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Belton: Great things are happening in education
Dave Belton

Newton County celebrated a banner event last week at the ribbon cutting of the new Advanced Manufacturing Center on Alcovy Road. I’m very proud that this million-dollar investment by Georgia Piedmont Technical College in Newton County. The brand new facility hosts laboratories for electronics, machining, industrial wiring, robotics and much, much more. Offering apprenticeships with local companies like Bosch, Michelin, General Mills, Haver and Boecker, Nishinbo and Verescene, students can be well on their way to a lucrative career in half the time it takes to get a four-year degree.

A four-year college degree is quite an accomplishment. Georgia’s University System is rated as the best overall value in the country. Much of this is because of HOPE, keeping our best and brightest in booming Atlanta - which now hosts the eighth best economy in America.

But these days – for most students – Technical Education is where it’s at. Nineteen of the top 20 paying jobs today involve Technical or STEM education and it’s becoming even more important in the near future. And now - because of the emphasis the state is putting on Tech - you can earn more than 20 different Tech degrees absolutely free. Yes, that’s right. Georgia will pay for your entire technical education in these high-need categories.

Governor Deal should be applauded for the education programs he’s championed. Dual Enrollment and Move-On Ready have sky-rocketed graduation rates across the state – moving up 10 points in just five years – to a whopping 81 percent. Newton County is doing even better, sporting an 83 percent graduation rate. (Newton and Alcovy are both at 82 percent while Eastside is 90 percent.) Career, Technical, and Agriculture (CTAE) Pathways are another amazing success. A whopping 95 percent of kids who complete on of these 17 different clusters graduates from high school.

Georgia is doing very well on the college-prep front as well. For the first time in decades, we now do better than the national average in two out of the three areas on the SAT. Even better, we’ve beat the nation two years running on the ACT, and we’re 13th best in college Advanced Placement tests. These are huge gains from the days we were ranked 49th on the SAT. Students in Georgia are earning record amounts of college credit - while still in high school - because of these new, innovative reforms.

Last week, I was invited to brief the State School Board about what my Military Affairs Committee is doing for military children. I’m happy to report that great things are happening for them in Georgia. I’m meeting again with State Superintendent Richard Woods about creating military-friendly flagship schools, and I’ll be traveling to Washington this week to meet with our entire Congressional Delegation to talk about our soldiers.

Success should always be married to accountability, especially when tax-payer money is involved. So I am honored to be speak to the National Summit on Education Reform conference later this month about the school fiscal transparency law that I passed in Georgia last year.

You can either invest in children or invest in prisons. I believe that children are a safer bet.

Dave Belton is the District 112 Georgia Representative. He is a resident of Morgan County.