, and Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega served as local hosts of the session held in Dahlonega.
Tanner said the purpose of the sessions is to solicit public opinion before state lawmakers return to Atlanta in January for the next session of the General Assembly.
"I believe education is one of the most important topics in state government," Tanner said, adding that having an educated workforce is important for the society as a whole. "We have to start that foundation at Pre-K, all the way up through high school and graduation, tying in dual enrollment with places like the University of North Georgia and Lanier Technical College to have a pathway to success. That's something Gov. Nathan Deal has really focused on, and I'm excited to be a part of that as we continue to move education forward."
Deal's focus on education includes Complete College Georgia, a statewide initiative he announced in the wake of a 2011 study by Georgetown University that found Georgia will need to increase the percentage of its population with some level of college completion from a current 42 percent to 60 percent to meet projected workforce needs. The result is an ambitious goal of adding 250,000 postsecondary graduates to Georgia’s workforce by 2020. UNG and the other 30 member institutions of the University System of Georgia (USG) crafted their completion plans in 2012 and have begun enacting various strategies as part of the initiative.
Dewey Moye, superintendent of Lumpkin County Schools, and other
UNG's Complete College Georgia plans also include partnerships with school systems across the region to ensure students graduate high school ready to continue their education. Dewey Moye, superintendent of Lumpkin County Schools, said he would like to see "more of a cooperative arrangement between the different entities of education."
"We're really concerned about the outcome – students graduating and being prepared for life. From the university level right on down to the pre-k level, we should be working together to prepare our kids to be productive citizens," Moye said. "The superintendents also are here to listen to the legislators and get input about funding. We want to try to get some of the funding restored that we've lost in austerity cuts. Our real purpose today is to just have a dialogue with our legislators."
Superintendents and school board members from a dozen school systems across northeast Georgia took their turns talking with legislators about funding, governance and curriculum standards. The majority of the listening session, from 6:30-9 p.m. was an open forum for anyone – superintendents, board of education members, teachers, parents, and members of the community – to speak about education issues.
In total, six listening sessions will be held throughout the state. The next session is planned Oct. 10 in Gwinnett County, set for 3-9 p.m. at Georgia Gwinnett College.