Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 11, 2013

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 11, 2013

Veterans Tribute in Dunwoody at 10 AM

The City of Dunwoody will pay tribute to our veterans today at 10 AM at Brook Run Park’s Veterans Memorial, 4770 North Peachtree Rd. Dunwoody, GA. Dunwoody City Council Member John Heneghan also has a list of local businesses who are thanking veterans today.

Nancy Jester for State School Superintendent

Self-described “Mom with a Calculator” Nancy Jester will announce her campaign for the Republican nomination for State School Superintendent at 3:30 PM today at Brook Run Park Playground in Dunwoody, Ga.

Walter Jones of Morris News Service writes about Nancy Jester entering the race for Superintendent:

Republican Nancy Jester, a former actuarial consultant and one-time DeKalb County school board member, will join Matt Shultz, Richard Woods and Fritz Johnson in the GOP primary.

Jester will make improving the financial operation of the Department of Education and local school boards a priority if elected. She’ll also seek reductions in state funding or state control for chronically underperforming schools.

“If schools are failing, there needs to be consequences,” she said Friday in an interview with Morris News.

Jester also spoke with Martha Zoller and Tim Bryant on WGAU this morning at 8:15. We’ll post information from her discussion with Zoller and Bryant when it’s posted online later.

Greg Williams interviewed Nancy Jester on GregsListLive about her campaign.

1. Why are you running for State Superintendent?

I am running for State School Superintendent to improve the educational lives of Georgia’s children and provide prudent oversight for the taxpayers of our state.

2. Jason Carter, a newly announced Democrat candidate for Governor, is running on a “education platform” and has claimed that Republicans have cut $1 billion from the education department. Can you comment on that claim?

It is not the case that Republicans have cut $1 billion.

The fact is that Georgia, with the exception of three years since 1996 (04,09,10), has increased its spending every year on k-12 education. The recycled argument that Republicans have cut education spending is based on bureaucratic rhetoric.

Sadly, many of those same bureaucrats have spent our tax dollars on bloated central offices and not the classrooms.

According to a study by Georgia College’s Dr. Ben Scafidi, Georgia has had a 41% increase in students from 1992-2009 but spending on administrators and other non-teaching staff has grown by 74%.

Had Georgia kept the growth rate of spending on administrators to the same rate as student enrollment increases, Georgia teachers could have earned over $7,700 more compensation annually. This trend is why my plan to improve education in Georgia calls for “more classroom and less bureaucracy”.

 

A working mom in Dunwoody wrote, “I plan to be there [at the announcement] with my two youngest.  Nancy earned my respect and support when she started her campaign for DeKalb County school board District 1 and my family will continue to support her in this campaign as well.”

Kerry4Dunwoody wrote, “I’m Just Sayin’ – go Nancy go !”

PolitiFictionFact recently reviewed Jester’s statement that “Georgia spends in the top 10 nationally on education, yet, most of our education metrics hover in the bottom five.” and while finding that everything Jester said was literally true, it didn’t fit their agenda, so they rated it “Half True.”

“Our state spends in the top 10 nationally on education, yet, most of our education metrics hover in the bottom five. We have to admit that we need a change in leadership on educational issues in Georgia,” Jester said. “… Georgia has a long road ahead but Common Core is not a path to prosperity.”

We wanted to determine whether Jester was correct on the state’s education finances and student achievement, so we hit the books for answers.

Jester, who is considering a run for state school superintendent, told us she got her information from 2010 census reports.

We reviewed the Census Bureau’s public education finance report for that year, which included public school spending data by state. Using the aggregate spending figure — including money from federal, state and local sources — Jester was correct. Georgia spent the 10th most on education in fiscal 2010, at $15.7 billion. California, New York, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan spent more than Georgia.

A census researcher also led us to the 2011 education finance report for more recent figures. Again, on aggregate spending, Georgia ranked 10th, with the same states from the previous year rounding out the other top positions.

So does Jester’s claim earn a passing grade?

She is correct that Georgia spends in the top 10 nationally for public K-12 spending. But Georgia is also in the top 10 nationally for the number of K-12 students in the state, so a high level of spending is expected. It is also important to note that Georgia’s ranking drops significantly, to the bottom third of all states, for per-pupil spending.

National results of college readiness exams and graduation rates ranked Georgia among the bottom in most reports. Georgia did rank in the top 10 states nationally in a survey touted by state education officials. But even in that report, Georgia scored low marks in key areas, including student achievement.

Jester’s statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details about education funding that could give the reader a different impression.

 

So, do you see what they did there? They found that her statements are correct, but later in the column, wrote “partially correct.” Sleight of hand at best, dishonesty by PolitiFact at best.

But they do make one point that’s worth examining. PolitiFictionFact writes that “Georgia’s ranking drops significantly, to the bottom third of all states, for per-pupil spending.” Is that true? Here’s Nancy Jester’s analysis and response:

The main reason I did not discuss per pupil spending is there are significant differences in the wage structures for education professionals and their benefits between states.  The largest components of costs in K-12 education are salaries and benefits so adjusting each state relative to each other would be necessary for an accurate comparison.

I downloaded the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most current Occupational Employment Statistics to gather salary/wage data for each state.  I isolated those occupational profile codes specific to K-12 education in each state. I averaged these wages to determine an average salary. I then compared this average salary to Georgia’s average salary.  As you would expect, some states have significantly higher salaries than Georgia. These states are often those that we think of as having a higher cost of living. For example, adjusted against Georgia’s salaries, New York’s educational salaries are 31% higher; Massachusetts are 17% higher.

After developing a measure between Georgia and every other state, I used this to adjust each state’s per pupil spending relative to Georgia’s and then ranked the states’ adjusted per pupil spending. The result is that Georgia’s per pupil spending is in the middle of the pack. We rank 25th in per pupil spending on instruction and 28th in total per pupil spending.

I’ll leave you with this. Every state that borders Georgia has a higher graduation rate. And, every state that borders Georgia spends less per pupil than Georgia. You can go west to Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas and you will find that they too, also have a higher graduation rate and all but Louisiana spend less per pupil than Georgia.

PolitiFictionFact apparently shares the agenda of liberal Democrat Jason Carter, who is running for Governor on the assumption that all we have to do to improve education is throw more money at it. But that’s what Georgia has been doing for at least two decades, and it’s not working.

Jester received the support of Georgia Senator Josh McKoon, (R-Columbus), who said:

“Nancy Jester brings the knowledge, experience and tenacity necessary to take on the awesome task of serving as our next State Superintendent of Education. During her service as a member of the DeKalb County Board of Education, Nancy asked the tough questions that revealed the gross mismanagement which even now is resulting in positive change for children in DeKalb County. As an actuarial consultant Nancy has the experience and knowledge to drill down into our state education bureaucracy and make it work for our kids. As a mom she has a passion that in my view is unrivaled to see that we achieve the goal of access to quality education so every child in Georgia can realize their potential. That is why I am proud today to endorse her candidacy for State Superintendent of Education and look forward to working with her to dramatically improve K-12 education in our state.”

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