Your candidates – State School Superintendent

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt June 19, 2014
Valarie Wilson, left, will face Alisha Thomas Morgan, right, in the July 22 runoff in the Democratic primary election.

Valarie Wilson, left, will face Alisha Thomas Morgan, right, in the July 22 runoff in the Democratic primary election.

This story has been updated.

Valarie Wilson, a former Decatur School Board member, and Alisha Thomas Morgan, a state representative, will face off in the July 22 Democratic primary runoff election for State School Superintendent. sent both candidates questions about the race. Only Wilson responded as of the deadline on Monday, June 16. Morgan submitted her responses on June 20. 

Valarie Wilson

1) Why are you running for this position?

I am running for State School Superintendent because I believe public education is one of the cornerstones of a great democracy, and that for the majority of Georgia’s 1.6 million children, it is their best opportunity to realize their gifts, potential and talents. Georgia’s constitution promised an adequate public education for our state’s children, a promise that is currently being compromised. I have the skill set to work collaboratively with all parties (parents, teachers, administrators, education organizations, higher education, business leaders, and legislators to name a few) to ensure that we deliver on that promise and provide our children with a quality education.

2) What do you think helped you make it to the runoff election?

Every parent wants their child to be successful, and I believe the majority of Georgia’s parents across this state recognize that a strong public education is absolutely essential for that to happen. Parents know that their children’s education has been underfunded as a result of the consistent budget cuts over the past ten to twelve years, they are seeing the impacts in their classrooms. I believe they recognize that I not only have the education and business experience to do this job, they also realize that I have the best interest of ALL children at heart. Additionally, I traveled the state listening and talking with parents in rural and urban districts, listening and talking to teachers and administrators in those districts, as well as other community members and stakeholders; they know I will do everything within my power to protect our children’s future.

3) Do you think the state of Georgia should fully implement Common Core standards?

Yes. I believe we should continue our process of regular review of our state standards; getting input from teachers, parents, higher Ed, business people; evaluating resources to support the standards and curriculum; and updating assessment systems as needed. We cannot let the questions about Common Core standards divert our attention and resources from the task at hand which is making sure our students have the opportunities to succeed at whatever they choose to do. When we review the standards, we also have to adjust the curriculum as needed, compile new resources to support the teachers, provide professional development for teachers, and contrast for revised assessments aligned to the new standards.

4) Why should people support you over your opponent?

I believe in public education. I have spent more than twenty years standing up for our schools and for our families. I also understand that running the Department of Education is a job for someone who has balanced budgets, met payroll and made the tough choices to keep schools running. I am the candidate that has done so as both a school board member and the executive director of a multi-million dollar nonprofit organization. I am the only candidate who does not require on-the-job training.

My opponent believes that working with the other side means agreeing to their goals of dismantling our public schools. I know how to work across the aisle and I have done so.  But I also know how to stand up for Democratic values. I do not believe in vouchers. I will not support scholarship programs that take $30 million a year from our classrooms and our teachers to pay for private and religious schools that can discriminate against our children. I will fight for full funding of education so our schools can finally give children an education equal to their talents. I will fight for Every Child, Every Day.

Alisha Thomas Morgan

1) Why are you running for this position?

I am running for State School Superintendent because I have a sense of urgency to fix our education system. I’m a proud mom of a second grader, and this is personal to me. What I want for my daughter is what I want for ALL of the 1.6 million students in our state. ALL of Georgia’s children deserve a quality education.

I’m running because we need equitable funding for all schools, especially our rural schools. I’m running because I understand how critical it is to bridge the gap between our education system and the jobs and opportunities that our students will compete for in the future. Today’s and tomorrow’s jobs value education more than ever. Without a dramatic change of course, Georgia’s students will struggle to compete for college and careers. I won’t allow that to happen.

I’m running because I believe in ALL of Georgia’s children. I will lead a state education system that fosters student achievement, creating safe school environments that meet the academic, social, emotional and cognitive needs of ALL students. I believe that teachers matter. I support teachers and leaders for Georgia’s students; outside of the home, there is nothing more important to the success of students than the teachers that spend countless hours with them daily. I also believe that community engagement is critically important to student success. We must engage communities with the goal of sustaining strong, meaningful relationships with ALL stakeholders across Georgia. We shouldn’t dictate to communities how we are educating their children; ALL of Georgia’s parents deserve a seat at the table.

While I have the compassion and commitment to deliver a dramatically improved education system for Georgia, I also have the experience, relationships, and skills to implement sustainable solutions that help ALL of Georgia’s children succeed. I spent 12 years as a legislator fighting for Georgia’s children. I understand public policy and how to work with lawmakers to meet the needs of ALL Georgian’s. This is a state policy and leadership position. I am the only candidate (including the Republicans) that has the experience in the legislature. I have a track record of passing laws and working with the state department and state board to implement laws at the local level. In order to be successful, this experience is critical.

2) What do you think helped you make it to the runoff election?

I have relationships and a track record of service across the state. I have held over 100 town hall meetings and community forums engaging stakeholders across the metro Atlanta area. I’ve worked with groups across the state on issues such as juvenile justice and improving our education system. Voters know me; they know my record, and they know I will produce results for our students. We also ran a positive, truthful campaign that engaged parents, teachers, community members and students. Voters know that’s the way I will run the Department of Education.

Overwhelmingly, parents agree that our education system needs to improve and they know that I am the only candidate who has the courage to deliver on the promise of ensuring that ALL children receive a quality education. Parents understand that they can’t get distracted by a politicized agenda to preserve academic programs that continue to fail our children. I advocate for children and I am committed to supporting programs that work for ALL children, and that’s why Georgia’s parents support me. They know that I am an independent thinker who leads with children as my top priority.

3) Do you think the state of Georgia should fully implement Common Core standards?

Georgia should fully implement Common Core standards. As a mother, I see what Common Core looks like at the kitchen table as I watch my daughter use her critical thinking skills to solve math problems. Common Core standards deliver more rigorous instruction to our classrooms, and we need more rigor in our lessons. In addition, because the new standards are internationally benchmarked, they are comparable to standards in other countries. We operate in a global economy; we need to ensure that our students are prepared to not only compete with students from other parts of the country, but with students around the world. Our parents, students, and educators deserve to know how well we are performing. We can’t operate in silos. This legislative session, I fought alongside educators and community stakeholders to stave off political challenges to keep Common Core state standards for all of our students. This is the kind of leadership Georgians can expect from me as superintendent. I want to ensure that what we expect a second grader to know in Minnesota or California is the same expectation that we have in Georgia.

4) Why should people support you over your opponent?

Georgian’s should support me as their next State School Superintendent because I have 12 years of experience working as a state legislator, fighting for Georgia’s children. Unlike my opponent, I won’t have to learn on the job nor attempt to create new relationships in the state. I have the experience and relationships in all parts of state government that allow me to be more effective in moving the work of our children forward.

In addition, I have a great deal of experience managing education programs. I currently serve as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education. I have served as a peer reviewer assessing grant applications from school districts across the country. I successfully passed legislation to keep our most effective teachers in classrooms, and I have supported efforts to protect afterschool programs. While my opponent cut millions of dollars from the budget of the City Schools of Decatur that eliminated vital afterschool and foreign language programs, I fought against budget cuts to school districts.

I am a proud Democrat who will implement and support educational programs that help ALL of our children, without getting mired into the politics of adult issues. Our students, parents, educators and community members deserve a State School Superintendent who has the courage to put them first. All life and work experience is valuable. To be successful in this job, the experience working with the legislature is essential. I have the experience, relationships and the will to do the work while putting students first.

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