As a state legislator, I try to refrain from speaking about national issues that do not have a direct impact on Georgia and hope to remain as nonpartisan as I can. However, I feel I must comment on Virginia’s recent election.

To me, the biggest lesson to be learned from this election is that the federal government made a horrific error when they started threatening parents.

Last week, the U.S. attorney general admitted that, based solely on a memo from the National School Board Association (NSBA), he directed the FBI to target parents. The memo called the actions of these parents “domestic terrorism” because they dared to question their local school boards.

The chilling effect of this epic overreach is something we might expect from a communist regime. To openly attack parents, and tell them they have no role in their children’s education, has since proven politically disastrous.

To their credit, the NSBA apologized for its odious memo.

Meanwhile, the attorney general flatly refused.

National defense is the single most important thing our federal government does. With the recent admission by our national intelligence officials that they were, yet again, completely caught off guard by advances in Chinese military technology and the numerous cyber-attacks of the Russians, you would think the FBI had more important things to investigate than law-abiding parents who are exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.

The voters in Virginia seemed to agree with this sentiment.

This should not be a surprise. For decades, numerous studies have proven that what parents want most from their state and local governments is quality education for their children.

Fortunately, Georgia has an impressive record on education because of state leaders who have listened to parents.

Two decades ago, Georgia was ranked dead last on the SAT. Now, we are above the national average for two years in a row and above the national average on the ACT for four years in a row.

Georgia ranks 13th best in the nation on our college Advanced Placement scores. Georgia is one of only two states that consistently has three universities, Georgia Tech, Emory and the University of Georgia, rank among the top 10. HOPE is the most generous statewide college scholarship, and our HOPE Career Grant pays 100% of the cost of technical degrees in more than 17 different high-paying careers.

In 1999, our graduation rate was the worst in the nation at 57%. Now, we are at record high of 84%, which is a 32% increase. Even more impressive, students who participate in the Georgia Career, Technical and Ag Education program have an astonishing 97% graduation rate.

Twenty years ago, Georgia was the eighth worst state on the K-12 Nation’s Report Card, also known as the NAEP. Now, we rank 13th best.

These epic accomplishments, of course, were not accomplished by politicians, but by our selfless teachers and the parent volunteers who support them. But, state politicians should be applauded for empowering teachers, staying out of the classroom, greatly lessening standardized tests and our generous funding.

Over half of Georgia’s state budget goes towards education, a whopping $20.9 billion every year. In the nine years before the COVID-19 pandemic began, we spent an additional $4.3 billion of new state revenue on education with nearly half a billion dollars added every single year. We also gave our teachers their biggest pay raise in Georgia history. After COVID-19 hit our state, we added $580 million in one year alone, even though enrollment declined. Also, because of COVID, the federal government gave Georgia an additional $913 million in stimulus funding for education, as well as a staggering $6.5 billion in CARES Act money.

Of course, education should not be a partisan issue, which is exactly my point. Instead of waging bitter battles about hyperpartisan issues, both parties should return to “kitchen table” issues, such as education, the economy, inflation and security. Instead of attacking parents, we should empower them. Instead of defunding the police, we should provide our officers with more resources and better training to successfully do their jobs.

I encourage both parties to get back to pocketbook issues. And, I hope that both Democrats and Republicans will celebrate our excellent public education systems.

Rep. Dave Belton represents the citizens of District 112, which includes Morgan County and the eastern side of Newton County. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2014 and currently serves as chairman of the Special Rules Committee. He also serves as secretary of the Interstate Cooperation and Education committees and as a member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and on the Economic Development & Tourism, Creative Arts & Entertainment and Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications committees.

Recommended for you

Support Local Journalism

Now, more than ever, the world needs trustworthy reporting—but good journalism isn’t free. Please support us by subscribing or making a contribution today.

Rep. Dave Belton represents the citizens of District 112, which includes Morgan County and the eastern side of Newton County. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2014 and currently serves as chairman of the Special Rules Committee. He also serves as secretary of the Interstate Cooperation and Education committees and as a member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and on the Economic Development & Tourism, Creative Arts & Entertainment and Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications committees.

Editor

I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please log in, or sign up for a new, free account to read or post comments.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Trending Videos