By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Belton: Thank a teacher
Dave Belton

As our children return back to school, I wanted to talk about the many accomplishments of our incredible teachers.

Two decades ago, Georgia was ranked dead last on the SAT. To be fair, there were legitimate reasons we did not do well, one being the happy success of the HOPE scholarship overpopulating our testing pool. But the most important reason was that Georgia teachers were forced to focus on a myriad of Graduation and End of Course tests. When I became a legislator, I was proud to lead the charge in eliminating those tests and a host of others, cutting overall state mandated testing by more than half. We also granted unprecedented control back to the local School Boards…and more importantly, to our teachers.

The results have been amazing. For the first time ever, Georgia beats the nation in both the SAT and the ACT, and we’re 13th best in college Advanced Placement tests. Even better, the graduation rate has skyrocketed in the past eight years, moving up 17 points (26 percent) to a whopping 81 percent – a record high for Georgia. 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). Gov. Deal’s Dual Enrollment program has been wildly successful, as has our new Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Pathways. A whopping 95 percent of kids who complete one of these pathways graduate from high school.

Speaking of Tech, the Governor’s Quick Start program has been particularly successful and is ranked the No. 1 program in the nation. Attracting more than 377 new businesses last year alone, the new HOPE Career Grant covers the full ride of 17 different high-paying careers that don’t need a college degree. Ninety five percent of the best paying jobs today involve Technical education, and Tech will become even more important in the near future. There is literally no reason a Georgian cannot start a new career, because the training required in 20 career fields is absolutely free.

Georgia’s University System is also rated best 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.

Success should always be married to accountability, especially when tax-payer money is involved. So, I was very pleased to pass a new school fiscal transparency law that will make it easier for citizens to see where their money is being spent.

It has never been harder to be a teacher than right now. Our Georgia teachers do an awesome job and deserve everyone’s unwavering support.