On February 2nd, Governor Brian Kemp announced his plans to evaluate and improve the teaching profession through his Teacher Pipeline Package. Governor Kemp addressed the current education crisis in Georgia.
In his announcement on Tuesday, Governor Kemp said that he plans to strengthen student connectivity, restore funding to school systems across the state, and build on his commitment to strengthening the teacher pipeline.
Despite recent criticism, Governor Kemp stated that he has backed Georgia teachers and was “proactive and aggressive” when dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.
What is in the Teacher Pipeline Package?
The Teacher Pipeline Package is new legislation that includes the removal of certification as punishment for developing teachers. The Teacher Pipeline Package also includes establishing a pilot program to design an evaluation system built on professional progression with embedded supports for educators and changes to allow districts to hire retired teachers full time to fill high-need teaching positions. The Teacher Pipeline Package also includes a plan to create a stronger pathway for military veterans who meet the minimum education requirement to become educators. The plan consists of a partnership with HBCUs to increase the recruitment of highly qualified Black Educators. Finally, the plan outlines a budget to restore funding to schools.
Governor Kemp stated that he understands how critical it is to focus on representation in the classroom. Georgia’s partnership with HBCUs will bring more diversity into the classroom to inspire and lead students. The hope is to create diversity in classrooms and schools across the state so that students feel represented by seeing more people like them in school education and leadership positions.
While this legislation is a step in the right direction, I must urge Governor Kemp to do better. If the state was genuinely concerned about representation in our classrooms, maybe he should start with the standards. Why are we not including intentional education about race in our schools? Why are we not building a strong racial identity for our minority students? Why are we not addressing inequity in our schools through a thorough overhaul of the standards?
Georgia standards have been written through the lens of White America. Representation is vital to our educators, leaders, and students through the content we deliver. It is time to take a hard look at what we are teaching and make sure there are voices from all ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds.
Coach and Mentor New Teachers to Improve Differentiated Instruction
As part of the new legislation, Governor Kemp plans to increase funding to coach and mentor new teachers to improve differentiated instruction for English Language Learners, at-risk students, gifted students, and students with disabilities. Along with differentiating instruction, training for new teachers will focus heavily on reading instruction. Governor Kemp plans to restructure teacher preparation programs to strengthen these teaching methods in the classroom.
Budget Cuts in 2020 hurt our Literacy Programs
In 2019, the Georgia Department of Education was awarded nearly $180 million through the Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading in Georgia (L4GA) initiative. However, 2020 brought budget cuts to our literacy program resulting in many Georgia schools discontinuing their literacy programs. This has created even more gaps in reading growth in Georgia students.
Georgia Teacher of the Year Will Serve as an Ex Officio Advisor to the State Board of Education
Governor Kemp admits that teachers are leaving the field in Georgia because we do not “feel heard.” He wishes to have the Georgia Teacher of the Year serve as an ex officio advisor to the State Board of Education.
If Governor Kemp is genuinely concerned with listening to Georgia Teachers, he has had an opportunity to hear us during the Covid-19 crisis. Teachers have been screaming about our health, our fears, and carrying the heavy load of teaching during a global pandemic. Teachers have died, we are losing family members, we are losing co-workers, and we are scared for our lives. Several county superintendents have urged Governor Kemp to enforce a mask mandate for in-person learning to make schools safer for educators, staff, and students in schools. Those cries have fallen on deaf ears.
There are great ideas and beautiful promises to improve education and equity in Georgia schools, but teachers and parents alike are not holding our breath. Rebuilding Georgia schools will take time and effort. This new legislation sounds good, but we must consider the next steps. We must address our curriculum, overhaul what we teach and how we teach. This will take time and dedication from a leader that values all Georgia Residents. We are a diverse population, and our educators, leaders, and curriculum must value and reflect that diversity.