WATCH THE DEBATES
GPB will broadcast a Georgia school superintendent candidates’ debate tonight. The Democratic candidates’ debate runs from 6-6:30 p.m., and the Republican debate airs from 6:30-7 p.m.
During the May primary election, Georgia voters had 15 candidates for state school superintendent.
Nine Republicans and six Democrats threw their hats into the ring after the incumbent John D. Barge stepped down to make an unsuccessful primary bid against Gov. Nathan Deal.
Georgia voters still have to narrow down the field, because two Democrats and two Republicans are on the ballot for the July 22 run-off election.
And both parties’ candidates present a distinct choice.
The Republican run-off features Mike Buck, who’s Barge’s chief of staff and a supporter of the Common Core Standards, versus Richard Woods, a Common Core opponent whose educational background includes teaching social studies for 14 years at Irwin County High School southeast of Atlanta.
The Democratic run-off pits Valarie Wilson, a school board member from Decatur who says charter schools shouldn’t be managed by for-profit companies, against Alisha Thomas Morgan, a state representative from Austell who’s a strong supporter of charter schools. She’s been criticized by teachers’ unions for taking contributions from educational management businesses.
“Common sense over Common Core,” Woods said at a Republican Party gathering in Paulding County. The U.S. Constitution gives the federal government its powers, he said, and “education is not one … Georgia controls education.”
Buck, whose roughly 30 years as an educator includes a stint as a high school principal in Rome, says Common Core isn’t a curriculum, it sets standards that school districts have the flexibility to meet through different kinds of teaching.
Buck wants to make sure Georgia schools have enough police officers on campus.
“These officers provide security for our schools while also serving as civic role models for our students,” Buck said.
Morgan, who was 23 when she was elected as the first black state representative from Cobb County, says her experience will help her lobby on kids’ behalf.
“I’ve been in the Legislature for 12 years now, and I have the experience and the relationships and the skills to navigate the legislative process at the state level,” she said.
Wilson said that increasing funding would be her first priority.
“Years ago, the state legislature developed a formula for the per-pupil funding required for a quality basic education,” she said. “But it has never once been funded to that level. That was a promise made to the children of this state, a promise the state has never delivered.”
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at email@example.com or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.