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WHILE ROME BURNS. . .

Press Release 5-12-09 on the Governor’s Veto of Senate Bill 178 by Representative Fran Millar, Vice Chairman of the House Education Committee

On May 11 Governor Perdue vetoed SB178 - Education; advance funding, exceptional growth, low-wealth capital outlay grants; embed/extend a sunset date saying that he had serious concerns about the dual enrollment (students in high school taking postsecondary classes) and ‘BRIDGE’ portions of the bill.  

The ‘BRIDGE’ portion (Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy) was designed to develop programs to improve graduation rates and to improve the preparedness of students for postsecondary education and careers. Each ninth grade student would select a focus of study and have an individual graduation plan. Rigor in

curriculum (high expectations yields high results) was maintained and industry/national certification could be pursued. A productive citizen doesn’t have to be a four-year college graduate. Senator Isakson told me the individual graduation plan is the best feature of this bill and it alone made the bill worthwhile.   The legislation contained model programs for students at risk of dropping out of high school. School counselors and graduation coaches would also be trained in career awareness programs as well as college prep.

Remember traditionally one out of three students do not graduate from high school. Only fifteen percent of students graduate from a four-year college in six years.   We spend over $10 billion in education for these results. The biggest impediment we have in statewide economic development is our reputation of having an uneducated workforce (not traffic congestion).   It is the Governor’s right to veto any piece of legislation.

However, his press release stated he had substantive policy concerns about ‘BRIDGE’; the initial cost was $417 million per his staff; and the annual ongoing cost was $146 million.   Superintendent Cox, the Department of Education, and I (primary bill sponsor) know of no policy concerns that were not resolved. No one in the Governor’s office ever raised any of these ‘objections’ with us. We currently spend about $10 million in the areas of the legislation and the Superintendent and DOE felt they could implement the bill with little additional cost.

Remember we spend over $10 billion for poor outcomes. Do you think a new approach that gives all students hope and a chance to excel might be a good idea?  

After three years of work, this bill is an attempt to deal with a major problem on a macro level. We have individual school districts that currently employ many of the strategies in this legislation and this bill would take these best practices statewide. This is not a gimmick or a token effort at a problem (superspeeder for trauma) or another reorganization of a department while the problem continues (traffic) and frustration mounts.  

I know we live in difficult times and resources are scarce. Stimulus finds are available to help fill some of the holes. Hopefully the money will be spent on programs/facilities that will make a difference.   It is time to park egos and allow others’ good ideas to proceed. ‘BRIDGE’ is not my creation. Many smart people crafted this bill and I am just the messenger.   Education reform should not take over three years when my party is in control. How many more dropouts will we create by our inaction? How many more companies will pass on Georgia due to our reputation in education? Where is the vision? GO FISH!  

Fran Millar Vice-Chairman, Education Committee Georgia House of Representatives